Silent Symphony - The Painter in the Park

Jakob
The Painter in the Park
I loved her from the moment I saw her. For days, I had watched her from my seat in the park. I would observe her every morning, setting up her easel, unpacking her satchel full of paint bottles, tubes, turpentine, rag cloths, brushes of every size and thickness, stretching her unfinished canvas on to the easel. She would fill a bucket of water from the fountain in the park, then pull a paint-splotched smock over the top of her head and smooth it out to cover her dress. She would smile and nod at the regulars - the hot dog vendor, the ice cream boy, the dog walker with the chihuahua and the St. Bernard, the morning and evening joggers. She never smiled or nodded at me. Every evening at 5, she would pack up. I never had the nerve to follow her. I don't think she even knew I existed....

She was painting the park in the Fall. Her colours were warm, her strokes bold yet soft, fuzzy around the edges. She wanted to capture the essence of autumn, the falling leaves, the russet tones, the gentle breeze. I knew what she wanted, for I walked past her every day, pretending to read a book. I would double back to look at her painting. She had a keen eye, her brush putting the park on canvas. I watched jealously as she drew a couple of college boys laughing and playing frisbee in the sunshine, grudging them the attention they received from her.. the attention I was thirsting for.

Silent Symphony
Her painting had something new each day - the exuberance of youth, the innocence of a baby, the tenderness of its mother, the warmth of the morning sunshine, the flavour of sizzling Sunday afternoon barbecues wafting from the surrounding neighbourhoods, the slight chill of the evening breeze, the overall harmony of the sights, smells and sounds of Autumn. I wasn't sure of the last one - for I was deaf, and mute for all practical purposes.

Which is what drove me completely mad. I could think of volumes to say to her, my fingers forming the words as I thought them in my mind, a soundless symphony filled with tender love and fiery passion, infinite patience and reckless haste, perfect understanding and insatiable curiosity. And yet, how could she fathom the depths of silence.....

And so continued my mute worship. I saw her every day, absorbing every movement she made, every flick of her delicate fingers, her graceful stance, her poise. I would pass by her every day, double back, look at her painting, observe her secretly. She smelt like turpentine and canvas and citrus and roses, a woodsy scent which intoxicated me. I would breathe in deeply whenever I passed her, try and take a part of her with me, within me. She never acknowledged me in those 15 days that she came to the park. And yet, I only loved her ever more with every passing day...

The Last Day
One day, after she had set herself up for the morning, she did not lift her brush. She simply sat on a nearby bench and looked at her painting for over an hour. And then she packed her paints and her brushes and the rag cloths and the turpentine. She emptied the unsullied water back into the fountain pond. She left the easel standing on the grass, slung her satchel over her shoulder and walked away. She took a few steps, and then returned, stooped briefly over the painting and then walked briskly away.

I sat on the bench she had vacated, the rest of the day. I could not comprehend what had happened. I waited for her to return. As morning turned to night, and the moon came out, it suddenly hit me like a punch in the gut, leaving me gasping for breath as it sunk in - She had left, probably never to return. I sat numb and motionless. I had guarded that painting all day, shooing away curious passersby with a rough wave of my hand. The regulars gave me strange looks, wondering where she was, and who I was. I did not feel foolish, only empty, a gaping void in my chest where my heart used to be. Although we had never once made eye contact, I felt as though she had taken my life force with her.

There was nothing more for me to do that day. I carefully removed the painting from the easel, rolled it up, folded the easel, tucked both under my arm, and left for home.

Narrator
The Painting
Back home, Jakob set up the painting on the easel. For the first time all day, he looked at the finished painting. She had captured the scene beautifully. It was as though the park in all its autumn glory, had come alive on canvas. The exquisitely portrayed people seemed to possess characters of their own even in paint.

Jakob's heartbeats quickened when he saw himself in the painting, at the bottom left hand corner. He was seated on his bench, the opened book face down beside him, his legs carelessly crossed, a smile on his face. One hand lay outstretched on the rim of the bench, the other on his lap. He was looking at a mother-and-child pair.

The mother was holding the baby in her arms, and the baby appeared to be crooning with delight. The baby's fingers were curled up and it held its mother's finger in its fist. The mother was pointing out to her baby the ducks in the fountain pond. Jakob followed the mother's hand.

There were three ducks in a V-formation, two of them preening each other, the third swimming away from them. Following the V arrowhead, he saw two girls playing with dolls, their fingers twisting the dolls' hairs into elaborate braids. A breeze blew the girls' hairs astray.

The wind appeared to continue on its way, blowing a trail of dried leaves towards the group of college boys playing frisbee, particularly one boy who had his eyes on the approaching frisbee, legs bent slightly at the knees, poised to jump, hands at the ready, fingers stretched.

Following the boy's gaze above the frisbee, Jakob made out a butterfly. It had a delicate, almost translucent quality about its wings, and it seemed to be carried on the breeze and not flying by itself. It dipped tentatively towards another butterfly flitting among the flowers below. A ray of sunshine fell on this butterfly, filtered through the red leaves of a tree. The white lily on which the butterfly sat was cupped in her hands.

She stooped to smell the lily's scent, but her eyes were fixed on Jakob. Her eyes brimmed with longing and tenderness and, Jakob was almost sure, with love.

And then suddenly, Jakob saw a pattern throughout the painting. Every character in the painting had their fingers spelling in sign language - "I love you". He gasped.. how could it be true? Was he seeing signs where there were none? He sat looking at the painting, unable to accept what he could see, sure that he was seeing what he wanted so desperately to be true. He searched behind the canvas for any clues that might lead him to her. He finally saw the tiny etching on the bottom right hand corner of the painting - "If only I could hear what I wanted you to say"

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful narration. I like the flow of language.

    ReplyDelete

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