Fiction: The Artist in His Portrait

By Alexandre Petion

I've always found the idea of being a suitor rather horrifying. In fact, no other prospect has entirely steered me into such absolutist, satiating thoughts of saliently flagellating myself… enchanted fantasies of safely removing myself from the gene pool, of dedicating every moment of my life to becoming the ultimate specimen of abusrdist temperance and chastity. It always appeared to me that physiological, sentient life must be the byproduct of gnostic uncaringness—from a rather embittered and bratty god. To include anything further of this world from its gaseous beginnings, out from the ambivalence of nothingness, seems a rather especially cruel joke to impose on not just oneself, but to others too. I have yet to arrive at any scientific reasoning in the world—to be worth upholding—;et alone with objective value or merit. In fact, we seem to always be using science to placate ourselves with what is fundamentally the placement of our extensive egos...
I tended to the harbor of what was often no harder truth in my experience of subjectivity: of great solitude as my armament, my sacred specialty of conniving in this threatening world. For one cosmic reason or another, I happened to realize this very early on in my beginning life... and stupefied, on-looking human beings, as if they were animals, have brayed at me ever since--gesturing towards me to come by in their convalescent home of sorts... that place called human living, on a place called a planet. It was sadly a hearkening that would never come, for I am from a different planet entirely. I have met fellow beings from Saturn and Venus far more than those from Earth.
From a single nighttime that was filled with ' computerized offerings', staring at solipsitic screens, I would be thrown off from my subsistence of sleep with a sudden heat-stricken migraine. Erratic and nauseous, I belted out the door with the massive burgeoning terror of my physical capacity losing its sense of locust; that awful, tiny reminder of terror that I am indeed never the master of my faculties nor the faithful enactor of my Will. Without the accompaniment of ibuprofen I would be surrounded within the voices of inner thoughts of an innocent enough solution: suicide. The distressing stroll was so total as a contributor to the extended plight of me, and my puny efforts of reasoning with validity to living in of itself. Upon arrival into the bathroom--I vomited into the latrine. My head and eyes soaked with sweat, and my lap was loaded with intestinal sploshes of bacteria, it felt like I was emptying an evil vacuous void; something that was strangely gnostic too. Subsequently after my heaves I crawled my dainty figment of a material little body to the upper bowl of the surrounding washbasin... All the blood in the universe had risen to my thoughtful yet depleting face.
The only sense of power I could ascribe myself in this world was maintaining the artful illusion of a rudely selfish mystique. That is--apart from ending things early. I was to begin searching for my earnest vanity, staring at my own naked chest with eyes of defilement through the oblong mirror in front of me... my vampish shoulders sloped downward against the countertop and white abyss of color; my thin pelvis and waist penetrated with its wooded material once leaned against it. I looked at how beautiful and long my hair was, how neotenous I still fared, and with effortless style... and I thoughtthat I may perhaps live on anyways?
It was one particular cold April day--when I participated in an art exposition with Father. We drove into the city, witihin the steep piers of Manhattan near the East River, where the tidal breeze was like frostbite. A white, glowing prominence, not far ashore, asserted domineeringly over the city's lowland urban landscape. I was reduced in all respects of my attitude to my usual timidness, my delayed sort of ability in reacting to the changing, morphing world, let alone the semi-predictable human behaviors around that always stood mercurial to my eyes, softly embracing myself in the orchestra of endless cars and metallic noise, centered in the motionless haven of an expressway. Its monotony all the way through offered the physical resonance of an eternity of contemplation. The exhibit was situated in a singularly huge warehouse.
It was in those days when I was still hesitant as a chronicler. Believe it or not, my long oasis of dithering was less so the result of a pure aeternus, and it was more in favor of that gracious idea that gratification as a concept was always a delayed delicacy for me. I gaped at the sparkling whiteness of the clouds against a deep and darkened navy blue sky. Father and I made a soft entry through the warehouse's mouth and gape. It was an airy, cold, scentless maze to forge ahead of, an arresting temple full of endless mechanizations of art. We walked from an industrial outside uniform that shifted into spectacle. Suddenly one's eyes were mired by the entire expanse that enveloped of extraordinarily widened and whitened walls, and long, lengthy passageways for simple, passive walking, for what was largely a carpeted, magenta flooring.
The world is often teeming with noises, often animalike, to which I harbor no interest in emulating. Sentiments made with crude, awful human sounds, not at all endearing--not due to indignant refusal, but due to my lack of character. There had to have been hundreds of them (meaning people). Passerbies and would-be merchants with calculated eyes. The friendly shifts and gestures were the corporeal equivalent of comforting white noise. But the art exhibition was not a place I would desire to stray along in my lonesome pondering; the silence of death seemed more appropriate that evening. Instead--I feasibly designed the perversion of a more directional fantasy of mine, one where I constantly and particularly went on about appearing in a sit-down interview with the appartus known as the The Louisiana Channel. Only in fantasy would would I achieve inner happiness or excitement. Constant swathes of human beings in this market were encroaching in the interference of this said fantasy. And the multiplicity of artworks, on every corner, on every displayable space and wall, both small and large, failed to mystify me.
Borges declared this particular deceit as the 'passive aesthetic of mirrors', and I couldn't help but view all the visual artistry here with this sordid sense of venom and internalized contempt. Yet, my countenance was no larger than my life, a nothingness; it was infact a muted, dull impression, regardless of all the beauty in this pageantry and curation of the arts.
THAT DAY--I also chose to wear a white dress shirt under a black woollen jumper; the sleeves of which I continuously rolled up. I motioned silently throughout the several minutes that eventually gathered us to the aisle that upheld the personal exhibit space for Father's paintings. A nice, white wall displayed the remaining bastion of his rather redundant oeuvre ( animal life and plant life), collected and maintained over for close to three decades. His booth was situated closely to another tropical artist of the same vein. Although I sat there in that specific aisle for the entire evening, unto complete nightfall, I failed to retain the other pictures that glamoured near and around me. All I could remember was the infinite chatter, the staid, prospecting eyes of art-dealers, the couples, the commoners who came strictly for sight-seeing; and a small emblem of time where I pretended to be thrilled and enchanted by the many paintings put forward at every eyeful glance.
My father brought along my mother, and also a friend. The visiting guests at this exhibit were like a friendly army to his insular, demented war with fame. As the calm, beginning minutes flowed into impregnable hours, I was able to bear witness as a silent observer to this sea of emotionally human changes; in the containment of subjectivity and artful exchanges. There my father was, under the brilliant light of the warehouse's plafond, in the polite, happy company he always enjoyed with uproarious laughter. I saw nakedly, sitting by side, his face drunken with happiness whenever a single person or a couple would make a complete stop in front of his art; when a watchful, moody mind would abruptly turn with the conscious decision of assessing his greatest, most sentimentally-held masterpieces. When a guest, doe-eyed, concentrated, and semi-beloved with his Amazonian jungle scenes, had a question, or a moment of successive queries, often cultural, he'd happily oblige with an answer. He was most happy when a conversation lingered on for twenty minutes or more. Like a drug--such conversations and social interactions would keep him elevated in the mind for atleast an hour. In stark contrast, I was shockingly incurious. I could even see from his lips that Father was salivating for an art dealer, a generous patron to take a chance on atleast one of his several dozen paintings on display. Father briskly nudged my shoulder at the sight of a foreign businessman, and what looked to be his partner, quietly entering our aisle. And as the businessman carefully scaled every piece throughout here, as though they were potential investments, Father's stirred countenance, in that instant, was of both intimidation and excitement, and he chattered intimately in my ear at the lucrative prowess of foreign businessman, and shared within wisdom his hopes and superstitious resolve, that such men could perhaps be keen on his art. The longer that things swayed in the exhibit, the more restless I became in spirit. To manage this system of duress, I kept myself quietly entertained with a compendium full of Schopenhauer's greatest essays. For long durations, my attentive eyes were kept strictly on my lap.
I believe that by sitting so long and crossing his legs--he'd thought he could seal some sort of rapport from me.
'Son, where is your Open Spirit?' he would asked.
'Huh?' I replied with the sincerest response.
Indeed, Father was always haranguing about my Open Spirit. Bold and open resistance of nonanswers and strategizing of silences, a litigation against sight and sound, proved too much for his own spirit. Every conversation with the man seemed to always involve his longing for some mysterious abstraction of revolutionary concerns. A constant expectation of revolutionary purpose. What others perhaps viewed as some fun tropical asset--I viewed as a heavy, cold demonic like apparition entrenched on my dearly impressionable life...
From the outside perspective of passerby onto--the waiting was surely luxurious for me. I sat down for most of the entire duration in a simple chair beside my Father. With my precious long hair and semi-formal sweater, and again my disquieting mystique, I was riveting with the emotions of a pampered spoiled child. An eternal moody hindrance to the world I seemed. I was the ambiguity everyone gladly avoided, for fear of a ghastly, cold reflection happening in surprise to them. In any case, I was fine twirling in harmonious process to just myself. I fostered the material climb of my own imagination: Secretly, I wished for the conditons of a blackened sea to suddenly whiplash us that night... A terrible storm by the name of Hurricane Clarice--harming us dreadful spectactors of such meaningful "art", by the hundreds. But it was a fantasy that never surpassed the flat affection of my own face, which was itself always an ambiguous cruelty to others, and nothing more. A maddening, ethereal profundity pervading my eyes, that no one could quite capture with the exactness of steel comprehension..
I should say that the entire night I ended up only having one conversation with another person, and it was with a woman named Lori. I saw as she gently approached my Father's paintings with the utmost curiosity that can ever beguile a stare. It was a long, meticulous deliberation, certainly different from most passersby where their eagerness was plenished with an immediate commentary, or a completely plain investigation. The aisle was completely clear of anyone, and Lori stood still as though she had unearthed a silo of some kind, a mystic shrine. She had on usual winter garb, and a scarf, and appeared fairly young and in age perhaps resembled my cohort, and I remember most distinctly her hair being fashioned very short. I couldn't exactly explain why, but at some point, sitting there with Schopenhauer's letters—digested in comfort by the minutia of silence—I felt an irresistible compulsion to confide in her something, some communicable gesture in mind. I wanted to impart to someone, whoever, even if for a split second--this personhood that feels ever-fleeting from the nest of me, these things in the midst of my constant neurosis. When I finally stood, I realized how perfectly aligned we were in our small stature together. Once I carried with courage, my proper, waifish posture with the assertiveness in facing her direction, we fell softly into an immediate, slightly inaudible conversation--the most of which I fail sadly to recall strongly. The mazelike ruins of the warehouse were suddenly stilted with a single enchantment solely of our diminutive--yet seemingly divine aura, as if our entire purpose in life was met right there, in front of father’s paintings. Pleasant discussions in those circumstances are more like molasses than stone, especially in the throng of massive human ambiance and light.
I exhibited the opposite of my father's charm so much it would destruct any feeble attempt at one's psychoanalysis; As I stood stringently with my hands translucently tied behind my back, with a cold listless stare often purveying just the ground or the appetizing, vast ceiling, I seemed enchanted with power instead of affable grace. The beginning remarks Lori made of my father's artwork led us into that calm, searching quality of commonalities.
(If I wasn't crossing my arms slightly swaying to one side, I was either shielding my hands in the warm pockets of my pants--- or tying my hands behind me as aforementioned...)
From a deeply early age, I was conferred with a broken heart. My mother must have seen this coming--perhaps sensing from the very day I that ordained from her womb as an incessant wailer, serving as only a vessel for the light-bringer called Lucifer and a morning star; for when I was only a year young, a permanent mark was made on my right arm, a grave scalding event that still simmers in the graft of my skin to this day, as a tortured reminder of my beginnings.
'How does it feel to bear a name so on-the-nose?', she asked me.
'It's terrible,' I said.
She laughed.
There's this thing that people do, namely 'opening up', and this act was festering up in me the more I hung in the latency of conversation with Lori. I stared at the ceiling, searching in my mind for an alternative option that could make things more fun.
'The only fun I can have in life is by being an obnoxious artist. in many ways, I'm no different from my father.'
She laughed. Despite my pleasant rapport with the short-haired girl, which in the memorial engraving of my mind was easily the most jubilant moment of that night, I still felt infinitely denied of something. Soon the novelty of our reciprocation swiftly waned into its nothingness, and I was left again to spiritually attend to Schopenhauer's letters by my side. Somehow I was able to feel a soft tangent of feeling in my mind that was perhaps strangely inductive of suicide, the deep wanting for the obliteration of my formal senses, fostered by the immense fluorescent lights up above, and of the sweeping charges of the human torsos around me, twisting and turning in flowing patterns of walk...
(When I was eight, I bore a strange admiration for the girls at school who were always terrifying in strength. The girls who could pummel me, both physically and mentally--yet somehow were still able to confide me a bonding approval of my nature. It must have been odd to my parents to realize that I never invited anyone else home since that time, anything in this twenty-seven years of life, except for the sole example of a tough-looking girl in the third grade. I remember opening the screen door to see her taut smile, as both our mothers smiled graciously at one another, and our hearty embrace. My heart felt warm, and with no rhythm no dissonance. We shared joyous affection over the card games and toys modeled after popular anime programs, and meddled with sports in the backyard for which she was much superior in than I... This sort of nature of affairs, this connection, so to speak, has been my sole reprieve in life, atleast when it came to other humn beings. It abhors me that such innocence seems to be singular and impermanent: only conditioned for this one, innocent phase in our lives as children, that must be swiftly destroyed as a blooming flower in the torrid winds of time.)
The darkness and coldness of the night swept up from the yards outside and into our immediate vicinity, and I felt a horrid current of sleepiness coming over me. Father was still gazing out for the moments in-between to be perhaps entertained by another curious visitor, to be ordained by an art-dealer; sent on the orders of an artful and appeasing God. There was a split second in which I realized I was totally ignoring Father throughout the night. Even upon a carefully gleaned introspection of these settled feelings, I failed to be bothered by the implications of them. My thoughts seemed to strictly harbor over only two quantities in my present mind: Schopenhauer and that moment with Lori.
The large exhibit was finally processing its end, and Father received neither patronage nor offer; he hadn't made a single profit of the sale. At the very least he could amount those small moments of jovial excitement upon witnessing the small, curious glances given by the dozens of passerby... As I stared at the guests sauntering about, heading in a direction towards the entrance, many of them raucous and delighted couples, I failed truly to see what was so enticing of becoming a suitor in this human world. I felt it worse that such people, the so-called dignified citizens of society, could find it commendable in bringing new life into this world... that which intellectually speaking is the most unforgiving act. Really, if I could spend the entire rest of my life as a eunuch--I would merrily oblige.
During this contemplation, Father's eyes had begun building an oasis, to which he gently pawed with a single finger...
'Hey, son... I think you should come to the show that I have in whirly wood,' he said.
I sensed the heat from his eyes beaming at me.
'Sure...' I replied.
Very bright partitions of white light shot down on us from the fullness of the shapely looking moon, onto everywhere, the outer presence of the warehouse, spilling onto material fragments of the pier, and dancing in contrastive spirit on the nearest ocean that resembled total darkness. I began somberly persisting with Mother and Father from the inside as we gathered all of Father's paintings, quietly shuffling in all the other materials we had brought, and making the dismal journey toward the chilly outside again. I left the pier with my intellect placed within a hazing blind of internal wanting and a frightening disassociation with the external frontier that proceeded me; the menacing whiplash of cars and spell-binding streetlights, the motionless skyscrapers in the obstructed air that signified all was well with this Little Game of Society... all in the biggest apple of them all.
I felt utterly exhausted over my physiognomy.
In the end, I would leave wanting to be in the relief of 'the passive aesthetic of mirrors'--once and for all. To make certain parts of my life an absolute relic.
My days of being a writer were decidedly imminent.

Alexandre Petion is an outsider novelist from Connecticut. He is currently a Creative Writing student at The New School.