Send us Email Free Williamsburg - Click to Return Home


Based on the Painting of Ophelia by John Everette Millais


"Why do you have a dead girl on your wall?" He asks.

"It's Shakespeare's Ophelia. Millais. It's a painting of her suicide." I say softly.

"I've never seen it before," he says.

"I know, I just bought it." I answer. He stares at the painting, and I watch him look. His face is. . .

"She's beautiful," he says.

"And innocent," I reply.

"Yes." He turns away, uncomfortable. Our eyes meet.

"You're leaving me," I say.

"What?" He looks shocked, and relieved.

"I know," I say as if talking to a child. "I know about her, you don't need to explain."

He doesn't know what to say, because I have taken his answer from him. He walks to the door saying he has to leave. I don't follow him. He stops suddenly and turns to me.

"I don't know who your are anymore. You've changed. You're so filled with your stories you don't see me anymore."

"I'm a writer," I say softly.

"I know, and a good one, but I can't compete with your stories anymore.
They've become you, or you've become them, or whatever. It's like you're
obsessed with them. It's frightening."

"I didn't know," I say even softer, maybe mouthing the words.

"Sometimes you look at me as if I'm not even here, but other times. . . you see too much. You have a gift, one that I don't understand can't live with. I have to leave."

He is quiet. An image of a beautiful woman sipping champagne among strangers comes into my mind. I see her beautiful lips, feel the wine caress them. The taste is divine. Her eyes wander to the staircase, they are blue and worried. He will come back, I think bitterly, you won't be alone. He knows that I have seen her and his face hardens. He says, I have no right to pry, she is his business, and his alone. I'm sorry, I tell him.

"I have to leave," he says again, then is gone.

-----

Later that night. I am strewn across my bed, intoxicated by my despair. Three bottles of left over champagne lie near my feet. I am too tired to stand, so I lay with my head hanging off the bed. I try calling him to me, but he is silent. I begin a story in my mind. . . he drowns a horrible death in champagne, and I and the other woman stand back and laugh.

I begin another story. . . He is making love to the woman and suddenly he tastes champagne on her lips. When he opens his eyes, it is me he sees, not her. I begin another story. . . my mind wanders. Why was I celebrating earlier today?


Why did I invite friends over for drinks? Why was he here? My book. I received
another award. I begin another story. . . He hands me the award and I throw
it back in his face. The book was about him, us. Later, I go home and burn the book page by page. I can hear his tortured screams in the distance somewhere as the flames rise. I am a Voo Doo Queen playing with fire. My mind goes blank. What was I thinking of? My head is pounding and I shake it from side to side trying to clear it.

Suddenly an image appears in my mind. They are in a room drinking champagne, he is stretched out on her couch, comfortable, familiar. She is wearing nothing but a pale green, silk robe. She is smiling, happy, because he came back to her. He proposes a toast. To what? She asks. To us, he answers.

Just as their glasses clink together, I will her to throw her champagne in his face. She does. He jumps up, confused, sputtering; she looks scared. It's not my fault, she says. He walks away upset, to change his clothes. She is alone. I smile through the pain in my head and the image disappears, sometimes the curse is a blessing. The satisfaction from their anger at each other is short- lived though. They will make up, and all will be well again.

I sigh and close my eyes. I begin another story. . . I am a beautiful maiden pining away for him. He rejects me and I throw myself into a beautiful river of champagne and flowers. . . NO! I open my eyes and straight ahead of me is the picture of Ophelia reflected in the mirror. Her watery grave transparent, yet dense. Her dress shimmering in the water, tiny seed pearls illuminating the mossy stream. He hair like webs around her face, a halo of golden-brown. Flowers float on top of the water. I blink my eyes, and focus on Ophelia's features; hazel eyes, pale moon-spun skin, tiny nose. A mouth, partly open, as if waiting to speak. Arms bent and floating beside her, palms up as if in prayer.

The more I stare at the painting, the more three dimensional it becomes. I see around me the cattails and tree roots, the lily pads and the sea weed. I feel the warm water enclosing my exhausted body, and I welcome its comfort. An image floats through my mind of them lying in a bath together, no longer angry. I push the image away. Instead I gaze deeper into the murky atmosphere of the painting, locking eyes with the sightless ones of Ophelia. We understand each other. My body begins to feel heavy, as sodden skirts cling to me. I can no longer lift my hands, so they float peacefully next to me as the smell of green surrounds me. A small breeze stirs the water, and I rock gently, feeling weightless. Through a pale mist I see my body lying on the bed, eyes half closed. It is no longer me. She moves her head slightly, and sighs, her eyes blink. Her arms brush back and forth along the bedspread feeling is texture and warmth. Her hands reach up and touch her face, smoothing it, memorizing it.

She sits up and looks around the room, silently, uncertainly. She tries to stand and walk, but she sways. One step, another, another, slowly, hesitantly, as if she hadn't walked in very long time. She sees the mirror and goes toward it, hands poised in front ready to touch the glass. She catches the painting's reflection and turns suddenly to face me; we lock eyes. She understands now. She walks toward me slowly; I see fear in her once sightless, peaceful eyes. She stops.
The mist surrounding me begins to thicken and I almost lose sight of her,
but I fight the urge to give in and we meet eyes again. Hers are pleading, afraid; mine calm, accepting. I try to reach out to her with my mind, but I am too tired. I want to forget. I begin another story. . . of who?

Forgetting. Ophelia turns away from me and wanders around my room touching
things, my nightgown, the champagne bottles, the TV. Forgetting. The award
winning book lies open on my dresser and she picks it up. Forgetting. An
image of him and the other woman holding each other in bed flits across my
mind, and Ophelia looks up, seeing it too. Forgetting. I begin another story . . . Forgotten.


back   home
Free Williamsburg | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | May 2000 | Volume 5