This is a drawing that I recently completed. I worked on it until my pencils were weary and dull, and my fingers were smudged – the whorls reduced to gray and dusty ridges. It had been a long time since I had drawn with pencil, and I wanted to know if I still had my graphite chops.
I'm not going to pretend that this is easy to decipher. It is a scarf.
The dark, reflective bands are made of silk, colored olive and gold, rippling with submerged, filtered light. When I touch them, my fingers are chilled - caught in an airborne landscape between the green ocean and yellow moon. The bulk of my scarf is velvet, the color of a young twilight about to lose its warmth to the stronger, darker night. Biting into the soft sky is a pale embroidery that forms a gentle garden of leaves and petals.
This scarf is very dear to me, and many times I have wrapped the flowers, oceans and planets wonderfully around my neck. It cost me 55 pounds ($110?), which – over ten years ago – was a terrific extravagance, but a necessary one. I had to possess this exotic thing. I was in London at the time, and I bought it at Liberty's.
I had heard of Liberty's. I had heard of the fabrics one could find there: a diabolical mix of Ali Baba's cave and the Belle Epoque, ready to be plundered.
Now, memories are strange things. The images can melt together – facts, images, falsehoods wishes – dissolving into a liquid envy of what is no more. They are hard to visualize, yet you know they happened.
I remember Liberty's as a wishing-well of early 20th century tudor architecture. With some effort, I found the room I sought – and I stepped into a place that was plush with an ancient luxury, deep and hallowed with a long-forgotten opulence.
Fabrics, like living things, coiled and crouched all around me. Thick with foreign embroidery and complicated knits, they could have been used to wrap around the sway of a bustle or to disguise the anguish of a corset. Their anatomies dissolved into folds and creases – I could sense their delicate, textile breath on my skin.
The ground, the sky, the ocean had been pillaged. I saw their fair colors all about me in the tiny room: opal, black-rimmed turquoise, the sunset's heated silver, the fish's cool sequins, red plum, blood orange, white peach.
Could I have really seen any of this? Could it have happened? And yet, I'm sure I'm not lying. I have my memories.
I have my scarf.