Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
Dylan quickly glanced up and down the cobbled stone street before returning his gaze to the untouched glass of wine. He was certain that Anna would walk by the cafe – any moment now. He shifted his chair slightly once more. He needed to be sure she would see him sitting at their table – “Yes”, he thought “their table”. On this particular night, with a forgiving full moon in play – she would surely stop when she saw him. Absently, he traced the lip of the glass. ‘Yes … she would surely stop’, he floated out to himself.
The memory of her image flooded his mind – her impossible beauty always made his heart stop. With those swirling light green eyes, she hypnotized him so easily. Her simple brilliant smile, took his breath away. The rhythmic sway of her fingers as she walked – her private dance with the breeze. Incredibly, a dance she invited him to join. He could still see the silky fabric of her skirt flirt with her knees as she reached for his hand. He smiled at the thought of her casually seductive movement that teased his senses.
Yes, he felt the strong undercurrent of her movement … just below the surface of his silent stillness. How long had it been since he last saw her – last felt her? He tried to ignore the question – he knew it had been too long. Although painful, leaving her that day seemed like the right choice – the only choice. He wondered now, as he seemed to do a lot lately, if it was the only choice. ‘So much movement lost’ he sighed to himself.
Now, here he was – back at the café – years later. He’d convinced himself he came back here – where he started – to finish writing his book. Although he thought the story was finished, somewhere deep inside he felt it was missing a chapter – an important chapter. But, he knew the real reason he came back to Arles – to see her. Had he always known he would return – for her? With a touch of hope, he slid his hand around the contour of the glass – caressing it with his fingers as he drifted in thoughts of her.
He floated back in time – to the first night he saw her – his Anna.
The full moon cast Anna’s silhouette across his table as she walked past the café, instantly drawing his eyes to her. A vaguely familiar voice behind Dylan called out “Anna, time for a drink?” She spun around, seemingly in slow motion, as Dylan lost himself in her impossible beauty. The first thing he noticed was her deep light green eyes – luminous as the moon behind her. One glance – his first – in her direction was all it took.
She flashed an effortless smile while waving at her friends sitting behind him. But her smile beamed for him, he was certain. That single smile imprinted her image somewhere deep within his heart. As time stood still just for him, he found himself recording every nuance of her. The world seemed to dissolve around him – he was vaguely aware of boisterous laughter and activity all around him, which quickly faded into the background as a soft buzzing sound – barely audible.
The moonlight, behind her, diffused into a glow through her loose flowing hair. It framed her beautiful face, pulling him helplessly into her eyes – her smile – her. Dylan was caught up in the sense of movement about her – a movement meant just for him. He noticed she fit perfectly inside her dress – the fabric seemed to dance with delight against her stride. With each step she took, he found himself pulled closer into her – and he found it more difficult to breathe.
Not realizing he had stopped talking mid-sentence, Angela’s voice seemed an intrusion “Dylan … Dylan, where are you?” Following his locked gaze, she smiled “ah yes – Anna, of course.” Her words penetrated him – yet, unable or unwilling to pull his eyes away from Anna as she drifted towards him, Dylan almost pleaded, “Angela, you know her?”
“First, finish your thought”, Angela teased. Though she could see their conversation would have to wait. Giving in with a bit of hesitation she said, “Yes … I know her”. “It’s like she walked out of the pages from my book – almost exactly as I imagine Anna to be”, Dylan floated out.
“Do you really think so?” Angela replied and waited for a moment, hoping to pull his attention back to her. It was no use, so she continued, “She’s an artist, just like me – tracing Van Gogh’s footsteps – breathing in his ambiance for inspiration”. “She’s quite good, actually” Angela said with the slightest hint of jealousy. Angela wondered why she felt this sudden dislike for Anna. She reflected for a moment, “Dylan never looked at me this way, almost as if he were in a trance.” But then, she never really thought of him in that way before. He was simply her close friend since … well, since they were in college together. Yet, she realized it stung to see his reaction to Anna.
Anna maneuvered towards their table on her way to her friends and was about to veer to the side of Angela’s seat when she abruptly stopped … her eyes moving from the top of the table directly to Dylan. He instantly crimsoned at the thought that she was about to admonish him for impolitely staring at her – and indeed he was. Instead, looking at the open book he had on the table she smiled brightly “you’re reading Tolstoy? I love Tolstoy.” Then, recognizing Angela she said “Hi Angela. How’s the painting going?”
Dylan froze with what must have been the broadest smile of his life, while Angela answered “Hi Anna … you know … it’s coming along.” There was a moment of awkward silence. Angela’s kick to his shin momentarily brought Dylan out of his daze. He rose a bit unsteady and introduced himself. “Hi … um … Anna is it? I’m Dylan” he beamed. “Hi Dylan – how do you like Anna Karenina?” Anna asked. “Love it – about half way through so far” He replied. “Well, I won’t spoil the ending for you – but, it is quite good” she laughed. Dylan crimsoned even deeper – if that was possible. “Oh, no – I’ve read it before – a few times. I’m reading through it again for research on a book I’m writing”, he stammered out.
She gave him a bright smile, which sent him over the edge, and slightly acknowledging Angela asked “Do you mind if my friends and I join you?” Then, without waiting for the reply, she waved her two friends over and pulled a seat next to Dylan – very close.
As Anna slid in close to Dylan, she innocently brushed her hand over his arm. “Tell me, what scene in the book are you reading – isn’t Anna’s character delicious?” The electricity from her touch shot through Dylan. He felt momentarily paralyzed – completely lost in her eyes. Anna smiled patiently, waiting for him to recover. She recognized the effect she was having – it pleased her more than normal.
Her friends, Monique and Sara, negotiated around a couple of tables before reaching Anna sitting with Dylan and Angela. Their table was short one chair and the girls stalled for a moment as if contemplating a puzzle. Sara seemed to solve it first, spotting an empty chair from an adjacent table and with barely a word pulled it over. Angela moved slightly to make room for the new chair. Meanwhile, Monique quietly sat in the open one on the other side of Angela.
For a moment, Angela, Monique, and Sara sat in uncomfortably close silence. Then Anna said without taking her eyes off Dylan, “Angela, these are my dear friends Monique and Sara – they are artist spirits like us.” Sara and Monique smiled at Angela – not quite sure what to say in the given situation – what had Anna invited them into? Finally, Sara decided to continue the conversation she and Monique were having prior to coming over and assumed Angela, a fellow artist, would naturally join in.
But something odd was working its way through Angela’s mind. She only heard the surface of their words floating her way. She smiled politely at their animated conversation and occasionally nodded. She found herself willing Dylan to look at her – not just look at her – but look into her the way he was looking into Anna. It surprised her to feel so consumed with this need – “yes, a need” she sighed.
She found herself searching through her memory – scenes of their times together flashed by. Was there ever a moment when he looked at her like that – did she not notice, perhaps? She sighed again – leaned back slightly in her chair and smiled at how simple, how comfortable their relationship was. Why was her mind suddenly making it complicated? She simply convinced him to accompany her here while she immersed herself in Van Gogh’s world this summer. He was her best friend after all –of course he agreed to be here with her – nothing more to it than that, right?
The punctuated word “Van Gogh” snapped her back into the flow of conversation floating around her. As her mind began to return from below the surface, Angela suddenly realized Dylan was looking intently at her, which meant she had been staring at him – “god, for how long?” she wondered. He gave her a confused inquisitive smile.