I have a frenemy. Her name: Descriptive Writing. She is difficult to figure out, elusive and slippery, and sometimes I get the feeling that she despises me. At times she’s willing to have a heart-to-heart chat over coffee, only to rush off mid-sentence for no apparent reason. But then there are times when she bares her entire soul, crying out for a friend to listen, and I forget all about yesterday, when she mocked me as I stuttered, unable to summon one word to paint on my blank canvas.
But when I get her to talk, I savor the rush of adrenaline, the heart-pounding satisfaction, of being able to see the splashes of color begin to fill the white space, the serene and chilling sounds whizz, whirr, and whistle past my ears, the perfumes of my imagination drift into my nostrils.
And I get taken away to faraway lands, where seedy politicians take the shape of evil emperors that can and will be overthrown, where traffic-congested highways turn into spacious, jade forests, where the angry whirrs of industrial machines are overpowered by the crash of the star-gleaming sea upon a moon-crescent stretch of the shoreline.
Yesterday, I attempted to paint several scenes.
A City Atop the Mountains
From afar, Rainpar City was mystically suspended in the clouds that wrapped around the Ailori Mountains like a hooded sweater, shrouding ageless mysteries. A spiritual ambiance touched the mountains with an ice-fingered mist, bathing it in an ashen fog that was as old and gray as the city itself.
But upon closer inspection, it was plain to see that the city, though seemingly healthy on the outside, was in actuality, disease-ridden with a spreading cancer. The streets were unpaved, ditches and potholes littering the ground like scarred acne on a prepubescent teenager. The paint on the buildings was chipped, colored in faded pastels mixed with soot and dust. The main road was desolate, though the stores and café along the road all had signs—the writing washed-out and faded almost to the point of being illegible—indicating they were open for business.
Shaped into a wide dome, the monastery was a bulbous building that looked like the head of a truffle, burnt-orange paint spots scattered over the pale-brown umbrella rooftop. As we entered through the large, iron gate, two bald monks dressed in sun-kissed yellow robes greeted us with humble bows, their palms pressed together respectfully, fingers as straight and unbending as arrows pointed heavenward. Hanging around their meekly curved necks were long strands of dirt-brown beads, spheres the size of crabapples. The smell of incense was so strong that it gave me a headache. Citrus, musk, and myrrh burned heavily in the air. I tried to breathe through my nose.
We entered a crypt-like corridor, darkness cloaking the air like a phantom veil, except for the faint light that leaked from the candles that were occasionally sprinkled along the wall. The catacomb stillness hushed through the air like a silent ghost whispering past the living. My skin crawled as sticky strands of cobwebs hit my face, and I brushed them away frantically, combing my fingers across my suddenly itchy scalp.