Wednesday March 27th, 2013

The exercise:

Write about: the portrait.

More visits with high school friends and their children today. More good times.

But... man, I feel old. When did we all grow up?

Heading back to Vancouver tomorrow. I expect it will be a difficult parting in the morning before we head for the ferry.


Though Grandma is long gone now, we still see her whenever we pay a visit to Grandpa. She waits for our arrival in the living room, her portrait covering nearly three quarters of the west wall. Hard to forget her with a reminder like that.

Knowing her, that's just the way she would have liked it.

I think it's a bit much, to be honest. I suspect my husband and children feel the same way, though they've never said anything about it. Their increasing reluctance to make the trip to see Grandpa speaks for itself.

Used to be I could at least get them to stay at a nearby hotel and meet up for dinners and lunches at various cafes and restaurants around town. Now even that much is out of the question.

I can hardly blame them. I'd find a way out of the visits as well, if there was any hope of my not drowning in guilt. Besides, I really owe it to Grandma to keep an eye on her doting husband.

I just really, really wish she hadn't insisted on posing for her portrait in the nude.


Greg said...

I suppose the oddest thing about seeing high-school friends is that since a lot of the memories you share stop at high-school, there's a kind of sensation of regressing back to that age. You only really wonder if you're old when you walk away and have to return to the present time again and realise how much else has happened between then and now :)
Hah, I laughed when I got to your last line! I hadn't guessed at all what was going to be unusual about the portrait. She sounds like just the kind of grandma everyone should have.

The portrait
"This is a portrait gallery," said Dax Mr. Bendix, stood next to him, clutching his briefcase and looking like a slightly stunned accountant, nodded.
"Elements of madness," he said. "Portrait painters after a certain age get to be a little odd. Current theories suggest that they're just disposed to be that way."
Dax looked at him. "You said theories," he said, emphasizing the plural.
"Yes." Mr. Bendix sighed. "The other theory is why we're here I suppose. That says that if you spend long enough watching people that closely, you learn to see past the surface and recognise what's underneath. When you paint that, you tend to get called mad." They started to walk. "What do you see on your left?"
Dax looked at a portrait done in muddy greens and browns, and then did a double take.
"A toad," he said. "Squatting on a lily pad, eating a dragonfly."
"Lord Invictus," said Mr. Bendix. "Famous for his factories where conditions approached slave labour. Painted by Gianinni. Next?"
"Uh, that's half a horse," said Dax, his eyes scrunching up in disbelief. "The wrong half, I might add."
"Henrietta Essim," said Mr. Bendix. "Society columnist and gossip, rumoured to host certain parties that never got reported in the press. Painted by Arcimboldo, who apparently knew a lot about Celtic symbology. Next?"
"Anna-Mix," said Dax, his voice heavy.
"Ah," said Mr. Bendix. "That's not a portrait then, that's a mirror." He turned the other way. "She likes it here."

David said...

A couple of paragraphs of description

The old man’s eyes always haunted Pat as a young kid. Judging him, knowing all the evil committed on any given day. He felt the man would jump through the painting and tear out his throat for any transgression. Even though he knew this was impossible, he could not shake the feeling that the painting wanted him.

According to his mother, the man’s name was Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, although most people knew him as Pope Pius XII. The man died fourteen years before Pat had been born, which Pat did not believe. The oil painting looked as it had been commissioned hundreds of years before by one of the Medicis. People today had their portraits taken, not painted.

MosesMalone said...

The portrait was familiar. Her killer features were all there: the dark heavy brows, the full lips, the strong Italian nose, and her wide set large blue eyes with voluminous black lashes were the focus. Behind it though her face was too wide, and her chin was heavy and low. Her complexion looked, dare I say, dirty? Why? Why would she color her face that way? If I hadn’t known her in person, I would have thought her to be fat. That isn’t Carly.

I am a gifted artist as I can draw anything well. My weakness is that I am very literal and not even slightly creative. I drew Carly for midterms. She is actually the one known to be the better artist simply due to her creativity. I am very competitive with her, and I always lose even though my pictures are always accurate. It’s infuriating. My drawing of her is dead on, to scale, done mostly by memorization.

Both versions of Carly, mine and hers, are side by side waiting to be judged. The assignment is to see who captures their subject more accurately. Both versions of me look almost exactly the same. Of course, I am the only person in the entire class smiling like a goddamn cheerleader. The only difference between our pictures is my eyes. I knew they weren’t good when she drew them; She drew them squinty like I knew something.

She drew her picture the way she sees herself; fat with self-doubt. She’s going to win. I can’t help but to sit here and pout knowing she is going to win. I’m smiling, pretending I’m not ready to tear her eyes out knowing she set this up. Her pictures being so different that everyone would have to take another look. The last person to come by our wall was our teacher, and she asked me why I am letting Carly win. I said I wasn’t, but I didn’t know what else to do. My drawing should speak for itself, but it isn’t. That’s when I realized what Carly did. She drew the face I make when I pout. I squint my eyes, but I keep that god forsaken teen spirit smile on my ever loving face, and everyone saw it today.

I adore seeing high school friends. I never feel so young as I do when I am with them. The rest of the time, I'm all old and grown up.

Marc said...

Greg - yeah, definitely reaching the point where the passing years become more obvious when I get together with friends from school.

Really like the idea of watching people long enough to see what's truly there. It's sparking ideas in my noggin.

David - good to see you around again :)

Delightfully creepy. I would not want to grow up in a house with that painting on the wall.

Mo - great details and emotions. I could picture it all perfectly.