food for thought, Short Stories

The Portrait of a Writer

The artist looks at the writer again, this time a few minutes more than his usual duration. He then dips his paint brush in the palette for blending the colors together into just the right kind of shade. A slight stroke over the eyebrow and he looks back at the writer searching for his own permission. After the slight approving nod from his intuition, he makes a few more bold strokes over the other eyebrow. The result is magnificent. The imperfections that had been bothering him suddenly melt away. He looks at the face of the writer again and compares it with the portrait. He had been working on it for the past three months and finally he has arrived at the point where he can proudly say that it’s been completed. He puts down his brush and allows himself a brief moment of pride. Then, 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 inexpressive word (just a single word, mind you from a writer!) – “Good”. The laconic reply suddenly turned his masterpiece into garbage. The writer’s suppressed smirk still haunts him.

The portrait of the writer stares back at him, teasing at his shocking incompetency. He picks up his brush once again to give a last finishing touch to the painting 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 insolent bastard insult his work? How dare he? What does he know about painting anyway? No, there’s nothing else that needs to be added here. The portrait is complete. Even a single stroke would prove to be redundant in this painting. And redundancy is not permitted in the work of reputed artist like him. So, he puts down his brush and pours himself a glass of the most expensive wine he owns in order to celebrate his moment; His moment of arrogant denial. He moans at the exotic taste of the wine only to feel annoyance instead of satisfaction.

The portrait stares back at him with his screaming dishonesty.

No, this can’t be like this. As if under a spell, suddenly he realizes what has been missing in the painting. Almost immediately, he engages himself in series of ferocious strokes, completely taken over by his instincts and subconscious memories. Caught up in a symphony that only he is capable of hearing, he engages in beautiful dance with his artistic instincts. When he at lasts 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, even in the most reticent spaces in his mind that is known to him better than the artist himself. This baffles him. He immediately looks away in embarrassment. However, when the amazing beauty of his creation begins to sink in, he sheds his cowardice and faces the portrait again. This time the gaze of the writer intensifies. The man in the portrait is no longer whispering but speaking in resounding words that 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 are reversed, where he is penning down his entire existence in a bunch of syllables, recording every insecurity, every emotion, every story that his physical presence unconsciously conveys. While he painted the veins emerging and disappearing at the back of his hand, while he painted the cuff link peeking out of his coat, while he struggled getting 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 not been willing to accept since the very beginning of this painting.

The next day when the writer walks into the studio, he is shocked after seeing his portrait. 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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