A Painting of Marie

The painting was by an artist whose name I don’t remember. I never looked at the name of the painting. I don’t remember what gallery it was in, nor what country the gallery was in. I don’t even remember how old I was when I saw it, only that it had to have been in the last few years. Still, despite all this, the painting is clear in my mind’s eye as if it were hanging in my room.

In the painting sits a girl. She looks like she’s in her early teens, just blossoming into womanhood. She is sitting on a nondescript and unimpressive wooden chair, and the backdrop behind her is just a gloomy sort of brown. It’s unclear where she is, nor why she is sitting down. I named her Marie.

Marie has skin the color of milk chocolate- dark, but not very. Her hair, black as coal but looking a little matted, is tumbling around her shoulders, though I get the impression that it’s normally pinned in a quick bun and has only just tumbled down. Her lips are red and full, and she’s not really smiling, nor is she frowning. She’s simply gazing into space, not focused on the viewer of the painting but rather seems to be looking right over your shoulder, at someone behind you. Her eyes are a wonderful dark brown and seem intelligent but tired.

She’s wearing a blue dress with a white apron over it. She looks like she could be a maid, or perhaps a shop-girl sometime in the 1700s in the United States. For some reason, I feel like she’s a dweller of New Orleans, and I can picture her running barefoot through the dusty streets, maneuvering herself between pirates, privateers, salesmen and prostitutes.

Her hands are folded on her lap, and it looks like they’re not used to being idle in this manner. They look rough and work-weary, just like her.

When I saw Marie, I sat before her for maybe an hour, maybe more, just looking at her. I wanted to speak to her, hear her thoughts and dreams, laugh with her, walk down the streets of her life with her. But she stayed in her painting, caught forever by an artist in this one moment of repose.

Empty Gaze

There are those odd times where your gaze gets fixed on something for no reason at all, and you can stare and stare and stare some more and you won’t find any reason to move your eyes away from that object. The object isn’t interesting or special – indeed, it may be just some bump of paint on the wall or a corner of the table or a patch of fur on the floor. There’s really no reason for your eyes to become fixed and obsessed with that certain spot. And yet, you stare at it and feel as if you could keep staring at it for an hour.

This usually seems to happen when you’re tired, or worried, or perhaps just distracted. The thoughts that go through your mind at times like this often don’t make sense – you might be humming a tune in your mind, or maybe you’re mulling over an issue in a circular manner, repeating your thoughts over and over again. Maybe you’re almost not thinking anything at all beyond “Why am I staring at this?” and your mind is oddly blank other than that.

Whatever the reason, this is something that most people get at some point or another. I wonder if our brains sometimes just need a moment to rest, to detach from conciousness, to wander.

A Bit Batty

In front of my apartment building, there is a small lawn, and then some hedges and then the sidewalk. On the lawn, there is a rather large palm tree with a thick trunk and large, swaying branches. The tree is very fertile and well-taken care of and so it is always heavy with the small, light-brown fruit that certain palm-trees seem to bear.

As I arrived home from work the other night, I saw the most beautiful thing, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since then. There are always bats around that tree – they like the fruit on palm trees I believe, or at least this type of bat must do. But that night, as I came home from work later than usual, there were a huge group of bats flying around it. There must have been at least thirty or forty of the beautiful, winged beasts, and they were going absolutely crazy, flying up and down and around the tree, weaving through and around each other, always pulling up in time.

They came so close to me that I could see the light through their wings – I could even see the fur that is spread sparsely on their bodies. I could see the tiny claw at the end of each of their wings. I stood and watched them for at least five minutes, my head just swiveling around and around, following their dizzying movements. Ah, but they are marvelous animals!