One of These Things First

I could have been your pillar, could have been your door

I could have stayed beside you, could have stayed for more.

Nick Drake

“LOOK AT YOU”, I hear him saying to my head tilted to one side, “where is your boldness, where is your stamina, where is YOU?” I wish he hadn’t asked me that because I am feeling like a corpse. One glass of wine too many and here I am, unable to articulate an answer. I choose to shut my eyes and take a deep breath.  He is still sitting in front of me behind our scented candles, waiting for my reply but our conversation has turned into a burst bubble. And there IT comes to me to save me once again. Approaching mid air, soon hovering over our dining table – a totally mesmerizing object – suddenly snapping open as if dutifully obliging me.

I am a lucky woman, my imagination always coming to lift me up when needed. More, its appearance in my life has made me the artist they say I am, despite my self-sabotaging attempts. It is a bliss that smooths down things when they get matted. The first time it saved me was the summer my mom got cancer and had to go through major surgery, he had shut me out from his life – at least temporarily -, and my workroom was so full of crap, a much worse version of Sibyl’s cave. Till then I had never really trusted my imagination, always too eager to repel any of its shy assaults.

Call it a minor epiphany or just the effects of the sunlight on an Italian solitary beach, whatever, it proved to be a great experience. Fact is I longed for my share of a smile, that kind of heat that reaches deep into your bones. So it was that I saw him slowly approaching under a heavy sun rain, beaming with his red golf bag which at a closer look turned out to be a bunch of umbrellas hanging on his right shoulder.

He gently crouched down under my shade whispering: “sun is for free, smile is for free and for just ten euros this red umbrella will always shelter you – rain, lonelyness, fear – no matter what. It has magic powers and it will serve you honestly. It will also help feed my six kids back home. In Senegal I used to be a poor school teacher, here I am teaching humour to sad rich people.” Secrets of a little red umbrella and the smile that came along with it. That object colonized my imagination and then my canvases, superimposing infinite backdrops and mazes: it was a statement, IT WAS ME.

“At your age, you should know better, shouldn’t you?” He has more to suggest now and I do agree with him and I do appreciate his observation. I even feel thankful, that’s why I am paying tribute to him with my warmest available smile. In fact, since I first met him up at my hometown train station twenty-something years back, he has gained access to a number of my inner rooms. In fact, my easiness in agreeing with him is a very recent personal achievement, along with my starting to reward him with heartfelt smiles instead of the old regular set of sour or – at best – blank glances. And isn’t that just one more of those silent clicks that contributes to shape us up into updated versions of our previous selves? Or is it just growing old as a couple? Truth is that since I chose to rely on his sharpness of mind instead of blaming him for the way his messages were being conveyed, I have grown into a better self. Also, my suppling by the day does not make me miss so much the harsh girl I used to be. 

I observe him now: he is rewarding me in turn with his ernest smile. He is waiting for my next step, though, keen to detect any actual progress on my side, shrewd enough to dribble any of my narcissistic verbal diversifications, committed to coach me in the art of treasuring the day, ANY DAY. Till I can finally see it: tomorrow I will be back at my easel, ready to pick up my brush and complete this last baffling watercolour still life: a red umbrella floating over our dining table.