<      I'm afraid to paint because every time I do, I see this blonde woman's face and I don't know who she is. People ask, "Why do you keep painting this woman?" But she's only in my mind. Or maybe I've simply run out of ideas. Stuck in a groove, creating the same piece, over and over?
     "Who are you?"
     "Leave me alone."
     "What's your name?"
     "I'm you. Your female side. From another incarnation. I'm who you want to be. Love yourself."
     "Please tell me your name."
     "Xanthra. Your shadow. Leave me alone."
     (What's wrong? Are you afraid to find out who she is?)
     Pale pink splashes on the thick, crusty, gessoed canvas. Dabs of mauve and light blue.
     "Paint me. Then paint me again. I want to be seen. Talk to me."
     (Do I want to suck pussy? Am I really a lesbian? Is she? Maybe  I'm bisexual!! Oh no! I hope not.)
     "I want to come back to life. Slap on those squishy colours."
     "If I paint you, will you paint me?"
     A dab of scarlet. Now some Yellow Ochre. Just a touch. I wish I were down by the lake with my paints.
     "Spread the fuchsia gently. Make me smile."
     This has been going on for years. My drunkard friend Larry asked me the same question 15 years ago: "Who is this woman you keep drawing?"
     "Make me look happy. Give me your life-blood. A drop of love. A life of my own. Keep splashing on those glorious pigments. Don't let your hand stop. I need to be real."
     "Go on. I'm listening."
     "You want to be a woman. So I'm the perfect you. Beautiful, happy, successful. Give me more shadow on the cheeks. A little magenta. Maybe a touch of Prussian Blue. That's better."
     "Is that all you have to say?"
     "No. I'm happier than you. You used to be me in another time. But I still exist in a different dimension. Paint me with long, cascading, topaz hair like soft velvet. Colour me with strands of pearls and purple ribbons and long white gloves. Me and you. We're one."
     "What is this shit? I'm a man. Totally. A man has a cock,
obviously, so that makes me one."
     "Can't you see past the yoke? The crust? The thin white line? What you really need is to fall in love with you! Get to know yourself a little better. You're a woman underneath the cock and balls. Look at yourself naked in the mirror. What do you see? A woman with long honey-blonde hair. An artist's model in a past life. Same era as the Mona Lisa. Xanthra. That's me. You're female. At least, you were before."
     I'll put some more Burnt Sienna on the chin. Make the breasts rounder, firmer, softer. Yes, that's it! It looks like me only ....... different. More female. Okay, make that hand work faster and..... Splash on some Cadmium Orange. Harder. Screw that fucking painting. Bum fuck it! Bang against the canvas. Cream all over it. Mix in the hues like frenzied finger-fucking. Put a condom over the edges. Wait a minute! Stop! I'm gay.
     "No, don't stop. Make me into a masterpiece. I want to live forever like Venus and Pan. To be Gaia, the Earth Goddess, wafting across the azure waves made of creamy paint. Make my nose smaller. Create me forever. Never stop. I only live because of you. I'm the epitome of..... what? I can't think anymore. It's time to go."
     "Don't leave. I'm having a break-through."
     "No, you don't understand. Or care."
     "Yes I do."
     "I'm upset because you have a body and I don't. People just
gawk at me and make comments like I was a piece of canvas. I mean, a piece of meat. I'm more than the sum of my parts. I want to be as wonderful as Diana, the Triple Goddess. To feel the warmth of bath water. The touch of a man's lips. The sensation of freedom when I run. I forget what it's like to have a body. I want to be you. Splatter on more colours. Try aquamarine or gold. Yes, gold and rubies and diamonds! Glue gems on the canvas. I deserve the best.... It's not fair. You're me and I'm you and you have life and I don't. Make my flesh look real. Give me life. You can do it."
     "Wait a minute. I don't like this. I'm okay. I like being a man. All the privileges. The 'no pregnancy' and stuff. I think you're full of shit. So fuck off!"
     "Stop it! Shut your mouth and move your hand. Give me breath and vitality. Lavender coloured-pencils gliding across paper and gloppy ruby paint squirting onto bumpy, rough canvas. Help me. You should read and learn and create and rub your fingers through thick vermilion. Throw it on fast!"
     "I knew an artist who hated Emily Carr's work. `Ewww!! All that vermilion!!,' she sniffed. Can you believe that!? I love her
     "Let's piss her off. Get out the vermilion. Tubes and tubes of it. Paint everything vermilion. Sunsets and tables and mountains."
     "But don't forget the indigo. Or violet."
     "And slashes of Alizarin Crimson on my mouth."
     "Hold on a sec! Who's painting this picture, anyway? You or me?"
     "Put your ear to my lips and listen. I want to whisper something important ........Save the world! Make some money. Become famous. Paint 'til you drop. Do what you like. Just don't die yet. Don't jump off your balcony 'cause you only live on the fourth floor. So what if you're starving. You'll be an invalid like Frida Kahlo painting with the easel above her bed. Like Catherine the Great with the stallion above her on the pulley. Fucking her with the huge horse-dick inside her. Ripping her apart. Crashing down on top of her. Killing her. You don't want that! Too nasty! So listen for a bit. I want to save you. Yes! Every time you paint me, I come alive. And so do you. No more suicidal depressions. I love you."
     "Um, the forehead needs a little Lemon Yellow in the centre."
     "Yes! God, I love the sound of the knife scraping against the glass palette. Did you hear me? I said, don't jump! Okay?"
     "I like to mix colours right on the canvas. It's easier."
     "You're not listening. Just dip the brush in water, dab it in some acrylic and spread it on quickly. Yum!.... You know, you can make love and I can't and that makes me mad."
     "I saw a gorgeous Asian man at the all-night corner store. Rippling chest under black sleeveless T-shirt. Beautiful smile. Thick lips. Friendly. Those ravishing almond-shaped eyes gazing
into mine!!"
     "If you give me a body, a life, breath, maybe he'll like me. I want to be you as much as you want to be me. Give me a gown to wear. Long, flowing, emerald-green satin with dots of silver and white to represent light. Moonlight dancing on raw silk. With bare feet to time-step in the leaves."
     "I wish I could have him. The T-shirt man."
     "Remember the mist floating and swirling down by the lake? You saw my face in the clouds just before the rain drenched you. You were too lazy and fucked up to paint me. Didn't you hear me screaming in your brain? You just sat staring at the sky as if you were watching a Dion Fortune novel come to life. She never wasted time dreaming by the lake. She was prolific. So, do it! After you finish this one, do a drawing. Then sculpt me so I can walk across the lake...... Now that you know who I am, it's time to integrate our two halves. The yin and yang. Dark and light. I want us to be a complete human being. You need that, I think. Absorb me through your third eye. Just think of me slipping into your aura. Into your blood stream. Concentrate! No need to worry. I won't harm you. Drink in my essence. That's it. Very good. That feels so marvellous! Thank you. Now I'm alive! A part of you! God, I love you!...... Do you feel better now? Don't you feel whole? You can rest now, if you like. Drift off to sleep. You've done the right thing. Thank you. We'll be immortal."