I remember the first time I entered this place, A Museum of Lesser Known Art they called it. I was not the curator of this place but I'm certain at least that I know just as much as she does about the art here.
When I first started coming I was an eager film student. I loved all things visual art and I prided myself in being decent at quite a lot of different styles and techniques. I was in school for directing, I loved being able to manipulate the lighting and the tone of the piece I was working on. The control I had over how people felt during a scene was addicting and I forever wanted to direct a real film, one where the whole country would see it on billboards and they would line up outside the theater to see the film that I directed.
My friends and I began coming to this museum more often when we found a piece with no author attached to it, the story the had was that someone left it behind the museum leaned up against their back door with no name, no number, no identification. I wasn't sure at the time why I always felt a guilty around the piece, like I knew something more about it but i just couldn't be sure.
The title of this piece did not help ease my suspicions that I was closer to it than I knew.
It's title contained my name.
Not the name I used here in America, my name from Ireland, absolutely unblemished by people unwilling to learn it. At first my friends didn't notice because they hadn't known I changed my name but when my brother called me to discuss some family business he had addressed me as Deirdre.
After I came clean to my friends about my shortening from Deirdre to Dee my closest friend pointed out that the unclaimed painting at the museum was titled "dear sweet Deirdre". The title was scratched into the bottom right corner where an artist would typically put a signature. For a while after this my friends started referring to the piece as "Dee's painting".
Those first months coming here and seeing a painting with my name slapped on it, a name I had only used in Ireland until very recently. Of course I assumed it was to someone's childhood friend or late family, something of the sort, who just happened to have the same name as I did. But I wasn't sure about that now. Though the painting sported my name, the girl who was subject of the painting looked little like I had when I was her age.
After one of our routine trips to the museum my friend Alex had handed me a slip of paper he found in his pocket after a visit to "my painting" The paper contained nothing but a date. The day before yesterdays date to be exact, it contained no instruction so I told Alex that someone probably wanted to meet him at the museum that day and were just too shy to ask. Alex, though, had a different theory. He was a playwright so obviously it came easy to him to fabricate things and turn them into something more dramatic.
But this time he kept it simple and believable. Alex told me that for that few weeks we were being followed in the museum, wherever we went a young man followed us. Alex told me he suspected it was me who the note was meant for but since Alex generally followed up the rear of our group and was so unaware and easy to pickpocket, it had been a problem in the past, while I usually traveled in the middle or front of the group the young man following us probably slipped it to him instead of me hoping it would reach it's target. I had to admit that it was a half decent plan but that he had no evidence and when I told him so he reminded me that my theory had none either.
On the day of the notes direction we went to the museum when it first opened, just Alex and I. We had no time to tell us when to be there so we loitered around the big building until it closed. No one approached either of us. We stood apart and then together, entering the museum alone as well, just to see if someone would approach, but no one ever did.
The next morning we heard on the news that the museum was robbed of exactly one painting.
Because Alex and I had been waiting around the museum all day long, and going in and out more than the usual person would we were questioned. We gave the police the note and told them what was going on, that we had just thought it was a silly game and we were just playing along with it. The policemen took the note to try and get fingerprints and then took ours so he could rule ours out on the note.
It wasn't but a few days later that the painting arrived at my back door. No knock, no doorbell, just the painting. I immediately called the police to tell them what happened and of course they took it to get prints and what have you, but as they left a small picture fell out of the little space between the canvas cover and its frame.
A smaller than wallet cut picture of me, and a friend that I had long thought to be gone. Not dead, but traveling the world forgetting about me and seeing all that there was to see. On the back of the curiously small picture was a line of scribble. It read "dear sweet Deirdre" so of course the police sat the painting down when I told them and started looking at all the spaces where one could tuck a note or picture.
They found only a scribble of pencil on the exposed wood used for the frame that read "It was a mistake to give my only truly valuable piece of art to a museum when it was meant for you my dear sweet sweet Deirdre."
After the whole ordeal with it, the museum let me take the painting. It had always looked similar and now that I had it with me I wanted to know why. The painting depicted a very small body, a young girl with hair that in the painting seemed to be as dark as black could be, she was laying in a dugout created by a leaning tree, protected by it's roots. The girl in the painting wore a little green dress that looked more like a shirt that had been too big for her. I recognized the place in the painting, it was the first time I had ever realized how beautiful the lighting of a place can feel, but I did not recognize the girl.
I felt so guilty because she had to mean something. My brother was the first person I called to tell about the situation, I described the painting and sent him a picture of it. He didn't know either. I called my sister next, the same thing happened there.
Finally I called my mother and explained what all had happened and the painting. I sent her a picture too that she showed my father.
they asked if I had stayed in contact with Cormac, the friend I had thought gone, when I told them no I could hear through the phone their sigh of relief.
They told me that the hears of no.contact with Cormac were not because he was traveling but rather because he was in an institute for the extremely mentally ill. My parents told me that Cormac had a break down in his mind and had one way or another gained an obsession with me.
Then they told me that the little girl in the painting was Cormac's daughter, a daughter he had named after me, a daughter who had gone missing when her not-so-red hair had changed over time to a deep satiny black color. Cormac's wife, the mother of the young girl, had gone missing with her.
I hoped it helped them to catch him. Until then, I hoped to find little Deirdre. I booked my flight with Alex to Ireland and told him everything on the way to the airport.
When we reached Ireland we stepped out of the airport and were greeted by my sister who gladly drove us as far as my directions to the spot in the painting took us, it was not far past our house.
I got out of the car in a fury while Roisin was stile putting her vehicle in park. Alex was right at my side in seconds. We ran Until we reached the tree that held little Deirdre in the painting. as we stood behind it we noticed an easle laying down near the tree, probably blown over by the wind. We called the police.
As we waited for them to arrive I couldn't bear to leave her alone any longer if she was there like the smell of death and rot suggested. I couldn't leave her there when she was killed because she was not like me.
I rounded the corner of the tree to see her and her mother, barely even carcasses by this time. It was a wonder that animals hadn't stolen them away. Her mother clutched her to her chest the best a mere skeleton could and the girls dress was dirty and ragged now, not like it had been in the painting.
When the police got there and questioned us I gave them the contact of the policemen in the states. They took their bony bodies from their resting place within the tree roots and I wondered how they died. If it was from the elements of nature or from the elements of an unstable man.
Later when we had returned home I looked to the painting. It bothered me that the girl was not happy in the painting that she would live on in so I tucked it away under sheets and blankets that I no longer used and pulled out the largest canvas I could find.
I pushed and pulled my brush against the taught skin of the canvas. I painted a little black hair girl running in a field of bluebells and butterworts, I'm not sure why but I felt as though she would like them. I had no clue what her mother looked like but I didn't want this little girl who perished in my image to be left alone so I painted pretty feet running after the little girl in the field of soft flowers. In the corner of the painting in the same spot that Cormac had written his title I wrote mine.
"lovely little Deirdre"
I called my mother to see if she knew the name of little Deirdre's mother. She told me that it was Saoirse and that she was such a lovely young lady. My mother told me that had we known each other she was certain we would have been close.
I felt a little guilty only putting Deirdre's name on the piece so just under hers I wrote "lovely Ms. Saoirse"