I have bought some of your supplies. Sparse, random: a thin brush and a squat black marker, a half-full bottle of linseed oil, a gallon of turpentine. More consistent, a set of woodcarving tools. They are largely rusted but it shouldn’t matter. I just couldn’t resist their handles… thick and rounded, striped in red and blue—the paint, of course, peeling off. Nicely worn by years and years of ap-prehension. Of tight hold, solid grip.

     I am thrilled, knowing I’ll take these in my hands over and over and, as soon as I will, I’ll forget about it. That’s what happens when you grab a tool and start working… hand and handle collude. They become one. The joint disappears.
     Hand and handle invariably melt… that must be why handles are irresistible. Hands have fused into them already, or will. They have left or they will leave traces.

     I don’t know how you looked like. Don’t know who you were. I have been careful not to inquire about your identity. I only know you have unexpectedly passed in your mid sixties.
I don’t want to know your name. Luckily your tools don’t reveal it. They have never cared about it, indifferent to denominations. They have acquainted you by touch, hold, containment and pressure, as they will acquaint me.

     Good morning. Good afternoon. I have entered your workshop a bit before twelve, then I have lingered more than I had planned to, overwhelmed by the sight and smell of so many spoils. Your supplies, tools, completed and especially unfinished artifacts. Your utensils—redundant, repetitive yet all needed. The entire inventory.
     This is what an artist studio looks like—an abecedary, an alphabet. Jars of pencils, pens, rulers, paint tubes; stacks of paper, boards, canvases; boxes of clips, blades, pins, sharpeners… The list is quite infinite but all things come in rows, series, sequences. They are pieces of a giant puzzle, lined up by shape or color. They are cells waiting to jell into an organism. Atoms eager to merge into molecules. Molecules about to assemble into matter.
     Or not eager, no—just available to the hand. A field of possibility wavering like grass in the breeze. Waiting to be breathed in, breathed out, animated.
     Not waiting. Available.
     And, without the hand—your hand—dead.

     You are dead. So is your workshop.
     Lured by an announced hasty sale customers fly in—busy bees bent upon your tables, kneeling in front of dusty crates, rummaging crowded shelves. We are buying your paraphernalia for nothing. Please, please—the bereaved says—whatever you can afford, all must go. They are flustered, tense, uncomfortable. They don’t have much time. They need to get back to their distant lives, brutally interrupted by your passing.
     Your life has been disrupted as well. It has been discontinued. Dissolved.

     Its trace ligers like a hovering silhouette as long as your studio stays in its present shape—all these crumbs you have disposed following your needs and intentions. All these pebbles drawing the intricate map of your mysterious labyrinth, allowing the fruit of your imagination to incessantly embody itself, come to life. Orderly display of un-creation, necessary for creation to occur… your studio—the blueprint of your brain, your soul, your inspiration. As long as it keeps its peculiar shape, your trace…
But it is being dismantled piece by piece, corner by corner by us-busy-bees and by your relatives, fretting to accelerate the cleaning. Healthily, naturally starving for closure. Therefore, your life’s footprint cancels itself.

     I have purchased a few random things: a square ruler, rounded x-acto knife, and a large black-covered notebook—virgin pages of nice consistence and grain, unused, clean, innocent. Very thick, in pristine conditions—only the first sheet has been torn.


Projected Letters is a literary magazine dedicated to publishing the best new and established writing from around the world.


Toti O'Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in O:JA&L, Scryptic, Voice Of Eve, and Blue Tiger Review.