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the last canvas - chapter 4
Published Aug 2, 2013


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Written By

andantezen

Storyteller
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A lie often enough repeated
becomes the truth.

Or not.


thanks for reading my first story on TSR.

comments are welcome.

I apologize for my broken English, I'm not a native speaker.

A lie often enough repeated
becomes the truth.

Or not.


thanks for reading my first story on TSR.

comments are welcome.

I apologize for my broken English, I'm not a native speaker.
We ate in silence. My father concentrated on his food, and never looked at me, what gave me the impression he was avoiding me. His story had given birth to more questions... He and Catherine had hidden too many things from me... My father's poverty, his tough beggining as an artist... And if I had understood well, my mother had hidden something about that Armand de Montbelle... probably that Carlo had left us for him... Otherwise, what was the point in Carlo telling me a story about his relationship with that man who was a complete stranger to me? And that apparation thing? That revelation talk... what was that supposed to be?!! -- Ma che meraviglia! This food is really wonderful! -- my father was the typical Italian who enjoyed eating and appreciated good food -- How did you hear about this place, Laurent?

-- It belongs to a friend of Dan Charmand, who reccomended it to me... -- I dropped the bomb.

-- You know Charmand! -- I knew my father would be impressed. Dan had been the director to Vice's Modern Art Museum (where my exhibition was opening tomorrow) for almost two decades now. He was responsible for it being one of the most important museums in the world, and consequently Dan was one the most powerful and influential men in the Olympus of Art -- How come?! Did you just meet him just now, for your show?
-- No, not really... I met Dan... Mr. Charmand, at the beggining, haha... some ten years ago, when I was going to the university here... Dan has been... like a father to me... -- I used that word on purpose, to watch Carlo's reaction to it.

-- Dan Charmand... fatherly?!? That's the first time ever I hear anything nice being said about him! Dictator, despot, tyrant... that's more like him! Have I heard you call him simply... Dan?! How in hell have you met him? -- I rejoiced at my father being a bit angry, perhaps jealous even -- Oh my God, will I see Dan in one of your portraits?!?
-- Haha, Carlo! No, Dan is not one of my ex-lovers... I met him through Angelo -- I had to clean my throath as I spoke that name --, my boyfriend at the time... Dan owed Angelo a few favors, let's put it that way... And Angelo owed me many favors! Angelo was continously cheating me at that time, but I loved him and would forgive him repeatedly... I was so afraid to lose him, would do anything to keep him, and I think he felt guilty sometimes... -- Angelo had always insisted I was a better painter than I was a writer, and to prove himself right he arranged an interview for me with Dan, and then Dan came to see my amateurish paintings... I was so scared during his visit, I was just waiting until he'd spit on one of my paintings... He was silent and very solemn. "Bacon meets Gilbert and George" he said about one of my nudes. Then he said my portraits were bold and crude. I didn't get it, but I guess he liked it, haha, because since that first visit my career has been practically under his sole guidance... My father seemed at once disgusted and fascinated at my association with Dan Charmand, but before he inquired any further, I moved on with the subject and towards the point that interested me.

-- You haven't ever met Angelo, have you Carlo? -- I observed anger and resentment rising in me with the memories of my ex-boyfriend -- I met Angelo a couple of years after you left, we were just teenagers... and we stayed together for almost 8 years... We both joined the Journalism School here in Vice City... We shared a room, we shared a bed, we shared a life... Pretty much like you and your Armand... Carlo, you haven't answered my question. Is it... "like father, like son"?
-- Haha, that's very skillful of you, to pose your question that way... About me and "my Armand", as you say it... He is a public figure... You might have heard of him... Professionally, he uses his mother's family name, Purlux Drurien.

-- You mean "your Armand" is the famous architect Armand Purlux Drurien? Didn't he win the Pritzker Prize a few years ago? Carlo, why are you telling me this story? I'm getting more and more confused!
-- Confused how, son? It's about your genesis... In a way, it is indeed "like father, like son", Laurent. Can't you see it? You've become a painter, like me. I haven't met your Angelo, but I know from your mother that he was the only relationship you've had so far... And it has ended for how many years already? I'm sorry, son, I see you suffer when I talk about him... The point is... Just like I've only had Catherine. I'm a loner, and so are you. But there is more, and you'll understand everything soon! The next morning meditation, the apparition showed up again, standing in front of the sun, in a cloud of light.

After that pacifying dream I had had with the child, I was no longer afraid.
My heart was beating really fast, and my body temperature seemed to have decreased, even under the tropical sun, but I was able to slowly stand to my feet -- and the apparition did not evaporate like the other morning. I approached the child and was able to see his features better -- it was a boy, beautiful like a cherubin... And suddenly I knew... he did not belong to that island... he was not one of the spirits who had not been born, nor the ghost of some baby born dead... this boy did not come from the past... this boy was coming from the future to meet me! That boy who visited me at the beach on the Birth Island... I remember for sometime thinking that boy was me, the new Carlo, who had been reborn on that island and had a chance to begin anew... But to answer your other question.... Armand met me at the beach, after my morning swim.

We just silently sat there, exchanging a reassuring glance every once in a while, to again rest our eyes on the vast horizon -- one could almost be sure that the earth was round, because the horizon seemed to be a curved line.
Ships slowly went by announcing our eminent farewell, and I thought we shared the same feeling -- another day together on the island also meant another day less to be together on the island, with Armand's departure day approaching... After all the excitement of the first two days, my heart had settled and I could sense Armand's melancholy so much stronger. The silence between us had grown immense.

They say silence is an angel sitting between two people... Was that boy that had appeared to me... that angel? And did Armand sense I was hiding something from him?
Because it was an uncomfortable silence, full of expectations -- you could sense the tension in the air, and no angel.

It was a silence born from fear as a father, and a secret as a mother -- I sensed Armand staring at me when I was not looking at him, and drifting his gaze whenever my eyes tried to meet his. Had Armand seen the boy, too, and was just waiting for me to mention it? Because I sometimes sensed an intense curiosity directed towards me, as if Armand was silently questioning me...

Little did I know.
Those moments wouldn't last forever, and no matter how uncomfortable they were for two loners on a lonely island, suddenly the seed of a conversation would spring up and our peaceful and pleasureable routine be restored. Had we spoken about all that mattered to our souls, and then fallen silent?

Our only conversation topics seemed to be Armand's restoration plans for the house -- he still had a few of them to share with me, and the corresponding instructions. I was more than willingly happy to engage in the labors he proposed me.
That afternoon, after another marvelous healthy lunch, we worked in the little garden by the swimming pool. Armand had bought several plants when he had been to the bigger islands, but his first go on trying to cultivate them himself had been a failure -- they had all died. I thought the problem was the sandy soil, and I proposed him to grow some compost to enrichen the earth. He loved my idea -- from classical he had turned into ecological. And I loved his vision -- or more concretely, his plans -- of planting more bushes and flowers all around the house, like a colorful frame to the building he wanted painted white. And he wanted colorful patterns on all textiles too, "to bring the flowers and bushes inside the house", as he put it.

There would be plenty of work for me during the time my friend would be in France. I was excited!
Armand had painted some beautiful watercolors showing how he envisioned the garden, with pools of differents colors mingling and creating a circle around the square of the house. He had always been an amazing colourist, perhaps much more than me if I were to be honest, but now he was going beyond his many talents -- putting them to work. And that was my main impression about the new Armand, as we walked around the island and he pointed the spots where I was supposed to work the earth -- all that used to be in the reign of ideas and concepts for him was now becoming reality, turned into concrete expressions of the deep transformations he had undergone in the past few years, with the collective revolution in his family, and his personal revolution with the trips to Asia, especially India. His personal transformation was so inspiring -- more than that, it was contagious! And since Armand had always been a generous person, helping people around him -- and towards me his generosity had been superlative --, he was now integrating me in the most important and positive period of his life! When Armand went for a nap, and after having slowly wandered in the island, I felt suddenly driven to paint. It had been a long, long time since that last canvas completed in the abandoned factory, that hadn't turned out so well, and that I had burnt with many others. I installed my easel right on the beach, and for a while I just stared at the blank canvas, so shiny under the sun that it almost blinded me... Where were the decadent themes I had been working on? All around me it was Nature in poignant bursts of colors and forms and textures... Armand approached and for a while just stayed there, silently and contendedly watching me paint.

-- C'est magnifique!! -- he was suddenly cheering -- I did not want to pressure il signore D'Allegro, but I'm very happy to see that the artist has decided to work again! -- he applauded.
I was so happy! Armand had always been my greatest supporter, and it meant a lot to be painting in his company again, as it had been for the 5 years of the École des Beaux-Arts. He had seen it all, and so I asked:

-- What do you think, mon cher Armand?

-- Haha, if you hadn't asked I'd have talked anyways... Mon cher Carlo! You have come a long and beautiful way... Your time spent as a hermit, fasting in that abandoned factory, has given your strokes an intensity they did not usually have... Look, even your posture, standing there before the canvas, has changed! Your chest is broad where it used to be narrow and your neck is straight up, when it used to curve in anxiety towards the easel...
With his generous heart, Armand soon developed a scheme to turn my paintings into money: he would buy them from me, hang them in the rooms and inform the future guests -- "the European aristocracy, not the backpackers, haha!" -- they were for sale... His guesthouse would then double as an art gallery for my paintings.
I finally showed him my paintings from my "hermitage", as he had so elegantly described the abandoned factory where I had almost starved.

-- Mon cher, cher Carlo... -- Armand had tears in his eyes -- You must have suffered a lot... -- he was impressed with how dark and glommy my paintings were, and how they focused and cirurgically portraited decadence -- They are very impressive, my friend... And surprisingly contemporary... What would your teachers from the École have said... They would have called you a traitor, to say the least! What a wonderful traitor you have become! -- funny, from his perspective, Armand had always thought I was the conservative one.

He even chose one of the paintings to hang on the wall of his bedroom, 'buying' it from me.
Another sunset at the beach, but it was not the same from the past days. Having shown my paintings to Armand had drawn us even nearer -- he had transformed a lot, but in the meantime I hadn't completely frozen as I'd thought... I had beautifully evolved, he assured me. Those were the new days for a new Armand, but for a new Carlo as well. Nightswimming, deserves a quiet night... And we had them all!

The night sea welcomed and blessed our new old friendship.
And because Armand had always been so honest and generous with me, I decided to tell him about the apparition.

-- I have something to tell you, mon cher ami... And I don't know how you'll take it... -- I introduced the subject as skillfully as I could.
Armand looked at me attentively, expectantly. I thought he knew what I was going to talk about. But by his look of dismay to my mention of an apparition, I immediately knew he had never witnessed anything like it -- and he was probrably frustrated because he had been expecting something much deeper and much broader than that.

I was continuously hurting my best friend, unaware of it.

-- It must have been one of the children that was unable to encarnate since they have forbidden giving birth on this island -- he dismissed it immediately.
-- No! It's nothing like that. It's not a lost soul , not a soul coming from the past. And it doesn't look like a native boy at all! He's very pale, even his hair is white... -- as I tried to explain it to Armand, the apparition seemed to make more sense to me -- It's a child with a very antique soul... It's coming from the future to meet me... It's like... This child is my future!

-- If you say so... -- it was Armand's only comment.
I was hurt, more than I was worried about his reaction -- or lack of -- to my story. His apathy to my confession was alarming.

-- I think I'm going to paint a bit more... -- and I was ready to explain how I had become fond of the night light to work on my paintings, but he didn't seem to have heard me, absorbed by his own feelings.

I just left him sitting by the firepit.
For the first time in our relationship, I think I was really disappointed and mad at my friend.

I turned that strong, uncomfortable energy into very intense strokes -- I got hold of a new canvas and stroked the night away... I painted furiously, uncertain about what I was creating under the moonlight.
I don't know for how long I've painted, but when I decided to return to my room -- and after having checked at the firepit that Armand was no longer helplessly sitting there --, while going up the stairs I could hear Armand crying at the front porch.

He must have heard my footsteps as well, and swiftly retreated further to the varanda at the end of the corridor, facing his room.
I decided to go after him, even if his attitude of retreating towards his room denotated he prefered to be left alone. But how could I go on praying "May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes... May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes..." and leave my best friend crying? -- I'm sorry if I'm intruding, my friend -- I tried to be polite, having learnt it from Armand, the prince -- but I'm not going to bed tonight before you tell me what's going on -- I said, as I took seat, acting more like myself, the peasant -- I've been watching you crying from the very first day I've arrived, and you often look like a man defeated in the last battle of his life... Are you ill, Armand? Or what is it? I've just told you about that apparition that has touched me deeply, and you seemed disappointed -- I had to express my own hurting -- Do you regret having invited me here? Armand had stopped crying, and he took a deep breath before saying to me:

-- I'm sorry for that, mon cher Carlo. And I'm thankful you've come to me tonight... This is really hard for me. Our friendship is so precious, and I'm afraid, at the thought even, that I could do or say something that would cause our parting... -- again, Armand took a deep breath before asking me -- This is something I've always wanted to ask you... Why haven't you ever had a girlfriend, Carlo?
I was surprised. That had been the most personal question Armand had asked me ever.

-- I don't know... -- I replied -- I have never thought about that... I guess the answer is of a practical order... I can barely take care of myself... how can I dare to have a girlfriend? And invite her to eat canned soup and sleep with the rats? I guess it will happen one day, but I don't know when nor where -- the world out there seemed so vast and empty and distant -- Can I ask you a question, Armand? How haven't you married yet? -- that was again my role... I had asked my friend a question, and he had returned a question to me... now I'd have to extract his sincerity from him -- You have had so many girlfriends during the École!
-- I was not dating them, Carlo. I was just doing my duty, my social duty. That's all it was about -- Armand exhaled deeply -- I was the banker's son, the Baron's grandson, dating the daughters of other business men and aristocrats. All the time I had the impression that it were our fathers dating, their money dating and courting, not us, boys and girls... Because all these dates were arranged, and expected from me. Margot, Irene, Veronique, Juliette, they were all daughters of my father's friend or partners in business. In fact, that kind of courting was just another form of business. -- Do you still remember some of their names, Carlo? Take Juliette, for instance... I "dated" her for almost a year, but you know what I appreciated most about her? The fact that she was always late, and while I waited for her I was able to read in her father's library, full of rare and original editions. That's what I "loved" about Juliette. Taking her to the Opera, to dine out and then bringing her back home was the obligation, my social duty as the heir of one of Europe's richest men... I could only stand Juliette's superficial chit chat coming in her nasal voice among a cloud of strong perfumes because I kept in mind the books I wanted to finish. -- They were all like that, spoiled girls that i had to spoil yet another night, pretending to make them court and enhance their vanity. Margot or Veronique -- money from the coal mines or from textile industries -- they were all the same. I was playing with them as much as they were playing with me, because yes, it was a game. Perhaps I've hurt just one of them, Irene, whom I think actually fell in love with me. -- I dated her for over a year... She was nice, nicer than the other heirs... She was beautiful and more cultivated than the others -- Armand took a deep breath -- But the nicest thing about her was her brother, Raymond... I had a crush on him. Whenever I went to pick Irene, my true intention and strongest expectation was to meet and talk to Raymond... And he was always there. He never missed my visits, as if he too was expecting me... -- Armand's voice trembled -- You have no idea, Carlo, how much hipocrisy comes with money. People wear so many masks that to many of them it is impossible to take them out... Raymond was like that, and perhaps a bit more than usual, because he was in the diplomatic career. -- So, when once I tried to open my feelings for him, and I was so sure he felt the same for me... That was the last occasion I ever saw him! I took Irene a few more times out, but he was never there to greet me, ever again... until I learned from her that Raymond had been transfered to an embassy somewhere in Asia. That was also the last time I saw Irene. Or any other girl. I decided to put an end to my career of living those "luxurious lies", to use my mother's words. -- I regret having broken Irene's heart... but I was heart broken at the very same time. Just like I never had the chance to open my love for her brother Raymond, though I'm sure he must have felt it, Irene has never found the courage to express her love for me... It was unthinkable for a girl in her position to beg for love! And it all happened at the same time... A few weeks before Raymond left for Asia, my mother found out about my father's lover, and second family... Everything seemed to be falling apart, all around me, but the worst was coming from within me... -- In India, I heard a master say the worst enemy lies within us... I could not agree more! But at that time India did not exist in my world, you hadn't yet lend me that book... I was so desperate! Raymond's rejection had left me feeling dirty, unworthy, sick even. I knew where his fear had come from -- surrendering to a love like that would have been social suicide. Perhaps more to him with his diplomatic career than to me, but nevertheless... It was inadequate, it was unproper, it was filthy! -- And I lied to you, Carlo. I wasn't feeling miserable only because of my family's situation! But then those days I was lying to everyone, about everything, just like too many people had been lying to me, all the time... And I was lying to myself, essentially. I remember telling you I was dating some other girl after Irene, but I was actually going to the bars to get drunk... and to try to meet a guy, any guy. And these bars, they were dirty, the atmosphere was of a heaviness that all the pretense gayety did not soften... -- And then, there was India! I confess that wonderful book on spirituality you've given me was one of the reasons that made me so promptly want to go... The other reason, maybe you can guess for yourself, was Raymond... He had gone to that part of the world, and it wouldn't be hard for me to discover exactly where... I had that secret expectation, when I first went to India, of meeting Raymond. More than meeting a master.... and what I could have never expected, more than meeting... myself. -- But after 3 very intense months of ashrams, retreats, masters, meditation... and diahrrea, of course... I had purged myself of the worst part of that suffering. So many veils of dellusion were removed in those meditation sesssion where I silently and motionlessly sat there, following my breath, watching my tears fall, but not falling with them... I started cultivating acceptance towards myself, and towards Raymond, forgiving his "cowardliness" as I had labeled it, and towards my parents... To see more clearly that the way I could love was not filthy, not unworthy, not unproper -- but simply... love. I was touched by my friend's deep sharing.

-- I can still recall how deeeply changed you were upon your return from India, mon cher Armand... And I was so happy to have lend you that book... A book I somehow stole, I have to confess... -- as little as it were, I wanted to retribute my friend by telling him something that I had kept as a secret -- I found that book in an abandoned corner of a cafe where I painted the walls... I first opened it because of the images it contained, but the the text was so interesting and new to me... The owner of the cafe said I could take the book and after having finished reading it, return it to him... which I never did.
-- Oh my God, Carlo! The book was not yours! You never said a word when I decided to take it with me to India...

-- Of course I wouldn't! -- I replied -- I saw how it had become kind of an amulet to you...

-- Haha, an amulet indeed! The book, you know, is in the shelve in your room, among my own books and those that belonged to Herr Weismann... Maybe I should take it back with me to France, this time... And try to return it to the café owner.
Silence again fell among us. More peaceful than in the past days, but I still sensed some tension in the air. Armand had spoken about his first trip to India, that had lasted only 3 months, but what about this last one?

-- Thank you, mon cher Carlo -- he continued -- Have you heard the saying "kill the tiger before chasing it"? I have imagined this conversation with you, but because I have experienced rejection quite a few times before, it is always present in me, in my expectations... And I was expecting it from you...
Armand took another deep breath.

-- I had never opened to anyone about this before, and you have been so... gentle. I'm thankful for the relief I'm feeling... But... I had a long conversation once with a master in Nepal... They have a certain difficulty in understanding our idea and experience of love and all the suffering we add to it, since it is so differently lived here in Asia... But as I spoke to him about you, mon cher Carlo... I still remember the words of that master: "You have found true love. Too close, and you don't see it."
I could never have expected Armand's next sentence, son.

-- I love you, Carlo.
And immediately I mouthed:

-- I love you too, Armand -- because it was true. Armand was my best friend, like a brother to me; he had always been my greatest supporter, and what I felt towards him was stronger than the respect and gratefulness I had always felt towards my grandfather, who'd brought me up. Little did I remember about my parents, and what I felt towards them was a longing mingled with a curiosity of what could have been if they hadn't died when I was a child. I didn't know much about love, but what I felt towards Armand was certainly my deepest and longest experience of... love.
-- Mon cher Carlo... Thank you... But maybe we are talking about different things... -- Armand seemed calm, but his heavy breathing showed otherwise -- I can say I loved Irene too, just like you're saying you love me now. She was a lovely girl whom I admired and respected, whose company I truly enjoyed. But it was with her brother that I fell in love with... -- Armand took a deep breath -- I am in love with you, Carlo. -- I guess I've always been in love with you, Carlo. It was love at first sight. And it has survived my own internal struggles, my own doubts, my own fears, and all the rejection and guilty I have cultivated during these five years, almost six now... I didn't know it was so strong until I saw you again a few days ago, at the port. Now that I'm not burdened with my own prejudice, I can see it clearly... But to express it clearly like now... I still don't know if I can do it, if I should do it... -- I've experienced a turmoil of feelings since you've arrived, and I know you've been sensing it... And I'm aware it has hindered our communication... I've been sitting by your side, secretly wishing you were in my arms... And then I'm frustratred, and I react in ways you probably don't quite well understand. Yes, there has been tension these past few days, and I apologize for that. -- I've been questioning myself the past days... How can it be love, when it can destroy friendship? How can it be nurturing, when it makes me discontent, longing for more than I've always had, that was so happy and satisfying before? Why can't I be content anymore -- with sharing all meals, all moments, all day long, like it has always been? When I'm standing close to you... I'm willing to hold you, or to be held by you... And I've lived in fear, these past days... Fearing you'd sense it and reject me, fearing I'd never find the courage to tell you, and if I did... right now... fearing your reaction. And my reaction was springing up to my feet. I don't know why I did it -- I suddenly felt like I was suffocating in that corner of the house. Trapped in that corner of the world. Startled, Armand sprang to his feet as well, and we bumped our heads. It was funny, and we laughed. But it was also embarassing. For the first time to me, our proximity, that had always been part of our brotherhood, felt embarassing to me.

-- I have to go to bed -- I said. I suddenly felt so tired, drained of energy.
-- You mean you want to go to bed with me? -- Armand giggled -- Do you want to try it? Having for days guessed my friend was crying over his mother, over his family, over some mystereous illness he had, I was now starting to realize my own responsability in Armand's suffering .

Now I could not fool myself anymore. Just like he wasn't fooling himself anymore, nor was he deceiving me anymore. And so weren't I to deceive nor fool him anymore.
Carlo once again concentrated on eating his food, that by now must have been cold. His eyes were vague, his gaze distant, and I realized he was absorbed by the past.

I was calmer, since the story had now started making sense to me. I was thrilled with the possibility that my father had had a male lover in the past. Seemed so... redeeming to me!
I observed my mind running fast. When did all that happen? Carlo had said some 30 to 40 years ago -- that was typical of him, his inexactitude with time. Since I was 33 years old, his affair with Armand -- if there had been an affair -- could not have lasted long, because he must have met Catherine shortly after that. It felt like I was being told a big secret, something that turned the "Hermit of the Brushes" into an improbable Don Juan... Haha, I'd never thought I'd be thrilled about my own father's love life! the last day, the farewell


thank you for reading my story, comments are welcome.

and thank you all CC creators!!!
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#1XxstingylemonsxXAug 5, 2013

Wow!! Very gripping. It had me hanging at the end there. What happened to Carlo's romance? When did they end it? why wasn't angelo in this?
so many questions, please continue this !!!!!!!!!!!\:rah\:\:rah\:
I want moar \:rah\:\:rah\:

#2andantezenAug 7, 2013

\:D thank you so much for your enthusiastic comments.

the way the story is being told, as a retrospective narrative by Carlo to his son Laurent, Laurent hasn't been born yet \;\) and neither has Angelo :0 every once in a while the story takes time ellipses and advances into the future before retreating back in the past...

right now, on the Birth Island, Carlo has not even met Catherine, Laurent's mother... but she is going to take the center of stage soon, very soon, and there is a dramatic turn in the story.

thank you for supporting "the last canvas" \:\)

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