Chapter 1: He was Brooding
He was brooding. Or... I guess that’s just what I assumed he was doing. And you know what they say about assumptions. But still, I’m pretty sure he’s brooding. He just looked so moody. Negative vibes were coming off of him in waves and his eyes were absolutely smoldering. He was sitting on some fire escape steps in a crappy alley. I guess all alleys are crappy, but the man didn’t seem to mind. Maybe he did, actually, and that’s why he looked so depressingly morbid. He just sat on the third step with his head resting on his hands. Every once in a while those eyes would lose focus and a dazed expression would appear on his handsome face. Those eyes were beautiful. Eyes that seemed to take in everything, yet nothing at all.
I took in the whole picture. He really stood out in the small lane. He was dressed nicely, so not a beggar, yet he sat on those rusty cancerous steps. They had to be making his pants dirty. But the question I really wanted answered: why hadn’t anyone noticed him? Well, obviously I had noticed him but really, was I the only one? He stuck out like a Barbie at a G. I. Joe convention. Or maybe he was a G. I. Joe at a Barbie convention. He was too manly to be a Barbie. Either way, he stuck out. He didn’t look like he belonged in this alley. Heck, he didn’t look like he belonged on this side of the city. He should have been on the rich side living it up, not here with us... common folk. The man was different. I knew it. It was like something I could sense.
He was beautiful too. In a totally manly way. It was as if some Adonis just came down from the heavens and decided he might as well call Earth his home. A finely chiseled face was surrounded by brown-almost-black hair. And his eyes. I think I’ve already mentioned them a few times, but they were an absolutely captivating sapphire. They were so expressive too, when they weren’t doing that glazing over. They told a person who looked into them thousands of stories and conflicting emotions. Betrayal. Pain. Happiness. Loss. All reflected in those perfect orbs. His skin seemed to radiate with beauty, pale but healthy. He absolutely glowed. And I knew that if I could gain his attention, and he smiled at me my life would be complete and I could die a happy man. Ok, I have a little more to live for than just that, but you get my picture right?
One so beautiful the angels seethe with envy. I smiled; a sad little smile. The man did not see me, but I would never be able to get his image out of my mind. It would be burned into my retina for the rest of my life. He just seemed so sad. I wanted to hug him, but that would have been way too awkward on so many levels. Deciding I had spent enough time watching the unsuspecting stranger I turned away. Shoving my hands into my pajama pockets, I continued on my late night walk.
I was heading toward home. Or, what had been my home since the age of seventeen. I had some “creative differences” with my family that pertained, but wasn’t limited, to my future occupation. My mother wanted her only child to be an upstart doctor or lawyer. Father, well he just wanted someone taking over the family auto mechanic business. There were many arguments at our house over which was the right choice for their son. Over who was the right, and better, parent. I hated it. If I would have stayed there, I would have ended up with a career choice I didn’t choose, or want and one parent who resented me for choosing the other. Which would have led to more fighting, and quite frankly I couldn’t deal with that. So I left. I wanted a career I chose. I wanted to paint. And that’s exactly what I did.
You know all those glamorous stories about artists and how amazing their lives are? Yeah, neither do I. I was crushed when I found out how Van Gogh met his demise, and heck, I’ve sold more paintings in my lifetime than that poor man did. And then there’s Kirchner’s story isn’t much better than Van Gogh’s, but anything involving Hitler is generally bad. Actually, compared to them my life was fabulous. Sure, money was tight, and it showed in my cramped living area, but I love my profession. I have never regretted the decision to forge my own path in life. A path down the road of creativity. If I was Pocahontas I definitely chose the winding river bend.
I approached the run down building I lived in. Ah, home sweet home, and all that jazz. The beautiful, naturally red brick was trying to make itself known under the god awful purple paint that someone, clearly not in their right mind, decided would make a nice color for a large building. Sometimes when I was really bored I would go peel off the paint. The brick just looked so much nicer. It was easy to tell people where I lived though. Once they got on my street all I had to do was tell them to look for the horrible purple building, and lo and behold, they’d find me. The fire escape on the side of the building had more rust than a junk yard and I shuddered to think of what might happen to me if there was ever a fire where I’d have to use it. It’d probably collapse and I’d break my legs.
A cold wind blew. I shivered. It was starting to get cold. I mean, I had a jacket on but it was still pretty chilly. I probably would have to invest in a new coat. That, or stop going on my late night walks. That would never happen. I approached the door to the building smiling at the bullet hole that was in the glass on the front door. Normally you probably wouldn’t laugh at something like that, but most of the time those bullets come from the outside too. Not this one though. Mr. Jacobson had been trying to fix his BB gun in the hallway. Guess what… He fixed it.
I punched in my code to get into the building. It was our top notch security system for keeping the building safe. Everyone and their mom knew the number for it. Sometimes I wondered why the landlady bothered with a lock at all. Tiptoeing into the building I made my way up to the second floor. I skipped over the fifth step ’cause it squeaked something awful and, technically speaking, tenants weren’t supposed to leave their room from ten at night until six in the morning. Since it was reaching midnight I’d definitely be in trouble it the landlady caught me and the old bat seemed to have hearing like a… well, a bat. Needless to say, with these strict time restrictions I was the only person in the building below the age of seventy-five. All the people in the building, sans me, were retired or had part time day jobs. They were all usually eating dinner at two in the afternoon and in bed by six. I don’t know how they stand that. But I did have the run of the apartment at night when I was a good boy and stayed inside.
I made it up the flight of steps without waking anybody up. I dashed soundlessly down the hall toward the third door down on the left. My humble abode. Carefully, I put my key in the door, jiggling it so it would go in all the way, and unlocked it. I was still trying to be very quiet. I swear, some of these old people could hear a pin drop. They couldn’t hear when you were talking right in front of them, but as soon as the lights went out the developed supersonic hearing. Mr. Jacobson was one of those people. He was legally deaf, but seemed to hear everything. Let me tell you, the absolute last thing I needed tonight was the old man to get our lovely landlady and complain because I breathed too heavy.
I walked through the front door and closed it softly behind me. I sighed in relief. I don’t think I breathed the whole way up to my room. I took my jacket off and threw it on the floor. Right in front of the coat rack. I live alone. There are absolutely no points for decorum in this household and quite honestly I hate places that are clean and tidy. There isn’t any reason to try to impress people that don’t live in my home. Now, that’s not saying I live like a pig. I just live comfortably. I like my home to feel… lived in.
My frumpy furniture was comfy and well used. None of it matched. I had gotten most of it from secondhand stores and auctions. There were canvases of every size imaginable stacked in random piles around the room. A whole wall was dedicated to bookshelves that stored no books. My paints and brushes and various other art supplies were kept on them. It looked like a starving artist’s home. It was a starving artist’s home.
The only thing that was weird about this artist’s abode was the easel. It sat empty, a thin coat of dust covering it. It hadn’t been used in ages. You see, as of late I’ve been in a little bit of a frump. I guess I lost my muse or something stupid like that or maybe I just haven’t been inspired by anything. Whatever the reason, I haven’t been able to paint. Nothing was jumping out screaming, “Hey, paint me.” Alright, so that never really happened. But nothing was sparking my normally burning fire of creativity. And I was beginning to worry. This is my job. If I don’t paint I don’t eat, and money was starting to get tight. There were cobwebs in my wallet.
I plopped down in my beat up armchair and gave a sigh. Seemed like it was going to be another day wasted. Frustrated I gave a sigh and raked a hand through my hair. I began tapping my left hand on the armrest. It was a nervous habit I picked up growing up. “Come on, think,” that’s right I’m talking to myself here. Remember: no one to impress, although I do this in public too. “There has to be something you can draw. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, just think of something.”
I growled, picking up my sketchbook, which was conveniently located right next to my chair, and flung it open to a clean page. I wasn’t feeling up to painting so maybe a media change would do the trick. I fumbled for the pencil I kept in the rings of my book. Grasping it tightly in left hand, I attacked the paper. I had a violent process when creating but the end results were usually striking. Two hours later and I found myself nearly finished.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything but I have to say it was a beautiful piece. It showed off my drawing style wonderfully. My style was realistic in proportion and had a lot of detail but I just loved those messy lines and high contrasting shadows. I was pretty happy with my product. I’m happy I was able to draw anything.
The picture, portrait actually, was of a man standing in a graveyard. Morbid right? He was leaning casually against one of those droopy trees. A weeping willow. He was holding in his hand a white rose. It looked as if it was just about ready to fall out of his loose grip onto the ground. Forgotten and dirtied. Just like whoever the man was saying goodbye to. He was the only person who still remembered who the person was and he alone was sad they were gone. I did a final check of the drawing paying special attention to the man’s features. I wanted my proportions to be realistic. I took a good look at the face. My face heated up and I knew I was blushing.
“You have got to be kidding me,” a high pitched chuckle found its way out of my mouth. “This has got to be some kind of sick joke the spirits are playing on me,” I don’t know why I laughed. I found no humor in this situation. Maybe there was some irony at work somewhere here but definitely no humor. There on the paper was the spitting image of that beautiful man.