Malcolm walked into the apartment, carrying a paper bag filled with groceries. There were vegetables in there. Fresh vegetables. Things he had to search for in the grocery store, instead of going down his usual route through the frozen section. Malcolm set the bag down, to take his shoes off at the door. They were dress shoes, and they slid right off. He made sure they were placed neatly side by side, and then he picked the bag of groceries back up, and brought it to the kitchen. There, he unpacked items from the bag, one by one, putting them on their respective shelves. When he was finished, he folded the bag flat, and placed it in the trash.
There were flowers on the kitchen counter. He moved them around a bit in the vase, arranging them to face the front door. Then he took out his phone, and added another bouquet to his shopping list for the next time he was out. They were difficult to bring back in the winter, but he needed them. He also made a note to take out the trash later. It was only half full, but it was starting to smell.
Malcolm walked to his studio. When he arrived, he took the apron from the rack beside the door, and fixed it over his black sweatshirt. He had always felt comfortable in the sweatshirts Susan designed. He had three left, and he wasn't going to get paint on another one.
He approached the massive canvas he had set up: seven feet tall, and fifteen feet across. It barely fit in the room, and he wasn't sure how he was going to get it out when he was finished with it. It was a mural. It was a work in progress, as well, but there was progress. Five grey figures stood in a line. Originally those figures had been the outlines, but the more Malcolm worked on the piece, the more he liked leaving them grey. At the center stood Ruben Craig: ringleader of this merry band. He held a mug of black coffee in his hand. Or maybe it was a mug of whiskey. Or maybe it was painkillers. At the moment, there was just a cylinder, filled with something hard and grey.
On the left side of the canvas stood Susan Byrd in profile, face to face with Malcolm Sanchez. They danced like they were in color.
Off to the right of the canvas were the others who had been there that night: Rice Henderson and Terrence Young. Malcolm didn't know them very well. He wasn't sure what to have them doing yet, but he liked to have them there, because they were an important part of the story. They were a part of why she was gone.
Malcolm tried not to think about that as he put on another layer of grey. He used to be able to paint without drugs. That was the old normal. And he had liked it when that was normal. He could find it again. He could search for it.
© Ray Underscore Thompson, November 2015