Excerpt from When My Father and I Made the Sunrise
My father’s house was always dark, even in the afternoon. Perhaps this was because the shades were permanently drawn, but it often felt like the Brooklyn brownstone never got any sun. Darkness was everywhere, from the long hallways lined with dusty bookshelves to the cool, pitch-black cellar. At times, it made me sad. I often sat on the front stoop midday, searching for the sun through iron-gray clouds. I played there with my younger brother, other times with friends, and sometimes alone—until the streetlights began to burn with an amber glow. Then, one day, when I was twelve, my father offered to teach me how to draw.
I loved art. For years, I had poured over books of Van Gogh and other artists, in awe of their talent. My father was an artist too. He used to draw by the sunlit window in our old home. I could watch him for hours. His hair and beard were neatly combed then, and his shirt was always tucked in. He was so focused while he drank his morning coffee, paying attention to the smallest details. Once, he drew a silver harmonica. It amazed me how he could make something so ordinary seem magical.
We sat that afternoon, both staring at the blank page, unsure of what to draw. The paper was fresh and clean. Bright like the white tulips that gleamed in the yard. There was just enough sun for them. I ran my fingers across the page, which felt textured and smooth at the same time.
I had never used chalk pastels, but now my father would show me how.
My father left for a moment to get supplies. I turned toward the hollow fireplace, and I noticed a large abstract drawing resting on the mantel above. It stuck out as the only bright object in the neutral-colored room. I wasn’t sure when my father had drawn it, but it had always been there.
I wondered what to draw. An image of the sun rising in front of two bodies of water shimmered in my mind.
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