But I don't remember any paintings. I can't remember a single time I saw him mixing colors and putting them to that gorgeous paper.
The paper and brushes ended up in storage. One time I went with him to get an unwanted couch—me and Nick's first uncomfortable-but-free couch. Complete with rat poop. The man opened drawer after drawer of paper, all sizes and grades and prices neatly written in the corner of every sheet. He told me about them, how valuable they were.
All I saw was blank paper. Slim drawers full of paintings that could have been.
I didn't understand. I still don't, really. Yes, the paper and the brushes are wonderful, but what good are they unused?
Sometimes I speculate on the mystery of the unused paper. Maybe he simply never had time. He was a busy man with a family to care for and hardships to face. Maybe he kept buying the supplies thinking, "One day. One day I'll have time to paint."
Collecting the supplies might have been easier than learning to use them. The man could have found more pleasure in the idea of being a painter, rather than enjoyment in actually painting. The supplies could be years of pretending and never becoming.
Or perhaps the man felt like he should save that paper until he became a better artist. "Not yet," he might have said to himself. "I'll ruin the paper." Maybe he thought the value of the paper was more than what he could put on it. It could have been fear of failing that kept those sheets blank.
I'm not sure I'll ever know the real reason, but whatever it is I can't help but feel sad when I think about the man who keeps blank paper in storage. Paper that may never have a brush put to it. Paper that is waiting for something, anything. Paper that could have been art.
All I know is that when the man shows me that paper, I would prefer to see paintings. Even if they were amateur or simple or strange. They would tell me about the man. They would be little windows into his life and interests. They would be something. There is nothing sadder than a blank piece of paper, a could have been.
Someday, perhaps I will have the chance to pull those brushes and that paper from storage. I may not be the best with watercolors, but those sheets have been blank long enough. I will fill them with my own stories.