The Artist's Door

I once had the pleasure of knowing an incredibly talented artist. At first sight he was an unassuming, quaint elderly gentleman; nothing to raise any suspicions. I had noticed him walking around the village, keeping to himself, reciprocating exchanged pleasantries & waving, but lacking the signature smile of such an interaction often seen in the village. Something about his character was enough to take note of, I had no particular idea what about him stuck out to me.

Maybe it was his quiet manner of going about his mysterious business, or the even more mysterious art case he was always carrying with him, something was out of place about the man for the village. The village's population was mostly friendly, well-intentioned pleasant people. You had the usual outliers, found in every area - curtain-twitching busy-bodies or bored youth cursed to be eternally bored, trapped in a small quiet town, surrounded by authority during their most rebellious years, causing trouble to hopefully stir up some excitement. That was how I had become involved with the man actually.

I must confess I had taken to essentially spying on him. I would just happen to find myself at the small cafe opposite the turn-off for Elm Road at around about midday, where the man would pass by every day, like clockwork, carrying his art case, donning his worn flat cap & old brown coat. Eyes down, he would emerge from around the corner of Elm Road, meandering his way to the opposite side of the main road. Heading towards Liverpool Road, he would snake his way up the path, navigating the maze of pedestrians with unusual vigour for a man of his presumed age. From there, he would turn down the old Queen's Road, where I suppose he must live, since that road is a dead end. On this route, he was stopped by some of the aforementioned youths. It must've been his slow shuffle, his slightly struggling gait, that had attracted their attention because they had decided to try to steal his case for some reason, although I suspect it was simply just because he looked to be an easy target & it was an opportunity for chaotic fun.

They ran at him from behind after following him up the road. One of them attempted to prise the case from his hands, although this proved unsuccessful as all it did was yank him forward, though not off his feet. He held on tight to the case, to a surprising degree. After more struggling & gasping from cafe customers & pedestrians alike, the youths ran off, only managing to pull the case from his hands but leaving it behind in the ensuing chaos of good samaritans coming to the man's aid. I seized the opportunity handed to me; a chance to sate some odd curiosity I had developed for the man & his unusual business.

I left the cafe door swinging to a loud slam as I rushed out to help gather the man's art together - in the struggle, it had been torn open & some small slips of paper had slid out, scattering along the floor. While other people were making sure the man was okay or attempting to find the culprits' parents (in such a small town such an incident was likely to pass without suspects), I was collecting his art. It was dazzling.

It depicted whirling vistas, non-euclidean architecture, hazy purple skies & lush forests of giant trees. Oceans stormed & rain pelted the plains, ripples spread out, touching the sandy shores of islands marked by impossible infrastructure. Concave angles protruding from stairs that seemed to go neither up nor down, Walls that never seemed to find an appointed corner, forever extending into uncharted territories of reality. They were mesmerising, utterly bizarre yet totally captivating. I had to fight my way out of a trance to hand the pictures back to him.

His hands were old, weathered, stained by paint. I noticed the deep magenta of the skies in some of the pieces around his calloused fingertips. He was thankful for the help, but nonetheless brief & somewhat cold, the entire interaction was brisk, as though his clockwork routine was held up, risking potentially catastrophic consequences. He hurried off to his destination, leaving me paralysed, still reeling from the artwork I had seen. I tried to go back to my day's scheduled monotony but found my mind back in those swirling skies & mind-bending buildings, exploring the landscape in my mind's eye. My dreams were similarly haunted by the art, it crept into everything in my life. I had made up my mind; I was going to visit the man as soon as I could.