By Grace Wang
Dissociative amnesia. One man and his wife.
The wooden palette adorned with a taste of the rainbow, from fiery orange to milky white, was placed firmly on his lap. His spiky, slender paintbrush had a blob of hazel brown that drizzled off his brush as he lifted his careful wrist to the canvas. The lightbulb flickered from a warm yellow to complete blackness from time to time. Surrounded by gray floors stained with the footprints of bare feet, he wondered when his house had ever had gray floors. He dismissed this thought knowing he had a portrait to complete and turned his attention to his subject. His wife Marta sat poised on the creaky wooden chair situated directly in front of his easel. Her skin, paler than it usually was, made her appear like a ghostly being.
“Marta, dear, would you move your body to the right?” he grunted.
He sighed, wondered what he had done wrong again, and forcefully began to stroke his fragile wrist over the empty canvas. He began with the outline of her eyes, the very eyes that held endless aspirations never to be seized. Focus never leaving the canvas, he began to paint her eyes that were as green as the grass of the meadows, with streaks of gold like the sun rays of golden hour. He scribbled on her eyelashes, always an intense carbon black from her ever-lasting tube of mascara, with a ballpoint pen that made her eyes seem rather large.
None of it was doing her beauty justice, but he needed to get a rough draft done. He moved on to her nose that was pointy, with narrow nostrils, and straighter than his. He carefully outlined the shape of her nose with soft pencil shavings until it somewhat mirrored her nose. Half of it, at least. He still had not lifted his gaze from his canvas once. He found it odd that not a single word had been muttered from Marta’s mouth. She always complained when he forced her to be another “lab rat” for one of his strange portraits.
He knew that this would be one of his last portraits of her, at least for now. She hadn’t been too enthusiastic apart from their constant fighting every day. He missed the spark in her eyes whenever he’d tell her he needed her for a portrait. Something he never thought would come back.
Everything he sketched so far had been partial. The nose had one nostril, the eyes missed Marta’s golden spark, and he had not added much color onto the canvas despite his palette that spanned the whole rainbow. Restless and confused on why everything was going so corruptly, he decided he would move on to her mouth, the one part of her he had spent countless hours gazing at. His gaze was not focused on them today, though, as his eyes were still fixed on the art. He once again lifted his slender paintbrush, now dripping with the same hue of pink as her hot pink tube of lipgloss.
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Gently, he rested his eyes. It was not enough to fade into complete oblivion, but enough that the humming of the radiator and the world around him faded. He reminisced about that very last kiss he had with Marta. Her lips roughly chapped from refusing to use ChapStick contrasted against his lips that were velvety and soft. The memory of the tingle of her tongue against his, and the blood of her chapped lips rubbing against his made him whimper and flinch. Feeling rather disturbed, he was interrupted as he felt a distant, chilly hand placed on his bare shoulder, sending a shiver down every vertebra of his spine. Expecting to see Marta, he jolted his eyes open, his eyebrows shot up, and his jaw dropped so far down that his wisdom teeth were visible. It became apparent that the chair was empty, and there was no Marta in front of the easel. All he examined were metal bars with more rust than should be permissible, a damp ceiling light that dripped with a mystery liquid, and a man in a white coat who kept muttering the words “dissociative amnesia.” Without being conscious of it, he shrieked her name with a blood-curdling yell. The kind you’d only hear in horror movies, the ones that never truly erased from your brain.
The man in the white coat glared at him up and down. He warily opened his mouth.
“Marta died last month.”
This writing was originally crafted to be entered in the Scholastic Art and Writing Contests under the Flash Fiction division. Attending a performing arts school, I am surrounded by talented visual artists and drew from that for inspiration for my piece. I developed this piece over the course of a week, and wanted to convey my story with imagery and detail so the ending could be a true shocker.
Grace Wang is a junior in high school where she majors in vocals. She is very proud this year to have been accepted to the Broadway Dance Center’s youth performance company, Arts in Motion. When she’s not studying or dancing, Grace can be found reading, hanging out with friends or rowing in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Her favorite book is "Where The Crawdads Sing."