It was a wonderful March day in 1964 and the last week of June’s stay in New York. She had enjoyed her stay very much as an exchange teacher at an art school. It was a time of concern in America; they were fighting a war in the Far East with Vietnam, it seemed to be a never ending conflict. Protests could be heard in the American nation from their youth, mainly through singers such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. However, she found the Americans to be friendly and helpful and had made many friends. After her six months she had found her way around in the big city, but as she was now going to return to England and resume her life teaching the English youth and she wanted to take a souvenir back with her. It was on one of her walks through Central Park that she had an idea. Approaching the Central Park zoo there was an area populated by artists. She decided she would like to take a portrait of herself back to England as a memory of her stay in New York, but which artist should she choose? It was late in the afternoon and she was not sure that there was time enough.
She then saw a young lady, an artist, who had no customers. She was fascinated by the girl who definitely did not resemble the average American, but then she had to ask herself what is the average American. Over the years the original American Indians had been partly put in their reservations and during the beginning of the twentieth century America had accepted immigrants from all over the world. The artist looked at June and beckoned with her hand.
“You would like to have your portrait made” she asked June
“Yes, I would” answered June “but it is late in the afternoon and I am not sure whether there will be enough time.”
“Time is no problem” said the girl “if it gets too dark to continue today and you have the time, you may return tomorrow morning and I will finish the portrait then.”
June agreed to this proposition and as she had no school for the rest of her stay she had the time.
“My name is Ana, please take a seat and we will begin.*
“Ana does not sound so American. Do you mind if I ask where you are from” said June.
“No problem” was the answer. “I was born in America, but my mother and father were originally from Peru.”
This was particularly interesting for June as she was a history teacher, although it would have been more interesting if Ana had told her that she was a direct descendant of the Inca nation. However, Ana did not even know this herself and neither did her parents. They immigrated to America as they had no work in Peru. Their uncle had gone to America before them and helped them to find their footing in this strange land. Ana was studying at the art school in New York and was glad to be able to earn some extra money by drawing portraits of the tourists and New Yorkers. New York was an expensive town and she could barely afford her two rooms in the Bronx area. June studied the young painter and could now see the strains of her Peruvian ancestry; her long dark hair, the brown tan on the skin and above all her wonderful large brown eyes.
Ana started on the drawing and June sat patient and still. She noticed how the young lady would move her crayon over the paper, glance upwards at June’s face and then continue. As it was March, the light soon darkened and the artist told June she could no longer draw as it would soon be night. As arranged June could return the next morning, perhaps at ten in the morning if it would not be too early, and there would be enough time to finish the work.
June agreed and returned to her rooms for the evening. The next morning was again a bright sunny morning and June made sure she was in the Central Park at ten in the morning to have her portrait finished. The chair was in the same place as the day before, together with the easel and her unfinished portrait. She was just going to take a glance at the portrait when she felt a presence behind her. “Please do not look until I am finished” and it was Ana. “Please take your seat and we will continue.”
June was surprised that Ana was already there as she had not seen her coming. She also noticed that Ana was already sitting and ready to draw, but she had not even noticed that she had seated herself to continue.
“Please sit as still and silent as you did yesterday and we will soon be finished. I do not like leaving my work before it has been completed.”
“I am finished, please take your portrait.” June stood up and walked over to where Ana had sat, but Ana was not there; just the easel with her portrait. June was thrilled, the young artist had captured her looks perfectly, but there was no Ana there to thank. When she looked closer at the drawing she noticed it had been signed with the name Ana. She took the drawing not knowing what to do, as she wanted to pay for the work, but Ana just was not there. She then heard Ana and turned again. She was standing on the grass in the park and looking at June.
“Please take this drawing, it costs nothing, it was an honour to finish this work. Keep it well, it will accompany you all your life and will reflect your face through the years.”
June looked at Ana, but she seemed almost transparent. She looked again at the drawing and when she wanted to thank Ana, Ana was gone and June never saw her again throughout her life.
Forty years later
June’s husband had died ten years earlier and now June was living alone. Her sister, May, lived nearby and often paid a visit. May had often asked her about the portrait she had framed in the living room, a portrait painted by a young artist June had once met on a day in New York. The portrait was admired by all. It showed an elderly lady, with grey hair and kind eyes, a portrait of June how she now looked. For many years June had kept this portrait away from the eyes of the world. She just did not know how to explain it. As June got older, the portrait changed and got older with her. When June’s hair started to turn grey, the shades on the hair on the portrait got lighter. When June had a few more changes in her face, the portrait also had them, wrinkles appearing in the right places. Now that June was over seventy she knew she would not change more and put the portrait in her living room where all could see it. June’s sister May found it a wonderful piece of work and June told her she should take the portrait for her daughter when she was no longer with them.
Her sister did not want to discuss this with June, but one day June was found sleeping peacefully in her home, never to wake again. June’s sister took the portrait and gave it to her daughter who found that June resembled her in her younger years. The portrait showed a young lady, June in 1964.
What June never knew was that her young artist Ana went home on that day in March 1964 looking forward to finishing her portrait of the young English lady on the next morning. Unfortunately there was a gas explosion in the building in New York where Ana lived on that evening, and Ana was amongst the casualties. She never woke up to finish the portrait – or did she?
Rita's "Riting" Chalenge #5: the Artist