Thursday, November 22, 2007

Place du Tertre, Montmartre

She is not much. Young. Shy. American.

I’ve painted her thousands of times.

Mademoiselle, I must have your portrait.”

She unstrings her bowed lips. Someone has told her about French men.

“I could not accept money. But allow me this: a poor artist’s pleasure in immortalizing such beauty.”

My muse dips her head, but sits. There is a diamond on her finger, but it reflects no husband in her eyes.

I start to do my thing. It is a reflexive thing. A soulless thing. The engine of my hands propels me to do it.

And it will be compensated.

My muse clears her throat.

“Perhaps we could paint each other.”

The engine sputters into stillness.

“You paint?”

“A little.”

Reeling, I offer her a canvas, some brushes. My friend provides an easel.

“We will paint each other painting?” I laugh.

She shrugs. “Just paint what you see. This once.”

And with a new, ungainly instrument, I do.

I paint an accordion player pulling music from the dissonant faces. I paint puddles of mercury convulsing the old, tectonic cobblestone. I paint the wordless conversation between two artists’ brushes. I paint the blue ribbon of a girl’s wrist, pumping red blood into this still-life heart.

I paint Pennsylvania fireflies in this girl’s eyes.

It is only while setting down my brush that I realize she is done.

“You first,” she says.

I show her the canvas.

My girl smiles. “You have painted me as I really am.”

“Your turn.”

She rotates her easel. The canvas is white.

“But you have done nothing!”

My girl finds her feet.

“Look at your painting again,” she instructs, before bowing her lips and turning away.

I look at my canvas, and see. My first masterpiece. At fifty-one.

But I cannot be troubled to care. Not with these sparks and embers igniting my heart, propelling me to my feet.

Her City of Lights has split the eternal night.

And everywhere, fireflies.


(Last Paris vignette here)


Church Lady said...

My favorite line:
There is a diamond on her finger, but it reflects no husband in her eyes.

I love this! You are a romantic.

The first half feels more 'French' than the second half. I don't know why. And I did prefer the first half, although the whole story is beautiful.
Nicely written!

Abhinav said...

We will paint each other painting?
At this sentence, I let out a chuckle. ;-)

Truly artistic. You're a master at vignettes. Trust me, you deserve to be in print. ;-)

Abhinav said...

BTW are all these vignettes and pictures from your honeymoon? Just wondering. They have a thematic integrity to their description.

Since you love Paris so much, have a look at Eat Almost Anything. They have some gorgeous pics of cities they travel.

Sarah Hina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shameless said...

Ooooo, what a twist! Lovely. :-)

Ello said...

Oh Sarah, I love your writing! What an absolutely lovely story. I am so glad I found your blog. And the picture is beautiful also.

Sarah Hina said...

CL, thank you! I suppose I am a romantic. I know that, in some ways, Paris has become a cliche of romance. Play some accordion music, and flash the Eiffel Tower on the screen, and many Americans will swoon. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the soft sell. :)

And yet Paris still rings true for me. For one, it's gorgeous. And I love their high regard for art and literature, and the laid back style of living. It's so easy to be inspired. I can't wait to return someday.

Abhinav, thanks for that link! I enjoyed looking at all their pics, and especially love Venice. Another place to return to. :)

Shameless, thanks again! I started reading your story today, and plan on going back when I have a moment to spare. It already captured my imagination.

Thanks, Ello! I'm glad you found my blog, too. I really enjoyed your Thanksgiving entry yesterday. :)

Anonymous said...

Simply, well done.

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Wayne. I enjoyed stopping by your blog today. :)

moonrat said...


Sarah Hina said...

An "awesome" from Moonrat. I should just quit while I'm ahead. ;)

Thank you, and I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Fireflies shine, but reveal little more than the place they were a moment before. This was a casual stop for this character. It would be fascinating to see where she truly intends to go.


Aine enjoyed it very much too!

Jaye Wells said...

"My muse clears her throat."

Nice. Mine cracks her knuckles. Lovely job, Sarah.

Sarah Hina said...

Jason, hopefully she will light up someone else's night.

I love stories about muses. Francine Prose compiled an excellent collection, titled "The Lives of the Muses." It's a provocative question to consider how much responsibility the source of inspiration can claim for the work of art in question. In this story, quite a bit, I think.

Thank you, and Aine, once again. Your support means a lot to me. :)

Jaye, you're too funny! Lately, I think my muse is constantly checking her watch. Just of these days, she will give me up for good.

Thanks for the laugh, and the kind words. :)

Jennifer said...

I also loved the line about the ring reflecting no husband in her eyes. I want to know more about this woman and how she knew. :)