This is a piece done by Don Boe Paulsen who I’ve become obsessed with. Below is a dramatic scene written for a previous college course and it was the most entertaining assignment I did that entire year. It acts more like a spin-off series from the works I used to complete the assignment. I love that this scene combines art with writing-my dearest passions.
Alvar, a man with a gentle face and balding head sits near the back of the coffee shop, sipping at his coffee. It’s black, just the way he likes it. He checks his wrist watch for the fifth time in a row. It’s a quarter after nine. The man anxiously rubs at his ashen beard. He looks around at the relatively small coffee shop, his gray eyes search for the two women who visited his gallery a month ago. Ever since then, they had been communicating with each other on Facebook. He wasn’t use to such extremes outside the art gallery. He often formed a wall between him and the outside world. It was especially difficult for Alvar to go outside after Katrine’s death. At night she haunted him in his dreams but by day, she was everywhere. His thepartist thought social networking was a good first step. You need to heal, Dr. Sjur had said. Alvar looks down at his coffee and sees Katrine’s face in the reflection. She stares back at him with cold, lifeless eyes. Alvar immediately pushes the cup away from him.
Suddenly, two women approached his table. One of them-who Alvar instantly recognized as Tambu-had her hair in black twists and wore a plain T with jeans. The other was Rohini, dressed in a cream colored suite and had a Bindi in the center of her forehead. He noticed the gold band on her left hand. His palms grew sweaty. Alvar inhaled a deep breath and stood up to greet the two women.
“Hello,” he said, clearing his throat. “So glad you could make it.” He extended his shaking hand to the both of them.
Tambu glanced at his hand, a frown formed on her face. “Why? Did you think we weren’t coming?” Then she took a seat on the other side of the table.
Alvar swallowed a large lump in his throat. She had been as cold as he the first day he met her. Tambu came into his gallery, demanding for a painting done by Rumohr. Alvar had showed her upstairs to the prints done by the artist and still she had not made a purchase. He assumed by her hesitation that she did not know much about art. Alvar later found out that Rumohr was her inspiration. Tambu showed him pictures from her cell phone of the artwork she had completed at her missionary school in England. Alvar was captivated by her paintings. They were dark, haunting but had a sereneness to them that made it difficult for Alvar to ignore.
“Congratulations on your marriage, Rohini,” Alvar said.
“Oh please, call me Rezena,” Rohini said, smiling. She goes to shake Alvars hand politely.
Alvar notices how warm how warm her hands are. They weren’t anything like Katrine’s body on the night he carried her into the woods. It was ice cold, so cold that he swore she was made of ice icicle’s. “I’m sorry, my apologies. It’s just that your name read as Rohini and . . . “
“Yes, well as you know, I’m the daughter of a wealthy fish merchant, “she said before taking a seat beside Tambu. “And now I am the wife of a rich financial investor. As you can imagine the press would have a field day.”
Alvar nods in agreement. “Right, I’m sure it would’ve been awful. But again, congratulations to you and your husband. You two must be very happy together.”
“Yes, we are,” Rezena says. “We have two children together and they’re wonderful. My son, he has his father’s passion for music . . . Every day I look at him, I see Hanif.”
“You said that your husband used to play the Harmonium?” Alvar asked.
“Yes, he was the music teacher at the University I went to,” Rezena said. “He would’ve been a great musician . . .” (Sanga 228).
Alvar gazed at her sympathetically. During their chat sessions, Rezena had explained to him that her husband’s father was a hard and unreasonable man. Hanif came from a low-income background and his family lived in poverty for years. His father disapproved of Hanif’s dreams to become a musician. To make his father proud, Hanif left for America and made something of himself. Alvar was sure if his father were still alive, he’d laugh in his face. An Art Gallery? he’d say. There’s no money in selling art!
“It’s so nice to be surrounded by great talent,” Rezena continued. “The art work in your Gallery, I’ve never seen such lovely paintings before. How has it been since we last saw you?”
Alvar hesitated for a moment before saying, “It’s been going well. Ole Krantz is working on his next piece, currently. He still refuses to admit that he’s an artist” (Fossum 19).
“He shouldn’t,” Rezena said. “He’s very good at it. You should never deny what you’re good at.”
“Krantz is too pretentious, his work doesn’t hold any emotion,” Tambu said. “It’s like he’s trying to hide something.”
Alvar turned bright red. He wanted to protest, to say that Krantz’s work did in fact have meaning. However, the words couldn’t leave his mouth. Alvar knew that Tambu was bold in her opinions and at times harsh. It was odd, how he admired but also feared her. Even now, the definite frown on her face made him anxious. He was intimidated by the way she clenched her jaw, the way her dark eyes cut into him like a knife and the impudence in her voice. She had strong features and a sullen face. It was if she had seen death over and over again.
Finally, the waitress returns back to Alvar’s table and takes the two women’s orders. Rezena wanted tea with sugar and Tambu asked for a glass of water. The waitress asks Alvar if he needs anything else but he shakes his head no. Katrine still stares back him through his coffee. He wraps his hand around the cup, it’s cool. The waitress leaves their table and goes to punch in the women’s’ orders.
“So what’s your favorite medium? You never told me at the gallery,” Tambu continued. She was staring at him with an intense look.
“Acrylics,” Alvar said, clearing his throat. “There’s a truly, authentic emotion to them that you can’t find in other paintings” (Fossum 22).
Rezena smiled. “I agree. I have Jon Boe Paulsen in almost every room of my flat back in New York. Hanif often finds my obsession bizarre but I can’t help but think of how real they are. They’re almost as real as you and I.”
“Most of the customers prefer his work,” Alvar says. “His paintings are the only ones that make the most sense to anyone” (Fossum 33).
“At my missionary school, the instructor showed us some of his paintings,” Tambu said, in deep thought. “Then the painting of the woman standing with her back to us, in a blue dress, staring at her reflection in the mirror appeared on the screen. I thought I saw it at your gallery last time I was there. Is it still there?”
Alvar swallowed hard. He knew the exact painting she was referring to. It had been sitting in his Gallery for weeks. He hoped someone would be eager enough to buy it. However, it remained the only painting of Paulsen’s that no one purchased. Maybe they saw what he saw. The way the mirrors were positioned, how the woman’s reflections were looking in the same direction-they were all staring at her. Was it obvious? Alvar wondered. Had they found out?
“Yes, it-it is,” Alvar said, while wiping the sweat from his brow.
For the first time, Tambu grinned at him. “It’s dark and honest, isn’t it? How we look at ourselves, see what we see, see what don’t want to see. We try to change things for the better but in the end we end up failing.”
Alvar’s hands begin shaking uncontrollably. He excuses himself to go to the bathroom and gets up from the table. Instead of going to the men’s restroom, however, he walks right out of the coffee shop and into the freezing cold. He heads straight for his sedan in the parking lot and gets inside the vehicle. He cuts on the engine but doesn’t put the car in reverse. Instead, Alvar stares at his reflection in the rearview mirror. He sees only himself and no one else. Not even Katrine’s lifeless face comes to haunt him. The reflections from the painting weren’t staring at the girl in the blue dress, they were looking at him.
With tears coming to his eyes, Alvar asked aloud, “Am I good person?” (Fossum 14).
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. London: The Women’s Press, 1988. Print.
Fossum, Karin. Broken. New York: Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print.
Sanga, Jaina. Silk Fish Opium. India: Tranquebar Press, 2012. Print.