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June 12, 2017 | Nonfiction

The Habit of Cutting In the Edges

Andrew Johnson

The Habit of Cutting In the Edges photo

You gather one brush, one can of paint, one room, and one hand tethered to attention. You obsess over the smallest crack, the tiniest drip, the slightest deviation of the line. You know this is not just a room, but a context, a continent, a small container of someone's days. Perhaps a marriage will almost end here, or a father will hold his trembling son, or an almost-mother will weep alone. It is these possibilities and more that beg for attention, yours, here along the edges whose near-perfections, let's be honest, few will notice. Yet with the same extremity one uses when holding a pen, when forming a fist to protest or punch, gripping the bars of a prison cell, praising the sun rays, punching in the nuclear codes, you concentrate your best hand on holding the brush, the ends of its tiny hairs tipped with paint, and you take a deep breath and move to alter one small stretch of space. For a moment, everything is at stake again.

image: Aaron Burch


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