The Artist – August 2007 Part XI The Conclusion

As it turned out, Nathan and I returned to the studio the next evening and indeed the piece was finished. Mind you, we still had to spend most of the night allowing the kiln to cool down before we dared remove my precious art piece from within. I’m pleased to say, it came out perfectly. It was everything I wanted it to be.

“It’s beautiful,” Nathan told me inside our shared space.

“I wouldn’t have been able to finish it without your help,” I replied. “I wish I could thank you properly…”

“How do you mean?” he replied curiously. 

“You know, giving you a huge hug and all that,” I told him, shrugging our shoulders.

Next thing I knew we were face to face again, inside his mind once more. We were surrounded by fleeting images of his memories again, and this time I caught a few glimpses of our working on my sculpture.

Meanwhile, Nathan opened his arms and I quickly did the same.

“Thank you… thank you so much…” I blubbed, feeling tears of actual tears running down my cheeks. Then I pulled back and looked at him and asked, “Why? Why did you do all this, sharing your body with me and all?”

“Because, you asked for my help,” he said simply.

I shook my head eyeing him carefully, “No, there’s more to it than that. You’ve let me inside you, literally, in a way you yourself said you rarely do. So why me?”

All around us the images changed and I saw myself, much younger, eyes wide and frightful. That’s when I got it. “You felt guilty about me seeing what you did to those men, all those years ago,” I breathed.

He nodded. “The look in your eyes whenever we met, I never understood why you looked so troubled and standoffish. I just thought I was just reminding you of what you went through. I’d had no idea you saw…”

I reached up and stroked his face. “Don’t. Neither Brian nor I would be here today if you hadn’t shown up and did what you did.”

“I killed…”

“People who had tortured children and were going to do much worse. Plus, you were already injured and still outnumbered. They pushed you too far and you fought back the only way left to you. Not to save yourself, but to save me, Brian and all those other children. I know that now. I also know you’re a good person, which is why I trusted you enough to accept your offer to help me. And I’m never going to forget it,” I told him.

“Thank you,” he sighed and finally smiled. We hugged again and as we separated, I guess I had a funny expression on my face, because he asked, “What is it?”

“The door between us? You said you could close it when we were done, but… would please leave it open, just a crack? Please?” I asked hopefully.
“Is that what you want?”

I nodded.

He smiled. “Always.”

I hugged him again and soon after I found myself back in my body in my hospital room. No one was there, but I didn’t feel alone. I could still feel Nathan, and that made it easier for me to rest.

All of this happened about two months ago, and I can still feel his presence even when he’s not around. But, tonight I can see as well as feel him. Here at my exhibition, he’s been making the rounds, but was close by when it came time to unveil my piece. My jaw and hands are still healing, although I can actually talk again. As for the hands, they’ve responded well to the surgeries and I’m even using clay as part of my therapy to build up strength in them again. But now I know for sure I’ll be able to keep making works of art and beauty once more.

As you can expect, my mom burst into tears of joy when she saw it. She hugged me, carefully of course, since I’m still healing. Still it was so worth it. She could barely speak, she was so moved, but her eyes and smile spoke louder than the entire New York Philharmonic symphony blasting the 1812 overture. 

I briefly wondered if Nathan was feeling what I was experiencing, then saw the huge smile on his face across the room. Brian and his family were with them, as well as Jack’s. They’re part of what Nathan calls his “extended” family, and now I am too…

“And always will be…” I hear in my head. 

“Back at you,” I reply through our link, and he smiles.

  • THE END

The Artist – August 2009 Part II

The piece in question was a full-bodied statue of my mom’s father who had passed away the year before at the age of 107. And believe me the man had led an impressive life having served not only in WWI but also WWII. Now some of you who know me might be thinking ‘Wait, I know you’re like only 29. So just how old was he when your mom was born?’ Well my mom was from his second marriage in 1948. My grandmother was younger than him and gave birth to my mom seven years later.

Now, getting back to the sculpture, when I say full-bodied I don’t mean it was man-sized. It was only  between 18″ and 24″ inches in height. I had thought about doing a bust, but she had always been proud of the fact that he had served in both world wars. But it was his service in World War I that she had always impressed her the most. Seeing photos of him in his uniform back then, so young and full of hope and purpose, had really made her see him in a different light. 

I know he saw a lot back in the Great War, as they originally called it, but what always impressed me the most about him was the fact that he enlisted again when the Second World War began. He once told us that part of the reason he did was because he knew a lot of young men who weren’t prepared for what they might face. He himself had barely been sixteen when he’d enlisted, lying about his age to be accepted at the recruiting office. And as I said, he saw a lot. He was wounded more than once too and was involved in some of the more famous and fiercest battles including the Hundred Day Offensive.

Looking back, I think that may have actually been the real reason why I chose to put him in his first uniform. Seeing photos of that fresh-faced innocent who would face horrors time and again, and still be willing to help others face new ones, really helped me understand the man I knew and loved.

Anyway, having a specific image in mind I got work in my studio and began the project.

I was well into the sculpt, having already gotten the shape and pose just right, when a prominent gallery wanted to showcase my work. The timing could not have been better. The date set for the opening would be just perfect to unveil my grandfather’s likeness before my mother, our friends, and so many others. Needless to say I went back to the piece with even more enthusiasm. I was calling upon every technique I could think of get everything just right and it was paying off.

Hour by hour, I could see my grandfather’s spirit taking shape in the piece. I was so pleased that I didn’t care if I never made anything as close to perfect as it. But there was still a lot to do when I left my studio that afternoon. As much as I wanted to keep working, I had to get downtown and meet with a gallery owner (not the one who was going to hold the exhibition). I remember putting the plastic over my work in progress to keep it moist, silently promising I’d be back soon. Only I wasn’t.

In fact it would be weeks, and merely days before the exhibit, before I’d step foot inside that studio again… at least physically.

TO BE CONTINUED…