It is well known, or so they say, that the eyes are the gateway to the soul and for some people wanting to cross that border can become an obsession. Rubens is that kind of person who is born with sensitivity to the surface and has not only the quality of seeing the world in a different way but also the ability to express it.
There, while Rubens' gaze is entangled in distant horizons, he can be seen standing at the garden fence of the old house that saw him grow up surrounded by flowers in the orchard. It was in that garden two years ago that his story with Rowen ended. A swirl of emotions and feelings are lost in the clear blue of his pupil.
That day when he stood at that fence he drew with his memory the whole scene, he wanted to capture that maelstrom that consumed his own soul and that was hidden behind his rictus dressed in inexpressiveness.
Rubens was never good at talking about his feelings, a parsimony he inherited from his childhood with his grandparents who were not very affectionate or communicative, although in their own way they left a deep mark on the personality of the child Rubens.
Whenever he could, in the afternoons, he would sneak into the backyard to peek through a small window into the workshop where his grandfather spent hours painting, watching Rubens as the old man mixed colors on his palette with which he caressed the canvas until he formed intricate images beyond Rubens' imagination. Not infrequently he saw him take the canvas down from the easel and move it towards the light coming through the skylight in the ceiling and then throw it into some corner in anger and frustration.
Sometimes after performing the ritual with the light and the canvas he would leave the painting back on the easel while wiping his hands with a cloth. He would stare at his work with evident satisfaction. One of those times on the canvas Rubens could see the portrait of a young lady dressed in ermine, coquettishly adorned with a hat and a delicate bouquet of flowers in her hands. It was Rowen, who for some time had been modeling for some of the old man's works. That afternoon not only was Rowen painted on the canvas, but also in Rubens' soul.
_ It is impressive, Professor," said the young scholar as he looked at the self-portrait of the artist Rubens Pizzardi.
_ What is it that you find impressive, asked the woman as she adjusted her glasses without taking her eyes off the painting.
_ That you know so much about the history of the master Rubens just by looking at his self-portrait.
_ It's not just that, I've been studying his paintings, his letters and his diary for years. Explained the woman, who had been narrating aspects of the artist's life to a group of students.
_ For example, she continued, in his self-portrait he reproduced the scene where many years before his grandfather painted Rowen as a young girl, Rubens tried to emulate every brushstroke of the environment. That work was completed about two years after Rowen's death.
_ It's a fascinating story, Professor. Could you tell us more? We want to know everything.
_ Sure, as we look at his paintings I'll tell you his story.
Rubens' adolescence did not improve his ability to speak, but from time to time a reason came to the old house that forced him to find a way to do so. Yes, it was Miss Rowen. He watched her as she posed for his grandfather, in the distance of course, he took out his little sketchbook and in a few strokes he had already sketched Rowen's figure, she sometimes could not help laughing when she saw him crouching behind the bushes.
_ Stay still, child, the old painter would reproach her.
Then she would take a deep breath and try to control herself. Rubens was already at that time a very handsome young man with blond, unruly hair and an intense blue gaze with which he had no problem expressing himself. "You say everything with your eyes" Rowen would tell him not infrequently while Rubens was drawing her with his eyes.
One of those afternoons before Rowen left the old house, Rubens approached her and put in her hand one of his signed sketches and an invitation to meet in the park. They met, they talked or rather Rowen talked and since then they were inseparable, little by little they built such an intimate proximity that just being close was enough to be happy. They could spend hours in the park, she sitting and he sketching how much he wanted in his little notebook. Rowen knew him by now, when he would frown in some direction and twitch his nose from side to side a couple of times it meant he had come up with something worth drawing. She would just look at him and he would draw while she stroked his hair.
_ You know, I wish I could draw like you. She told him once.
_ Why would you want to do that, Miss," he replied, still scribbling in his notebook.
_ Because I would like a portrait of you, so I can see you whenever I want, she said with a smitten smile.
Rubens first answered her with his blue gaze and then with words.
_ I promise I'll make a self-portrait for you, so that you can look at me whenever you want.
Those words filled Rowen's heart with happiness and her eyes with light.
Time. It is that tide that comes inexorably, fills all the spaces and leaves its immutable mark. Thus, it filled all the spaces of the old house, thus it took the grandparents, and thus it took her. To Rowen, who climbed on the wings of summer swallows and was lost forever in the blue of the sky that from then on was bluer than the eyes of Rubens.
After that he could be seen wandering through the park, no longer sitting on any bench, just walking and scribbling from time to time in his sketchbook. His blond hair unkempt down to his shoulder, his green jacket more for old age than anything else. Some said they heard him talking to the flowers in the orchard as he tried to draw them.
_ Stay still, girls. He said as a reproached them.
This is an original story for The ink well community in their weekly prompt #52: Artist.
Image courtesy of Pixabay