The Painter and His Wife
His hands were multicolored from thoughts and dreams that were revived with imagery. The canvas was different now. It was alive and vibrant with her image, invoking old, stale emotions from his past that cut through his thoughts with a jagged knife. Splashes of black, green, brown and blue were smeared over his shirt, which recalled the color of her hair or her soft touch against his rough face. The room was full of art that needed work since he always stopped short and never had the mental drive to finish. Most were alike with different colors to describe the same state of mind: regret.
The art didn't keep him alive, but was a stimulus for the regular job he hated and had done most of his life. He came to embrace the solitude that came with the art, the time and dedication kept him away from everything else though there was much to care about.
People always criticized the fact that he was an emotional man, which was what made him so withdrawn. He hid his feelings and gave them shape through art that no one saw so that they wouldn't comment on his feelings. He once though showed his wife his first and best painting. The painting had come from pure inspiration and was obviously constructed by someone of little experience. His wife did not know how to react and when she later thought about the painting realized she liked it. Yet he never heard these thoughts because he had walked away while she was trying to explain what she thought. After not listening to what he wanted to hear from her he decided to keep the work to himself, shutting her out forever.
You would expect that after years of marriage she would be used to his solitude, yet it was the complete opposite. The long hours she waited she spent thinking about her past and how much she enjoyed the company of her friends and others. She wanted that now. Over time, the isolation grew inside her and she came to view it as an illness with a drastic remedy.
She was a volunteer nurse at the local hospital and used the excuse of saving lives to save her own. The man she slept with for pure necessity was a well-known doctor in the field of open-heart surgery. He was tired of his wife’s constant insecurities toward her physical beauty. The painter’s wife and the doctor used each other. She craved his attention and delicacy, while he merely used her physical beauty. They met outside of town with their own physical and emotional needs.
To see someone after being secluded for hours was always interesting for him, like meeting them again for the first time. His wife was packing her bags to go while he leaned on a wall and observed her.
“Again, uh?” he said.
Yeah. One of the nurses couldn't make it today, so I’m filling in for her.
He said, “I've been having short stabbing pains in my chest lately.”
Lately? You always had a problem with your chest. Stop eating so fast.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
I have to go.
Outside of the room where he kept all his art, the paint on his hands felt heavy and useless. They represented the past and all it’s unchangeable anomalies that loomed over every decision. His shirt felt dirty instead of used, sticky instead of comforting. He decided to take a bath to rid himself of the dirt and then nap.
The painter’s wife was heading to the outskirts of town to salvage what little sexual drive she still had and needed. The energy she used to waste begging her husband to spend some time with her she now saved for these moments. She wanted to turn that energy into pleasure that the doctor would spread over her body with his delicate hands and undivided attention.
The leather steering wheel groaned under the stress of her hands. There was no doubt in her mind that she belonged in the room, that she deserved to be in the room. She got out of the car, taking only her keys, her purse, and her sexuality with her and leaving everything else behind.
The painter’s lungs strained to take in air as he slept. His chest heaved up higher and higher. He was sleeping unaware. A man is always proud of some part of his body and he was proud of his heart.
But it was like he was drowning; how he gasped for air and couldn’t find any in all the vast space that was around him. It was as if the water’s surface was so close but it was too difficult to get his head out, though he badly wanted to. He gasped and woke up.
The typical routine, when he woke up like that, was to wait it out, just let the body take care of itself. Yet this time the pain was unbearable and it stopped him from getting up and calling for help. The crushing chest pain held him down, made him only clutch his heart with his hands. It dominated him, laughed and took advantage of him, because it knew that the man lying on the bed was helpless. It knew he was defenseless.
Take time for me. I love him. I still do. But I’m alive too and he stopped seeing that. It works both ways. He stopped seeing me and I stopped trying. It’s all the same. But he cares more about other things than me. Let’s get this straight. I’m not trying to justify my actions: I love my husband. I don’t care if we’re using each other…I love
The thing that gets to me is how he uses me. Expects me to be his woman…It’s both of them. They both use me and what am I suppose to do? I always wanted someone to care about me. Always thought marriage would bring me that. It’s funny how it did through another man. I love them both. But I know neither one loves me.
Later, next to the painter’s dead body, was his wife tightly holding the phone. She hadn’t cried when she found him. The ambulance was on its way, but what good was that? The body was cold, his face, his fingers, everything, cold. But her face was dry.
I love him.
What would she say when they started to ask her questions?
I’ll say the truth.
As she heard the sirens the thought finally came into her mind- It would have been different if I was here. It sliced at her heart and created a knot in her throat making a dry cough violently come out.
The paramedics asked her to go with them to the hospital, but she refused; they told her that they were sorry for her lost, but she knew; left with the painter’s dead body, and her face was dry.
On The Painter and His Wife
I’ve been meaning to post this story for a couple of weeks now. It’s the second story I wrote in high school, back in ninth grade, and I remember sharing it with many of my friends then. When I found it again, I was shocked to notice how many experimental things were in the story — The way the narration switches back and forth, the internal dialogue happening with the wife. I still find myself experimenting with almost every single one of my stories. For me, it’s as if the text always demands for weird and unexpected twists and turns. I think this one has a couple of them that you will enjoy.
PS. I’ve decided to change the name of the collection I post here and take out the name Crappy Stories. At first I chose crappy because I wanted it to be funny and odd, but now the concern has grown within me that it’s not getting the right message across. The stories I post here aren’t garbage or meaningless. I consider them more of studies, ways that I’ve grown and developed my ear for storytelling. As I come across these stories, in each one I see how mistakes have helped me write better later on. Each one polishes away miscommunication and errors so that the reader can smoothly take in the text. I hope that by posting these old stories, young writers can reflect on the different stages of developing the writing craft.