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"Und wenn ich dich lieb habe, was geht's dich an?"

 

You're looking at Van Gogh's Irises, in particular at the ivory one on the left, and you're thinking that's her. She's extraordinary too.

And she's beautiful, of course, like the flower, but it isn't about her physical beauty. You know this for a fact, because you can still remember the moment when you first saw that she was beautiful. She'd come to watch your set once at a comedy club, more than a year after you met.

Another comic noticed her walking into the green room that night. His eyebrows shot up, and he let out a low, slow whistle. And incredibly, it wasn't until that very moment that you actually realized she was visually stunning. You know no one who ever looked at her would believe you, just as surely as you know it's true.

No, what you're seeing right now is that rare thing that's there both in her and Van Gogh's painting. A kind of authenticity. It kills you, because you haven't been able to find that in yourself. (But you're secretly hoping maybe she can teach you.)

And since you're focused on all that and not on the painting, you blurt out something totally lame. Something about how amazing it is to see it up close in this museum.

Like an idiot.

Fortunately she's not listening at the moment. She's spinning out a fantasy about all the impressionist and post impressionist painters standing here in this gallery at one time, and the stuff they might say to each other. The praise and the jabs. Her imagination is almost always going full tilt. It's just another one of the reasons you love her.

Right now she's saying, "And what if Van Gogh kept calling Manet Monet by mistake, and Manet got all mad and said, 'I told you three times already it's MAH-nay, MAH-nay. MOH-nay's the other guy. Christ, Van Gogh, what are you—deaf in one ear?'"

You laugh. Not a suck up laugh. A genuine laugh. She's funny on top of everything else.

You mention about Van Gogh painting himself with a bandage after the famous ear-cutting incident, and she points out how no one talks about the woman in that story. And that's her too.

The unwilling object of obsession.

You know you're on dangerous ground and still you want to take her home right this second and make passionate love to her. You shove that image out of your mind (again) and say something about taking the painting home instead.

Like an idiot.

She says, "I don't think it's right to own them."

And neither one of you is talking about old paintings, and you haven't been since the start, and she's aware of it too.

You mumble something about appreciating her—whoa, no, it, the painting, the painting—more than others could. Maybe more than anyone else could.

Then she says, "You're in love with me."

Your heart doesn't exactly skip a beat, but it does do some kind of funky, no-rhythm dance, like your drunken uncle at a wedding.

She knows.

You try to deny it, but she just says, "John told me everything."

The asshole apparently read your diary when you lent him your laptop computer the other week. Your great old friend John. You haven't actually punched anyone since the third grade, but you're thinking it might be time to end the dry spell.

You try to cover saying, "Those are just random thoughts in there. You know, what's on my mind at the time. It doesn't mean anything."

She's not buying it. She says, "I thought we were friends." She's got a look on her face like you just shot her dog.

There's no going back. She knows what you've been hiding, how you've been faking nonchalance for over a year. A year of pretending not to be desperately in love with her. How absolutely pathetic you must look to her now. How typically inauthentic of you.

You decide to make the most of everything being out in the open.

"Why can't you just let me love you?" you say. You cringe at your own words. It sounds like a fucking romance novel.

And besides, you know why she can't. Because for her it reliably ends in disaster. The guy involved always loses it at some point. Hell, it happened with you. You turned into a slavering glop of lovesick protoplasm that no one in her right mind could have wanted to be with. And so you began the charade. Hid your heart as best you were able, so you could at least still be near her.

And now that's done too.

She says she has to go. Then without vanity or pretense of any kind she says, "You'll get over me."

And you don't think you ever will, but why hang that on her? She's had plenty enough of that shit in her life already. That was the whole problem to begin with.

You ask if you can hug her goodbye.

She says, "Sure." But nods first at the Van Gogh and tugs her earlobe and says, "Just don't send me anything later, okay?"

There's a horror show playing in your gut right now, but you have to smile as you hold her. That was a great line. She's still funny, damnit.

You stand there and watch her leave. For the very last time. And it seems somehow unfair that you can still smell her hair like this after she's gone.

You wish you didn't know it, because it makes it all that much harder, but you're fully aware that this cold, empty space inside you is going to ache for a very long time. Maybe forever.

And then you look back at Irises, at the heartbreaking beauty there. You focus again on the solitary white flower. You recall how Van Gogh once revealed that lone bloom was meant to represent himself. And also, you suppose, those other rare and radiant beings like him.

And like her.

And you suddenly grasp it all little bit more. What he was trying to say. About the terrible isolation that being extraordinary must sometime bring along with it. You can see his pain and loneliness more clearly now than you could before.

And hers too.

You turn away and leave the hall quickly then, while you're able to hold back the tears.

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