Only half an hour for my pastel sticks to flesh out shapes, contours, and shadows of your profile. Then I stop for weeks. Why this hesitation?
A week later I adjust an angle of your sculpted nose. Your contemplation is more striking. Beneath your shoulder line, an abstraction brings you closer.
You’re my shapes and forms, lights and shadows. Ambiguity at its best; loosely flowing love from our youth.
I move the pastel paper from the glass worktable to an easel. Your image on the mi- tientes paper focuses, eyes closed reading a book. If I open them what will you see? I don’t want to know. Mystery elevates love.
I lay the portrait on the floor, stand above it, look down. Too much distance. Your heart drifts. Forms are formless. Shapes are shapeless. I want you back.
I want you to love me the most. Not even birds you adore in nature more than me.
I lift you up, so you face the mirror where I also see myself. The image echoes. I’ve been in the portrait with you all along. Tears well.
I can’t see me like you do. In the mirror I just see my reflection from my point of view, whom you’ve been with for fifty-two years. It’s funny, I always say fifty-two and then you add the years before we were married, too.
Surely you haven’t forgotten the Barbra Streisand concert in 67. It was a long walk to the stadium. You did it for me. I still don’t know if you’d ever heard her sing before then. A voice of passion that I hoped we’d feel together. And today you say her voice is like no other. I savor that remark.
You got me started painting. That surprise Chanukah gift twenty years ago. Can’t forget the sturdy wooden box of oils. You saw my future. You are my future. I want to be yours.
I love that you know I fear deep sea diving and after a dive, gesture upwards to surface and orient myself. And you stay above the water with me.
And when you go underground like the mysterious underpainting you can’t detect, I carry a torch for you. Like our marathons, I go the distance to make you laugh. To give you a broad, long-lasting grin.
Marathons don’t end the way we run them, just like paintings that take their own form. After each finish line, we wrap each other in silver foil, and run another and another.
Against rhythms of life’s uncertainty my paintings shift and change as if they are speaking to me. Yet my landscapes reveal the constancy of our lake glistening in summers and freezing in winters reflecting our good fortunes season after season. I’m still here mainlining your images as they take on new forms.
Alas. Of its own accord, my painting hand rises in merriment. I know why I can’t finish the painting. I’ll add to it. I will. But still not finish. Can’t. Won’t. So obvious now.
I’m not finished. You’re not finished.
Getting older is only growing up until we won’t.
That’s how it works—living long.
So, here’s to going more distance. Never finishing our painting.
Isn’t that a lovely thought?
Laurie Hollman, PhD, is a psychoanalyst and author who has published scores of scholarly articles for international audiences, as well as seven popular award-winning nonfiction books on parenting and narcissism. Her belief that storytelling supports mental health has inspired her to write short fiction and novels. The wealth of experience clinically treating a broad spectrum of personalities has led to her interest and ability to create characters in fictional stories for both short stories and novels. Please peruse her publications, endorsements, and extended bio at lauriehollmanphd.com