I woke up in a hotel room, although it’s more like an apartment. It was a bright daylight, and the sunshine was more accentuated by the room’s bright white walls. Pasted on two sides of the wall are rows and rows of unfinished paintings. A wide gigantic one with bright colors occupied one corner. Several others were on each side of it. Different styles, different colors… but all unfinished.
Then I saw him, a man whom I love. He whose eyes I can read and who can read mine. He held a palette with green oil paint on it and a medium-sized brush. He was working on a semi-impressionist that used nothing but green. Not bright green. It was a gloomy and subtle shade of green. Some of the paint was splattered on the wall, tainting its otherwise perfect hue.
I approached him. I hugged him from behind and smelled his neck.
“Where do all these paintings come from?” I asked sleepily.
“Oh, they’re from Ivy. You remember Ivy, right?”
I tried to construct Ivy’s face in my mental sight. Yes, yes, I did know Ivy. A cheerful bubbly plump Caucasian lady in her late 40s. She had short red hair and wore glasses. She always smiled, and she loved paintings.
“Yes, I remember her.”
And that’s all. We talked no more about Ivy. We continued to hug. I rubbed his back, trying to feel and memorize his shape and texture. Then I held his hand, before eventually letting it go. And when he finally continued with the painting, I remembered I had to tell him a very important piece of information.
“Hey…” called I — as usual, unable to say his name, “I have to tell you something.”
He seemed to sense the importance and urgency in my voice. He put down his brush and palette, then sat next to me. He looked at me in the eyes.
“What is it?”
And all of a sudden I lost all my courage. My lips were tight. I looked back at him, secretly hoping he could read my eyes this time as well. But I knew there’s no way he could do it. We were not that telepathic yet.
“I… uh… I… I’m pregnant.”
He was silent. For a few seconds there, he just looked at me. Finally, he uttered a sigh, and forced himself to smile.
“I didn’t expect it to be this fast.”
“Well, I told you….”
“Yes, yes, you did. And I am happy for you, really. It’s just that….. Is that why you come?”
”I… I want to see you one more time before…..”
Suddenly he grabbed both of my hands.
“I understand,” he said, “say no more.”
Then we just looked at each other while holding each other’s hands, just like what we did sometime ago in a corner of a chain restaurant. Another uncomfortable silence, albeit a good one. He’s happy for me; I knew he didn’t lie. But I also detected a little sadness in his smile.
“This is really good news,” he eventually said. “Is your… partner, um… husband happy?”
“Yeah… Yeah… He is very happy. Maybe he’s happier than me. He already talked about putting the crib next to his side of the bed and all. I’m happy too, but I have my, you know, worries… and fears.”
“And I’ve told you not to think too much about it.”
After a while, he released my hands.
“Well, I have to finish the painting,” he said, then walked toward the wall where the green painting was. He picked up the palette and the brush and continued his work.
Suddenly something crossed my mind.
“Why did Ivy give away a bunch of paintings?”
“She got them in an auction,” he replied. “She didn’t know what to do with them, so she gave them to me. And I thought you like paintings. So I brought them here. I thought it would be a nice surprise. Too bad you woke up before I could even complete this one.”
“Ahh… Thank you. That’s so sweet of you. Yes, you know how I love paintings.”
I walked toward the rows of paintings. This time I paid more attention to them. Now I could see that he arranged them on the wall in a hurry. It was quite a sloppy job. Some of the masking tapes he used to paste the canvases to the wall stuck out.
Then my eyes stopped at the gigantic painting. What a colorful piece it was. It was a painting of a girl with dark large eyes. She wore a flowery blouse — very Mexican, with red roses and pink gerberas spread around the neckline. The original painter only managed to finish half of her face and three quarter of her black wavy hair. Around the girl were sketches of undefined figures in pencils.
Then I moved on to the painting he was working on. It was a building, maybe a house. A house so narrow, it reminded me of those in Oliver Twist. The initial painter did his sketches not with pencils, but with green paint. My soul twin was trying to finish what the painter couldn’t. Apparently he faced some difficulties. He’s not bad, but it wasn’t too good a job. I didn’t have a heart to tell him that painting wasn’t really his thing. It was my thing; he should just stick to music.
Then I looked at the rest of the paintings. Each of them. Some were done in surrealism, some realism, some dada, and some even in the style of Vietnamese painting. It was a vast array of random styles. The objects varied too. Some still lifes, a few portraits, country sceneries, and some buildings and city views. But the more I looked at them, the more I felt uneasy. There was something about these paintings that bothered me. They looked random, but somehow they seemed connected. I just couldn’t pinpoint what the connection was.
I went back to the painting he was on. I observed the brush strokes. I felt eerie. The green paint made me feel like puking, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t morning sickness.
I moved back, away from the paintings. Something felt horribly wrong.
“You… you said Ivy gave you all these?” I asked him again.
“Yes, she sure did. Why?”
He turned his head to check on me.
“What are you thinking? Is there something wrong?”
“Yes, there is. But I don’t know what. How did it happen? When did she give them to you?” (Nothing… It’s just very peculiar. Why would someone auction off a bunch of unfinished paintings? And even weirder, why would Ivy buy them?)
“Well… She came to my house yesterday. She brought the paintings in rolls and asked me if I want them.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
By that time, I was really curious about Ivy’s intention. She surely could find better use of the paintings than just giving them to him. He wasn’t a fan of paintings. Ivy was. Maybe Ivy knew I loved paintings too, but she didn’t know I was going to meet him.
“What’s wrong, Kat?” he sounded worried.
“Uh… I need some fresh air,” I gave him a lame answer.
Something was off, I was very sure. I just needed to figure it out. I panicked a little. I needed to find an excuse to bring myself away from this room for a while.
“Do you want anything? I’m going to the nearby shop to get some coffee.”
“Mmm… A Bonafont?”
“Okay, I’ll get a big bottle for you.”
I put on my jacket and hurried to the door.
“Yes I am, don’t worry,” I smiled, trying not to make him worry.
I rushed through the door, down the stairs. When I finally got outside of the building, I couldn’t hide my relief. I breathed deeply. Then I reached to my pocket to find a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. I nearly lighted up a cigarette when I realized it’s not good for the baby. In a moment of annoyance, I threw them all to a dustbin.
I walked to the shop, my head down.
Ivy… Ivy… I tried to recall what I knew about her. I was thinking and thinking when a sudden realization struck me in horror. My eyes widened. I stopped. Then, half running, I rushed back to the building.
When I finally entered the room, I was panting.
“Who is Ivy?!” I almost shouted.
He was puzzled.
“What do you mean, ‘Who is Ivy?’ You said you remember her.”
“Yes, I remember her. But I don’t know her. In fact, I’ve never met her. I don’t even know what she looks like. The only Ivy I know is my junior in college…”
“Surely you’ve met her. Otherwise, how could you say you remember her? Didn’t you meet her when you were at my house?”
“No… No… Think again. I only went to your house once. You didn’t have a guest at that time.”
“Mmm… I guess you’re right. But I must have told you about her before.”
“And why would you do that? We didn’t even talk that much. Listen. I thought I know Ivy. When you mentioned her name, I could picture her in my head. She’s a redhead in her 40s. A jovial lady whose eyes always smile behind those glasses. But now I realize… it’s not my memory. It’s yours. You know Ivy.“
“Naah… Now you’re fooling with me.”
“No, I’m not. Remember how we could have the same t-shirt? How we picked the same souvenirs? The same food from the menu? Remember how I could read your eyes? And you read my mind? Remember how we would sometimes say the same thing at the same time?” I desperately tried to explain.
“This is creepy.”
“This certainly is. But never mind about that… Now look, I have a bad feeling about these paintings. You have to tell me who Ivy is.”
Once again, he put down his palette and brush. He was patient enough not to dismiss what seemed to be my insanity. He pulled a chair and sat.
“Ivy… She’s Norma’s friend.”