There is a painter sitting on a park bench across me. He is a regular here, just as I am. Every day he comes to that same spot, sits on that same bench, takes out the same materials from the same bag – and paints.
I look at him for a moment and, for possibly the nth time, observe his semi-strange demeanour.
He is unlike many of the city locals. His messy pony tail and stubby goatee exhibit his non-conformist approach to life and his rugged apparel affirms his simple and uncomplicated way of living. He has somewhat sunken cheeks, somehow giving away the possibly poor state of his wallet. Yet a close look at the fire and light in his eyes shows how he is most probably unbothered by it.
I sit here – curious – and I watch him take his palette, grab some paint, and start mixing the colours.
Carefully he does it, as he contemplates and decides on his subject for the day. His previous works, lying in that spot beside him, reveal creations of a man who – though having to leave some sort of past behind – is evidently pushing persistently onward to see the realization of some sort of dream.
His works. There is a colourful picture of a cluster of teenagers laughing and joshing around the park lake, the joy in their hearts captured by the painter’s choice of vibrant colours. I had watched how he had looked merrily at those teenagers, yet painted with a somewhat nostalgic smile.
There is also a mini-masterpiece of a simple family having a simple picnic, their glowing faces warm, blissful, and radiant. I had looked away when I noticed how tears seemed to fill his eyes when his brush strokes transferred into the canvas the image of that little boy crawling up his mummy’s lap.
And then there is a portrait of a young woman resting on a bench. His strokes perfectly capture her delicateness, her sweetness, and her gentleness. Yet I had observed his semi-anguished faraway look as he ever so carefully worked to fashion the face of a woman who – though painted to sit at that certain park bench – wasn’t actually there.
I wonder what he will paint this time.
I am surprised because there is fresh fire in his eyes. I see him glancing at a boy flying his kite with his daddy. I look on as he takes his brush and starts to paint. Different emotions flash through his eyes, but the flame within them is constant and evident. He finishes his painting and he sits there, holding his canvas with a satisfied smile.
My lips curl upwards as well and I get up, realizing the amount of time that I had spent watching. But then I see an old gentleman approach the painter, take an inquisitive look at the paintings, and ask curiously, “Are these your paintings?”
I sit down again.
“Yes they are mine.” A conversation. A quiet exchange goes between the two. I see life in the gentleman’s eyes as he mentions the words “masterpiece”, “talent”, “teacher”, “opportunity”, and “son”. I see light in those of the painter as he utters the phrases “thank you”, “is that so?” and “what a great opportunity.”
The gentleman shakes the rugged painter’s hands. The conversation has ended.
“Bring those paintings to my house next weekend. I’ll be sure to give you an honourable sum by then. And by that time, my son will be prepared to meet his new teacher.”
The painter gives a grateful bow. His countenance reveals that of a man whose dreams – despite the sacrifices and the insurmountable odds – are now coming into fulfilment. He packs up his brushes, his paintings, and his materials, and bids the place goodbye, knowing that by the next weekend, he will be stepping on a newer, higher ground.
He walks away.
I rise, and walk away as well.