The Dinner with Van Gogh
By Zuzanna Wasiluk
A young girl goes to dinner with the ghost of a famous painter, Vincent van Gogh, in a lake.
The two figures stood out in the blue mist of twilight, the moonlight heavy from the projections of mutual adoration. They had abandoned their pigheadedness for the duration of the dinner in which one was no longer dead but rather an illumination of the steel mask of an idea. He was featureful, with auburn whiskers on his upper lip, eyes the color of a dandelion leaf and the loving gaze of greeting nature. The girl who accompanied him maintained the color of a cream puff pastry and she lived in luxury with sincerity. She idolized the talents of individuals who lived in poverty and wished they just didn’t. She told Van Gogh of his success and he was now agonizingly aware of this for the rest of their dinner. She didn’t notice how he clothed his sorrow in his polite gestures, she was only a young girl accompanying her favorite painter to dinner.
Their feet were starting to freeze in the lake, in which the dining table stood, in spite of the summer heat. “This might have been foolish if there were any liver flukes or leeches,” the young girl said with a grin. “I’m unsure if they are undaunted by a ghost or if you are suddenly wholly interesting as an unattainable entity with your body dead and gone.” Her sentence lightened the curtain of fragility between them.
He took a bite of a grape to examine whether there were any seeds inside. She asked him if he hated pomegranates, with unavoidable seeds that taste like wood. He said that the taste of pomegranate is how he imagined the taste of the color red. He looked up, satisfied that there were no seeds in his grape. His hands wandered to rub his ear in an endearing way as if to remember how a Matron had pulled on his ear throughout his boyhood. The girl did not speak, but she joined his silence by curling her hair with her finger. How many ghosts have had to hug themselves with no one else to do it for them?
After a piece of seaweed brushed her leg, she rose from the table, and wind brought sand from the nearby beach that cut her cheek. Having the knowledge of progress, she lingered with the idea of squeezing his shoulder. Should she have comforted him with her knowing smile, the smile of an adult looking down at a child holding their hand, instead of pouring him a glass of water? As a spectator, I was disappointed in her insistence in upholding table manners and quiet sympathy.
She avoided his gaze by staring into nature’s vulpine performance ahead of them asking, “isn’t this perfect for painting? How many times, with time being completely meaningless and senseless, have you seen such a picture?” He saw what she meant and smiled warmly. Now, he was the adult smiling down at the child holding his hand. Her eyes had not found the love he was so ready to give in his insight to nature’s beauty but her hands would handle his legacy carelessly. “You would see many of these sights if you saw every person as the human form of Mother Nature.” He didn’t meet her eyes when he said this, perhaps out of the child-like disappointment he endured at watching her try to grasp his ideas of love. Yet he repositioned his chair between two pond rocks to avoid burrowing into the floor of the lake.
“Are you silent because you are too busy paying attention to my breathing?” she said with an instant twinge of regret, hoping that he would never guess how hard it was to root for her in this interaction. She twitched but scrambled, “I promise I’m not allergic to anything, this is all nerves,” hoping to chalk up her insensitivity to bad taste around ghosts.
His hand moved like his brushstrokes; he could see the way her heart moved to her eyes in front of the moonlight. “They still haven’t taken around to teaching social etiquette around ghosts?” with a smile that communicated his ability to remember human awkwardness—parts of ourselves that stand out in italics in the transcripts of our interactions with others. She was so honest that he wished this was only a stopover to a new life, a life where he would be his own counselor for his affections.
I wrote this during a Scholarship Writing workshop where the prompt was to write about a fictional encounter with someone you admire as an individual. After reading Van Gogh’s letters, I wrote this story wherein the young girl is loosely based on me.
Zuzanna Wasiluk grew up in Greenpoint and had multitudes of pets in her early childhood. However, she’s been reduced to two kittens at the moment, Cricket and Felix. She attends high school in Brooklyn, NY, and a Polish school in Greenpoint to connect to her roots. She enjoys creative writing and painting as personal hobbies and joined Girls Write Now to develop as a writer in a more comprehensive direction in an inclusive environment.