I lost my virginity to a Mark Rothko painting.
Afterwards, noticing the blood, it murmured, ‘I didn’t know.’
‘Why would you?’
I stared at the painting – giving it my full gaze, trying to fathom its multiple horizons, searching the flat canvas for the dimensions I had just encountered. Its question diminished.
Maybe it was imminent. I was past the pimply part of puberty and into the bloom. That fruit was ripening. And when I fell, it was into the Rothko’s boundless embrace.
It didn’t last, of course. It was the kind of painting you could sleep with – love, even – for a few years, but nothing to build a life around.
‘Do you regret I was your first?’ it asked once during our on-again, off-again love affair.
‘No. Not at all.’
There would be others. The Munich years with Der Blaue Reiter. A fling and a trolley ride around Vienna’s Ringstraße every couple of decades or so with Hundertwasser. The Rothko, too, would have its admirers: abstract expressionists looking for a saviour in its blurring of boundaries, the mournful who found solace in its mystery.
You never forget, though, do you? All these years later, and almost any Rothko still pulls me in. The family resemblance is uncanny. A chance encounter with a print or a postcard stops me in my tracks. And if, in a museum, I should turn a corner and come face-to-face with an original, I am helpless. The world falls away. Once again, I am immersed in that hot tangle of a September night in my youth. Hungry shapes, colours that enfold the dark, no language to distinguish the blues from the blues, but feeling every ridge and nuance all the same.
About the Contributor
Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and currently lives in Cambridgeshire, UK. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bare Fiction, Envoi, The Lonely Crowd, and The Nottingham Review. Melissa was the regional winner of the Words and Women 2016 Prose Competition. She is delighted to be an 2017 Apprentice with the London-based WordFactory.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine Thien
This book epitomises how loss can simultaneously hollow you out and fill you up. While reading it, I couldn't leave its world - those generations lived in my imagination even with the book was closed. When I finished it, I felt bereft. I still do.
More from Issue Eight:
- Calendar Girls by Max Wilkinson
- Mushroom Speed Boosts by Ben Reynolds
- Sestina by Imogen Russell Williams
- Under the Maple Roots by Joshua Bealson
- Snow, Sunday, Late February by James O’Neill
- Not Waving, but Washing by Tabitha Siklos
- Kites by Ben Gwalchmai
- A tribute to austerity by Sanmeet Kaur
- Something like the beginning of love by Olga Dermott-Bond
- Why is it Called a Thunderstorm, When it’s the Lightning That Kills You? by Katt Thompson
- My Greenland Halibut by Amanda Oosthuizen
- Say Hello, Wave Goodbye by Emma Venables