Even though this is exam time, I cannot resist the urge to visit the mall and sketch. Christmas displays hang about; shoppers are looking for deals, and many folks are just looking. These are the regulars including me though I do not play scratch-and-win, or carry a cell phone. From one soloist to another, "White Christmas" wafts through the mall until it engorges the senses. Today they turned off the music for an hour, and everything looked surrealistic with the colours, the stillness and expectancy. I guess the pause was to get to the flip side for more Christmas songs.
I see a group of familiar faces and approach feeling their acceptance of me. John is there, in his nineties. He recognises me, and he is smiling. Matt invites me to sit, and in no time he asks me if that is my sketchbook and I take it as an invitation for a portrait. John sits low in his seat across from me. He seems to have shrunk a lot since I saw him last. Convinced he does not mind modelling, I sketch. As a distant stranger, I would capture his expression trying not to make eye contact. I reason that would forego any suspicion especially if he felt I was encroaching. Matt seems to be stewing up some facts about which we should all take note. "An artist must be born with many talents to draw like that". I self consciously interject a "no" remembering all the hours I did this sort of thing after I was born.
Matt is relentless. Perhaps he did not like my no.
Remember that artist Jackson Pollock? He sold one of his paintings for twenty million. All he did was to get three gallons of paint and throw the colours on the canvas with his ten-inch brush. I know an artist who struggled for weeks to finish her painting, and she only got a hundred for it.
Can't think about how to respond to Matt's conspiracy theory; except now I am having a little problem with John's mouth. I pause a little as he turns his head. Still avoiding Matt, I ask John about his dinners cause he always likes to talk about how much he enjoys his potatoes and carrots. But John is quiet. Matt has got his wrists on the table sizing out a roast of beef he got from Costco exclaiming, "Inside round is the best meat you can buy." John returns to the conversation with a mixture of pride and humbleness: "It is Meals-on-Wheels." There seems to be a sigh of relief around the table - perhaps a collective feeling of thankfulness that someone is not left to go hungry.
I am about to leave. I sign the drawing, remove it from my sketchbook, and hand it to John. Everyone is happy with it, including Matt. When I got back to my apartment I looked again at my neighbour's sign nailed to his door:
“God if I forget you, please don't forget about me.”