The Red Period (Story by Risa Peris)

It was Picasso’s Blue Period. The stretch of time between 1900 and 1904. All his paintings were blue or blue-green. Occasionally they were warmed by other colors. Was he sad or were his subjects sad?

My name is Elise and I live in Nice. I moved from Paris in 2014. I wanted more sun, warmth, and an escape from high living costs though Nice is hardly cheap. I refused to go to a village. I still needed the vibe of a large city. I needed people and buses and watches to keep everything ticking. It’s strange but in modern life, you can always see your reflection. It was like that in Paris. It is like that in Nice. I don’t care for my reflection. Too frumpy, My hair lays flat and straight. My eyes seem unlit and boring brown. But I had art. I had a studio in Nice. Quite large for a studio. Half the apartment was an art studio. I painted abstracts. Many colors. Not just blues. I couldn’t imagine being obsessed with one color although I did use a lot of gold.

My day job was as a receptionist at a real estate company. I only went to college for two years. I never considered art school. I wasn’t talented enough. That’s what I thought. I read romance books at night in between slashes of paint and wine. I usually bought Beaujolais. New, unaged wine. It was cheaper and I like the fresh bite of it. I was very much alone. My mother loved in Normandy. Men weren’t drawn to me.

Henri hung the Picasso in his cubicle and I thought it was a sign. Perhaps Henri was meant for me because I was reading a book about Picasso’s blue period and was considering my own red period.

“I like your painting,” I said to him.

“My poster? Oh, thanks. My wife gave it to me.” He was tall and brown haired. Not quite handsome. Not quite charismatic. He was merely a man. But I decided I would find something special in him. Isn’t that love? Finding something special in an ordinary other? Wanting their poison? Their saliva and other bodily fluids? That was love.
We had an affair for two years and it was painful for me. He went back to his wife every night. One night we got into a fight, he finished all the wine and then left my apartment key on the desk. And so I started painting in blues. Like Picasso. Blues dripped onto the floor covering and across the canvas. I understood. An artist paints their inner world and imposes it on the external world. Picasso must have been so sad. I was sad. No one cared. I had stopped talking to my mother. I had no friends. I had only him. And now he was gone. I dressed in blue and walked into the cold sea. It was hard to drown. I kept gasping for breath. I went into a liquor store drenched in Mediterranean water and bought vodka. I downed it as quick as I could and walked into the sea again and that’s when the Coast Guard went by and dredged me from the soup death. I wrapped my arms around a man with a light in his eyes and he looked at me so tenderly. I laughed. Drunkenly. Now would begin my red period. I thought of menstruation. I thought of fecundity. Maybe I will marry this man. He wouldn’t release his grasp on me.

“I will visit you,” he said.

My heart ached. Life marches on. Love ends and love is reborn.

THE END

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