When I was living in Brooklyn I managed to find myself in a relationship with a Polish girl. I was living the life; a true Bohemian dude, struggling in New York, and dating a European girl who smoked and talked about how fat Americans are. But the glisten on that sexy pierogi soon faded away. The language chasm between us was too great. Yes, there are certain things as old as time that need no translation, but the nuances of what makes us human, and my ego, do! What I am trying to say is......she never laughed at my jokes. My vision of myself was shattered. I had spent so many years cultivating a personality and I found the one person I couldn't use it against.
It got bad, we were communicating in hand signals at one point, and it felt like I was in a Sci-Fi film where I had to keep the sexy alien alive until she divulges her secrets of the universe. When we'd eat, I'd always suggest some exotic cuisine, but she only liked one thing, " Bagel with ketchup and cream cheese please". Every night she ate that and every time she ate it, it was like the first time. Her eyes would light up like a kid on Christmas morning and she'd sit there just talking to it.
Despite the language barrier, she made an astute observation, "René, why no color in paintings?". She had penetrated to the very center of a fear I had long held. I explained that I am color blind and have always had a fear of using color because one time I asked a teacher, " How many of the greats do you think were color blind?", and he replied, "None, that is part of why they were great.". She stopped grinding on her bagel and looked up at me with that cold war scowl of hers and said, "No excuse." and went back to eating. This blew my mind - she was right. Who cares what is right in color, just paint what I see. From that point on I started using colors straight out of the tube and painted with a new found freedom that I had never had.
I re-discovered the beauty of pinks, purples, oranges, and blues. I would just interpret the color that I saw with the color that I was feeling, regardless if it was true or correct. This opened my palette and my mind to new options and opportunities and I am eternally thankful for that breakthrough. My polish friend didn't have many words, but she had the right ones at the right time, and right about now, I am kind of craving a bagel with cream cheese and ketchup.