At artschool Janine was a quiet observer in a world of practiced wierdness.  Veronica’s knitted Eifel tower, for instance, or Penny’s sugarcube abstraction. Conrad splashed paint around to death metal. Claude painted black squares. And Janine sketched.

On her bedroom shelves were books, ordered by date and subject. One shelf was boys. It started with her first crush, the school sport captain, Tony MacIlwraith in hard lead pencil, brittle and silver. Ellusive. Rodney Cook started that way but made it up to HB before he kissed Jenny Sidebottom. Felix Dunne made 2B, darker with a hint of lusciousness.

Across from her studio was an engineering classroom. Friday after lunch they studied drafting. She watched one boy in particular make delicate marks with protractor, compass, and ruler.

Janine waited outside his classroom. ‘I’ve been watching you.’


‘Through the window.’


‘I’m Janine,’ she said.


‘Can I see your drawing?’

He unscrolled the paper. His cross section of a machine was exquisite.

‘I draw too,’ she said.

That afternoon they shared coffee and talked about lines.

Within a week she’d started a sketchbook for him. She looked at her pencils. 4B? 6B?

At the campus bookstore she found a permanent marker. Its line was black and perfect. It could not be removed. It liberated her from the uncertainty of graphite.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (