Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
by Irene Pérez
On the first day of class, I introduce myself:my name is Irene, I’m from Puerto Rico andI live in Jersey City.Spanish is my first languagewhen I’m among English speakers.English is my polished languagewhen I’m among Spanish speakers.But I don’t say all that.Why am I here?I am here because I want toawaken the right side of my brain.The left one won’t let me live a healthy life.It is on the third day during a coffee breakthat I confess: Ms. Greenberg,I don’t care about drawing;truth is, I’m a pothead. Inhaling the stuffis the only way I can silencela maldita izquierda.Smiling and turning her gaze upwards,Ms. Greenberg exhales her own brand of cigarette;she’s from L.A. and we both have curly hair.I wonder if she’d tell her own teacher back home(the woman who created right-side-brain drawing)that her techniqueis being used for healing on this side of the U.S.I ask her what she thinks BettyFord would say to that —replacing grass for drawing.The name is Betty Edwards,Ms. Greenberg corrects me,extinguishing the faintly lit bud.“Let’s go make some pictures now.”Yes, I respond.This left lobe is a loud ticking clock,a mushy bureau with drawers opening andclosing like a Dalí painting.Did he paint about the left with the right,Ms. Greenberg?Can that be done in thirty minutes,and what would you call it?Sshh, she says, tapping the right sideof my head with three gentle knocks,the way one is supposed to awakea somnambulist. She panics for a splitsecond and switches the beat to theleft side of my head.Things get crossed inside, she explains.Sure enough, time is forsaken:it is suddenly the last day of classwhen we sit in front of a mirror and drawThe Self.Straight lines are easy,even when angles shoot out,we students discuss.Your pencils leave proof of what you seenot of what you think,the teacher teaches.Measure a line at a time and keep it(the pencil) sharpened with a good eraser at hand.I raise my voice.I can’t draw my round nose, Ms. Greenberg.It’s not a nose, Rene.(I forgive her for changing my name becausea name is a noun is a word is a left brain.)A nose is not a nose, she explainswalking towards me.It’s curves with degrees of light.But when she inspects my profileto help me with thismost difficult part of the face,she declares I have a pudgy nose.Suddenly, Spanish returns as my first language.What’s that, pudgy? I ask.It goes up a bit. It’s cute, Ms. Greenbergassures me, pinching it,leaving a dust of graphite on the tip.I blush and she walks away.At home I look over my work.The self-portrait portrays awide face with shadows under my eyesand big ears that run the length of my cheeks.The eyebrows arch like aneternal question mark,a few strayed hairs marking the lid.And at the edge of my mouthtwo slowly imbedding linesare beginning their travel down.
Irene Pérez obtained a Master’s degree in Spanish at Hunter College and a Bachelor’s degree in Writing at Columbia University. Her poems and short stories have
appeared in The Olive Tree Review, The Américas Review, The Bilingual Review, Long Shot, Centro Journal, Mangrove and Gulfstreaming. She has also written book reviews for Latingirl Magazine and Críticas. She has taught Latino Literature and Spanish at Hudson County Community College. She now lives in Cornwall, New York.
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