He throws his frustration at the canvas, and with every stroke he makes a stab at forgetting; forgetting what she looked like; forgetting why he failed her.
There was such a time when he took pride in the decision he made; when he took up the shield of virtue against the endless inquisitions; friends, strangers, mother. “I still can’t figure out what you see in this plain girl.” Mother had struggled for mild words to convey her disapproval. But he went through it all the same. He proved himself taller than them, taller than them all.
Now he aims for large eyes as he paints, and carefully draws them out, lower lids smoothly blended with high cheekbones, the eyebrows, two full curves, cut the picture of inverted crescents. He achieves just the desired effect. The eyes are subtle, innocent, flirtatious. He continues to paint. Draining ink. Blurring memory.
The cracks began to emerge a few months into their marriage. His halo disintegrated, a listless angel, unable to carry his wings, unable to soar above the mortal desires that mocked his decision to marry her. She could sense it, he could tell. Homeliness does that to you. His furtive glances gave him away before the stunted compliments vanished altogether, before sex became a chore, before he forgot to delete the nude pictures of the other woman from his phone. She was three months pregnant when she left. Vanished. Leaving nothing behind but her wedding dress and this spectre of guilt that relentlessly taunts him. He hated her. He hated himself.
The painting unravels. He expends his vanity one masterful stroke after the other; the nose gets the right tilt, full lips, black hair falling in languid twirls on broad shoulders, foreshadowing a great figure. He steps back and takes it all in. She is everything she was not. He succeeds at perfection, but fails at forgetting, for all he can still see, is her.
For more short stories, download The Solitude Issue