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If Walls Could Talk submitted 2009.05.21 08:53 PM by CATAL viewed 1277 times

Hello, I don't know what my name is, but you can call me Earl.

I was born in a cramped studio apartment to an aspiring artist who smoked too much. I can remember when she first started to make me. It began with a single brushstroke. Filbert brush. Synthetic bristle. Size 12. Acrylic paint. Cadmium Red Light. Heavy Body.

After that, she backed away and just looked at me. Sitting on a stool, she lit a cigarette staring at me. I can still see the smoke pouring out of her mouth and curling towards the ceiling. When she was done she put out her cigarette, washed off her brush and palette, and walked away.

And that's the way she left me for weeks. Just a blank canvas with an ugly red smudge. Every once and a while she would come back and look at me, but she never picked up a brush, never made so much as a move for her paints.

I can remember a cocktail party she threw, if you could call it that. People came and drank wine and gin and smoked cigarettes. They would look at her artwork and nod, complimenting her work. Then they would look at me and frown.
One man even pointed, shouting "Your greatest masterpiece!" He laughed. Then everyone else laughed. Even she laughed.

* * * * *

I began to feel like an abortion. She was never going to finish me. I would lie there on the easel forever or until I was snapped in half and discarded.
But I was wrong.

A week or so after the "cocktail party" she began to work on me again. She came home one day with bags full with tubes of paint. Titanium White. Mars Black. Lemon Yellow. Light Green Permanent. Ultramarine. Medium Magenta. Phthalocyanine Blue. Burnt Umber. Raw Umber. Yellow Ochre. Cadmium Yellow Medium. Phthalo Green. Cerulean Blue. Cobalt Blue. Indanthrene Blue. Quinacridone Red. Brilliant Purple. Acra Magenta. Cadmium Orange Deep. Naphthol Crimson. Heavy Body. Light Body. Medium Body.

New brushes too! Synthetic Bristles. Natural Bristles. Camel Hair. Hog's Hair. Kolinsky Sable. Round. Flat. Filbert. Fan. Bright. Angle. Mop. Rigger. Sizes 000 through 20.

She dumped them all on the table before me with the rest of her supplies. Then she got to work. Squirting paint on her palette and grabbing brushes, both old and new she started splattering me with various paints. It was too fast, too frenzied for me to keep up. I had no idea what paint was going where or how she was applying them.

The paint got thicker and thicker, mixing on my canvas as she worked. She scraped at me with painting knives building up texture only to wipe over it again.

She worked all night and I must say that was perhaps the greatest night of my life. Never before had I seen my creator so passionate about me. Never before had she shown the interest in me that she showed that night.

By morning her eyes were red and sunken. Her eyelids were drooping and her motions were becoming slow and listless. I wished her to rest and finish me later. The attention she had shown me that night had relieved me of my worries. I knew I would not be forgotten now.

Finally she succumbed to fatigue and collapsed on a chair. She fell asleep looking at me, covered in my paint. We were one at that moment, sharing each other's lifeblood and energy. We dried together throughout the day. Although I knew she would only wash the paint from her body, I felt as if we would be apart of each other forever.

I remember that day the early morning sun shining through the window and I shined with it. Glistening with wet paint I awaited the time when my creator, my mother, would rise and finish me, allowing me to shine for the rest of the world. I had never been so happy.

* * * * *

Over the next few days and weeks she worked on me only sporadically, but I understood. She would paint a little and let it dry and then return to paint some more. She was building me up. I could feel my skin getting thicker and thicker. Every day she applied a new layer.

Over time I could feel my features forming as they grew out from the canvas. I was being sculpted in paint into a form I did not know. I felt like a caterpillar in a cocoon transforming into something new. I was becoming a beautiful butterfly. But I could not see myself. I did not know what new form I would take. The brush and knife strokes were a mystery to me, I did not know what they were turning me into, but I trusted in my mother.

Now when people cam to look at me, I knew they would not laugh. I was a masterpiece; I could feel it. I'd be worth millions. My mother would sell me off and I would thank her for it, because I would be going to a better place. I would grace a museum the likes of the Louvre! Millions would travel far and wide just to catch a glimpse of my beauty.
And such was my life for those first few months. My mother would work on me from time to time. Slowly building up paint upon me and I would dream of the day when I would grace a museum. Those were happy times.

Finally came the day when I was finished. They day when my mother placed the final touches on me and signed her name in my corner with a flourish! She stepped back and basked in my beauty and smiled. Then shrugged.
She shrugged. She shrugged at me! At my beauty! Why would she shrug at me? What had happened? What was wrong? Was I ugly? Had I not come out right? What about my beauty? What about the Louvre?!

She never said anything; she just walked away and let me dry against the setting sun, seeping through the windows.

* * * * *

After that night she had finished me, I was taken down from the easel, the place I had been born. I had never experienced the world from any other place; I had never seen the world from any other angle. I had never seen what a cold, ugly place the world is.

She placed me on the floor, leaning against a wall. I was placed facing away from the window. No longer would the sun's warm light splash across me. Now I sat facing a wall, with stacks of canvases in front of it, my brothers and sisters.

Many like me were leaning up against the wall, faces distorted and disfigured in cries of pain and disgust. I wondered if I shared their appearance. If I was ugly like them. More were stacked flat on the ground on top of each other, smothering each other out of their misery.

Slowly the room grew darker and shadows fell upon my siblings and I, forgotten by our mother, left here to rot. That was the worst night of my life. Never had I felt such despair.

The next morning I saw my mother placed a blank canvas on the easel. A new brother or sister, doomed to share in our agony. I wept for it.

* * * * *

My time on the floor passed without any sense of time. I saw new brothers and sisters created and saw some leave. She would pick them up off the ground and walk away and that would be the last we ever saw of them. I sometimes wondered where they went, but soon gave up on that. They were gone, dead most likely. I felt no need to dwell on such things. Not until the day she came for me.

My mother came into the room where we lay and stopped and looked at me. I did not know what this look meant, but again she shrugged at me. Terror seized me. I did not know what it meant, but the last time she had shrugged at me was the beginning of my torments here on the floor among her forgotten children.

She gripped my frame and lifted me into the air, giving me an overwhelming sense of vertigo. The room spinning, I felt myself being carried away.

"Here you go, take this one too," I heard her say.

A new set of hands gripped me and flipped me over. I was face to face with the man who had laughed at me. The man who when I was first born called me a masterpiece. I did not know what to make of this.
His eyes widened as he looked at me, but no sense of recognition passed his face. His right eyebrow arched and he licked his lips. He looked away, to my mother I suppose and asked "You sure?"

"Yeah, someone might buy it," my mother said. "Who knows, right?"

That was it then. I was being sold. Perhaps I was beautiful after all. But why the uncertainty then? Why the shrugs and raised eyebrows? Why had it been so long? Was I to be sold as kindling? Or perhaps as a blank canvas to be painted over again?

"Okay, whatever you say," the man said.

Suddenly I could feel myself being slipped into something sideways. Darkness swiped across my vision and enveloped me. I couldn't see anything, but felt myself being lifted and jostled around. Strange noises came at me, muffled by my black prison.

This went on for some time; I have no idea how long. I just sat there and waited with anticipation. I was very nervous. I did not know what was going to happen or where I was going. I thought of the Louvre.

* * * * *

When I was finally removed from the darkness I was blinded by light. Bright lights shining surrounded me. White walls everywhere. The laughing man gripped me by the edges and lifted me up. Looking past me he slowly pushed me back.

Suddenly I felt pressed up against a wall and a two hooks dig underneath my frame. He let go and I just hung there staring out against white walls strewn with some of my siblings similarly hung.

Was this it? Was I in a museum? Was this the Louvre? I was filled with both panic and excitement. I didn't care if it was the Louvre. I was here, somewhere! I was in a museum! People would come to look at my beauty! I had finally made it!

But where were the people? The laughing man had walked away and now the room was empty. Empty, but of me and my brothers and sisters.

Time passed, but nothing happened. We just hung there with bright lights shining upon us.

I looked upon my brothers and sisters and wondered how I appeared to them. Some of them were beautiful, some not as much. Some depicted scenes of fruit bowls and tables. Some depicted beautiful women and men. Some were gross caricatures, deformed and exaggerated. Others were just blobs and swirls of color. More still just shapes. Squares and rectangles overlapping.

I wondered, what did I look like? Was I beautiful like that one or ugly like this one over here? Had my mother really painted all of us? Had she breathed life into them as she had into me? Did they share her lifeblood and had she shared their paint? Who were we? Who was I?
I didn't know.

* * * * *

As I hung contemplating my own identity I was unaware that people had entered the room. They slowly trickled in and out, making their way around the room, stopping occasionally to look upon one of my siblings.

It wasn't until someone stopped in front of me that I noticed them. It was a young woman, with dark hair and glasses. She glared at me behind the thin, black frames. As she stared, her companion approached her and stood beside her. It was an older man with thinning gray hair wearing a violet turtleneck underneath a black sport coat. He placed his hand on her shoulder and asked, "Do you like this one? Shall I buy it?"

She slowly turned to look at his hand upon her shoulder and then up at him. His hand slowly slid off her and she turned back to me.

"No," she said. "What makes this art? I could paint better than this!"

The man, appearing quite flustered just stood there and stammered. "Well, uh, y-you see? Well, th-they say she is quite talented?"

"I hate it," she said coldly. "Take me somewhere else, I'm bored of this place."

She walked off without so much as a backward glance at her companion or me. He, on the other hand, paused a moment and looked at me with eyes that seemed to say, "I'm sorry." Then he shrugged and followed after her.

It wasn't long before another couple stopped to look at me. Two men walked up to me, hand in hand. They both had short bleached-blond hair and tan skin.

"Oh! Look at this one!" squealed the one on the left.
"Tacky!" said the one on the right.
"Oh what are you talking about? You don't know art!"
"Oh, and you do, Mr. Salvador-Dali-is-that-Llama-G uy?"
"I was joking, you know that!"
"Well I hope that man in the blue blazer was joking when he put that on!"
"Oh, you're bad!"
"I know! Oh, look hors d'oeuvres!"

And just as soon as they had shown up they had gone.
More people came and went. They didn't say much and usually it wasn't even about me. They would just chitchat amongst themselves. When they did say something about me, it wasn't good.

"What is THIS?"
"It's amazing what passes for art these days?"
"I don't get it."
"Is this a joke?"
"Is this one of those paintings made with feces?"

Others who didn't say anything spoke with their facial expressions. A few would nod. Some others would frown or raise eyebrows. Mostly they just looked confused.
And I just hung there hoping not to be bought or praised, but to know myself. I no longer held dreams of hanging in the Louvre. I had given up hope of being a beautiful painting. I knew now that I must not be. The shrugs. The raised eyebrows. The insulting conversations.

I just wanted someone, anyone, to just tell me what I looked like! Never once did they describe me beyond their reactions. Never did they say, "Look at the brushstrokes there" or "I like this green part over here" or "Notice the
diagonal lines through the middle."

Never did they say, "Oh, it's a sailboat!" Or a giraffe. Or whatever. Never did someone hold up a mirror for me to see. I did not know what I looked like. I did not know who I was.

That was until a man and woman walked up later in the evening. They looked older, but not old. Both of them were portly and moderately dressed. The man wore a brown suit, somewhat frayed. The woman wore a black dress that looked relatively new. She wore some jewelry and had her hair done up. They carried wine glasses awkwardly and looked out of place.

The man's eyes caught sight of me and he lit up. A smile spread across his face and he walked over to me and said, "Now THIS, I like!"

He turned to the woman with him and near-shouted, "Margaret! Margaret, get over here! Take a look at this!"

"Keep your voice down," she hushed as she walked over.

"I like this!" the man said. "Weren't you saying we should get something for Sarah for her new apartment? Don't you think she'd get a kick out of this?"

"Oh, I don't know? It's probably awfully expensive. I thought we were just here to look, not to buy anything."

"Well I wasn't expecting to see something like this!"

"I don't know, what's so special about it?"

"What's so special about it? Don't you like it?"

"It's very nice, but I'm just not sure Sarah needs something like this."

"Well of course she doesn't need it, but it's just to spruce up the place. Make it look sophisticated. All these fancy-schmancy folks have artwork on their walls. It'll really impress whoever comes over, believe you me."

"Whatever you say dear."

At this point the man leaned forward getting a real close look at me and me of him. He was starting to lose his hair, which was graying at the temples. He had crows' feet around his eyes and wrinkles in his forehead. He had a large bushy mustache, which he was constantly shaking by wrinkling his nose and sniffing.

As he got closer I saw a red and white nametag on his lapel. It read, "HELLO, My name is EARL." And at that moment I could see in his eyes that I truly was beautiful. Those other people didn't know what they were talking about. This man, Earl, he could see my beauty. I was beautiful and it didn't matter if I was never going to be in the Louvre or any other museum. I was beautiful.

Unfortunately, Earl never got to buy me. I never got to impress fancy-schmancy guests at Sarah's apartment. As Earl leaned in to look at me, a security guard in a blue blazer walked up and asked Earl and Margaret to leave.

"Sir, you're not allowed food or drink inside the gallery. And I'll have to ask you to step away from the artwork and leave this moment."

He quickly ushered them away before they could resist and I never saw them again. I don't know what happened. Maybe I wasn't for sale or Earl didn't have enough money. Maybe Margaret convinced him not to buy me or maybe he lost interest. But it didn't matter. For that moment he had seen beauty in me and I was beautiful. Nothing could ever take that away.

rating: 4

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