The Portrait of the Writer

The artist looks at the writer, compares his face with the portrait again. He has been working on the painting for the past three months. Finally, he can proudly say that it is completed. He puts down his brush, sighs and allows himself a moment of pride. He asks the writer to see his portrait for the first time.

The writer’s reaction was not quite what the painter expected. He imagined a proud smile, a string of compliments and a pair of grateful eyes but all he received was a single word (just a single word, mind you from a writer!) – “Good”. The laconic reply suddenly turned his masterpiece into garbage.

The portrait of the writer stares back at him, teasing at his shocking incompetency. He picks up his brush to give the finishing touch but he is too distracted by the writer’s lack of appreciation. What could possibly be missing in this painting?

“Nothing! It’s perfect! How dare that bastard insult his work? How dare he? What does he know about painting anyway?”

No, there’s nothing he should do. The portrait is complete. Even a single stroke would be redundant. He puts down his brush, pours himself a glass of the most expensive wine he owns and celebrates his moment; His moment of arrogant denial. He moans at the exotic taste of the wine while the portrait screams his dishonesty back at him.

“Shut up!” he shouts and looks away.

Suddenly, he picks his paintbrush. A series of spells here, a series of strokes there. Caught up in a symphony that only he is capable of hearing, he dances with himself. When he at last stops, he is dumbfounded by the transformation. The man in the canvas looks back at him like he knows all his secrets, like he has looked into every corner of his heart, like he knows his mind better than the artist himself.

He looks away in embarrassment. “How..what..what even?”

He faces the portrait again. The gaze of the writer intensifies. The man in the portrait is speaking. While the artist was busy capturing every detail of his face in the canvas, he had been writing a story of his own – where the roles were reversed, where he compressed the artist’s entire existence within a bunch of sentences, recording every insecurity, every emotion, every story that his physical presence unconsciously conveyed. While the painter painted the veins emerging and disappearing at the back of his hand, while he painted the cufflink peeking out of his coat, while he struggled to get the correct shape of his specs resting on his nose, the man in the portrait had already written a tome on him. The painter feels completely naked, a feeling he had been denying since the very first time he met the writer.

The writer is shocked to see his portrait the next day. The intensity of his own gaze doesn’t spare him. Through the corner of his eyes, he sees the artist smiling at him. The writer smiles back in appreciation. Their eyes meet but no word is spoken. The emotion is conveyed perfectly.

Touché, comrade.Touché.

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