In a dusty and forgotten corner of my grandpa’s house, there was a painting.
I’m not sure how long it had been there. Perhaps it had always been a fixture, since time immemorial. Perhaps it was part of the house itself, a draw for any potential home buyers; something to sweeten the pot. Whatever the case was, it was old. Old enough for its once vivid colors to fade away. Old enough for its most intricate details to be sanded off. What remained was the shadowy, shambling figure of a woman, her back turned to the world, her ostentatious green dress now weary and faded.
We’ve always had a complicated relationship, me and her. At times, she frightened me. But at others, I held her in snide contempt. I admired her. Envied her. Sometimes, I pitied her.
I never understood her.
When I first visited my grandpa’s house, I was 5 years old. Most importantly, my grandpa was still alive then. No one could quite figure out how he had stayed living for as long as he did. It was then that we were first acquainted, me and her.
I was wandering through the house, taking the liberty that only a child can take to give myself the grand tour, when I first stumbled upon her.
I didn’t quite know what I was looking at. She was a large thing, far taller than me and very still. Her frame reached from floor to ceiling. I had never seen anything so beautiful, and doubt I ever will again. This was back when she was still new, before the degradation and the dust piled upon her weary joints. Her hair was a lively fire red, and on her head sat a hat decorated with large red lilies, which looked rather similar to spiders. Her green dress was a pulsating, shimmering green fabric. You could see every minute sway and swish.
“Hello?” I called out, my childish voice a high-pitched, energized thing.
What response could I have been hoping for? I’m still not sure. But you know how tenacious the young can be. I tried again.
And I continued to wait throughout the years, as the leaves turned from green to red to black and then back again, as my grandfather went underground forever and I grew, from a child, to a teenager, to an adult, to an elder, as my own parents joined my grandpa in his slumber, still I waited.
I waited 80 years for her to turn around.
She never did.
But one day, I could feel it. I was fading away, as is the case for all living creatures.
It was then, finally, that I understood her.
As I eased into my final slumber, I called out to her one last time.
I could have sworn…
And as she turned around, I saw her face at last.
It was mine.