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A Portrait of a Not so Young Man

“It’s called the market of Gypsies.”  He told me as I observed the scene in front of me.

Men you could easily mistake for women with their slender figures, tight tee shirts and flared bell bottoms and long wavy locks flowing as they drank their beers and smoked their cigarettes.  The contrast of the warm, glowing, yellow orange color of a flame with the deep, dark night caught my eye.  I began reading the light with my eyes, retracing its steps, attempting to find the origin of this flame that was by no means discreet.  The man made a statement even with the fire he used to light his cigarette.

As my eyes traced this man in front of me for the first time, it was difficult to take in every detail.  He was small but every part of his body was covered in character.  Three of his five fingers had large rings that matched his flame in extravagance.  His hair hit his shoulders and his face was covered in a tanned, leathered skin that told the story of his life.  The gray streaks in his hair gave him a sense of wisdom.  He was no exception to the rest of the crowd in his tight plaid shirt tied at the bottom, exposing his midriff, and his bellbottoms that hugged his body so tight, he had no secrets.

This man told me to write a love story.  And so I lived one.  He was my Diego Rivera.  A large passionate artist with all the world behind his eyes.  I was his Frida.  I loved him because nobody else would and he loved me because I loved him.  It all seemed simple enough.  We both understood.

He sold his past at this market.  Everything from old sneakers to sketches he drew as a young boy, to rings that he no longer wore.  The sketches were of past lovers and friends.  His stand told his life.  It was that of a wanderer.  He told me the stories of his lovers.  He said in his deep raspy voice that did not match his petite frame, “I want you to know what real love looks like.”  He began the tale of his beautiful Francesca.   The way he started it was “This story is for no other ears than your own.  If everyone knew this beauty, they would become addicted to finding it.  Everything else in their lives would become obsolete.  Work would become insignificant as would family and friends.  The mechanical world that we know today would become filled with passion and feeling.  People wouldn’t know how to handle this drive and emotion and so the world as we know it would collapse.”

I asked “Why are you willing to tell me?”

The man puffed at his cigarette.  He exhaled and said in a low voice, “I can tell that you know this beauty well and this story will only help guide you to creating it for yourself.”

His words seemed dramatic but something about them resonated with me and so I listened.  The tale he told did not seem real. It was filled with lust and love and emotions and regret and drive and ambition and anger and creativity and sorrow and resilience. All things the world had lost years ago.

I said to my Diego, “You are an intriguing man but you are not beautiful.”   He did not fight my retreat from a love that was only a comfort. He allowed me to walk out of our quaint house near the ocean and into a life full of risk and intensity. His passion had been distinguished.  Indifference replaced it.   And with that I began my search with a vigor that consumed my life.


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