I was sitting, staring, at this painting in my living room. It’s leaned against east side of the room, to the left of a large sliding glass door with light brown curtains that are all around my childhood house. They are usually unkempt, dusty, and look like an opaque portal into the seventies. The painting is about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, is pretty minimal, and is in very solid shades of blue, white, and forest green, with hard black outlines. It was the side view of a very important looking woman who looked something like an Egyptian queen, goddess, or something, sitting, facing to the left. Her shapes and colors looked very geometrical and almost crude. The solid blue shades hugged her face and body, giving them the look of war paint, but looked more like something being silhouetted by the blue morning sun that was making a shadow on her face and body, creating strange shapes. It contrasted well with her ghostly, surreal face. Her eyes were wide open and her hair streamed down in a straight bundle. She was wearing some article of clothing that gave the impression that she was wearing something with a lot of cloth, but it looked very inexplicable and surreal with the “shadow”.
My Uncle, Andre Vaerini, painted this for my dad about 2 years ago - in the winter of two thousand and three. He was a very experienced painter who liked cubism, albeit he not very famous at all. He left a note with it that said something along the lines of, “Sorry I couldn’t catch you. I painted this for you. I want you to know that I am sober.”
My Dad was at work; I came home from school and found it leaning on the weathered bench outside of my front door. I took it inside quickly. I never saw any reaction from my dad. Andre lived in Los Angeles about an hour away in a humid, bustling city.
My uncle struggled a great portion of his life with drugs, alcohol and women. He was an alcoholic, divorced two times, broken hearted, lonely, and had hepatitis in the last moments of his life.
I noticed my dad standing still behind me in the corner of my eye. His smell wafted over to me.
“Do you miss him?” he said
“Yeah. Yeah I do. Our whole family exiled him for being who he was. He was married and divorced and married and divorced to so many things, he must have felt so alone and hopeless. I was too young to do anything but notice and learn, before he died. I think he was a beautiful person, Dad. A beautiful person who got crushed under social obligation and addiction.”
He was still, silent.
“Is it strange or scary that he reminds me of me so much? How neurotic, yet silly he was. You could tell there was something under him. He carried himself so sloppily, like there was something else he cared about much more. He was lazy – God was he lazy. Me turning up like he did is definitely possible and honestly I would rather come out like him than like those successful bastards that exiled him from our family.”
I stood up and turned around – looked directly at him. There was a light tear in his eye. He had never shown any real emotion for Andre being dead. Both of his brothers are dead and he is all alone, now. I bet he feels a little bit like him and misses him as much as I do. He came over to me, took my head in his hand and hugged me close and intimate.
“I love you, Jon Paul. Let me make you dinner.”
Tears in my eyes, I smiled and agreed. I had never seen my dad show emotion like that. He had always been the silent, brooding one. In the past, I have been sincerely afraid of him exploding some day. That night, we ate and talked about small things that mean so much to an American father, as his son politely listens, interested, interjecting every now and then. There was emotion and it was palpable in the air, in the food bursting with flavor, chemicals in our head, and it tasted– it tasted good.