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The craft of a Burnout

Why were her eyes not in harmony? None of my portraits have been in harmony for the past three years. I used to believe once I reached the objective state of success, work would become easier. A beginner’s naive belief. It keeps getting tougher. For the past three years, I have been unimaginative, unskilled, and repetitive. What happened to those days of raving and unceasing creative thoughts? I was unstoppable. I can’t even paint an average portrait of a classically symmetrical model anymore. I am on the verge of quitting art. I had a few exhibitions here and there. There is no more I can do. I am in that unspeakable position of my career’s journey. The undesirable burnout. The post-peaking. I have reached and fell.

My good friend Alice suggested I look for inspiration elsewhere. I and everyone else at that dinner table knew she meant to plagiarize or steal. Alice has always been a temptress of immoral actions. We all somehow ignore and laugh off her words. She has those big icy-blue eyes. No one could ever believe the possessor of those eyes truly meant the acts she was attempting to endorse. But I am no Alice with the big blue eyes. If I plagiarize someone’s work, I would be caught and shamed for the rest of my years.

Maybe it is my chin. My mother always said I had a witch’s chin. God bless her soul; she couldn’t give a compliment even on her deathbed. Your hair is too frizzy she said while taking in her last breaths. I never trusted the nurse who was in charge of her. I think she killed my mother. She was always chatting and having middle-aged women gossip during work hours. Professional mannerism has declined in our postmodernist eras. My chin; that is the issue. I have the appearance of a semiformal Disney villain; evil actions can’t be in for me.

Five years ago, I had my last and arguably elitist exhibition. An art exhibition meant to serve the rich. The gallery manager arranged a special entre with one of the most exclusive and unattainable catering companies in the city. We had mini delights on trays, red and white wine in properly sized glasses- not like the small plastic ones I had at my previous openings. The exhibition embodied my signature niche. Large portraits of the ordinary and flawed. Too large I heard one of the visitors criticize. I listened to him for a minute intellectually discourse about my art. He kept emphasizing that a portrait requires delicacy and has to be human size at best. “Too big is too inhumane,” he said. Never understood his criticism. I had made it clear throughout my statements, speeches, and responses to fans’ questions that my paintings of the ordinary transcend to a level of extra-ordinary, to a level where the ordinary ceases and intertwined with the distinctive. Could he have not made the blatant connection between my words and his? Either way, my critic was a young boy-perhaps, a privileged college student. College students were my biggest fans but also my worst judges. None of them were actual professional or renowned critics of fine arts, yet whenever I overheard them mention a bad word it insulted me more than the experts.

There, in that exhibition, I had met a fellow contemporary artist. I don’t remember her name. She said she was a student somewhere from central America. Belize, maybe. I am not sure. She had extremely long wavy locks. Too Long. I couldn’t figure out the floral pattern of her shirt, her hair was in the way. She approached me with enthusiasm. She talked about her graduate program and went on with fruitful compliments on my work and how she has been a big fan of my daring and ahead of its time art. Out of politeness for her rather annoying upbeat character. I asked to see some of her art, she proceeded to show me some pictures on her phone. She had an eccentric style. I hated her. Her work looked renaissance-ish but also as if it was an illustration that came straight out of a magical realism novel. She proceeded to talk about histories and conceptual theories that I won’t in a lifetime have bothered to study. I didn’t and still don’t understand why she would come up to me for validation. She was definitely insecure and timid like a baby lamb.

I sufficed her hunger with a mini compliment out of surface politeness. No more than that. I don’t want her to know or even speculate that she is an inch better than me. In fact, I didn’t want anyone to think they are better than me. I may not be at the peak, but no one should believe so.

“You are talented’. “A genius”. “Mastermind.” I have been fed with such words for years. My ego is too big for criticism. It is too big for the belief in inferiority. I am higher. Yes, I am.

Not too long ago, I ran into that central American artist again. Apparently, I was in her neighborhood. She pointed at her apartment to me and her small balcony of plants and green vases. Green vases for plants. How tasteless. The second I laid my eyes on her again, that hatred took over me. This time it was higher and fiercer. Maybe it has because I have burned out now. But I despised her. Everything that came out of her mouth was pure disgust. An atrocious, horrible, ugly creature.

Those loathing emotions are slowly starting to fade away as I caress her bleeding and bruised cheeks. I brush through her hair with the tips of my fingers, very soft and oily. I think she had skipped a shower or two. It is funny, how only less than an hour ago she had a fully functioning pulse. She is now silent, turning cold, and breathless. She is dead.

It was naive of her to invite me up for some herbal tea. When she asked, I instantly knew what I desired more than herbal tea. We entered her place. Her kitchen was the first view my eyes caught, followed by her living room right beside it. A basic kitchen of chestnut brown cabinets with plenty of exposed space for fancy china showoffs. Nothing special, except for her cutlery collection. All the cutlery, or at least all the exposed cutlery, was of the same green shade as her vases. The plates, knives assortment, bowls, and cups. What was with this woman and her greens? Even her coach, although that is a much darker royal green. The fabric is velvet, looks comfortable to lay on. Should I move her there or not? I am too tired. That was no easy task.

The rest of her living room includes a multicolored Persian carpet with floral designs and freely flying birds. A white bookshelf, that has books filled up within its every crevice. A round rustic word center table, that looks vintage. Surprisingly, a single plant. When one sees the balcony they naturally expect the heavy greenery pattern to continue to her indoor space. And her paintings that take all of the space. I guess that is why she has no more furniture, not even a dining table. She probably ate on the couch like a heathen because of all those damn paintings.

The sun on her back now just scars. The design has vanished. When she extended her entire body to fetch her herbal teas from the top cabinets, her lower back tattoo was bound to make an appearance. As soon as she felt her shirt lift up with her, she swiftly clutched her left hand to the fabric, keeping the shirt down. She didn’t seem like a conservative person, yet she was embarrassed by that tattoo. Maybe it was a drunken mistake. Or a teenage rebellion thing. I should have asked her what it was. It is too late to ask now.

It was her fault. She provoked me. All that sweetness. All that “you are my role model and I respect you” talk was bullshit. She was evil. She wanted to disturb me. Why did she have to even ask such a question? Pure evil.

My mother wouldn’t have approved of her. “Brush a comb through your hair” she would have nagged to her. But see mother would have understood. She would have analyzed her evil personality within their first meeting. She would have warned everyone about her. I knew too. It wasn’t my fault I ran into her. If anything it was hers. It was probably all planned. She had definitely crafted this to aggravate me.

“How is the art business going?”. Who asks a stranger such a question? Was she not raised on common mannerism, what is with all impoliteness. Any inch of me that was capable of bearing that ruthless, uncultured attitude I lost immediately. Even my friends. My super close and kind friends of years, don’t dare to ask such a question out of the bloom. They politely wait until I mention my work and only then do they wave in.

Her silliness enraged me. I tried to keep that rage in, but some people’s extreme lack of mannerisms doesn’t deserve the safeguarding of your emotions.

What was even ruder than the question, was her nonexistent pause. She didn’t want an answer from me. She continued conversating as if I am the one who asked the question. Even worse she continued about her own work after she had just asked me about mine. Child-like behavior.

How is a person supposed to act towards such people? I think my reaction was the right thing, perhaps a bit too extreme but it was the right thing.

As she was filling up her matching green electrical kettle with water and blabbering on and on about her graduate program, I stepped behind. Slowly walked towards her pretending I am listening to the nonsense being spewed at me. I hesitated for a moment as one naturally does before an impulsive action. But brushed off my concerns. A man my age and talent knows what he is doing. With no more thoughts, I wrapped my hands around her body pushing my hand onto her mouth and nose. Nobody wants to hear an irritating person’s screams.

She was strong for a woman her size. She was able to get a bit of wiggly defensive moves here and there. Nothing better than my abilities of course. I managed to control the spread. There was plenty of tumbling and falling over things. The sounds were loud yet no neighbor came knocking on her doors. Either no one was home or they simply disliked her as well. She was probably a source of annoyance to them. Too much noise. Maybe they thought she was continuing her habits.

I could have ended it all by choking her. Part of me wanted to see her suffer and bruised. I took a knife out of her green kitchen supplies to stab her tattoo out of her. Anything that made her ‘her’, I wanted out.

The details don’t matter anymore; she is dead now. I killed her. A source of bothersome that happened to reoccur to my life. I did what I had to do to stop it. I am entitled to what I did. It wasn’t wrong. It was out of necessity. It was to keep my emotions and health intact.

What is next? Should I wait? Maybe the neighbors called the cops on me. but it has been more than thirty minutes since my reparations. They certainly would have arrived by now. Should I wait until the body decomposes and someone begins wondering where I have been? Should I hide her? or just leave the house. Is that too suspicious? I think I will wait.

Now, why were her eyes not in harmony?

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