Two women walk in tandem down a cobblestoned street, one of many radiating like the veins of an emerald-green tree leaf from the metro down through the park towards a museum. The park is lined by elegant two-story mansions with beautiful balconies.
Children mount small horses inside the park in a corral of sorts, their moms adjust their helmets, while Daddy snaps pictures.
There is a hand-powered merry-go-round. People picnicking. Napping.
The afternoon is a beautiful painting.
It is a beautiful peace.
The women’s thin heels playing a light melody on the hundred-year stones. Short, older women they are, one in a pageboy cut and the other with long, pulled back, dyed black hair, dressed in nearly matching elegant brown outfits. They could step out of a Lautrec Impressionist print as they saunter over the cobblestones.
Their comportment speaks of a well-lived life.
A laughing family of three drifts by on a blue bicycle into the park. There are nice restaurants and cafes with outdoor tables.
The women pause and look for a place to sit and get something. The cafes are nicer here than the ones downtown. It is quiet yet active around here. It feels good to breathe the bright, comfortable air. The two ladies choose a sidewalk table and sit.
They are Alicia and Sandra.
A waiter comes to them.
“Hello ladies. What would you like?”
“A coffee for me also, but please bring me a pastry too.”
Alicia and Sandra shift in their seats and rest their bags on the table. Alicia’s bag is a cerulean blue; Sandra’s bag is a royal red.
The horses and their kids clippity-clop onto the cobblestones and into the park, their rhythm lightly tambourine-like. Tourists take pictures of them after asking permission from Mommy and Daddy.
“Look,” says Sandra.
“I see,” says Alicia.
“They are so cute,” says Sandra.
Alicia smiles, opens her bag, takes out lipstick, a mirror and an eyebrow pencil. She touches up her make-up, with soft orange lipstick and light brown eyebrows. She sharply defines her eyebrows. Then she adds to her blush with a cream-colored pad.
Sandra opens her bag and takes out a cerulean blue cigarette case, slowly removes a cigarette and lights it with her gold-colored lighter. Then she sits back and watches Alicia.
Alicia looks in her mirror blankly then returns her kit to her bag.
A light breeze fluffs Sandra’s hair, but the light breeze does not fluff Alicia’s hair.
Then the breeze picks up and becomes colder, and the painting becomes a Pointillist canvas by Seurat.
The painter uses a thin, careful, black border to outline Alicia and Sandra, and their table, and the restaurant.
And the park brightens as the blossoms in the trees become more colorful reds, oranges and yellows, hard-edged in their black outline.
But they are brittle.
Their two coffees and Sandra’s pastry arrive.
Alicia and Sandra drink their coffee.
Alicia and Sandra are both very, very old.
Teens on skateboards, boys and girls, clatter down the cobblestones creating an infernal racket.
Alicia and Sandra eye the teens without expression, their heads following them down the pretty street.
Alicia and Sandra watch them knowing that their time, history and experiences will come to an end, sooner rather than later.
A soft brown envelope of sadness cocoons them both.
And Sandra begins to reminisce about her long life without prompt or cue.
“Alicia, do you remember when we were at the Academy together? In the studio with the skylight?”
“Yes, of course. It was such a beautiful studio. With the windows and the lovely flowers in the garden.”
“I remember once when you volunteered to be the model in drawing class, and the teacher said no, and you were really upset. Do you remember that?”
“Yes, I do,” says Alicia.
“Why was that?” asks Sandra.
“It’s difficult to explain.”
Alicia finishes her coffee, leans back in her chair and closes her eyes.
“Sorry Sandra, but I am so tired,” adds Alicia.
Sandra drifts back. Marriage with Hugo, family vacations at the ocean which she loves more than anything in the world except for her children, her son who lost his life at twenty-three, and her daughter, who found happiness as a club singer and has a child.
A young woman in red hair walks by carrying a bouquet of flowers. She stops and regards Alicia and Sandra.
“Would you like a flower?” she asks Sandra.
“Give it to her.”
The woman looks at Alicia as she sits motionlessly while leaning back. She looks back at Sandra, then to Alicia again, then places a red rose on the table for Alicia.
The woman walks away but not before giving another flower to an older gentleman in a tan colored suit having a coffee and a pastry at the next table.
Sandra smiles and leans back into her chair. Sandra knows she is old. She knows she will pass soon. Time is collapsing. She has requested to be interred in the local cemetery next to her mother.
Sandra looks up at the sky – and thanks everyone she has ever known.
Sometime later Sandra decides to go home. She lives in a 4th floor apartment in the building on the corner. She smiles because they finally fixed the elevator after months of lame excuses. But he is such a nice man, anyway.
“Alicia,” she says.
Alicia does not answer.
Sandra pauses and looks at Alicia closely.
She does not move, nor open her eyes.
Sandra shakes her friend’s arm.
Sandra shakes her arm again.
“Alicia. Wake up.”
Alicia still does not respond.
Sandra stares at her friend for a minute with sharp eyes, then sits back and calms.
Alicia does not open her eyes or move. She is stiff and seems to be gone.
Sandra looks around. No one seems to have noticed.
This is how it goes sometimes.
Sandra asks the waiter for the bill, she pays, and after the waiter leaves after looking guardedly at Alicia a moment, Sandra quietly gets up and walks home.
Slowly the day lengthens as do the shadows on the cobblestones and the people begin to glide home as Alicia remains in her chair. The little horses return to their corral and the children go home with their parents to nice warm dinners in their comfortable warm apartments filled with the joys that only a close life can bring.
Unknown to anyone, a painter who had ensconced himself behind a tree in the park has been painting the café scene quietly in a Pointillist strain. The colors are blue, brown, yellow and mauve, as befits the tone of the day. The painter is careful while observing the scene. He notices Alicia and makes her the focus of his painting. Her motionlessness is remarkable to him, and he gives her extra care, painting a golden halo with a black outline around her head.
Alicia had always wanted to be a model in a painting, not a painter, since she was young. She became an artist, but never really enjoyed it – she had wanted to be a model, but the artists did not paint her because she wasn’t pretty or thin, as they told her. So she became a painter anyway, and painted quietly at home, painting still lifes and apartment views in the apartment she shared with her Marc and their cat Yvonne, even though she dreamed of being told she was beautiful, intriguing and mysterious, and being painted because she was like that.
Despite this psychic malady her still lifes and interiors became somewhat well known and were exhibited and sold to a fine degree.
Alicia became the center of the park artist’s painting, and years later as her painting was presented to the world in an exhibition at the park’s museum she became happy with her newfound notoriety, as tourists from around the world, from Asia and the Americas and beyond, remarked as they snapped pictures on phones and cameras of her painting how happy she looked, resting in a cafe after finishing her coffee, in a café near a park, which they noticed looked like the park surrounding the museum – where the painting is shown to the world.