Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Hung by the Length

She could never decide whether she had loved him solely for the Art. But over a couple of married decades, she had come to realize her hate owed pretty much to just that. The art, and it's ‘trappings’, as she preferred to smooth over. Theirs was a mutual admiration that sprouted as fledgling art students, each egging the other on in hard scrabble times, barely eking course credits and square meals. Love seemed Fated, a solace happily accepted by both. Only success came reluctantly, at its own time, welcomed nevertheless, each cash advance steadily unburdening the newlyweds. Fame came much later, mostly to him, the practitioner, for she had wisely opted for the less feted yet steadily paid job as art curator. The bouncers of the art world, according to him.

Not that she was a slouch; unlike him, she dabbled across mediums, brass being a favorite, a couple of corporate foyers had installations bearing her name. She took pride in it, but knew in her heart that a household with two artists may not be a well fed one. He could chuckle all he want, but she decided one of the two had to be sensible about money; in art that means leaving for a job that pays.

He might have been singularly devoted to his preferred medium, while she gave up on her calling to keep the two afloat. But unlike devotion, which he professed towards her as well, fidelity as a concept turned out to be quite fluid to him. Not one to point fingers, she knew their love had become more of a conditioned reflex, a warm memory perpetuated by a somehow interminable bond, an excess of courtesy in public, and a studied distance at all other times. She had her sources, many a fight and separation, and finally suspicions that had long turned to indifference.

There were at times months of silence between them, to her these interludes alternated between despondence or were vaguely liberating. She suspected he loved her still, but to her it meant utmost glorified respect and no more. All the while she drifted away from the very social circles they always called their own. Was this to show her disdain towards a set who maybe laid claim to her love or a way to punish herself so he may notice, even she could not fathom. Nor did she care, at that time.

Then, he passed.

Her husband, love of her life, comrade in struggles only they would ever know, artist in residence for some of the top schools in the country, skirt-chaser extraordinaire, mixing art and pleasure as easily he mixed paint. A true artist to the end, dying in harness, and quite literally so. His last work, yet unsigned, still on the easel, a faded denim hung from the nearest tack, the nubile young thing who bid him nighty-night the last to ease off him. He left sometime in his sleep. Without as much a goodbye.

As with all at such loss, only she knew what was left was the little emptiness, few regrets and a lot left unsaid. Yet the reminiscing was the worst. Pointless recollections causing her no end of torment. She remembered their last "good chat". It was a few weeks before the end. She was at his studio, early evening, nursing a hot tea. He stood indulgently over his latest work, a burst of warm color, almost alive; one of his better ones, she remembered thinking. An orange hue spread across the canvas, radiating from a white-hot center. A thin white line dropped vertically down, like a sparkler rod. She said it looked like a sparkler giving birth to a rising sun, or something to that effect, and he readily agreed. She knew better than to critique him, for he never cared much for any kind of critique!

It'd been a few months, and the auction house had decided to put up his last work. It was one of those 'occasions', and she had agreed to the invite after much persuasion. Since his passing, she had kept away from the very world she had worked so hard to build and be part of. She missed the cut and thrust, the surly familiarity of an oft-bickering couple, yet a formidable duo who together lit up many a company and conversation. Familiarity that bred contempt, yet some comfort. Good reason to take a break from the memories.

The ones she never missed were the art aficionados, the air-kiss crowd. The hoity-toity air heads who claimed to know as much of the wine they swilled, as the waste of paint & canvas they peered at. Not to mention the high society climbers, with nothing to lose but their hardly earned inheritance. He would laugh whenever she vented over the Art Crowd that flocked to her workplace. She too was one among them, as he would mercilessly needle her, only now she has a day job.

She sat away from the lectern, careful not to attract attention. Not that her husband's agent missed out on introducing the pick of the day's deep-pocketed gullible. She nodded politely, spoke very little; the commiserations seemed genuine, the attention warm. They seemed to truly miss him. The crowd settled as the proceedings were brought to order.

As the auctioneer picked up pace and voice, she let herself be distracted by the finely crafted catalog. His last work was listed towards the end, imaginatively termed
Lot 2B. "Untitled, unsigned, oil on canvas...”, and then she gasped.

There was indeed something off about the picture on the catalog, something she noticed on the banners while walking in. She thought better of speaking to his agent, letting it be as the event caught up. Now as she ran her eyes over the short Interpretation, she felt a slow guffaw coming.

"..the bright orb placed well off-center, the sunset to the West... a flat line trails off to the opposite horizon... an end of days, perhaps.”

Your friends have indeed outdone themselves this time, Roy.
They hung it from the wrong end.

Much like what had come of the life she had always known, to be admired the way it has become.


Anonymous Debanuj said...

Nice. Somehow reminded me of "The Last leaf".

July 15, 2015 8:14 PM  

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