A Walk to Remember: Vincent Van Gogh, Part One

Two Cut Sunflowers August-September 1887 Arles, France

It was as if a grand chasm had opened beneath us and the name was trapped reverberating over and over again Vincent, Vincent.  

“Hey, ” my hand wavered in the air, this guy looked familiar, “your last name isn’t Van Gogh is it?”  Social grace eludes me in the most opportune moments.

He looked surprised, “yes it is, do I know you?  I should think that I know most everyone around here, even if not on the best terms.”  His eyes implored acceptance and I noticed that his shirt billowed freely against his thin frame.

“What year is it?” I inquired  Of course it was impossible that this could be THE Vincent, but what else could I assume?

“1888,” he looked at me curiously as if to make sure I wasn’t mocking his sensibilities, “and what is your name?”

No, this isn’t happening.  Words wouldn’t come.  I’m just dreaming and soon this Van Gogh will morph into something else.  A shiver knocked my gaze to the ground and Vincent stepped forward offering a steady hand.  “You must be freezing.  Where are you staying?”

The night was chilly and I could see our breaths puffing rhythmically in the air.  “I-I’m not sure,” I answered.  Standing there in my night pajamas I felt ridiculously small.

“Please, don’t be afraid.  My cottage isn’t too far away from here.  You can stay for the night.  Come.”

Deep inside my head, my voice pounded against its catatonic walls ripping itself to shreds with the stabbing pains of exhaustion and helplessness.   I’ve always had a difficult time managing situations, but this, this I should be able to handle.  It was just a dream after all, wasn’t it?

“Good then, it’s settled.”  He didn’t wait for my answer and I proceeded to help collect his fallen belongings.

If this was a dream, shouldn’t I have the control? Shouldn’t I have the power?  The wind blew again and for the first time I felt the cold bite through my thin pajamas and settle into my bones.  If this really was THE Van Gogh, then maybe everything would be fine.  Only morning would tell.

Bedroom in Arles, October 1888
Bedroom in Arles, October 1888

He walked fast.  I was trailing behind carrying some of his jars and boxes.  They jostled and clinked together as I more stumbled than walked through the dark woods.  After a period which seemed like eternity, I imagined that I could see the glimpse of an outline of a house.  But judging by moonlight isn’t particularly easy.

“We’re here,”  he had stopped and I peered around trying to make out the ethereal form of a door.  I heard a creak, and for a moment I was alone outside.

Then, all of a sudden the scene was illuminated before me and in that moment I thought my eyes were literally going to fall out of my head.

They didn’t.

But my jaw had dropped and the cold dissipated for a split second.

Have you ever seen the Bedroom in Arles? He painted it in 1888 and it’s diagonal walls with bright colors all undulating in an upturned perspective has always captured me, and others, in fascination.  This is what I saw when he lit the lanterns in his small cottage.

“Well, uh, this is it.  You can have my bed, I’ll sleep in the living room. We can sort out this situation in the morning.”  He leaned on the door frame in an awkward stance.  

“Thanks for the room,” I said, and with that, he then turned and shuffled into the next room leaving the lantern to flicker around the walls, chairs, and bed.

Here’s the introduction! Click here


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