The Colour of Melancholy

Having met with failure once more, I walk across the street as I return to reality. I was to make a deal for my art, a rather dull piece of canvas stained with varying hues of mauve on sable, presenting the image of a woman. I now hold the piece with trembling hands as the final fragments of hope slither out of my desperate grasp, success always being a stranger to me. The dark sky embraces the full moon as I find my path home. As I enter my neighbourhood, I am reminded of the fear that one day, our secret may be no more and that the gentle greetings and friendly exchanges will cease. In place of them I will be faced with glances of disgust and utterings about my abnormality.

Once at my front door, I stop and observe the yellow tinted light that slips through the glass inset in the door. I force my irrational sentiment to cease. Three firm knocks and I hear her footsteps approach; I am then met by my love. I believe that the fairest thing in this dark world in which I reside is the one I love, Helen Smith. She is my long-held secret as I am hers; my only flower to have blossomed in a garden full of the pungent scent of perishing greens.

When I look at her, I see the most beautiful person ever to have existed. My tongue freezes and my eyes cannot move from her face. Even Sappho has uttered her name, for her beauty cannot be denied. My most recent work is of course a vivid portrait of Helen. My art shall capture her forever. We may not remain with each other for even more than a year. My mother has begun to speak of men that she believes I must wed. She will never accept me for the woman I am today. Her words are carefully crafted for their only purpose: to hurt me, wearing me out every time I face her. I cannot fathom what abuse she would spit at me if she were to know of Helen. I do not wish to either. Her every action, as though drenched in poison, leaves me helpless and in pain. Mother never loved me, I have always seen through her act. Now I face the resentment she hid for years.

Why must we be deprived of the right to our existence? A question no one seems to understand; it is nothing but a means to excuse obscene behaviour is what they say. What if I were a man? The life that I lead now would not have been presented with such trials. I would not have been an abnormality or obscene, and I would not have to face my mother’s wrath for my sins. Perhaps even Helen might have lived a much more fulfilling life outside of the shadows in which we take refuge; she would have been free to love as the loving being that she is. I ponder upon the safety of my beloved. Oftentimes it feels as though I burden her with my love, although she tells me otherwise.

 As I finish the painting, Helen looks at me, deep in thought. I choose not to speak since the silence is comfortable. It is warm and feels like home; it gives me peace for once as my mind stops its endless chatter. The beginning of our tragic end constantly looms above us. It follows us everywhere we go and lets itself be known through the eyes of those who suspect us. I stared at my painting looking for improvements I could make. I was foolish to believe that Helen’s beauty could be captured by a blend of pigment over graphite outlines on a cheap canvas. Colours blooming on it in place of the tears that I fight to hold in. I see these shades as an expression of my despair and they always leave me with a sense of melancholy. My art never fails to remind me of the dark and decaying earth. However, it also shows me the little light in it, especially the yellow hues; I find quite a bit of joy in them.

The silence became deafening, until Helen picked up a novel that had piqued my interest recently, ‘The Well of Loneliness’. It had been highly criticised, which made it quite difficult to acquire, but I had never seen anything of the sort before; it was interesting. I gently placed my palm on Helen’s wrist and gave her a reassuring smile. It is all I can do in times like this.

We will never know what is coming after us, but for now all that truly matters is that we enjoy what could be the final moments we have together. I will remember every moment I have spent with my love, whether I be wed to a man or we live with each other until we meet our inevitable demise. These moments I cherish, and I work endlessly to capture these feelings into square cut canvases. As foolish as I am, these canvases will live the eternity that we will never have. Just as the novel took its twists and turns, our lives could too. We live in a reality where forever does not exist but my love for you, Helen Smith, shall last.


These stories were written in our Factory Feedback program, which was created with, and generously supported by, the Dusseldorp Forum.