The Painting

Ralph Black


He opened his eyes. He couldn’t see much. As his surroundings slowly came into focus, he noted that everything seemed to have an extra dimension, one he was unfamiliar with. He was delighted by it. He felt new.

He tried to look around, but found that he could not. He could only see what was directly in front of him. Often times what was in front of him was a man’s face. The man was wrinkled with time, but he had a youthful twinkle in his eyes, as though he were savoring every detail he came across. For weeks, he watched this man take a brush in hand. Since he could not see what the man was doing, he could only follow his eyes. He soon learned that wherever the man’s eyes went, a strange stinging sensation followed, trailed by the feeling of freshness and an impression of freedom. He was thrilled and frightened by it. He felt exposed.

He could feel himself growing. Finally, he watched as the man put down the brush with sad pride in his eyes. He then saw the man’s eyes go to his right foot one last time. Suddenly, he could feel the numbers “1827” weigh him down. This was the burden he would have for being born. He accepted it. The eyes told him everything he needed to know. He was exhilarated by it. He felt complete.

He saw new, younger hands. The next thing he knew, he felt the stinging sensation again, but painfully so. He saw a woman’s eyes, full of pain and longing. He could not tell where he had been touched; he only knew that it stung. He felt as though he was missing a part of himself and there was nothing but an open coldness to replace it. He was dismayed by it. He felt vulnerable.

“Oh, but it’s still wet!”

He heard scrambling and saw the man’s frantic eyes, but soon he felt whole again.

“Wait until it dries. Come back in a day.”

He was confused by it. He felt vulnerable.

He was in a bag, being jostled violently back and forth. He did not feel pain anymore. The man had given him to the woman with sad eyes. He was bewildered by it. He felt betrayed.

He found himself near a window. The light would shine in and it would make him happy. Then, it would go down and he would feel lonely. Mourning eyes often greeted him. He heard laments and whispers of “it looks just like him”. He was perplexed by it. He felt lost.

He saw the sad woman every day. She stared at him with such yearning and dejection that he understood why the man with the brush had given him to the woman. She needed him more. He was moved. He felt understanding.

He took even more joy in seeing the little girl with playful eyes. They reminded him of himself for some reason. She would sit next to him and play games with her dolls or read. She would include him sometimes, calling him “Daddy”. He was comforted by it. He felt happy.

He got sad when she put her dolls away. Her eyes changed. Time had flown, and it had given her wings. He was glad that she would still read next to him. A man with angry eyes came every day and took her away from him. The family never saw the malice hidden behind the courteous gestures, and he was worried for them. He was worried that the man would take away her happiness. He never understood it when she came home as happy as could be. He wanted to tell her, to make her understand, to warn her. He watched her leave in a white dress, her eyes flooded with joy. He was concerned by it. He felt abandoned.

He was near her again! But it didn’t last. The man didn’t like him. The man put him in a cold dark room at the top of the new stairs. He was thrown aside carelessly amongst her forgotten dolls. The dolls stared at him lifelessly. He was depressed by it. He felt forlorn.

He felt himself being pulled out from underneath the rubble of forgotten memories and useless baubles. He was free! Her eyes were filled with tears. He saw her eyes were changed; they were eyes filled with self-pity and a jarring loneliness. He wanted to help her. Then, the man came and grabbed him. He abruptly found himself among the discarded loafs of stale bread and rotten bananas. He was hurt by it. He felt rejected.

He lost hope. But after days of residing amongst the garbage, a light shone through as the lid of the garbage can was removed. She must have come to save him! He was filled with hope. Another door opened to reveal flames. The hope flew away just as her childhood flew. Finally afraid, he could not even cry. He could do nothing but feel as he melted away.

Then he felt no more.

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