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  • “Let’s call it a day,” he says. We have mounted most of the paintings and he has finished a bottle of wine; it’s getting dark outside. “We’ll finish tomorrow,” he says. He lights a cigarette and pulls the pocket flask out of his worn leather bag, takes a sip and hands it to me. We sit down, leaning our backs toward the wall, drinking in silence.

    He sits with his arms resting on his knees and a distant gaze while the embers eat their way toward his fingers, he doesn’t notice. He’s looking up at one of the portraits of her. When the ash falls and sprinkles toward the floor, he inhales the last of the tobacco in a long, greedy puff. I look at his swollen, bloodshot eyes, and there’s something about the sight of him that makes me want to pull him close, hold his head close to my chest, cradle him.

    “Do I remind you of her at all?” I ask. He looks at me, quickly. “Not much,” he says. “There has to be something,” I insist; “there must be some sort of resemblance.” He shrugs, says nothing. I sigh, quietly. We both stare at the paintings for a while; he keeps drinking. Finally, he draws his breath. “I’m sure there are similarities between the two of you,” he says, aggressively; “but I’d rather not see them, if you know what I mean, I choose to overlook them.” I’m about to ask why, but he continues: “She was a very unhappy person.”

    No, she wasn’t. She wasn’t! I scream at him inside my head, I want to tell him that’s just an illusion he’s clinging to because he can’t face the truth; because the truth is that she was unhappy with him.

    “On second thought, you’re just like her,” he says, he makes it sound like a conviction. “You keep leaving, just like she did, always on the move, you’re as restless as a freaking mouse.” He looks directly at me now, but he has trouble fixing his gaze on me. “Yeah, just like her… and you’ll probably end up like her, too, unhappy; a devastated, crushed, lonely woman.” He nods, as if to really underline his assertion. I clench my teeth and look away. Stop it; please stop. Please stop drinking and talking, stop now, don’t sentence me to her fortyseven years of burning at the stake; does he really think she would have even made it that far if she had buried her songs in a drawer, like I do? At least I do some living, too, I may be running away from him but I’m not running away from myself, I’m not. I’m not.

    Yes, I recognize the picture: I’ve inherited more than her auburn hair, she also left me her taste for auburn drinks, and the deep, succulent, fleshy melancholy that goes through marrow and bone, I got plenty of that, it’s like a thick fuel pounding through my veins, but that’s the end of the similarities; I am not like her, I am not self-destructive. I don’t seek the flame, like she did; I don’t crave the constant attention, the approval, the applause, I don’t. I don’t. “Even though she did burn out, at least she was on fire for a while,” I whisper.

    “God, I miss that woman,” he says, and his voice cracks, like a dry sprig. His head tilts to the side, his body follows, he crashes into my shoulder and I want to get up and leave, but I don’t. I reluctantly place my hand on his cheek, and he grabs hold of me and cries. And I start humming a lullaby, I don’t know why.
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