The morning light crawls across the marbled floor with great trepidation, for the curtains have not yet been fully gathered and pulled back. High-heeled footfalls encroach upon my morning quiet, just as the sun’s reaching fingers pull at me. Stretching my lined and crusted skin, I am reminded that I will have to be mended before I am placed with the others.
The hesitant, deferential footsteps come near enough for the heavy spring fevered breath to be heard. The woman’s eyes narrow as she reaches up, handkerchief in her grasp to stem the determined rivulet of sweat making its way to the bare collarbone.
I can feel her eyes trace along the cusp of my raised skin, drawn to the crimson that so strikingly dominates my limited horizon. The woman places her handkerchief back within the folds of the broken clasped, weather worn purse that rests against her thick-skinned hip.
The people, depicted in an oily sense of static remission, turn away from the woman. They roam through the street that my skin so stoically permits; after all I did not have a choice in which story my skin has to tell.
The woman treaded closer, at an angle suggesting she was about to inhale the sulky evidence that I had been there so long. Cosmos of the long residing dust sighed, they ached to be lifted into the tepid air by the woman’s salty fingers and clammy breath. At that particular stagnant moment, my guard, and perhaps my jailer, lifted his eyes from the book he was only pretending to read.
Charles held his book high and close as if every pore on his nose had requested to mingle with the words that could never really be squeezed. Rectified. Or cleansed from the page. Mont, as he was known to the other guards, was not of the same mind as the pores rooted on his snout. Mont’s eyes were not resting on the words before him, but just over the bind where both sides of the book met. He watched the woman step closer to the painting.
He could see that she was sweating with the poise akin to an elephant, with her great trunk dripping towards the brush strokes. Mont, simply grappling for something to shorten his time spent in the gallery that had long ago ceased to draw people to its doors, put down his book in search of how to approach.
Any moment now my guard would advance, ending the stillness. It is only that stillness within my frame that can allow for the woman’s bloated feet to tread forward. I shall not linger here as the guard and the elephant woman converse. How have I lived so long, since first brushstrokes invoked breath and colour onto canvas?
I close my eyes to the empty tide of gallery faces. As I turn to join those that have already begun walking down the cobbled street, the people that live only in the mind of my painter, I see outside of my frame both sets of eyes that lack such understanding. Such stillness cannot be held between the slippery fingers of this world, it cannot be understood as I have.
Painting by Emily Storvold