I was painting a vein when my husband entered my studio, told me he loved another, and left me. Anyone who has ever painted flowers and leaves knows how much to paint a vein is a delicate operation that cannot be interrupted. We use an extremely fine brush, barely soaked in a creamy white. We take a breath to avoid any tremor, and we trace the vein in one light line that we hope is successful. So I finished my vein, rinsed my brush, wiped it carefully with a slight rotation so that the tip kept its sharpness, put it in its holder, and looked up. My husband, of course, did not wait for me. He had gone noiselessly, closing the door gently. I leaned on the back of the chair and began to think.
I had known my husband during the St. Patrick's Day ball. We pretended to dance, I remember.
He had pleased me right away, with his blue eyes; I could never have lived with a dark look. He must have liked me too. We decided to see each other again and, very quickly, we got married in a joyful chaos. We were very different but agreed on the essential: bullfights, whales, baby seals, all that...and this mysterious and inexplicable alchemy that happens between two people and that we call love, had worked. Our arguments were as frequent as our laughter, our reconciliations left us stunned with pleasure. We were very happy.
It is surely during one of these reconciliations that we conceived our son. We have known this miracle, this crazy happiness to have a child. Our love for him exceeded all others, even the one we had for each other. And then one day, this wonderful baby, so sweet and tender, slipped suddenly out of his life, slipped from our loving hands, leaving us crushed by pain. What had we done, or had we forgotten to do? Nothing, says the doctor, it was not uncommon for a baby to simply stop living.
Happiness is shared, not sorrow. Ours was added. Each saw in the eyes of the other his terrible suffering, and we dared not look at us anymore. We have ceased to do so, each seeking his way out of misfortune as best he could. My husband did not, like me, know for nine months that unique feeling of being two, and yet of being one with his baby; in losing him, I was lost too. He continued to see his friends, more and more frequently. He needed constant companionship. I fled the world and preferred loneliness.
It was around that time that I started to paint nasturtiums.
I set up a workshop in the basement of our house. Sometimes my husband would come in to give or ask for something, he would take a quick look at my work, and his raised eyebrows would say, “More nasturtiums?” Yes, again and again, nasturtiums. Nothing else. Little by little, during the short journeys of my brushes, appeasement came.
Nasturtiums are amazing plants. Their rounded leaves have a pale star slightly off-center from which gracefully leave nine very fine veins even paler, almost straight, forming a delicate radiance. The stems are soft, but the flowers stand above the leaves in a profusion of colors. When it comes time to die, they hermetically close their five wrinkled petals, keeping their heads straight. Brave little ones!
So, my husband loved another. He still knew how to love and, I suppose, he was loved in return. It did not surprise me. He still had his beautiful clear water eyes in which I plunged mine with delight once, and his warm smile that made me capsize before, in another life. His brown hair had not been sparse. He was smart, listened to others. He did not tell me who was “the other.” It was not important. He had surely well-chosen. Maybe the pretty green-eyed redhead who had a little sassy nose and freckles, Irish like him, and who worked in the same office? She was cheerful and charming. She could bring joy into his life. Or the beautiful brunette who dealt with customer relations? Or maybe... but no, I was not going to look for who. It did not matter. He deserved to start a new path.
I could have started again as well, but “to love,” if I knew the word, I did not understand the meaning, the drunkenness. The word had emptied. I was infirm of the heart. So what alternative? Wish him good luck or try to bring him back? No longer be a specter that he sometimes crossed in the house? Relearn how to look at him as the man I loved so much, who had enchanted my life? Would I only be able to? It deserved reflection. I closed my eyes for a long moment and then got up. My decision was made.
The next morning, he did not come back. I went to the hairdresser's, braved their air surprised. It had been a long time since I had set foot there. Back at home, I stored all my painting materials, I started to put pots and brushes in a box and rolling the canvas on which I painted the day before. I saw that it was only missing a leaf. It was a pity not to finish it, it would be a matter of minutes. So I put on my blouse and picked up my brushes. I heard the door open. My husband entered in the room, opened the cupboards. He was probably packing his suitcase. Then I heard him approach the door. This time, he was going to leave for good. What was I waiting for? To run up the stairs, throw myself against him, hug him, and finally, finally, feel the sobs come up in my throat and find tears for my dry eyes. But I was painting a vein, and anyone who has ever painted flowers and leaves...