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Are You Satisfied?/The Obsessed Artist

by Roukia Ali

Art lingers like a spectre longing for the moment it’s going to possess me—drifting down Darkened hallways in the morning, bemoaning the careful way my routine is all necessity And no writing, watching me as I watch TV and do not spare her a glance, eyes entranced by The show that should be inspiring me, static subtly flickering in my throat, reminding me of The words lodged under the phlegm of stress and doubt plugging up all my creative sense That could be dispensed into notebooks, pages fresh as the sunlight retreats off of them, Another day wasted because I lingered like a sitting corpse in survival mode. Why is it not today? 

Art sighs out disappointment instead of ideas, never allowing me to sleep as the bedsheets Snare me to be her listening prisoner who begs for her to mercifully drop the golden answer For writer’s block onto my lap like gold coins, something to drop into the wishing well abyss Of my mind, hoping to find something still living and accepting inside. But Art steals away, a Bandit in the night, gagging inspiration that thrashes in her tightened arms, fleeing through The window so I cannot visualise this part of myself that was extracted in insomnia, the burn Of forgetting my idea in the closing of my eyes. 

Why is it not enough? 

I threaten to leave too. I sit Art down while she still has potential, while she is still everything I believe in and is still the only thing I find in the world to be truly, endlessly beautiful, and

Tell her: 

If you are not good enough, I’m going to leave you.” 

I stifle her voice that always sings risky notes by backtracking on the keyboard, reviving her Only to bind her in folders snapping closed, like slamming a monster into a coffin. I bury her In the earth while she is still warm and hope roots weave through her gaps, and worms eat up 

All the rot of her breaking body, and flowers burst up from the cracks where things are not Working. I always find out in the end that she haunts me as a nice idea, and only died when Passion greyed on her cheeks like ashen dust settling on decaying stone. “Why do I keep killing my spirit?” 

Those who don’t get it witness me holding my pencil like a shovel and standing it up on Art’s Grave like a cross, my muse lost to me, and come to the conclusion that I am gripped by Insanity. Not for distressing over my creations, but for settling on the conclusion that when I Make a mess of them and get frowned on by rejection, that I’m simply cursed: brimming with Promise and tenacity, well-educated, and all it gets me is a destiny of fading into talentless Indifference, brilliance burning out like a quivering candle I refused to blow out myself out of Fear of bracing reality’s shocking cold. Art and I freeze, on the outside looking in, left to Wonder why my version of being creative isn’t warming my hands over the passionate pieces Written by fiery writers to learn from and admire, but instead despairingly noting that the Prodigies keep getting younger and younger. 

“When will I be enough? Why am I not enough?” 

I introduce Art to my friends, colleagues, teachers and family, adorned with my feelings like A dress that is falling apart at the seams, hoping to satiate wonders of where I’m going, and What it is I plan on doing, and why at points my mind halts at mental stop signs instead of Assigning meaning in redirection. I’m confused as to why no one else has imagined Art the

Way I have: 

“What is your opinion of my creation if not your opinion of me?”

Criticisms feel like every successful opportunity was just me getting lucky, and that I am not Enough and speak in tongues no one wishes to see untangled. Art and I go home with the Same exhausted shadows darkened by remarks that we are meant to be easy, that there is no Difficulty or cause for celebration in surpassing your old self, and that we’re not contributing Anything to society, yet it’s still expected we produce results or I’m wasting my time. Hours flit by in seconds, taunting me by tapping my shoulders. I look over and in their leers Comprehend that I just sit and watch everything pass me by, a movie scrolling on without a Pause button. 

“Well, you’re just not for them,” I tell Art sullenly, and in absence of compliments I ask then, “Who am I for?” 

Art holds my younger self by the hand. 

For her, I was enough. 

Art watches my passion in alternating flashes of disdain and fear, awe and apprehension, as I Sit before a computer, selling my soul on a line to whatever ingenious figurative language Device intercepts it like a fish, attracted to the worm in my mind that deletes entire Paragraphs, and curses, curling frustration in fists slamming on desk surfaces. Productivity Shrivels like dead skin as I recline in my seat, envy gently handling my favourite books Reverently by their spines. What is the anatomy of good writing? Why is good writing never Mine? 

“Just get the line right.” 

“Why can’t I write?” 

“Why do I hate this so much?” 

“Why am I not winning?” 

“This piece isn’t listening!” 

“I’m literally going to quit!” 

Art tears open a void in my stasis, pulling me down to the bottom of failure to touch. I kick And I kick and I kick madly, and defiantly, and fearfully against it even as the inky pool Swallows me, latching onto my pen and my arms, sticky and invasive and unshakable—break Through the surface, find it. Whatever meaning I always seem to lose along the way like a Child in a play place. Whatever keeps the jowls of perfection at bay from puncturing my skin. But I always give in, presenting to Art my wounds meant to justify to her why I always Need to satisfy every passing chance to win, why she needs to comply. 

Art holds out flowers of praise, as I am panting on my knees at the end of the footrace. I toss them on the track, let the petals rust in the chalky blues and reds. Don’t even bother to Thank her, because I’m not done running. Endless hurdles lie ahead to clear, the crack of the Starting gun is still whistling in my ears, tangled in the peace of the wind. I’m not out of Breath. Even with the medal I crave dangling around my neck, its cloying clinking sound Remains so tantalising. 

But what if this is your best? Art yells, eyes wide and panicked. 

Can’t you see this is your best? Won’t you water your flowers? 

I dust myself off, want spreading like wildfire through my legs, my body, my soul. Art cries as I walk to appease her, looks away so she won’t have to watch me Inevitably break into a sprint. 

When will it be enough for you?


Roukia Ali (Kia, she/her) is a Canadian-Comorian writer based in Toronto. Pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Arts double major in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, she has dedicated her life to professional pursuits in writing since the age of four. Roukia is a first-place winner in Scarborough Fair, and has current and forthcoming publications in Visionary Magazine, The Elysian Chronicles, Sontag Magazine, and many more. Other than writing, Roukia can be found reading manga, flexing her French, quoting Shakespeare, and attempting unsuccessfully to tear herself away from bookstores. You can follow her on Instagram @roukiaa9140


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