Of Being Human

An introspective study of someone

  • She reminded me of the rain.
    She was very quiet and gentle, and sad. Her hair was a pale brown and flat, lifeless, as if drenched and her skin looked as if it'd be cold to touch. Despite her fragility, she always caused the earth to turn to mud, which people would be irritated to step in. Sometimes thunderstorms followed her, like a demon and she would seem more ominous than she really was. And so, people put up their umbrellas and hurried away from her.

    It wasn't her fault. Not really. She was just cursed. With her intelligence, she knew of the pain of life. She was a nihilist through and through.

    But she was optimistic, hopelessly so. Like Macbeth, what would usually be an admirable trait was her downfall.

    Myself, I talked to her on two occasions. The first was during a project we were assigned in our class (ah, we were in college, incidentally, taking a course in Fine Art. I was taking it as a minor, because it was easy and fun and gave me a lot of time to work hard at my Law degree. I'm pretty sure that she was serious about it, though), which was getting a partner and working on our anatomy. In other words, we were doing nude models.

    Now, now, don't get hasty. I never loved her, and she didn't love me. We couldn't even call each other friends, really. Besides, I'm gay. So, no, this isn't a story of love.

    Everyone else in class had already formed a strong friendship with at least one person. Myself, I was a drifter between groups, keeping myself at a careful distance but staying friendly with most of them. Most of my close friends were in my law classes.
    So, me and that anti-social girl were stuck together. We quietly discussed trivial details like where to meet (my apartment) and when (7:00PM next week). And then we spoke no more until the day came.

    Her art was beautiful.

    I was the one to model first. Feeling a little embarrassed, I removed my clothes under her seemingly appraising gaze. Like she was etching out the contours of my body in her mind, her eyes darted here and there, lingering a little longer on my decidedly male aspects (hey, she was human, after all) before she nodded and said in her carefully androgynous voice that I could put on my clothes again. I stared at her blankly, but she did not elaborate, merely shifting a little.

    "...If you prefer to be in the nude in your free time, I don't really care, but others might find it uncomfortable," she said, the slightest of smirks dimpling her left cheek.

    I hurriedly complied to shove my boxers on.

    "But, don't you need a nude model to be in front of you while you draw them?" I questioned, arms in the air while I attempted to stuff my head through a sleeve. I heard a queer sound, and when I finally managed to put my rumpled shirt on, I saw a sight no one would have expected to see.

    Her slender, pale hand was in front of her mouth, her giggling - giggling - betrayed by the crinkles around her earthy green eyes and the throaty chuckles escaping her lungs. Her body was bent over a little and she looked, I daresay, cute, in her own way.

    Her laughter faded to an amused smile, to her usual composed self. And she coughed, her cheeks a little flushed, probably from the embarrassment of showing emotion in front of somebody.

    "I-in any case..." she began, her uneven russet fringe falling in front of her averted eyes, "I work better when I draw from memory. If I try to hard to draw what I see is in front of me, I become too much of a perfectionist and all the, um... emotion, I guess... goes out of my work. Even if nobody else can see it... I..." her voice falling in a diminuendo until it trailed off completely.

    "I see..." I said, though back then I didn't really. Not until I did see her work.

    We talked awkwardly for the next half hour or so, steadily growing more and more tipsy with the alcohol I provided about 10 minutes into awkward silence. I barely remember what we spoke about, but at some point, her social anxiety came up. I can remember the barest details, like how many failed friendships in her past caused her to become, in her words, socially retarded. Therefore, as a method of protection, she refused to get involved in relationships. Or something. (My narration is probably skewed and can't be trusted all that well, because I am human and may have remembered things wrong. Please keep that in mind.)

    I do, however, remember very distinctly one thing she said.

    "Meeting is the beginning of parting," she had said, her red-rimmed eyes bleary from inebriation and her words as refined as ever, just more hesitantly spoken. Saying that, she was a talkative drunk, surprisingly, which contrasted nicely with my way of staying deathly silent with my mouth hanging open, occasionally contributing to the conversation with a very dignified "Nngh."

    The rest of the evening passed in a blur.

    When it came to my turn to draw her, a few days later, we exchanged nothing more than the customary greetings. I didn't remember a thing about that other night, but considering how humiliated and pained her expression sometimes twisted into, I guess she did.

    She stripped with her back to me, and I couldn't look away. Yes, I'm homosexual, but because I have an appreciation for humanity and art, I could see the beauty in her natural body.

    I can't remember ever being as into drawing as I was that night. I gently encouraged her into a pose that suited her, fussed with the lighting and got absorbed into transferring the sight of her, bared and unguarded, onto something more permanent.
    I remember the curvy thighs, not anywhere near perfect, molding into each other when she crossed her legs. I remember the soft light hitting her face, illuminating the thick hair atop her head and her heavy-lidded eyes. Her icy coral lips, slightly parted and her eyebrows furrowed into a thoughtful expression.
    I remember taking extra care with the single crease that split the space between the eyebrows in half. I remember the dark shadows under her eyes, almost blue around the edges where the skin was so thin.

    I remember the small, clever fingers around the half-empty wine glass that I had pressed into her pliant hand, the delicate rise of her blue veins on the back of her hand, her wrist...

    I remember her breasts, a decent size, pushing up above a slightly defined ribcage. Her back was broader than most women's are, but her waist was tapered, pushing her body into a classic hourglass shape. The fine hairs below her navel grew gradually thicker until it reached the coarse pubic hairs.

    My teacher told me later that I had been hiding my talent, as she looked over my work in awe. I had to disagree, and told her that the best art comes from something which fascinates you and inspires you, and to be a good artist, you had to find the muse in everything.

    Anyway, I mentioned before that she -- I just realized, I haven't named her yet, have I? Thing is, I can't remember. Although she made something of an impact on me, I only spoke with her a few times, years and years ago. For now, lets call her... Trucy.

    Trucy was a beautiful artist. Words cannot justify just how powerful it was, but I'll try my best. I only saw the picture she did once, and it was imprinted in my mind forever, burned underneath my eyelids.
    I was... standing somewhere, eyes reflecting the scenery she had painted around me. She had drawn me in a half-guarded pose, one hand loosely clenched near my chest in an insecure way. She had sculpted me perfectly, my short, feathered hair exactly the right texture, my body perfect in its imperfection. I was surrounded by what seemed to be a merge of sea and sky, the blues and pinks and golds reflecting subtly against my skin. And, yes, how beautifully subtle the colours were. It was mostly in black and white, but the traces of colour, spiraling delicately seemed to make the picture seem as if it was bursting at the seems - the colour, that is.

    She named that picture 'The Albatross' for reasons unknown to me, but which probably made more sense for her.

    She got a B for that picture, I remember being outraged.

    When I ranted to her about it, Trucy shrugged, as if the injustice was no big deal.

    "The idea was to draw from reality, from what you really saw, not from your imagination. Really, I'm lucky that I got a B."

    Those words didn't comfort me at all.

    ~~~

    The second and final time I held a conversation with her was at our post-graduation party.

    In the last few months, through some sort of miracle, Trucy had started opening up to others and was hesitantly making friends. It was a pleasant sight, to pass her in the hallway and see her shyly add something to the conversation a group of people were having, and then seeing some sort of positive reaction from them.

    And really, if this was a book or a manga or something, that would have been her happy ending.

    But life isn't as kind as that. I watched from the distance as one by one, these people she could talk with left to continue their lives and the groups she had edged her way into were falling apart.

    It's something everyone goes through, the quiet breaking of friendships, the lack of effort to re-convene, the silent but still there pain of loss. And for the most part, we recover and move on and rinse and repeat.

    I don't think she can do that though.

    It was a cloudy evening, the party was being held inside the town hall that the college professors had rented for the night, and hundreds of students milled the grounds, inebriated and foolish and carefree. The bittersweetness of farewells and dreams about to be explored built the atmosphere, which hung in the sky, illuminated orange by the London street lamps.

    Tears were shed, clumsy man-hugs were swapped, along with the saliva of couples doomed to fail in the next few months.

    (Am I a cynic or a realist? Is there really any difference?)

    I stumbled into Trucy when the last hour of the party was drawing official college life to a close, and the melancholy atmosphere was starting to choke everyone else with tears they wouldn't remember in the morning.

    Trucy, on the other hand, was smoking on an abandoned stairwell, the white clouds of ash floating lazily from the lit end of her (expensive) cigarette. Having stripped away from the crowd for solitude, there were worse people to meet.

    She raised a finely arched eyebrow when she felt my presence (she hadn't looked to see who I was) sit next to her, rather than leave, as she had probably hoped and expected. She cast a preemptively cold gaze upon me, built to scare away anyone who was the type to talk to anyone they met, before it softened into a more neutral expression upon seeing who I was.

    "You're..." she began, a look of recognition passing across her face for a fleeting moment, "the naked guy, right?"

    Okay. Not the most eloquent way of putting it, but she was essentially right. I told her as much, to her apparent amusement.

    She turned away, her eyes falling to look at her shoes. She took another puff of her cigarette before replacing it with a swig from a half-empty bottle of wine she kept possessively by her side.

    "You ever wonder why people long for human contact as much as they do?" It was obviously a rhetorical question, so I stayed quiet, slumping back against the stones steps and waited for her to continue her most likely alcohol-influenced train of thought.
    "I mean, all it is is... skin against skin, when it comes down to it. And... and relationships, too, why do people have those? Sure, in the short term you get... affection and company, but... why do we rely solely on those for happiness? Surely, there must be altem---atlerm--different methods of achieving happiness. And-and the end is inevitable, no matter if it's through a simple falling out or - or death. So why? Why do we crave such a painful--"
    "Because we're human," I said simply. She turned and looked at me, full of... well, what do you call it when you receive an unexpected answer to a question you thought impossible? Ah, well, anyway, eventually she slowly held her bottle of wine out as an offering, which I gladly accepted.
    We drank well into the night, ending up slumped, back to back, on the stone cold stairs.


    Dawn arrived and I never saw her again.

    ~~~

    I wonder what happened to her, afterwards. I have my suspicions, though - about 10 years ago, a reclusive artist made their debut after a gallery of their work was put on display around the globe. The style was vaguely familiar, with the distinctive strokes of the brush, and the clear emotions which stuck you across the face when you saw the paintings.
    The artist had a set of paintings, which they stated in a sole anonymous interview was meant to be a story, though you had to figure out the chronological order yourself.
    The ones that were released were paintings of a fantastical nature, though some were simply objects or places or people.

    But one was of an albatross. An albatross, leaning from a branch to apparently communicate with the mouse, who seemed to be the main character of the story. The albatross was dressed in scholarly clothes, with little round spectacles.

    The title of the painting was 'The wisdom and the naivety; resound'.

    Of course, these are just suspicions. For all I know Trucy could be living a happy life. Perhaps she did accept the fate of humanity and went on to lead an ordinary life. Perhaps she is a struggling artist, living in the city. Or maybe a writer, in a cottage by the sea, living a quiet, but sociable life.

    Perhaps she committed suicide, and no one was there to find her, and maybe she now rots in her home, having quietly slipped out of this world, alone by choice.

    Or maybe, just maybe, she was that dark haired girl I met on the subway last month. The one with the hat pulled over her eyes, headphones on, the faint sound of piano emitting from the plastic cups. The one with the icy coral lips and the small, clever fingers. The one who sketched, even as the wheels jolted against the gritty railway.

    Or maybe I'm thinking about this too much. Maybe I'm thinking about someone I didn't even know that well this much because, well.

    Someone has to.
The End

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