The Portrait

portrait final

His friend told him about the great exhibit running in the Modern arts museum. He was anxious to see all those acclaimed case studies by the top artists.   On his way he stopped to get a can of soda at the deli close to the museum. Can and cash in hand, he stood in the cashier line. He was not prepared for the shock he was about to receive. As he glanced behind, for a split second he felt a ghastly jolt run him through and through. He turned immediately to face the cashier, handed her the money and the soda and left the shop in a hurry. Completely shaken, he was trembling and struggling to walk steadily. The face of the woman, who was standing behind him in line, was chasing him from every direction. He climbed the stairs to the entrance, got a ticket and made his way through the entrance into the exhibit hall. He was walking like a zombie.

 Finally his eyes fell upon THAT portrait. He stopped.

 He was fighting to hold back the tears. That face is familiar…a sad semi- handsome face. He was searching the caverns of his foggy memory to locate that face… Suddenly, the face of the woman from the deli loomed right next to it. Her face was so deformed that it was impossible to imagine how she would be able to survive having to confront the world day in and day out with such horrifying appearance…? Her eyes were in the wrong position, the right eye almost in the middle of her forehead and the left eye was closer to her left ear. The nose was crooked to one side with the left ear remarkably smaller than the large reddish blue right ear. The cheek bones were sticking out like those of a cadaver, which made her uneven lips split open to reveal a gruesome set of decayed teeth. The most bewildering thing of all was that those thin wrinkled and cracked lips were trying to convey the unnatural appearance of a smile!    

His eyes moved to the semi handsome face in front of him and wondered. How can this woman smile, while you reflect such deep seated pain and sorrow…? His eyes seemed almost perfect. Yet they betrayed feelings of repressed unspeakable suffering. The high brows appeared so well defined implying an air of defiance and pride. The perfectly symmetrical jaw angles, the high forehead with little hair partially covering the right side, together with the slightly skinny cheeks, combined to portray a personality of a strange uniqueness. His lips seemed exhaustingly trying to create a smile without much success. The faintly split chin complemented the square face to reveal that final semi handsome appearance. He looked much younger than the poor ugly woman. Yet she was smiling, and he with his better looking face, was unable to hide his distress. It was a puzzle. Or was it? 

What deformed mind or scarred heart might be hiding behind this young face? Yes indeed, some peoples’ disfigurements are clear and obvious. Some others hide their deformity behind well preserved masks.

He shuddered as he felt a hand touch his shoulder lightly. As he turned, he saw the guard with a little smirk on his face. The man asked politely, “Sir, you have been staring at this mirror for the past hour. You didn’t like anything else in the exhibit? Or may be you don’t have a mirror at home?” he couldn’t get angry. He didn’t really hear anything the guard said. He was just staring at the man’s face and wondering what deformities could this blunt face be hiding?

As he turned to look at the mirror, he was astonished to realize that the face is moving, and instantly realized what happened. He turned and hurried towards the exit. He stopped at the door to catch his breath, and then rushed into the street. He walked slowly home, looking at the faces passing by.

What happens if all the masks fell down and each face really displayed what scars and deformities are embedded deep within? Are we all portraits in a big museum watching each other and never stopping to look at the mirror………

‘Dramatized true story…’

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