Brushstrokes of Identity: A Portrait Beyond the Scar

Submitted into Contest #225 in response to: Write a story about someone trying to paint (or otherwise create) a self-portrait.... view prompt

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Fiction Inspirational Fantasy

A shattered mirror. It was through it the last time he saw his image. In his parents’ house. While they were still alive.

He lost their parents when he was 5. His father had a discussion with his mother, and stabbed her, and after this, he killed himself. But this was long time ago. Different than what everyone expected, he considered himself happy, or as happy as any person, with the ups and downs, of course. When he was young, he used to wake up during the dawn pondering about how it would be his life if they were alive, or if he had parents at all.

As time passed, he adopted a positive outlook, acknowledging that his experiences shaped the person he had become. He was now a globally recognized painter. Thanks to one of the tutors in the orphanage, he learned to paint, and to be passionate about it. “A brilliant piece of a genius”, “Heartwarming and inspiring” were some of the reviews he heard from critics and from his customers. One of the most remarkable ones was from a customer that said that his portrait saved her life because enabled her to see beautiful things about herself that she was not able to see. His portraits were famous because of that, he saw the beauty in the people, and highlighted the qualities of each one. His portraits were mostly full of colors, despite few ones he made black and white.

However, he received a surprising assignment in the beginning of the week. The customer desired a portrait of the artist himself. "Why?" He kept asking. He always refused to see his image. He never looked to himself at mirrors, took photos or allowed photos of him. He had a big scar in his face. When he saw his father with the knife, he did not understand. He thought he was just playing with his mother. In the same day, he took the knife himself and made the mark. Of course, he later understood what happened but sometimes, he prefers to keep the feeling that his father accidentally killed his mother. He refused to think his father was a bad man. A murderer, that was everybody called him, and he was the child of the murderer. He avoided to think about it though. The actions from his father did not define him... but, there was the scar. The scar he provoked to himself, the scar he did to copy his father. Maybe due to that, he did want to see his father as a bad person. He did not believe in a Manichaean world, and good people do bad things. But his father killed a person. He killed his mother. He killed the life that he could have had. And he left him with a scar in his face. No. For this one, he could not blame him. He did it by himself, he thought.

Yet, he was happy, he kept saying to himself. He was a well-recognized artist, and he was privileged at this point, and lived things that most people did not. However, that request. That request made him to think about the scar more than he should. To make it worse, he did not remember the other details of his face so well.

During the week, he made some attempts to make his self-portrait. He took a black pencil, drafted his face and following to this, he framed the big scar. Then, he took a red pen and painted the scar. He then tried to draw the other aspects of his face. He did not remember. In nervous breakdown, he scribbled all his face with a red pen. No, he was more than the scar.

He had black hair. He once left it grown, so then he could see better how it was. It was dark and wavy, he observed when touched in his hair carefully.

His eyes, he never knew the color properly. Some people say that are green, some that are blue, and one once said that are brownish.

His beard. He kept his beard grown to hide most of the scar. His beard was failed, he was never able to have a full beard, but he preferred to be like that than with no beard at all. At least, it veiled the scar.

Some pieces of his body he did not know how it looked. It was always difficult to rely on other people to describe who he was. Were people being nice to him when they say he was handsome or praise his eyes or his mouth? When he heard bad things about his appearance, however, he took it to the heart.

He once fell in love a woman. Truth being said, he did not enable himself to love someone for long. Why does anyone would like to have someone with such a mark in the face? But this woman, he felt in love, and he felt accepted, he felt beautiful, he felt loved. At least, for some time. In the end, he was rejected. Since then, he avoided to fall in love too, and for some time, he felt uglier than ever. Ugly outside, but maybe inside too.

During the week, a note from the customer came by email. It said to him to see the beauty in himself and not only in others.

Therefore, here he was again, trying to see himself despite the scar. Who was he in the end of all? It was hard to rely in that single image he remembered vaguely from his childhood, from a broken mirror, and from other people's opinions.

He then stood up from the chair, opened a drawer, and from there, took a key. The key was gold like that ones from the old houses. Carrying the key, he went in direction of a wardrobe. The wardrobe was locked, but he had the key on his hands and opened it. There it was. A mirror. He then went closer and saw his scar. It was smaller than he remembered in fact. He looked at his eyes. They were blue with shades of green. His nose was slightly big, and well as his mouth. He noticed that his beard was not so polished as it should be. It is hard to take care properly without a mirror. His hair also needed to be cut better. He now noticed that he would prefer to it to be cut in another style.

He looked a bit more, and thought he was maybe handsome, and took some minutes looking to himself. He them remembered the Narciso tale. The one that he kept telling people to justify the fact he did not look to himself in the mirror. Some people alleged that sometimes it is needed to us to admire ourselves too. He just ignored those people. Now he was seeing his image through the mirror, and it felt good. He could see the scar, his eyes that were smaller than he wished, but overall, he felt good about himself. He at least knew better who he was, and with a smile in the face, he decided to keep the wardrobe open.

In the other day, he returned to his studio and was now ready to the self-portrait. He took inks from different colors and portraited him as he would do for all of his customers. He thought about the scar again still. He then smiled at himself and took again the red ink. With it, he drew a flower. A flower was a symbol, a symbol of something that it can be beautiful if taken care of. That what he would try to do from now.

November 24, 2023 19:13

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1 comment

Katie Coffman
23:11 Nov 29, 2023

What an emotional roller coaster! I absolutely love the flower symbolism. I think it really ties an otherwise sad story together into something up lifting, leaving the reader hopeful at the end for your main character. Great job!


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