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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. January's Theme: "Self"
Volume 7 Issue 2 ISSN# 1708-3265

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by Alegria Imperial

"Who is that?" Lisa asked turning away from the watercolor portrait on top of the book shelf to shoot the question at me. Her eyes hinted at suspicion.

She had long peered at it, I noticed, feeling with her fingers through the glass frame, the tropical warmth of the afternoon, which the colours exude. I had glanced at her slip into the dreaminess which the daubs of pastel greens conjure, the world a woman breathing with the flowers owned.

Unlike an ordinary portrait, she doesn't step out vividly in her organdy gown, the collar framing a calm demeanor but hinting at a smile. She shades her eyes, half-looking through dark lashes as if the light might blind her. Her fan swishes a lazy air which comes out as thick wide swaths of the paint brush on the canvas.

The woman sits leaning off centre toward the left of the frame, smothered in tendrils of fanned-out ferns, and dotted satin petals. A canopy of palms hovers just over the space where the foliage thins out into silken chartreuse. It is here where Lisa drew her out, emerging from the haze softly breathing.

"Is that you?" Lisa demanded an answer. And she pivoted back to look at the painting again, almost kissing the edge of the shelf to read the artist's inscription.

"Yes, it's me, according to the artist. Or no, because I didn't sit for him," I said in a voice so low, it could have been a murmur. I knew she wouldn't let up when she read the title of the painting.

She laughed, hysterically whooping. I felt impaled in a corner, too embarrassed for words. I almost regretted having invited her for this her first visit to our apartment—my sister's and mine. But Lisa had insisted on helping me set up the TV and computer in the armoire beside this book shelf. Raw Food and Fasting Coaching with Aleesha Stephenson

"I'm sorry, "she said. "It's almost comic to think of you as demure and Victorian. Look at your spiked hair, your sculpted brow and thickly-lined eyelids. You laugh too easily at my jokes and you often get into hysterical fits. We eat at holes-in-the-wall, hardly ever in fine places who serve on crystal. And you love those pretzels heated on a mobile stove on the sidewalks of Manhattan. How can you be this portrait?"

"I don't know. Search for the artist and ask him," I said.

She then plopped on the sofa, exaggerating her having been winded from all that laughter, and sat on a loose collection of my poems. These slipped off the cover and onto the carpet. I leaped up to gather them.

Lisa knew nothing of my secret space where haiku and songs take shape in my hand. She would not understand why I cry over snowdrops beaten by wintry rain. She has never seen me stare at a white moon for hours and imagine the moon creeps to my bed and stays. When I sneak off from her to walk alone by the riverside, I single along the bushes of briar roses, watching a duck pair swim in domestic bliss.

Lisa had pulled out a piece of cardboard from behind her. I sprinted to snatch it away from her—it's the cover of my poetry album.

"And who's this? You again, I suppose," she said, swinging the drawing away from me. She turned the image twice—a pen and ink drawing of a woman.

"This time caged like a nightingale! Do I really know you? I guess I don't. And who are these people who draw portraits of you?"

"That," I, said, "was drawn by … Honestly I can't even remember his name. He signed it with a symbol as you can see," again I lied.

"Nightingale … I remember that from fairy tales, like those we used to pore over when Nana would not let us out in the rain. Did you sing songs for this artist, perhaps?" There she goes mocking me again, I was certain.

But Lisa had stopped snickering. She had turned sullen, studying the drawing. "I guess there's a lot I don't know about you. Just as I bet you don't know everything about me but I won't tell."

"I understand. I don't even know myself fully," I told her. "I seem to find parts of me from other people as if embedded like a treasure. It's a constant mystery to me why parts of our own selves are only revealed by another person."

"You're wrong. I believe we know what we are but once we've created a picture for others to see, we begin to hide those other parts and often as I knew had happened to other people, forget these ever existed."

"And it takes a truly sensitive person to draw these out without our resistance, right?" I added.

For the first time in our friendship, Lisa and I didn't argue.

A seeker of truth and peace after tangled pathways, I have also found a voice in my search. A retired journalist, I have since focused on poetry and fiction. I launched my first book in Manila before migrating to Vancouver last year and recently received two honourable mentions for poetry.

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