Art Therapy


emily4_icon.gif silvia_icon.gif

Scene Title Art Therapy
Synopsis Silvia invites Emily to draw with her, and the quiet moments provides them both with something they weren't expecting.
Date July 11, 2019

Brooklyn College Art Workroom A

The door to the workroom slides open, door creaking noisily on the track. Emily Epstein sighs at it, any intention of merely peeking her head in in silence crumpled away with that noise. She hesitantly sticks her torso through the door anyway, head turning from one side to the other to sweep for familiar faces. The studios have all been empty and locked for the better part of the summer, but today the door gave way when she pulled.

She doesn't know why she comes, she just does. And so rarely does she stay for longer than a few moments, usually slipping away at the first sign of questions. In keeping with that usual behavior, she looks unlikely to actually stay, or even actually enter into the room fully.

While most of the work rooms had been closed, this one was inhabited. Far in the corner, seated with her back to the wall, Silvia has the whole worktable entirely covered in materials. Half-completed comic panels on white paper, pencils of various sizes, black pens and colored ones, and small stubs of erasers are somewhat in danger of falling off the surface. Her head is currently tipped downward, pencil in her hand as she works on yet another page of art.

The sliding of the door doesn’t disturb her, at first, instead it’s a muted sound in the background as she traces a line just so. It’s only when she’s finished drawing the line does it occur to her that there was a sound and she raises her head to observe the open door. Silvia nods towards Emily, scooting a chair around the edge of the table with her foot.


The sight of a familiar face in the room stops Emily from either entering or leaving at first, at least until she sees the chair nudged. That looks like an invitation. Her jaw works through trying to emit a hello back, but she doesn't make it that far initially. She does, however, make it over the threshold.

Sliding the door shut behind her, Emily lets her gaze wander the room before sidling closer, arms folding over her chest. The bookbag hanging from her shoulders is shrugged slightly higher while she looks over the sketches Silvia has drawn. "Sorry to bother," she murmurs finally. She stops just beside the table and stool, not sitting yet.

“Bothering implies that I do not like the interruption. Sometimes it is good to take a break, especially if it is for a good reason,” Silvia’s eyes flick to the stool, then back up to Emily herself. “Sometimes I feel like I do the same thing over and over and I never quite get it right.” She’s looking down at the page in front of her, full of sketches of a character’s various expressions, all of which seem to have been retraced multiple times. It’s hard to tell if she meant the art or life.

“Anyway, you’re welcome here. You seem like you need a place to welcome you.”

Emily's expression is reserved as Silvia first looks back up at her, her own gaze flitting easily between the emotions on paper display. Her gaze softens as she considers what's said.

Then her face scrunches as she's formally invited in. "Christ, I've only been here thirty seconds. I look that bad?" she asks sarcastically. In the hopes the question remains rhetorical, she merely shakes her head and settles down into a sit over the stool, listening to the scuffle on the concrete flooring. Emily glances up again to Silvia quickly, expression reined in and made neutral. "How often are you practicing all this stuff, anyway? It's summer." Which should mean something at Silvia's age, or so Emily believes.

She is learning herself what it is like to not have a summer break.

Emily has decided she does not like it.

"I just call it like I see it." Silvia starts to scoop up papers, tucking them into a neat pile of bodies-in-action. The spot in front of the offered stool is cleared save for a single white sheet of paper and a fine tipped black pen. No explanation is given for it.

"I'm in here all the time. They already know me by name whenever I come in to get the door opened. They should give me a key and save themselves the trouble." She gestures around her. "This place is good to work in. Art doesn't wait for summer to be over."

Emily only narrowly avoids wincing at the simplicity behind Silvia's observation. When the space is cleared, she responds by folding her arms along the table and leaning onto them, keeping her look reserved. She lets out a long breath, the sigh without explanation as she looks off across the otherwise empty workroom, at first with no visible deflation or relaxation in her form.

The single pen is rolled under her fingers almost surreptitiously, done in absent thought. When it's done, though, her shoulders finally begin to slope down.

"It's nice that it's quiet here," Emily admits. She looks sidelong back at Silvia as she starts to rotate the pen around her fingers. "Bet it's good to be alone. Probably pretty busy with those new siblings of yours," she notes with an arch of her brow.

“I love them, but I haven’t really had the full sibling experience since I was little. They do make it hard to work sometimes and my parents can be a little distracted by them,” Silvia spends a moment analyzing her own words before nodding. “It is good to be alone for a while. But don’t take that as an excuse to rush off. My quiet place is also your quiet space. It’s a nice shelter from the storm.”

Silvia’s gaze turns back to the page of expressions, adding shading in on a forlorn looking genderless form. “We all need shelter sometimes.”

Emily flits her gaze down to Silvia's sketch for a moment before she looks to the blank page before herself, contemplating it in silence. She offers no reply to the indications of safety, becoming lost in those thoughts unspoken while she continues to toy with the pen. Its slow rotations loop several more times before they pause.

"I had a brother," she volunteers absently, eyes never leaving the blank page. "I hardly got to know him." Her weight shifts and she pulls the cap free off the pen, toying with it in her offhand. "So I've never known what it's like to have siblings. I wish I had advice for you."

Glancing up for a moment, Emily adds quietly, "But I recently found out I have a sister." Her gaze falls again and she starts to lower the pen to page, but hesitates, instead making a small gesture with it. "We don't live together, and she's older than I am. I know it's different, but I can understand the shifted dynamic some way."

She lapses into silence again, pen tip still hovering uncertainly over the page. "It's good you still have your space. Your quiet, when you need it."

“I had a brother once too. Hardly got to know him,” Silvia echoes the words and it’s clear she’s not talking about Lynette and Mateo’s boy. “It’s all new to me. I just treat them kindly and sort of see how it goes. That’s the way with people mostly, isn’t it?” Some people less on the kind side, but it’s the general concept.

She looks at the paper, moving on to another face, this one more hopeful. “I think family has a way of connecting you in a way you don’t expect. It’s…” She struggles to find the word, perhaps a language barrier or maybe even the concept is too much. “… impactful. They change you in ways you don’t control. They mean something regardless of if you love them or hate them. Just knowing they are family makes them significant. Sometimes that’s good. You make of it what you may.”

Silvia’s gaze goes to Emily’s blank page. “Everyone deserves a little quiet. And not just from little siblings.”


The single, slanted line across the page is almost accidental, and as far as Emily gets in coming up with any image of her own before the pen nearly slips from her fingers, ending up lying down on its side. Speaking through the paper isn't something she's accustomed to, maybe something she's not even good at doing. Her fingers flex absently, brow ticking into a furrow before it smooths.

"Family is impossible," comes from her wearily. "Whether they're the family you choose, or the family you're born into."

It's hard to say if 'impossible' is a negative word or even a positive one, or one lacking additional context. Whatever it means to her is enough for her.

Emily settles her hands into a fold, fingers lacing. After a beat, she admits, "You hit the nail on the head, I think. About how they change you. I've just…" The trailing off is brief, quickly becoming impatient with the wait for more eloquent words. "I don't know. I got used to a certain distance. To a certain limiting. My family was small, and the spaces I left of myself … open? … to what others could do was, similarly, small."

"They chipped, and chipped, and chipped at it anyway until all the walls started coming down," she remarks distantly. "And now there's so many ways to get hurt. Things I had entirely shut myself off from are back now. New things I've never dealt with before are rearing their heads. None of it's easy."

Her gaze flits down to the pen. "There's no going back, either. Doesn't matter how much you wish for it. You just … keep going forward, even if you don't want to. Even if only negative things come from it." Shoulders sinking, she says, "I just wish it would stop sometimes, you know? Or change, for the better. It's not going to, though." Emily sighs. "Life's just a pit of broken glass."

“My life hasn’t been easy. I don’t talk about it much, it’s hard to explain to someone without them either not taking me seriously or taking me too seriously. It’s also not something I like talking about. But you’re right, it’s a pit of broken glass… that you crawl out of,” Silvia says as she looks at another expressionless face, ready for what emotion she might lay upon it.

“You are right about moving forward. You have to move forward because it hurts if you stop. But things changing around you, that’s just life. You learn to live with it because you have reasons to. I don’t know what your reasons are, I don’t even know mine, but everyone moves forward because of something. I think family helps with that. When I was young, my dad found me after bad things had happened. A very dark moment. But he held my hand and led me forward.”

She starts on a calm expression, pencil scratching across the page. “People help you, they ease your pain. Might not always be in the way you expect but I’ve found that people keep you going. Don’t be afraid to rely on someone, even if you’ve been hurt before. It’s worth the risk. You’re strong enough to get through it.”

Emily stills when Silvia mentions her past, gaze flitting up attentively. She listens in silence, knowing too well statements like those aren't meant to be pried at. She could relate very well to that after all.

Just to that part, though. As sunny as Silvia's outlook is, it doesn't wipe away all of Emily's fears and frustrations in that instance.

She gets the feeling, though, looking over the many sketches and their expressions — maybe it's not that easy for Silvia either.

So she stays, unmoving from her spot.

"I am strong enough," Emily insists softly, regardless of how true that might actually be. "I've been through too much shit not to be."

The tip of her own starts to swatch back and forth on the page, arcing in criss-crossing curves. They might be something or turn into something, but for now it's just energy being expended in a semi-thoughtful silence. It's a black-box process, even for her.

That's why it sounds like it comes out of nowhere as she asks, "Have you picked your classes for next semester, yet?"

“I’m going to load up on whatever art classes they’ll give me. I don’t find the degree very important as much as the hands on experience with people who know what they’re talking about and maybe being able to make use of their connections for my own future. I’d like my comics and ideas to get out there, I think I have some things to say to people that might not get to hear it in any other medium.”

Silvia’s gaze is drawn to the paper, staring as if she were contemplating it and not whatever is really going through her head. “It never feels like you’re strong enough, does it? When you go through hell and you live to tell the tale they always tell you that you’re strong or your brave for surviving but it never feels like strength or bravery. I always just feel… small.”

Emily lets out a silent laugh on the edge of a forceful exhale at hearing Silvia's plan. She didn't disagree at all, her own view was in fact similar just… more practical. Combine interest with ROI in terms of real-world use and make sure it covered her credit requirements as well. The three didn't always mesh, so there was compromise, frequently, in these first two course loads, and heading into her third she was experiencing only marginally more freedom.

So she starts to smile at that other outlook, until Silvia proves she's still lost in thought on the previous topic. The curve of her mouth softens, not flattening entirely. Emily has to take a moment, gaze dropping while she collects her thoughts, tries to be gentle with them.

"Surviving is very brave. Not wanting to give up is the strongest thing you can do," she voices evenly, the words coated in down. "It's hard to see that, sometimes, because you are where you are and it feels like you don't have any other choice than to be what you're being… but those people on the outside looking in, they look at your shoes, and they don't think they could handle everything you've been through in them."

Emily shifts her weight on her elbows, pen tip continuing to arc. In the scribbles she sees something worth salvaging and amplifying, so she's more careful now. "It does nothing to make you feel any less worn down by what you've been through, though. Some days when I had moments like that, I was able to pull myself out of it by telling myself, 'fuck them, they're right— there's no way they could have gone through what I did and come out halfway okay'," She takes a moment to pause, brow sinking low in thought. "But other times, I was just grateful they decided to see what I was going through at all, and tried to acknowledge it. They'd not been through anything like that, they never will, and so they can't relate— but they tried to recognize what I'd done anyway."

"Sometimes being seen can be enough. Can be the most powerful thing," Emily surmises, voice still soft. "Maybe if you look at it in that light, you'll see how tall a shadow you cast, no matter how small you feel."

Silvia seems to absorb the words, a slow nod being given as she takes it all in. She doesn’t start another expression, instead darkening the outline of each face with her pen. “Being seen is good. I think that’s one of the most important things.” Her gaze stays intently on her pen now, for a moment, barely aware of her own surroundings.

“Thanks,” she says simply as she looks up.

Emily shakes her head, satisfied with the shape she's lifted out of the scratch. "Thank you," she states in return, a little force to it that dies by the time she continues. "I… I needed this, I think."

She pushes herself to her feet again in a burst of spirited energy. Without looking off any one place in particular, Emily shifts herself the side to place a hand on Silvia's shoulder and lean into her side. It's something like a hug, or at least that's the intention of it. "So thank you," she repeats in a murmur.

Lifting her voice, she admits, "I should probably head home. I need to pack. I'm heading out of town this weekend."

“Yeah, I needed an ear too. It helps to know I’ve got a friend who gets it,” Silvia leans into the half-formed hug, giving a good long look at Emily. “I mean it when I say ‘anytime’. I’m easy to find. We don’t even have to talk, there’s always just some art.” She gestures at the paper, a wry smile on her face.

“I know it goes without saying but… be careful.”

"I will," Emily promises. "Protect head and heart both." Or at least, she'll try.

She doesn't plan on getting into any trouble that would involve getting other kinds of hurt, anyway.

Nodding at Silvia, she adjusts the bag on her shoulder as she starts to move away. "Same goes for you. Text me if you want a quiet night. I've got a cat now, he's pretty cute." Clearly an added bonus. "Or just … if you ever need to talk. If there's some stupid jackass who thinks they know what you're going through or have been through and it makes your skin crawl and you need to vent."

Definitely not speaking from experience there.

"Or… You know. The more mundane. Joe, or something." Emily lets out a laugh under her breath as she reaches the door. She pauses, turning back with an arch of her brow.

Jokingly, she asks, "Same time next month?"

Maybe Emily doesn’t plan for trouble, but Silvia knows all too well trouble always comes unplanned. Still, she trusts Emily to handle herself. She’s stronger than she knows.

“I’d like to hang out sometime, yeah. I certainly don’t have much opportunity to vent. My siblings are a bit young for that sort of thing and while I love my parents… there are things teenagers don’t talk to their parents about,” Silvia says with a grin.

Maybe it’s a joke, but there’s a hint of truth to it. “Same time next month. I’m certain the world will have turned over once or twice by then. We’ll have plenty to talk about.”

With that, her attention turns back down to the expressionless face on the page, her pen hovering close, ready to give it life.

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