Memoirs of the Artist: III - Of Sands and Bays

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 04, 2017

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Submitted: August 04, 2017

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The gist of life is embracing the two separate ends of a pole, inhaling the bittersweet moments from experiences of bliss and heartaches. Without the magnetic pull of resemblances and distinctions, one end would merely be an unsettled feeling of numbness. Bliss cannot be expressed or appreciated without knowing how it feels to have a broken heart, nor can heartaches exist without knowing how to love, how to have hope and how to possess a scarlet core called humanity.

 

It was an excruciating journey for both the artist and the Trojan, but at least for the Trojan, it was shorter. Following the promise, they saw each other differently. Mutual trust was established, but a part of the artist still wanted to shy away, afraid of the throbbing that would eventually sink his cautious core. One of the distinctions between them was that the Trojan knew how to enjoy the moment, and the others were problems for another day. The artist could not put them down, knowing that there were still matters unresolved. He was fixated on the reminiscences, to stir clear of the present and weigh the potential futures. It was his talent, as much as his blight.

 

The artist tried very hard to fit in the Trojan’s circle; they celebrated with liquor in their veins and arteries, disallowing the madness to come to an end before the next break of dawn. He had quite a bit, but conscious he was, unwilling to be intoxicated. He enjoyed the moments, and definitely cherished the night. The night was not daunting at all; darkness did not creep in and slurp the pleasure out of the dwellers. The long night was handsome, relaxing, and when the dancing bonfire took its bow, the desert was then tranquil and quiet, accompanied by the echoes of distant laughter, soothed by the gentle kisses of the surfing wind.

 

Eventually, the long night passed, and the light of dawn polished the desert with golden grains and covered the sleepers with a blanket of warmth. The artist, apparently covered with the Trojan’s sleeve, sneezed in his wake. He stood up for a stretch, and saw the Trojan in thin clothing, embracing himself with his arms, shivering in a fetal position. Touched but remorseful, the artist took off the Trojan’s sleeve and wrapped it around his shoulders. And disorientated, they took off. With an amplified fear due to the past experiences, the artist stretched his eyes large and wide and cruised extremely slowly, searching eagerly for signs of threat, terrified of the thought of an accident again.

 

The sun was almost up and they stopped by a lake. When the artist saw how serene the Trojan rested in the vehicle, his fine work of art, he rolled down the pane for air and closed the door softly. He walked towards the lake of solitude and sat down, absent-minded, and he reflected on all the mixed sentiments of bittersweet moments from the beginning to the road’s end. The warmth of light clothed him; the gentle winds created ripples of the mirrored gate, distorting the reflection of the artist’s face. They achieved so much together; the artist who knew absolutely nothing about vehicles, learned how the basic machinery worked and how to take care of one. It was something practical. The artist did not have much to offer in return; perhaps companionship and a few principles along the way. They had their moments; another simple goodbye would be an awkward relapse. He had so much to lose. It was time.

 

Tears of unspoken stories lingered on the back of his hand, and the artist washed them into the lake. He was uplifted and refreshed that startled the Trojan who had just woke up, and sober. He made it easier for the artist; he was chill and cool, and they did not exchange many words throughout the morning. In time, the pair cruised around like any usual days but only this time they knew it was goodbye, and, as if the uneasy hour accelerated to a couple of minutes, they arrived at the border, and the artist hopped out. He was prepared to say something, but when the moment came, the mind was rinsed clean. He was as stiff as a wood, just staring at his constant’s art of work, taking a last glance at the small details, scratches and grazes, whatever. After turning off the engine, the Trojan hopped off as well. “We’re here.” the Trojan finally muttered. “Say goodbye to this hell hole.”

 

It was a suiting description for the midlands; there was nothing in the little town surrounded by endless acres of deserted lands. It was an ideal place for training, to experience and to make mistakes without much consequence. To the artist, it was only a temporary visit, and being exposed to different nations since young, his sights were set far beyond this place. But young he was, and he had so much heart. Invested and sincere, he allowed himself to fall for the place, to befriend an improbable friend. The Trojan lived in the rustic midlands his entire life, and he was happy. It was the simplicity that made the artist so envious. But tasting excess, everything else was bland on the monochromic amber acres of sands. It was a place he could pass by for a visit but unable to stay and invest too deeply.

 

“You know, you could come with me too. Or at least, come for a visit.” the artist managed a chuckle. “You started something, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next… I can’t follow through on my own… I mean, engines, cogs? How do those work?” He knew the odds were unlikely, but he kept the door ajar for the Trojan. His gray sack was fairly empty; he did not have much to begin with nor was there much to take away. The Trojan then initiated a brotherly embrace, but a rather short one. “Well, you must tell me how it’s like.”

 

Departing from the midland deserts, he arrived to the west coast’s bustling city. A different ambience, it was hectic, and the rhythm of life seemed to accelerate. Still, what caught the artist’s attention were the shining artworks of murals and historical statues. Memories were blurred; the artist probably forgot that grandiose works of art in the west coast actually existed, and that the place had such extensive archives. The artist quickly found his niche in this new yet familiar world, with a group of artistic, talented friends, and gradually, he left the past memories behind.

 

Little did the artist know that the hectic days in the western kingdom went by as quickly as the arrows flew with the many exhibitions and performances; it had already been months. The midlands however remained slow and unprogressive. The sun was relentless and unforgiving, and the many ponds were quickly dried up during the drought with a prolonged period of scanty rainfall. Days were not easy for the Trojan. There was neither business nor outsiders stopping by the town, and with water as a scarce resource, the Trojan’s business fell apart.

 

So the Trojan had nothing to lose, and freed from his duties, he sought to find the artist again. He was undeniably angry, at life, but he had hope. He sent a scrolled message to the artist, mentioning that he was on a break, and he would cruise to the west to begin their journey, to share their promise together. He kept it short and concise, but nothing about his failed business. The scroll was eventually delivered to the artist, but busy in the midst of plans and greeting new friends in the arts business, he left the scroll aside that eventually found its place with the dusts in an unnoticed corner. Eventually, the artist completely forgot about it, and the other end was left in disappointment and disconsolation.

 

Another three months flew by and the artist did not change for the better. In the everlasting madness, he became lazy and dispirited, without a direction, without an objective. The artist was undeniably excited upon the Trojan’s idea of a visit, but he was afraid. Unwilling to be strung by their connections, he wanted to get away from his constant for a while; it was still too soon. Unaware of the Trojan’s difficulties, the artist was filled with rage as his friend indulged himself in alcohol. Even though the artist needed time to himself, the Trojan was nonetheless his dearest constant, to mend him back to equilibrium. But the artist was not sure the feelings were mutual, and reciprocated; perhaps to the Trojan, the artist was just another fair-weathered friend.

 

The seeds of doubt were nourished, and their roots stretched so vigorously that they extended to the core. The artist could feel the toxins spreading, invading and controlling his thoughts. A ring of infuriated nova expelled from the artist throwing a fit, wounding the surroundings, pain self-inflicted. And the Trojan sensed the angry waves. Disappointment and frustration arose at the two ends. The Trojan backpedaled to his old self again, the man who loved the sensation of overindulgence in alcohol, and the artist helplessly channeled his negative forces of energy, destroying nature and its course. He only hoped to make a difference in his constant’s life.

 

Eventually, the artist found calmness and saw himself clearly. He had lost his balance, and there was no one else to blame but himself. The artist remembered the scroll that he misplaced somewhere, and so he looked for it. The night where they shared a box of white chocolate was almost a year ago. Deep in the artist’s heart, no matter how intoxicating life was in the western kingdom, he never forgot about that night. With the scroll, he packed a few belongings and decided to revisit the midlands, and this time, he was ready to begin their journey, their shared promise.

 

And he had a vision of the Trojan, but he was no longer a dweller in his dull and weathered outfits. He wore a scrawny white robe, but one could still notice the scars on his sturdy back. His bony fingers clutched the chains tightly that held him on the ground. But still, he stood tall and energetic; he had his sights on one of the highest canyons near the deserts, and he spread his pair of ashen wings with ease. Keeping the momentum, he flailed his newborn wings a few times and took off in high spirits, happy and free from the earthly shackles… but more spikes burrowed from the ground and seized him by his legs, and soon another pierced through the sands and impaled his shoulders as he roared in agony…

 

The artist woke up covered in sweat and his chest was throbbing. An aura of wretched melancholy descended on him suddenly, causing him to be anxious that something might happen. His left eyelid could not stop fluttering. The artist eventually took control of his body and was soothed at the thoughts of his constant. Throughout the night, the artist lied on his bed, picturing the details that branded him; with his constant and their times of brotherhood: the first time they met in an art course, the first time they talked in a tavern. His friend did not let the artist contribute to his artwork, to improve it, yet the artist continued trying. They cruised around together, they flipped and they lived. These reminiscences and pleasurable times washed the artist’s sadness away. He smiled and was more determined to make amends to the Trojan. When the long night passed, his sentiments died along with the darkness, and the artist reverted back to his obstinate self again, a toxic mind jumbled with pride, rebel and stubbornness, mistaking an act of strength with a sign of weakness.

 

Many parables were told and reiterated to cherish, to love, to show one another before the time runs out. But time never seems to run out. Time is constantly changing and shifting forms, moving at a steady pace, but it is always there. Impossible, the reality would seem, and highly unlikely against the odds, for the artist was ready to finally meet Henry again, the constant that was always by his side. The Trojan was yet another grain of sand, running in the ever-shifting hourglass. But eventually, the keeper no longer turned the hourglass, and it was abandoned in the sea of the lost ones. Lost and sunk to the bottom, the hourglass shattered, and the grain of sand landed on the seabed, the residual effects of their lives once intertwined and estranged. Arrested at its core, the scarlet gem soon showed no signs of life.

 

The messenger that brought the artist the news was just a messenger, a courier that probably deliver news everyday with suppressed sentiments, a task that needed no further conversation. The artist pictured an abandoned woodhouse deep in a forest, remote and silent; the withered vines and dried leaves constricting the house were lifeless, and as the gentle winds sang an unheard song, the leaves detached in peace. The artist stood at the bottom of the wooden steps, paralyzed as he collapsed on the grassless ground. He was quiet, and the colors of life faded from the world; everything alive withering away. The pricking sensations of conscience choked the artist as if he could not take in another mouthful of air. Nothing could have been worse; nothing could redeem this fatalistic error. The thundering sounds of irredeemable guilt, he has killed the dreams of the shared promise.

 

Without an appetite, the artist lapsed into severe illness; the scarlet core on his chest hurt him vigorously. Breathing difficulties, paralyzed, arteries and blood pumping system slowly down, as if these symptoms foreshadowed his agony, his life tied to the Trojan. The artist was exhausted, every breath was precious. That very moment, he wanted to leave peacefully, meeting his constant, to apologize, and even if he could not fulfill their dream of cruising around the kingdom, he could still cruise in paradise. That very moment, the artist had not a reason to live. Death is not terrifying, living in guilt for the rest of your life and letting it consume you little by little every moment defines what terrifying truly means. Rather than dragging out an ignoble existence, death is proven to be a noble source for an unsolvable conundrum. So the artist closed his eyes gently, his sentiments soothed, his heartbeats slowed. He arrived at the point to an ultimatum: finally for once, he would do something good for the world, for Henry, for himself… this would be the best prepossessing finale.

 

The confined room was bright, but he was surrounded by eternal darkness. Feeling exposed and with two large tubes inserted in the artist’s right ribcage, he panicked and tried very hard to get up. He saw a lot of fresh, blackened liquid on the tainted bed, and from the tubes, more gushed out endlessly. The room inhabited three masked figures in which they held the artist down tightly. With their sharp armamentariums they cut his skin and stitched them back and forth. He was in hell.

 

The artist was no different than a corpse aside from the fact that he was still breathing. Two months of torture and degradation, he lived his hellish life as a vegetative patient. Physiologically, he was wrecked; mentally, it was unfathomable. Without complaints, the artist figured that death would be too easy; he should not be able to withstand the pain; to live up with his guilt. So he got used to the tranquil lifestyle, the silence, and the only connection of communication was the voice deep inside his head: the voice of the Saint. But still, because of the voice, it helped the artist pull himself together. The physicians could not find the reason as to why such a state occurred, but deep down the artist always knew. He wanted to chastise himself, hoping to redeem himself like a new creation through a fantasized martyrdom, to leave this sorrowful land once and for all as a forgiven broken one. There was no longer a shared promise here, nor was there a reason to stay.

 

Months went by, and the guilt hidden deep within the artist’s core did not grow any fainter. So grieve, he did not. Over time, the voice of the Saint was then a friend. Day by day, the artist lived in denial, and the beautiful and gentle zephyrs of memories soon blended with fictitious fragments, the aspired dreams then twisted into impossible, muddy urges. The artist became bitter and spiteful. If he gave into his emotional side, the dead knot of guilt that chained him would torture him, bend him till the point where he could not take it anymore, and he would self-immolate. The only strength and courage that pushed the artist onward was forgetting his self in an alcove while clutching to the savors with his constant as well as the unfinished shared promise in which he must fulfill. He must believe it. So for the artist, the seemingly twisted mentality is indubitably the main source of motivation.

 

The artist was forsaken, and most definitely poignant. For once, he noticed how big, and how unfathomable the universe was. He noticed the common dwellers, how small they were; strangers that did not play a role in his life, carbon-based life forms with the ability to create and destroy. They all asked a common question, of why, among the many questions. And the artist finally saw clearly. The truth is that, the answers are not important; as the answers are most likely to leave the dwellers in disappointment, in despair, probably unfulfilled. The splendor is that they are able to ask why; a gift wrapped in a conundrum, to be relieved or to be further mystified…

 

Though the time seemed to be torturously tortuous, it passed, and the artist was finally able to get back on his feet. It was a life reborn. Yet nothing was erased, and he would live with the consequences for the rest of days, a permanent mark imprinted on his scarlet core, forever reminding him. Slowly, step by step with his walking cane, he began his journey. It was exhausting, stopping by the walls from time to time, his hands leaving enfeebling prints, and finally reaching a weathered bench facing towards a beautiful bay. The artist was completely drained from the long haul, and he retired himself on the bench, eyes closed and welcomed the breeze.

 

The artist heard a man coughing at the neighboring bench, but he was too tired to turn his head. After all, he still had trouble breathing, making sounds. But he yearned for a conversation, however brief. Strangers could become a potential friend, and could be friendlier than how the word sounded. And, the artist needed one.

 

“Hey…” said the artist, gasping softly for air.

“Hey,” replied the man with a deep voice. “What happened to you?”

 

It was a hard question for the artist, hard because it was too soon, too soon to be voiced. It was not something glorious to talk about, and he did not need the pitiful attention or advice. The inhabitants, or most of those the artist met, they worry and get depressed with the results of their work, work that would have no effect to their future and plans. But the artist finally understood, what would all of those achievements even matter, and what would all of those mean, with a life taken away without any warning: nothing.

 

“That’s cool. Well, I’m not from around here. I’m new to the west, looking for a new beginning,” the man said.

“Welcome to the dream!” the artist replied in sarcasm.

“That sounded sour, bad day?”

 

The artist did not normally converse with strangers. There was a fear, a deviation from the perfect circle of life. When the perfect line is broken, the circle collapses.

 

“I lost a friend recently. He meant more than I realized. And not for a second I don’t wish that I could take his place instead. Or maybe it’s easier for me. And maybe in a few years, I’ll become one of those coldblooded persons, unaffected, even by the deaths of others. I’m scared, I guess. I’m scared that I’ll be… desensitized by death.” The artist felt at ease. He looked at the unresponsive stranger on the neighboring bench. He looked very tall, and he wore a long, gray coat. His eyes were relaxed, but focused.

 

“Little man, you don’t strike me as a heartless person. I know them, and I can tell you for a fact that the coldblooded persons you’re referring to… they would not be able to say what you just said.”

 

It did not make the artist feel better. He was unconvinced, and the words did not sink in. He welcomed the indulgence of everlasting guilt, that he should never feel better, nor should he experience true happiness again. Everyday was harsh; it was not only the loss of a dear one, but living with a truth of shame and remorse that most would not understand… and even if they did, nothing would change.

 

“You’re too kind,” replied the artist, “but you don’t know what I’ve done.”

“Well, time to know each other. I’m Nordstrom, and I’m an artiste from the far North. It is my pseudonym, and in my line of work, one must be familiar with the icy touch of coldness and malice, but also the intrinsic sensations of love and heartaches. Listen not by their words but by their emotions. I might not have lived your experience, but I can certainly feel it. And we don’t need to put them into words. Besides, all the linguistic subtleties would be lost in its translation…”

“So, you think you know how I feel.”

“Allow me to speak freely… you’re an artist; I can see that. Imagine yourself painting a sea of tonal reds, the strokes and colors of anger and rage… but also the color of the heart, of hope, and of love. Still, that was not satisfying enough, and you hate what you created, so the strokes of blue seeped in, of the ocean’s coldness, the numb sensation you craved so badly to contain all that anger and amplified emotions, emotions that brought inconvenience, staring eyes and unease atmospheres. But then, finally, they’re dissipating, you feel it, and you try so hard to scrub them away, to preserve those emotions that you despised so much…” and the tone of the tall man shifted. “You’ve been running your entire life, leaving, always on the road. Because when you stayed long enough, you would get hurt. But like bread and butter, getting hurt is part of growing up, like an outer branch breaking your perfect little circle. And yes, it hurts, but eventually it’ll heal, and the circle will become larger and more beautiful. Try to confront it and embrace it.”

 

Terrified, the artist’s scarlet core throbbed again. He was exposed, and he gasped for air. But still, he continued to deny the truth with a composed mask that hid his true emotions well. The artist turned his head to look at the tall man again, but he was nowhere to be found. It was merely a dream; one among the many nightmares in the past few months. He was relieved as he gasped for air again, and he wiped the tears in the corner of his eyes but continued to weep in silence. The artist was beyond hurt and he knew it. With emotions suppressed for so long, he wept louder and louder until he could not contain his heightened emotions no more. That was the true form of the artist, sentimental, broken but still aflame with compassion.

 

Time was on the artist’s side, and he had all the time in the world. He sat there indefinitely, listening to the seagulls and the mild splashes of the waves. Soon enough, the young adult grabbed his cane and stood up, his eyes set at the beautiful bay and the sky beyond its horizon. Mesmerized, he curled a white scarf around his fragile neck that was covered with bruises and cuts. On his back, he carried an empty gray sack with a few drawings and a collection of brushes. The sands continued to shift in the hourglass, and the sun continued to shine as the golden rays crowned him in warming light. Maintaining his balance on the cane, his reliable, wooden companion, it was his first smile since forever. The day was still here, and his motherland was just as handsome and full of life. Yet the artist knew it was time to leave, and like Nordstrom, who was either an allegorical voice or a person the artist met sometime somewhere in his life, he also wanted a new beginning, in another faraway place, away from his motherland, away from the sadness, away from it all. With one last look at the bay, he walked towards the sunset step by step. Each stride was exhausting, but again, the artist had all the time in the world.

 

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Years passed, things changed, dwellers came and went, plans built and destroyed, friends reunited and bid their farewells… but the artist had always prayed for a phrase that his constant would say, even after the valediction that was given years ago. He believed that someday he would outlast the wait and hear his distinctive voice again, or perhaps a phrase that would help the lost artist forgive himself genuinely, a phrase that could help the faithless artist renew his hope for the world again, a phrase that would change the artist’s life entirely: all is forgiven.


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