“A curious painting, isn’t it?”
The door at the back of the shop, I presumed, had well-oiled hinges; thus my surprise at what I deemed to be a sudden apparition of a smiling old man. Not out of place in a room full of antiques — bits and bobs, big and small, all carrying memories and stories of their own.
I suddenly felt out of place, drenched from the rain. I tried to be as small as possible, afraid of knocking a curio off of its haphazard stand, or breaking one of the small crystal figurines. I looked at the smiling old man as his eyes swept from my face, and back to the painting.
“This piece here has been mistaken for a Van Gogh,” he said, walking round from behind the counter, gesturing towards the painting. I nodded, following his movements, lips in a small but polite smile. I felt as if he read my mind — I had been wondering if the painting were attributed to the absinthe-drinking impressionist painter; a mystery piece lost from his collection.
“Do you like this painting?”
I shrugged. I had only sought for momentary shelter from the rain. I had felt all sorts of lost since I woke up that morning, that I had ignored the weather forecast, and forgot to take an umbrella. “Can’t say I’m a fan,” I replied. “It looks pretty gloomy to me.”
“Oh?” The old man’s reaction carried curiosity and interest. “This painting gets all sorts of reactions, you know. Some say it’s turbulent, some say it’s warm; some even go to say that it’s quite jolly and some, like you, see melancholy.”
And that caught my own interest. I’m not one for antiques, but I do like random paintings. “Is that so? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the painting? Isn’t the artist supposed to communicate something… distinct?”
The old man made a considering face, lips in a momentary moue in thought. “You are quite right. A painting is a painter’s message. Strange, isn’t it, that it draws such different reactions from people?”
“Yes…” I found myself unable to look away from the painting. The more I looked, the more I felt as if my heart matched the weather outside — stormy, cloudy, gray, and heavy. I shook my head, forcing myself to look back at the old man. “What do you see?”, I asked him.
Without a moment’s pause, he replied. “I see stars.”
I studied his face, trying to look for some kind of joke, waiting for him to laugh at my being so gullible and stupid. There are no stars in the painting, as far as I was concerned; but the look on his face was honest and content — as if he truly saw stars in the painting. With a sigh I took a step away, just in time to see the rain calm down — it would be enough for me to make a run for the nearest bus stop and head back home.
“I should be heading out.” I said hesitantly. The atmosphere in the room felt awkward now — I felt as if I just shared a piece of me to this random stranger, and that I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see. “Thank you for your time.”
The smiling old man inclined his head. “Stars, in all their massive glory, can even be covered by something as fleeting as rain clouds. But they don’t cease to exist, nor do the cease to shine.”
With a polite smile and a nod, I turned my heel to leave the shop. The smiling old man might just be your typical senior citizen who liked dishing out wisdom to anyone he happens upon; but perhaps, just maybe, as I gave the painting a final glance, I saw stars.
This is my take on yesterday’s Daily Post prompt:
It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next!
I actually wanted to share a dream I had, in which I thought I was looking at Van Gogh’s painting, “Starry Night”, but then the swirls moved and turned into a meteorological imagery of storms in different shapes and sizes. I saw storms, while the painting was that of a starry night. It was oddly reflective of the struggles I am going through right now, and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone with this post. I don’t do very well with short stories, but I hope that the piece made some sense.