Bobby sits at his easel, waiting for the rain to stop. He has run out of blue paint and does not aspire to try impressionism or abstraction. Stick to what’s in front of you, and try to paint it, has been Bobby’s motto since taking up the new hobby. He knows he is not a very deep man. There are no grand, existential thoughts that run through his mind. His interpretation of life is simple and straight-forward to the point of banality, and he knows it. Leave the big questions for the big people, boy, cuz’ you ain’t one of ‘em, his father had told him, and he was right. But Bobby decided that he was going to continue with his “Arty Hobby Holie-Hoo,” which is what his wife calls this, until he succeeds at it. Seven months he has been sitting and looking out of the tiny window of the northwest corner of his apartment, attempting to paint as the sun set over his view of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. How close he was to succeeding after twenty-eight paintings, or if succession was even attainable in this regard, Bobby did not know. Those were “Big Questions”.
He had run out of blue paint because he had to do last week’s painting at noon instead of at sunset. He and his wife had to go to dinner at the Mr. Nelson’s, Bobby’s employer, so Bobby had to paint earlier than he liked to. The sun had not reached the window yet, and Bobby was forced to use every last drop of blue paint he had to finish the thing. It came out all wrong since the only blue paint he had was a dark, indigo-like color. “Wonky” is what his wife labeled it, and then she proceeded to berate Bobby for wasting so much money and time if he couldn’t even paint an empty sky right. Bobby just nodded his head, stacked the small painting in the corner of the room with the others, and put on his tie. “Time to do something that matters. Mr. Nelson has finally invited you over for dinner. That means you might get a raise, or even a better job.”
The dinner had been nothing but dry meatloaf a two hours of conversation about gold that Bobby didn’t understand, but Bobby’s wife insisted that they were heading for a better life. But Bobby has never wanted a better life. Bobby has never really wanted. No children. No siblings. A dead father and a mother in a nursing home. A small job with a small company crunching small numbers. No real friends, no real enemies. Bobby knew he led a boring life because he was a boring person, and he had known it since he was young. His wife was the same way (how else could he have gotten her to marry him?), but she had not come to terms with it and so she constantly yearned for more money, more things, more friends, even if none of it was real.
Bobby didn’t feel he had wasted his life not pursuing his dreams, but that he had lived a life without ever having dreams. Not even one. Not even for toys as a child. That’s why he took up painting so that even if he had no desire he could at least try and see what it might feel like to have it.
Has he felt it yet? Bobby doesn’t think so, although it’s hard to say. Another “Big Question”. So he sits and looks at a painting he can not finish without going out into the rain to buy more paint, and he’s not going to do that. The moment his wife sees him putting on a rain coat, she’s going to start making fun of him and arguing with him. He does not want to the headache. He would just like to keep painting this one scene until it is finished, whatever that might mean. He would like to know how other people he has met feel when they draw, or build a boat, or ride a horse; to know why they feel and he does not. I would like, he tells himself, to be a person who can do this – Bobby dips his brush into the bright yellow paint he uses to paint the sun and paints the side of the next door neighbor’s house (which is dark blue) on the canvas – and not feel like I’m an empty soda can. I want . . . I want . . .
But Bobby can not finish the thought. It is too big, and he does not have the tools. All he has is a rainy day and a now ruined painting, all grey and dark green, no blue, and one bright yellow wall to spoil the show.
Bobby stares at that wall. Save the color, it looks exactly like the south wall of Edith Ryan’s house. He had done the siding correctly, and even gave a little shadow from the eave. A wall the color of the sun. As if the sun had hidden there, under the eave, to keep from getting wet and became the wall. How preposterous. How utterly absurd. How interesting.
Bobby sits at his easel. He is out of blue paint and it is still raining.