The Ginger Man with colours in his hair is an odd man – I assume. A lonely man. A sad man. He paints all the time, but why? His creations lie on my floor, ignored. He leaves me bare and naked. Exposed, isolated. Like he doesn’t want to connect with me.
But he spends so much time with me.
It’s the same all through the repeated light and all through the repeated dark: he wakes, cries, paints, drinks, cries, sleeps, wakes, cries, paints, drin—
“Vincent!” a shrill voice says. The Ginger Man rolls his eyes in my small Sitting Room as she barges through my small Hallway, ever so careless that her heavy footsteps bruise me. She didn’t even ask my permission to enter! He kicks an empty bottle under the bed before she marches in and hangs her shawl on the back of the Ginger Man’s one chair.
“Vincent, darling, wonderful news – I’ve found you a roommate!” The woman looks at him, eyes full of expectation. The Ginger Man’s back slumps and he turns away. Her eyes spy the bottles under the bed and her tight-lipped mouth sighs in a rather exaggerated way. I repress a chuckle. Honestly, how did the Ginger Man not expect her to see them there?
“Huh.” The Ginger Man, Vincent, she calls him, picks up a knife and begins scouring and scratching into the painting.
“Hopefully he’ll make you stop that disgusting habit,” she says, watching the Ginger Man sceptically as he works.
“The drinkin’ or the pain’in’?” The words slur out of his mouth; it’s obvious he’s drank more than the single bottle ‘hid’ under the bed. I should know. He smashed one on me. I try not to let it hurt my feelings.
“Hm,” she looks around. “The Absinthe, of course dear. This fellow, he’s a painter, like you. A successful one!”
“Noh’ like me then, is he?”
She picks up her shawl. “Hm, yes, well, he likes sunflowers, by the way, so, um, why don’t you try brighten this place up a little? It’s such a pretty, nice little yellow house on the outside. It’s a shame to…” the woman looks around, eyebrows raised. What a back-handed compliment. She compliments my exterior and shuns my interior. Typical.
“Mmm,” Vincent replies.
“Well, I’ll be seeing you.”
The Nameless Woman turns and bruises my Hallway again before exiting.
Vincent retrieves another bottle, cracks it open on my window sill and turns back to the paintings. He stares for a while. Ponders. Pops some dry paint into his mouth, throws his current painting onto my floor (without asking me to hold it for him) and turns to his tubes of colour. He looks at the yellow – the colour of my exterior.
He swigs the ‘Absinthe’. “Sunflowers, eh?” He examines the bright colour and picks up a brush.
The light and dark cycles change: he wakes, he paints, he still drinks, but he doesn’t cry. My Ginger Man fills my rooms with paintings of pointy flowers in oval vases. ‘Sunflowers’, they’re called. Yes. Sunflowers.
He hammers something sharp into me, like how it felt when I was being born. I don’t mind, because after the pain he hangs the ‘Sunflowers’ onto me and stares ever so happily. Sometimes, the pain is worth it. Sometimes, you must suffer to see the beauty.
A tap tap tap on my door. Vincent alters one last painting.
“Hello, my friend! You must be Vincent!”
I watch as the New Man shakes Vincent’s hand in a firm grasp.
“My, what an awful number of Sunflowers! They’re my favourite, you know?”
“Oh, uh, really?” Vincent replies, readjusting the freshly potted sunflower on the window sill.
“Such a pretty house!” Oh, well, thank you! “I think we’re going to have fun, you and I.”
And so, they did.
The repeated light and the repeated dark stay the same, but less lonely. My Ginger Man and the New Man wake up, they paint together, laugh together, talk together, drink Absinthe together. Paint, laugh, drink, more and more and more. They paint Café Terraces, and the Butcher’s Shop from across the street – no more Sunflowers, thankfully. But then, as the light becomes shorter, and the dark becomes longer, the laughter becomes arguing. The talking; yelling. The painting; fighting.
“You’re just too difficult to please, Vincent!”
“Huff. There’s no need to change how I paint. I like it.”
“Well, we don’t, anymore!”
I assume by ‘we’, the New Man means his painting group. I’ve never seen them. I don’t care.
“Good for you,” says my Vincent.
“You need to move on with the times, Vincent, or you’re never going to sell paintings, you’re never going to make money. They’ll stop selling you Absinthe, you know, if you don’t catch up on your debts!” He kicks the empty bottles.
“’Alf those bottles are yours, and I like my pain’in’ the way it is.”
“What, shi—” he stops himself. My Ginger Man slumps his back and turns away, paintbrush clenched in one fist, bottle in the other.
“I can’t keep supporting you like this. You’re mad. I’m leaving.”
“Ha, Take your new style pain’in’s with yeh.”
The New Man throws open my front door – ouch – and leaves. Good riddance. Me and my Ginger Man don’t need him—
Vincent drops the paintbrush and charges out of my door, bottle still in hand.
Where’s he going? Vincent? VINCENT? Only the Sunflowers hear my calls.
Is he going to fight him? Confront him? The Absinthe makes him act weird. All… shakey and uncontrollable and and and and – not himself.
My rooms get darker. And colder. A breeze flows in through my open door. Frost gathers on my little window. Vincent’s Sunflowers shiver.
I feel a footstep, and my front door is closed. Vincent, oh my Vincent.
He collapses. Half the bottle – now smashed – is clenched in a red fist.
Vincent? His body writhes and turns, hands pound the floor, a horrific shhrriiiieeeeeeeeeeekk leaves him, uncontrollable.
“Why why why WHY did I do that? He’ll never come back now he’ll never he’ll never—” he cuts off with a shriek again that not only hurts him, but me, his friend, his pretty little Yellow House with red splodges on my floor.
He kneels and lifts the broken bottle up to where his ginger beard and ginger hair meet. He shakes, sobs.
Vincent, my Vincent, my Ginger Man, no don’t, DON’T—
He hacks at his ear, again and again and again, until it drops. Covered with the same red splodges as my floor.
He picks it up.
“I’vegottogofind‘im.” My Ginger Man pushes himself up and stumbles away. Away from me. The repeated light and dark changes again: to nothing. To waiting. Just me and the pointy yellow flowers.
The Sunflower on my window sill begins to wilt.
By Isabel Tyldesley.