She wasn’t much. He was many things.
He was an artist.
When he looked at her, he saw her colors. The timid peachiness that brushed her high cheekbones. The subtle blue half-moons under her brownish-greenish eyes that made her look older than she was.
Watching him paint was her favorite thing to do. Every night, she would stand behind him as he quietly struggled with the canvas, danced with the brush, conversed with the image that he was creating. A person. Many people. A country landscape. When he painted them, he silently divulged all of his deepest secrets to them, all with the flick of his wrist and the twist of his fingers. And that was why she longed for him to paint her.
She imagined him mixing the paint for hours and hours, trying to perfectly recreate the colors of her face. She dreamt of his skilled hand guiding the coarse bristles of the paintbrush, slowly transforming the blank white canvas into the soft line of her jaw, the gentle curve of her neck.
She once asked if he would paint her. I can’t, he said. Because the feelings would get in the way, he said. The emotions would color the painting, not the colors of your face, he said. So she retreated back to her marked spot behind him, silently peering over his shoulder as he painted other beautiful things.
But what he didn’t know was that his emotions were exactly what she wanted to see. She didn’t need a perfect recreation of her face — she knew what she looked like, she knew her little imperfections. She saw them every morning when she looked in the mirror.
What she never could see was how he saw her. Was she beautiful in his eyes? Would the imperfections that she saw as flaws transform into something more under his careful hand? In his eyes, was her image worthy of his love?
He said his emotions would color the painting. What color would they be? Red? Blue? Green? The soft orangey purple of a sunset? She tried to imagine, but she had no idea.
He was many things. He was an artist. She wasn’t much. She was half of a heart. Only half because he held the other half. Thump, thump. And he didn’t realize, but while his right hand gracefully slid and scraped and pirouetted across the page, his left hand held something red, mushy, warm.
And it pulsated. Thump, thump. And with each beat, it slipped further and further from the grasp of his careless left hand which hung limply at his side. And he painted and painted and stared at the canvas and it stared back at him and she watched from behind him as that obscure object in his left hand dripped blood on the cold, white, perfect tile.
Thump, thump. And there was a pool of red under his shoes. And he didn’t notice.
Thump, thump. It slipped further from his fingers, from his thumb, with each passing moment. And he kept painting.
Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump thumpthumpthumpthump.
Then silence. Because it wasn’t in his hand anymore. It was on the floor by his shoes. A pool of liquid red.
I’m finished, he said. There was silence
And then the sound of her sobbing. The loud, wet kind of tears that come all the way from the stomach up through the lungs and burn the throat on the way out.
He cocked his head over his shoulder to look at her. Why are you crying? he said. This is the most beautiful painting that I have ever created. This is my best work. You should be happy for me.
I’m sorry, she heaved in between sobs. And she took two big breaths to quiet herself. And then it was silent again as she raised her swollen eyes with the blue half-moons that made her look older than she was to his canvas. It’s lovely, she said.
It was a bowl of fruit.