I reached for the faucet, looked up, and saw red lines covering the reflection of my face in the mirror. Maybe I should be concerned that my first thought was that I was obviously bleeding severely from my face, but maybe blood means more to the heart than red Expo pen on glass and what art isn’t painted with blood anyways? I’m glad my instincts are still in tact.
I wonder if we began to write more once we invented washable markers. I wonder if we became more eager to create once we had pencils with erasers. Without the threat of permanence, I wonder if we began to take advantage of our freedom to express ourselves without the fear of contributing to cultural posterity. It seems more likely, however, that we did nothing but provoke our perfectionist tendencies. There’s too much pressure that comes with creating art that can be erased. We feel the need to wipe away mistakes until perfection is achieved instead of simply accepting the work produced on the first try. When using a permanent marker, letters are different sizes, circles don’t come out round, but humans aren’t perfect. Even God didn’t get creation right on the first try and, unlike sinners, even a flood won’t wash away a Sharpie’s mistakes. With such permanence comes a sense of relief. A Sharpie shouts, “You better love me as I am!” while an Expo pen yawns and tells you to do better.
The problem with our reliance upon erasers is that our lives are not like the whiteboards we hang above our beds, in our kitchens, reminding us of appointments and needed groceries. Society imposes a great deal of pressure on us to not only be the best we can be today, but the best we could have been yesterday. It’s as though we’ve been building the cities of our histories with cement when we had thought it to be sand. Our need to rewrite the past leaves us spending more time scrubbing at our mistakes than laying bubble wrap for the future. We find that our efforts are in vain, attempts to erase past situations proving as successful as removing stains with spit. What’s done is done and our actions claim more than ourselves. We are not only writing our lives in Sharpie, but with a pen whose permanence influences the ink of those around us. When we go back to change the lines, we see that someone else has already finished the picture. Even with Expo pens in our hands and infinite amounts of time, we probably would never get a perfect circle, but when we all draw together, we can get pretty close.
Looking at Mary’s mirror, I wished the message of love had been written in Sharpie so that we couldn’t erase it and forget. Of course, I was naïve to assume that the words don’t reach beyond the bathroom into the past, present, and future. Those words are made permanent every time hellos are said in the mornings, tables are set for celebrations, smiles are shared over jokes. Those words are engrained into a life and every life that encounters that life and other lives in turn. They are made eternal by scars that are never formed, by wounds made unnecessary, by goodness. They become our daily chants as we redefine disability. They live on forever in every hug that reassures us that we were all penned perfectly the first time.