Art and the philosophy of life

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Lunch hour…9

“Can I pet your snakes?”

“You can try,” said the Goddess.  “They will either like you or they won’t.  It’s risky, but it’s worth it.”

I held out my hand and dark, tiny, v-shaped tongues, flicked across my skin, picking up my sent. I let the snakes touch me until I felt as if they had given me their permission to pet them.

“They are so beautiful,” I said, running my finger down their backs.

“Well, I think so,” she smiled.  “That’s why I wear them.  That and it cuts down on guys hitting on me.”

“I can only imagine, I laughed, looking at her.  “Is it true that if a person looks at you they turn to stone.”

“Sometimes,” said Medusa.  “I wouldn’t do that to someone who wasn’t trying to kill me, of course, but people don’t seem to know that.  I mean, you’re looking at me.”

“You’re gorgeous,” I said, smiling at her.  “So often your pictures depict you at ugly and snarling.”

“Well most men make strong women look ugly whenever they stand up to them. Women who don’t treat men like gods are punished.  Personally, I don’t care what they do, I can kill them in a second.  No one messes with me, right my darlings?” she said, patting her snakes gently.  The snakes wriggled and hissed and then slid down to her shoulders and lap.

“Must be nice.”

“They hunt me down, no matter where I go.  Always trying to cut off my head, or some other weird thing.  They just can’t stand having me around,” she said.  “I see you have my image in sliver, around your neck.”

“I do,” I said, reaching for my necklace.  “I’ve worn you for years.”

“You do know that I’m a gorgon, don’t you?”

“I do, actually, but the the label is unfair.  You are not dreadful and you are certainly not repulsive, but the men who labeled you are both.”

She laughed and the snakes seemed to become more alert.

“Why are your sisters Stheno and Euryale immortal while you are not?”

Medusa shrugged.  “No idea, but I’m so sick of Perseus following me.  He keeps asking me to marry him and I keep saying no, so now he just wants to kill me.  He said if he can’t have me, no one will.  I think the next time he looks at me I’m going to turn him to stone and just get it over with.”

“I hate guys like that.”

“Don’t we all,” she said, her toga a mass of living serpents.

“Do you mind if they come by you?”  She asked, looking at her snakes.  “They seem to be quite taken with you.”

“Sure,” I said happily, and the snakes immediately stared crawling all over me.  “Oh, I love this one,” I sighed, kissing the lovely snake winding herself around my neck.”

“That’s Dea,” she said.  “She’s a sweetheart.”

“Is she poisonous?”

“They all are.”

“I think they’re wonderful.”

“They know that,” she laughed, watching the snakes slide over me.  “Rats, there he is again.”

I looked across the street and Perseus was staring at her.  I got up, snakes dropping to the grass and bench, and walked over to him. I took the sword from his hand and said,  “What IS your problem?”

“I love her but she…”

“…just wants to be left alone.”

“Yes,” he moaned.  “Look at her, she’s perfect.”

“Are you afraid of snakes?”  I asked him.

“Not really,” he said, never taking his eyes off of Medusa.  “Admittedly, there are a lot of them and they are always hanging around.”

“Was that a pun?”

“Indeed.”

“You know your chances of getting her attention would be increased if you would just leave her alone, don’t you.”

“I can’t stand being away from her.”

“Then why do you want to kill her?”

“So I don’t have to think about living without her,” said Perseus.

“Aside from the fact that that is insane, I have a better idea,” I said, smiling.

“You do?”

“Why don’t you kill YOURSELF?   That way you won’t have to think about anything ever again and the person who has done absolutely nothing  to you, can live happily ever after.”

“Kill myself?”

“It’s the manly and right thing to do.”

“It would be easier to kill her.”

“You’re pathetic, you know,” I sighed.  She’s innocent.  You, on the other hand are guilty of stalking and terrorizing her, among other things.  You are the problem, not her.  Just kill yourself and get it over with.  That’s the win-win situation for everyone.  Besides if you truly loved her you would want her to be HAPPY.”

“But I don’t want to die,” he whined.

NEITHER DOES SHE!” I shouted at him.

Dea, sensing danger, lashed out at Perseus and bit him on the lip.  Perseus, looked at me, then at the snake.  “I don’t even know who you are,” he said softly, falling to his knees.”

I bent down and said, “I’m just a woman who has another woman’s back.”

Perseus died on the sidewalk. His body disintegrated.  Medusa walked over to me and stared down at the spot where he had just been.  “How cool was that?” she said.

“Well, he won’t bother you any longer.”

“As a thank you, and if she’s willing, I’d like to let Dea stay with you.  She’ll want be around your neck, every now and then, and. I’m afraid and she’ll probably want to sleep next to you for your body heat.  Other than that, she can take care of herself.”

Dea agreed to stay with me.  I thanked Medusa and gave her open ended visiting rights. She thanked me for taking Perseus out and we bumped fists.

“Friends?” she asked.

“Definitely,” I said, smiling.  “I hope to see you again soon.”

“You will,” she said, kissing Dea goodbye.

I waved and then turned to go back to work.  “Love you Dea,” I whispered, kissing her tail.

“I love you too,” she hissed.

“You can talk?”

“Well, of course I can talk and you better walk faster, or you’ll be late.”

 

 

 

 

Lunch hour…8

“Oh, you brought a monkey and one of your little dogs.  How wonderful.”

“I always keep them with me,” said Frida, running her hand down the monkey’s tail.

“I have to ask you…what kept you going back to Diego?  I would like to understand why, after everything he did to you, you kept taking him back?”

“You had to know him,” said Frida, petting the dog.  “It wasn’t just me.  He had a kind of power over people.  I was attracted to his art, as well as to him.  It’s hard to explain.  I had my own affairs but it’s not the life I would have chosen for us.  It wasn’t up to me.  He cheated constantly.  Even with my sister.  She did that to me.  Love can be a terrible thing.”

“In your case, I agree completely.  Would you have had the affairs, if Diego had been true to you?”

“I don’t know.  I lost the baby.  I was in constant pain, physically and in my heart.   Don’t think that’s all I had though.  I was happy.  I was painting.  I had friends and I was part of something bigger than I was.”

“I was fortunate enough to see an exhibit of your work and it was amazing.  Photographs, no matter how good, cannot capture the passion and emotion that pours from your paintings.  They feel alive.”

“I painted for myself.”

“That’s why your work is so honest.  I have many books on you, and your art, but my two favorites are your diary and a thick, heavy, book of photographs.  Both books are dense and special.”

“I’m so happy you enjoy them.  I bet you can’t read much of my diary.”

“You’re right, but it’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you think so.”

“I’m sorry you suffered so much during your lifetime.”

“We don’t get to choose.  Life happens and we endure or, when we have had enough, we leave of our own accord.”

“I understand why you did it.”

“I was finished.”

“Diego couldn’t stop hurting you.”

“He was a pig.”

“He was.”

“And yet,” she laughed.   “When he looked at me, with eyes that begged for forgiveness….”

“Until you ended it.”

“Yes, until I ended it.”

“Your work is straight from your heart, filled with color and beauty, lush vegetation and blood.  Death and life in an eternal struggle that can only end one way.”

“It can only end one way,” she said.  “I painted what was inside of me.  I painted feelings, emotions, not the things I saw, I painted what I felt.  I painted what people looked liked to me from the inside out.  Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“What a person shows isn’t always who a person is.  I saw what they were.  Who was true and who was not, who was kind and honest and who was not.  I did that with myself.  I painted who I was.”

“You painted so many facets of yourself.”

“We are always evolving  How I look is how I felt when I painted  each one of them,” she said, straightening her skirt.

“Can I ask you another question about you and Diego?”

“Of course.”

“My father cheated on my mother all the time.  I think that’s what finally killed her.  I couldn’t stand him.  I never understood how she could even look at him, he was so disgusting.  Why do women put up with men who hurt them all the time?”

“I don’t know.”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

She shrugged.  “Diego was a passionate man.”

“So?”

“When I was with him I felt, alive.  I felt rage, and I wanted to kill him, but those feelings were better than being without him.”

“He didn’t deserve you.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  Who is to say?”  she said, sadly.  “I made my choices.  I knew what he was.  He cheated on his other women.  He never promised he would be faithful.”

“I’m glad you had others, even if it was just to get back at him.”

“It was that, but it was more,” she laughed.  “I had fun. I am also a passionate person.”

“One more question?”

“Yes.”

“Having been cheated on yourself, how could you cheat with men who were married?  How could you do that to other women?  And please don’t say you were caught up in the moment.”

“Perhaps my need for revenge was stronger than my thought for others.  I don’t know.  You ask questions that have slippery answers.”

“But you were the other woman, on countless occasions, and look how it made you feel.”

“I wish I had something to say in my defense.”

“Well, I enjoyed our conversation.  But do me one last favor?”

“What is it?”

“Don’t let Diego ever come and talk to me.”

“I will do my best,” she said, her eyes sparkling.

“You are well loved Frida.  Your work is everywhere.  I hope you’re happy.”

 

 

 

Lunch hour…7

“I’ve been to your museum in Paris, on two separate occasions.  The second time was after they remodeled and it wasn’t as nice as the first time, although the garden is absolutely wonderful.”

“What was different?”

“Your sculptures were behind glass the second time.  The first time they were within touching distance and freely available to people.  Your work is incredible, filled with passion, beauty and power.  I used to have statues of The Kiss and The Thinker but my nephew came over and broke both of them because his mother didn’t care what he did.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Thank you.  It was a long time ago, they’re both dead now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that as well.”

“I’ve been reading a lot about you lately.  About you and about Camille Claudel, that is.”

“My beloved.”

“Yes, your beloved.  I know you tried to help her and I know that you knew she was brilliant but you never left the woman you were living with and look what happened to Camille. What a horror story that was.  Her talent, her life, erased by a jealous brother and mother.”

“She was so very beautiful and her talent, well, it was a match for mine.”

“Why did you stay with your so called wife?  You weren’t married to her, at least not until the end.  You ignored her and tortured her with your love affair, with Camille, and yet you stayed.”

Rodin shrugged.  “I wanted to leave…”

“Camille’s life would have been saved if you had made a different choice.”

“I did what I could.  Times were different.  Women had no place in the arts, except as models and doing small paintings, as hobbies.  Camille was a true sculptor, it was unheard of, except for dainty pieces of children or animals. Eventually, there were those who recognized her talent and they worked to help her get noticed, to make money, so she could eat and have shelter.  The world wouldn’t let women be seen. Even in your world it’s not that different.”

“You’re right, of course.  Things are better but not equal.”

“I adored her, she was my heart, my soul, my muse.  She made me better than I was and her beauty…she was extraordinary.”

“She was.  Her mind and body crushed and killed by her ugly family and by the ugly society in which she lived.”

“It breaks my heart, even now.”

“Mine too, if you want to know the truth.  Do you want to talk about Hugo?”

“Not really.  I only ever think about Camille and clay, bronze and stone.  The work, the love affair, my life was exciting, even though I had to constantly battle the art world with their rules, regulations and horrific expectations.  They had no vision, none at all. The people who ran things knew nothing about art, or artists. They were blind and in charge.  They made life impossible, at times.  Artists works for themselves, not to please people who can’t see, or feel anything.”

“I understand and I know how much time it took for you to fight them.  I wish things had been different, but people in power are often in power because they are abusive and love to have power over others.  People who don’t need those things, never seek power at all. That’s the way it works, and that’s why bad people are always in charge.”

Rodin nodded and wiped his brow.  “So you enjoyed my work?”

“I can’t tell you how much restraint I had to use, not to run my hand down the marble.  I kept saying to myself, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it,’ over and over again.  I probably would have done it but there were guards everywhere just so people wouldn’t touch anything because the oil on our skin would eventually damage the marble.  The thing is, you shouldn’t have made such amazing things, if you didn’t want people to touch them.  I mean, they were begging to be petted, to be embraced, to be part of the living world.  And we wanted to do it. Really, wanted to do it, but we would have been forced to leave, if we had done so.”

“I’m crushed to hear that.  My work is for you, for the people.  I wanted the statues to bring out the passion in people, so they couldn’t help but touch them.”

“At least I got to see them.  Now they’re behind glass and the emotion is missing entirely. They are flat and airless and not part of the environment any longer.  I’m extremely happy that I got to see them the way they were meant to be seen.”

“Did you see some of Camille’s work as well.”

“A bit, yes.  She was wonderful.”

“I loved her.  Only her.  She was the beauty in my world.”

“I know.”

“She could be stubborn,” he laughed.  “She had a vision and no one could push her from her path.”

“You mean she was like you?” I said, smiling at him.

“Yes, we were one in the same, but she had to fight for everything.  She was angry and hurt.”

“She never loved anyone but you.”

He nodded.

Paris wasn’t ready for her.  The world wasn’t ready for her.  They never may be ready for women, especially women like Camille.”

“A waste,” he growled.

“Most definitely.  Imprisoned in a mental hospital against her will, without her art, for all those years.  I can’t think of anything worse.  I despise her family.”

“So do I.  We tried to get her out.  We filled out forms, we went to court, we did everything, but they refused.  Her brother hated her freedom and so did her mother.  They didn’t want her to get any money, after her father died.  They didn’t want her to be free, creative or important.  They hated her talent and willpower.”

“Family is often dangerous and filled with jealousy and hatred.”

“There was no love for her.  Not in her family.  None,” he said.

“This is silly but I’ve always felt a connection to you, even as a child.  I was born in August and you’re called Auguste, even if the pronunciation is different.  That was a big deal, to a little girl.  I told you it was silly.” she said, seeing him smile.  “But I was young and that was exciting to me.”

“How very kind of you,”he said softly.

“I still feel that way, you know.  Connected to you, to Camille as well.”

“Thank you.”

“The pleasure is mine, I assure you,” said Topaz.  “But I must get back to work.  I’m so happy you came for a visit.  When you see Camille, please tell her that a lot of us lover her. Tell her we are fighting, so that what happened to her won’t happen to other women.”

“I will tell her.”

 

Topaz blew him a kiss and he burst out laughing, just before he faded away.

 

Lunch hour…6

“It was always exciting.  I loved every minute of it,” he said, his eyes sliding out of focus.

“I can imagine.  Your stories were pretty ugly though. Racist, bigoted, you know, filled with nasty stuff.”

“Times were different then.  I regret some of the things I wrote.”

“I don’t blame you,” said Topaz.  “But tell me, what was Sherlock really like?”

“He was a bit like Jeremy Brett and a little like the others who play him.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.  He was a complex man and each actor brings out something new in his personality..  He was quick, self assured, incredibly confident, neat and feverishly excited when he was fast on a trail.”

“You’re here talking to me but you’re a fictional character.  Everyone else who has come to the park bench has been a real person at one time.”

“You must understand that when fictional characters are well loved, thought about, and never forgotten, depicted in films, read over and over again, their pictures and quotes worn on clothing and other goods, their adventures known by everyone in the world, they might not become completely real but they become real enough.”

“That makes sense, I guess. So, tell me about Sherlock.”

“He was one-of-a-kind. Absolutely brilliant.  He never wore a deerskin hat, by the way, or said a lot of the things that are attributed to him, but he did have an opium problem. Actually, he only used drugs when he was doing experiments with them, or when he was depressed and had no work.  He had to work, you see, it was his whole life.  If he didn’t have a case he was likely to fall into the pit of despair. His brain needed stimulation.  He needed puzzles to solve.  When you have a mind like his, it eats itself, if it’s not being used, if it’s not active.”

“What about Mycroft?”

“What about him?”

“What was he like?”

“Reclusive.  Distant.  Exceptional  The brothers loved each other, in their own way. ”

“Irene Adler?”

“There was no love between them I assure you.  She outsmarted him and won his admiration, that’s all.  He felt that she was the best example of womanhood that existed. But again, no romance was involved.”

“Mrs. Hudson?”

“A lovely woman who put up with quite a lot, I assure your.  Gun shots, unexplained noises, strange people coming in day and night.  She was stoic and even when at her wits end, she was always there for Sherlock and, for me as well.”

“Moriarty?”

“Nemesis.  The challenge that made it all worth while.  They were perfect for each other.  Pushing and shoving.  Moriarty was evil, of course, but his genius gave Sherlock a focus. Moriarty was the person who was up to Sherlock’s extremely high standards.”

“And you?”

“No one asks about me.”

“I’m asking.”

“It was a pleasure to be written as Sherlock’s friend and, dare I say it, as his partner in crime.  Conan Doyle did me a great honor.  I was the record keeper, the gofer, if you will. But I was there and I often said the right thing at the right time.  He didn’t have to do it alone.  I’d like to believe that I was of some help.”

“Want to know what I think?”

“Indeed.”

“I think that you were just as important as Sherlock because without you, he wouldn’t have been able to truly function.  You were the social front that make him able to work with others.  You were the bridge he needed to deal with the real world, instead of just staying inside his own head.  He needed you to run interference for him.  And you did it brilliantly. You took care of the things that might have distracted him and you made his life livable and so much better.”

“I hardly know what to say,” said Watson, looking away.  “Thank you for noticing.”

“Sidekicks never get enough credit but you were much more than that.  You were his friend.  You understood him.  You overlooked some of the things he did and you accepted him as he was.”

“The actors who play our roles are quite talented.  I’ve liked all of them, although they aren’t actually anything like us, most of the time.  They are handsome, strong, modern and they do and say things that we never did or said.”

“Movies are like that, of course, but each of them has a following.  You and Sherlock are always in style and each new Sherlock is loved for what he brings to the myth, to the story.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“I’ve like quit a few of the actors who have play you and Sherlock.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” said Watson, starting to get up.”

“I would like to hug you, before you go, if that’s not too forward.  But I’m not sure you’re real enough for that.”

“Then I shall dream that your embrace took place,” said Watson, bowing politely.  “And my dreams will be all the sweeter for the thought of it, my fair lady.”

“Dr. Watson,” I think I just fell in love with you.”

 

 

 

Lunch hour…4

“This is a joke, right?”

“Would you like to sit on the park bench, or would you like to lie down?”

“Why are you here?”

“There’s a sign up sheet on the other side.  Once we found out you could see us and talk to us, we all wanted to have lunch with you.”

“All?”

“Well, a lot of us, anyway.”

“Siggie baby, I have to tell you I don’t like you one little bit and I don’t care that you came from a different timeline.”

“If you must use my first name, please call me Sigmund.”

“Are you name phobic, Siggie?  Wanna talk about that?  Maybe you should lay down on the bench and tell me when this name thing started.  Do you dream of others calling you Siggie?  Did your father call you Siggie?”

“I just prefer Sigmund, that’s all.”

“Look, I’ll be brief.  You were in love with your mother, you lived in fear of heavy things falling on your head, and you actually believed that women were envious of men.  You got it all wrong Sig.  Women simply wanted power over their own lives, they never wanted to be men.  We like being able to use both sides of our brains at the same time.  We like to be able to multitask and use WORDS.  You have brawn, too much testosterone,  you’re overly interested in putting balls into hoops, holes in the ground, into nets and anything else you can imagine, and you want to beat and kill everything.  You’re unable to share, or play well with others, and you don’t know anything about women.  See, here’s the thing Siggie, for someone who always has something in his mouth, you might want to think about where your ‘oral fixation,’ theory came from because you’re the one who is rarely seen without that big, fat, cigar between your damp, plump, little lips.  I hate to break it to you, Sig, but your theories are based on your own fantasies and weirdness. Unfortunately, people took you seriously and you hurt women tremendously and continue to do so even today.  As far as I’m concerned, you’re irrelevant, Sig.  Enjoy your time on the bench.”

Lunch hour…3

“Scott?”

“Yes, it’s me,” he said, standing up.  “You upset the Old Man yesterday.”

“I don’t like him.”

“I know.  That’s what he said.”

“Don’t try to defend him, the way you always did.  You were too nice to him and you did too much for him.  He was never a good friend to you.”

“Oh, I don’t think you can ever be too nice to people.  And he wasn’t that bad.  He had his moments.”

“If you say so.”

“Zelda was the love of my life, you know.”

“I know that.  I’m sorry she was ill and I’m positive she loved you very much.”

“She did,” he said, looking down.  “She didn’t always mean to do the things she did.”

“She was sick.”

“She was beautiful.”

“She was.”

“She was competitive, as well.  But, she was good at so many things.  She would have made a fine ballet dancer, if she would have started at a younger age.”

“I’m sure that’s true.”

“She could write, too, in spite of what Hemingway said.  Truthfully, I used some of her writing in my own books and didn’t give her credit.  I still feel guilty about that.”

“Life can be hard.”

“She meant everything to me and she was so much fun to be around.  She drank too much, but we all drank too much,” he said, looking away.  “Paris made all of us more of who we truly were, and that was difficult to handle.”

“I understand.”

“”I’m told that my books are still popular and that Gatsby was made into a film, twice,” he said, his face brightening.

“That’s true and you named the The Lost Generation and The Jazz Age.  We all know what those words mean, because of you.”

“I never liked working in the film industry.  I didn’t belong there.”

“I read about that.”

“I wish I would have written more but life was so full of travel, parties, sickness, drinking, love, suffering, and unhappiness, that there just wasn’t enough time.  We never held back, you know.  We lived full out, all the time. There’s a price to pay for living that way,” he said, sadly.  “Your generation gets to read about how it all turned out, but at the time, it was easy to feel like a failure.  I was turing out stories for magazines, just to earn money. We were all scrambling. No one was sure where where their next dollar was going to come from, except for the Murphy’s.  Sara and Gerald Murphy were the most beautiful, loving and generous people I ever knew.  Everyone was in love with Sara, and I mean in love with her. Picasso was mad about her.  Everyone loved Gerald as well.  They went through such hard times.  They lost both of their boys.  No one was ever the same after that, things fell apart. But believe me when I tell you, they were absolutely perfect, in every way. Unfortunately, being perfect doesn’t stop terrible things from happening.  Just remember, when you read about our lives, it’s always more thrilling to look back at things that have happened, than it is living through the uncertainty of each one of those days.”

“But your lives, and the way you all lived them, are things people aspire to, even today.”

“Why?”

“Because what you did was exciting, beautiful, dangerous, delicious and creative.  People love Paris and Shakespeare and Company even today, because of the way you all lived.”

“Oh, that was a great place. Hemingway liked Sylvia Beach.  She was always kind to him, letting him borrow books when he didn’t have a penny to his name.  And Joyce had that whole Ulysses thing going on.  His eyesight was terrible.  He was always borrowing money and living the good life.  Without Sylvia, Ulysses would never have been published.  I liked James and everyone adored Sylvia.  She was very special and never even knew it.”

“You liked everyone.”

“Everyone has beauty in them, somewhere.”

“I wish I could believe that,” sighed Topaz.

“Maybe you need to look more deeply.”

“Maybe I do.”

“We had wonderful lives, in spite of the things that happened, so don’t feel sorry for any of us.”

“I love you Scott.”

Scott smiled and took her hand. “Then it was all worth it,” he whispered.

 

Lunch hour…2

“You look just like the picture on your dust jacket,” said Topaz, eating a fork full of lettuce.

“It’s one of my favorite photographs,” he said smiling.  “Do you like my books?”

“I’ve read a couple.  You’re definitely not my favorite person.”

“You mean author?”

“No, I mean person.  Your ego is enormous and you lie a lot, not to mention the fact that you’re a misogynist pig.”

“Excuse me?”

“What part of what I said don’t you understand?”

“You’re mean, you know that, don’t you?”

“I do know that, thank you noticing.  See, you never impressed me because you were always too busy trying to impress yourself.  And what kind of people leave a sick baby in a crib with a cat as a babysitter, so they can go out drinking with their friends? You and your dim wife, that’s who.”

“We didn’t have money for a human babysitter.  Besides, the baby was good and the cat was exceptionally smart.”

“I’m sure the cat understood his role and was able to change and feed the baby perfectly, in spite of not having thumbs and being a different species.  You only married the woman because she idolized you and made you feel like you were all the things you believed yourself to be. She never stood up to you.  Well, let me tell you, Earnest, Scott was a thousand times the man you were and you knew that, that’s why you treated him the way you did. Never thanking him for everything he did for you and bashing him behind his back.  Never helping him in any way that mattered. Always on him about Zelda.  Believe me when I tell you that running with bulls doesn’t make you a man, neither does boxing, skiing, or any of the other things you did, or lied about doing.”

“You’re mean.”

“I expected you to be able to use more words and not repeat yourself.  You lie, you’re jealous of others, you’re ungrateful, you’re egomaniacal, and you hit women.  Those things don’t make you a man, they just make you disgusting.”

“Some people love me.”

“No accounting for taste, is there.”

“But I’m a great author.”

“Who cares?  You weren’t a great man.”

“You think Scott was a great man?”

“I do.”

“He was a drunk and he was weak.  He could have been so much more.”

“Being more wasn’t as important to him as being there for the one he loved.  Besides, you’re still jealous of him.”

“He wasn’t a man.”

“Scott was loyal and true.  He actually helped others every chance he got.  But what would know about helping anyone but yourself?”

“I was the better man,”  he huffed.

“Not a chance.  Sure, Scott drank and he was insecure but he was brilliant and he loved Zelda.  He did what he could to make her happy.  Was he perfect?  No, but you never did anything for anyone but yourself.  You didn’t care who you ruined or hurt. Having said that, I don’t think it’s fair that you were treated for being mentally ill when the men in black really were following you.  That was wrong and people in the government should have been jailed for what they put you through.”

“I tried to tell people, but no one would listen.”

“I know.”

“I was a real man though.”

“Right.  Well, you’re proof that we all live in our own little fantasy worlds.”

“They read my books in school, they sell them everywhere, they lecture about my work, they…”

“Don’t care.  You watched other people do things and said that you did them yourself.  You made up your life and tricked people into believing that what you said was true. You stole the actions of others and pretended that they were your own.  I think you’re a coward.”

“I’m dead, you know.”

“I know.”

“You want to go for coffee?”

“Seriously?”

“I like mean women.”

“Not in a million years,” she said throwing her lunch bag into the trash.

“So, I’ll meet you right here in a million years and a day,” he shouted.  “But I have to warn you…I’ll be seeing other people between now and then.”

 

Lunch hour…

“What happened to your ear?”

“It’s a long story,” said the man, his ginger hair pushed to the side.

“I have an hour for lunch and I see you sitting her every day, reading and writing in your little notebook.”

“I’m drawing, actually,” he said.  “I watch the people walking by and I look at the lines of the buildings but I’m not much of a city person.  The country and the peasants suit me better.”

“Peasants?”

“Those who work the fields, those who work with their hands and eat meager meals, just getting by, no matter how much they toil.”

“Oh, you mean poor people who are down on their luck?”

“Not exactly.”

“We don’t have any fields around here.”

“I can see that.”

“We have skyscrapers.”

“I can see that too.”

“And cars.”

“Yes.”

“So, what happened to your ear?”

“I fell in love.  She let me take care of her for awhile but then I became too much for her to take.  I cut off part of my lobe to prove that my love for her was true, but it didn’t help.”

“I can understand that.”

“You can?”

“Of course.  Body parts are not gifts any woman wants to receive.”

“I found that out.”

“Are you an artist?”

“I’m a lot of things but yes, I am an artist.”

“Are you famous?”

“I am now.”

“You seem unhappy.”

“Well, life didn’t work out very well for me, so I suppose that’s only natural.”

“What happened?”

“I never followed the rules, my parents didn’t like me, since I was a constant disappointment to them, and I pretty much failed at every single thing society expected of me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I gave it my best shot.  I just couldn’t make other people see things the way I saw them.  I mean people would buy art to match their walls, can you believe that?  They didn’t care whether or not the work spoke to them, they just wanted something that looked good with their furniture.  Then I tried to be a minister and, sadly, I took what I read literally, so I gave all of my possessions to the poor and lived in a hovel, in abject poverty, so the church fathers said that I was a disgrace and no matter how many times I told them that giving everything to others was the very heart of church’s belief, they threw me out.  Oh, and before I was born, there was another child, one who was well loved.  He died and then I came along and was given his name.  No one liked me because I wasn’t my dead brother. He was buried in the little cemetery behind our house and every time I went outside I saw my name on the stone over his grave.”

“That’s horrible.”

“Well, life can be horrible, at times.  I tried to start an artist colony and my friend Paul came to stay with me in this lovely yellow house I was renting. Things went well for a short time but we started arguing. We gave each other paintings but he was upset that I painted faster than he did and I guess I said things he didn’t want to hear.  We both had big personalities and we both drank a lot.  He had left his wife and children to go live on an island and paint.  Abandoned them, really.  He did wonderful work but our arguments were getting more violent and finally…”

“He left?”

“Yes.”

“At least you tried.”

“I had nice sisters and the most wonderful brother.  He supported me and sold some of my work.  He always believed in me.  Always.  He lived in Paris and you can drive by his place, even now.”

“I’m so happy you had him.”

“Theo loved me,” said the man.  “He married and became a father.  He was happy but I know I was a constant worry for him, as well as a constant drain on his finances.  I always needed paint and canvas.  I never wasted money on clothes or food, but I did drink too much.  I couldn’t stop painting because I couldn’t open my eyes and not see the things around me.  Do you understand?  I had to paint what I saw.  The sunflowers, the workers in the field, the stars in the sky, the crows, the people, I had to paint them.”

“I feel your passion.  I understand, I truly do.”

“They said I was crazy.  Crazy from ingesting the lead from the paint I used.  I would often put the tip of the brush into my mouth to make a perfect point.  I didn’t know the paint would hurt me.  I was consumed with getting the things I saw, down on canvas.  I know my personality was…”

“Overpowering?”

“Yes, that’s the perfect word.  Thank you.  But I couldn’t contain my passion.  The emotion that I was getting from everything around me just kept building up.”

“Your art was your release.”

“It was.  But the thing is, the time that a person is alive, makes all the difference.  The world wasn’t ready for me then.  People need to be born at the right time, if they want to be understood and taken seriously.  I was born too early.”

“Maybe you paved the way for the others who came after you.”

“Maybe,” he said, shaking his head.  “But my life was hard and no one understood what I saw.”

“I’m sure that was difficult.”

“You have no idea.”

“You’re right.  I have no idea.”

“My brother died, you know.  Such a good man.  Such a wonderful brother.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m glad that I wasn’t alive to see it.”

“Me too,” she said, staring at her hands.  “Uh, wait, what?”

“I’m not real you know.  At least not in the sense you would mean.  I just wanted to see my Sunflowers, at the Art Institute.  You could call me a ghost, but that’s not what I am. It’s difficult to explain.”

“You mean you’re dead?”

“That’s exactly what I mean.  Well, maybe not all of me is dead, or I wouldn’t be here, right?” he laughed, and ran his hand around the band of his worn, straw, hat.  My name’s Vincent, by the way.”

“My name is Topaz.  Nice to meet you.  I can tell you aren’t from around here, you have an accent.”

“Nice to meet you as well and yes I’m not from here, although I think you’re the one with the accent,” he said, smiling broadly.

“Why can I see you and talk to you, if you’re dead?”

“It probably happens to you all the time and you never even know it.”

“What?”

“You have a gift and if I didn’t tell you that I was dead, you would have simply assumed that you had spoken to a person, while eating in the park on your lunch hour.”

“Okay, first of all, there are no ‘normal,’ people and second, are you telling me that some of the people I’ve met before have been dead.”

“Yes.”

“That’s insane.”

“It’s not.  Society just tells you that it is.  Society lies about a lot of things.”

“That’s true, but this is just weird.”

“You were raised to believe this kind of thing is weird, even thought it happens quite often.”

“I have to go back to work.”

“In the gallery?”

“Yes.”

“Be nice to artists, some of them have difficult lives.”

“I am nice to them.”

“I enjoyed talking with you,” he said, smiling.  If you see my work across the street, I hope you enjoy it.  I did love yellow.”

“Thank you and you used color brilliantly.”

“I appreciate that,” he said.  “Maybe we can talk again sometime.”

“I don’t see why not,” said Topaz, waving, as she walked toward Michigan Avenue.

“I look forward to it,” muttered Vincent softly.  “More than you’ll ever know.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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