Cicada No. 3. Oil on wood panel . 48" x 48" . 2020 Amos Oaks. Photo by Brian Scott Pittman
“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.”
I was never able to say “goodbye” to her. I said “please don’t go” more times than I can count. I said “farewell” because I didn’t think it had as much permanence to it. I never knew how to say it. She had planned an elaborate “goodbye” for years. But, last night, I was finally able to deliver a proper “goodbye”.
In August of 2017 I delivered a threat of divorce in an outlandish display of wanting attention and attempting to create shock and drama in a situation where I was gaining no ground. To me, it was just one of many arguments that would blow over. Three days later, I was asked when I was going to leave. That’s when the begging started. I was shocked that she took that threat seriously and even more shocked at how thrilled and relieved she seemed to be at the prospect of a life without me in it. I continued to beg through the rest of August and on into September. But I had ignited a fuse that refused to be snuffed out and agreed to her demand for me to be out by November 2.
For years, she had asked me to paint a portrait of her. This was something that I was never comfortable creating because I felt like I could not do her justice and that my insecurities would shine through. As soon as I was alone, I started to create that painting. It was complete just one day before Valentine’s Day 2018. In my mind I had fantasies of her melting away - gushing over the painting and falling back in to my arms. What I didn’t know was that she had moved her boyfriend In across the street from her and my daughter the very month I was ejected from the house. This was news I didn’t learn until the summer of 2019. It was worse than the separation and far worse than the divorce for me.
Full of hope and excited with this lovely work that included her holding our cat and blooming peonies, I loaded it up in my vehicle and drove to her place. As I was walking up the porch steps, she just happened to be opening the front door to let the dog out. “The stars have aligned!” I thought. She looked at me oddly and asked what I was doing there. I explained that I had brought Valentine’s Day gifts for her and my daughter. She looked at the painting oddly and gave a grunting chuckle. That was about the only response I got from her.
She divorced me in August of that year. One year later she was packing to move away. I had not really completely gone through everything in the house and offered to help her pack and move. After she was gone, there was still quite a bit of cleaning up for me to do. I did one last sweep of the attic and discovered the painting - face against insulation and covered in lint from a broken dryer vent hose. A bit sad about the complete disregard for the painting, I went home for a long walk. The evening was heavy with the shrill mourning song of the cicada. I came back to my house, sanded her image off the wooden surface of the painting and drew a cicada on it. Several days later, I wrote a lament titled “Cicada”.
In December 2019 I started working on 14 different cicada paintings and collaborated with a small group of musicians to compose an orchestrated “life-cycle” piece that would accompany the poem.
Last night I had an event - a showing of these paintings with a performance of the poem and orchestration. This illustrative group of images were a journal-like display of my life in a very intimate setting. The small venue was shoulder to shoulder with around 120 individuals. Some of these folks were very near and dear to me. Some folks were acquaintances. Some were people I’d never seen before. But everyone there felt like family. It felt like a support group of people who had come to rejoice that a life was no longer dormant but was emerging - a life that would sing a shrill song and have a moment to make a positive lasting impact. It was my moment to give a proper “goodbye” to the girl who I gave my heart, mind, and soul to for 26 years.
There were so many things concerning me that she wasn’t wrong about. She would tell you that I am dramatic. I can’t even say “goodbye” without making a production of it.