By R. Alexander Martinez
I seem to have this grand illusion of what my life looks like somewhere in my mind: it’s a story of triumph, of success, and of adventure. But like every story before it, the hero takes a downfall somewhere in the plotline. The climactic scene in my head takes place in an abandoned industrial lot where rain is pouring on the roofs of classic black cadillacs which suddenly burst into flames too sharp for the rain to dull, and in the midst of it all sits a black 1970s Mustang, unscathed by the flames surrounding it. Laying down on the roof of that lone Mustang is a boy who looks like me: the length of his long legs tucked upward, like two arched snakes with torn-denim patterns on their backs that stem from a pair of laced-up leather boots. The scene in my head takes place during the nighttime, and yet this boy is wearing a pair of shades that cover a quarter of his face.
What could he be concealing...?
This illusion that I have come to manifest in my head came to me just about five years ago, when Lady Gaga released the 13-minute long music video for her song, Marry the Night. I could pull every artistic artifact from the story she told and somehow implicate it into my life story. There were several moments throughout the film where she gave some exposition on the heightened retelling of her past, selling herself out in the truth of her remembrances in one of the most imaginative and artistic ways I could ever imagine:
“When I look back on my life,
It’s not that I don’t want to see things exactly as they happened…
It’s just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way.
And truthfully the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it.
It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting,
And as the artist of that painting,
I must fill in all the ugly holes
And make it beautiful again.
It’s not that I’ve been dishonest…
It’s just that I loathe reality.”
(Lady Gaga, The Prelude Pathetique).
That excerpt has resounded within me for the years that followed it. It was a message of solitude in my eyes, and that nothing is eternal but the unrelenting persistence we have to lead a happy life. So from it I took this idea that all of the ugly portraits taken in my life, where my innocence was stripped and shone into a blinding light for all to see, were simply nothing but canvases that some decorative illusions couldn’t disguise. It is arguable that someone like me lives in my own little world...but sometimes I feel that the world I choose to live in is a much safer, and happier world than the one that orbits around it.
I was brought into this world an empty page for every color imaginable to bleed across. But what I never expected was for parts of my pages to come undone, to be torn to pieces, set ablaze, and to be stained for the next reader to discover the damages that had danced across my surfaces. I never realized that not every color was a beautiful one. And when I discovered the power of words- the impact and toll a slew of them could have- I never once considered what chaos the aftermath would bring. I was born with the gift to fuse words together to make something so ordinary sound compelling. But like each gift, we are obligated to use it responsibly, because sometimes our gifts can be the most unpredictable of our weapons; and sometimes, the undoing of everything we know and choose to love.
I’ve taken into account all of the most scarring retellings of my past, and choose to paint over them in order to tread through life free of any weights that could otherwise bind me. As an artist, I’ve liberated myself from the tragedies that have come to me, unexpectedly, as per the norm. I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve conquered and I’ve fallen. Things have been taken from me right before my very eyes, and I’ve watched people vanish before me, as if they had never walked into my life to begin with. These events have left me with several markings that would make me a book that few would want to hold in their hands. But you wouldn’t guess it because I don’t carry myself as a lingering misfortune. I’ve decorated myself, and I’ve reinvented myself in such a way so many times that the past is something so beautiful… and the irony of it all is that such enlightenment was created from the darkest corners of my life.
Watching the marriage of my parents unravel in the course of one night ripped pages from the bindings of me that I could never restore. In that same year, losing my best friend to cancer, and having to face the rest of my life without him, was almost the tragic end of my story. There was a tumultuous relationship of mine that lasted over a year that took months to paint over, and for all of that paint to dry just took time… seconds, minutes, hours, and days that I wish could say were a breeze to breathe through, but saying such blasphemy would be a lie to everything that I am.
But I never retell those memories in the way that they happened. I paint a more colorful and saturated picture: one that is lightened by my smile, or by my uncontrollable laughter. Some people would think that I am a bridge on the verge of collapsing. But those people couldn’t be any more wrong, because rather than succumbing to those dark shadows in my past, I’ve enhanced them with wonder that are truths I have created, and there is nothing more beautiful than a work of art that the artist has tirelessly conceived, from his or her own heart and soul and memory.
I’ve embraced this night that my hero willingly finds decadence in. His pitch-dark sunglasses conceal nothing but his brown eyes that hold the film to his life story. The rain falls around and upon him, cleansing his spirit and bringing a new element to his masterpiece.
As is standard of any wedding vow, he weds his soul to the night in sickness and in health, through the thick and through the thin, promising to always color the obscurity, until death will he part. He’ll live passionately through the beauty of his darker memories. He will find light in the stars and in the flame that burns within him: a flame that illuminates a story of triumph, of success, and of adventure.
This boy who wed the night does not live an illusion. He simply lives a more theatrical retelling that has changed his life entirely…
My message for the world, and for the ones reading my words, is this: Do not fear painting over the holes in your past. It isn’t a lie when you reinvent your struggles, and the result is something wonderful to revisit with dignity and with victory, because it is, in every essence, your masterpiece.