I live in paintings hung on walls. People don’t know I am here though they can see me through pastels and paints and pencils. They look at me in awe, sometimes in confusion and at times in wonder. They call me Mona Lisa or Hendrickje Stoffels or L’Européenne, depending on which wall I hang on a particular day. I live in paintings drawn on canvass and not one person knows I am here - that is until you.
Was it the slight move of my eyes or the little sigh that gave me away? You saw. And then you looked intently at me while the others roamed past to the next picture, oblivious to the conversation we were having without words. I thought you’d run away but you didn’t. You stayed until everyone had gone, still trying to decide what to make of me.
"Hey, Sabine woman. How are you doing?" you asked with a frown as you read the description below the wooden frame. "The Rape of the Sabine Women," it said.
I smiled despite the man groping me in the painting. You took a step back. It was obvious you were as perturbed as I was. Still, you didn’t run away.
You smiled back and you stayed until the guards told you it was time to leave. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” you promised. “Tres bien,” the guard answered thinking it was him you were talking to.
I sadly watched you walk away. Tomorrow will be another me, another painting in another wall. Among the hundreds of artworks that line the Louvre, I knew you’d never find me again.
But you did. Each day you came back. And every time you knew exactly who I was, where I was, as if your heart led you to find me.
"I am going home today," you told me one morning. I longed to drop the gun and the French flag I was holding so I could hold your face and feel the stubble that lined your jaw. But of course I couldn’t. "Do you know what day it is today? It’s July 28. And you are Liberty Leading the People."
You laughed at your observation before you tried to touch me and before you realized you are not allowed to do so. You heaved a sigh. People thought you were just a lonely tourist who like them were not ready to leave Paris yet. I knew better. We both knew better.
You looked at me with the same intensity the first time you found me as a Sabine woman and said, “Goodbye, my Liberty.”
All I could do was watch you walk away. Just like the time when you promised you’d be back. Only this time, you were not coming back.
I live in paintings hung on walls. And not one person knows I am here. Not one of them but you.
And they’ll never know that you know. It’s a secret we’ll share only with each other.
(Also in hitRECord)