Prologue: Boulevard 63L

Entry 330th – Prologue [Before the Act]

“…he died in loving arms of friend at twilight.”
“His death came early in sunset, early at night and much early in life.”
“Paintings of Sunflowers, the Starry Night and Portraits from the past were surrounding him.”
“Not many knew of his last day, just as many didn’t know who he really was.”
“Uncle Cent stood near the door with Madame Claire.”
“Mr. Roso from the Night Café brought him the sunflowers he loved.”
“And just three more who loved him not for his emerging worth, but for who he was, for the way he was, for how humane he was.”
“On the 29th of July, van Gogh died.”
“He lived and he left.”
“And we shall do the same.”

“The Sadness Will Last Forever – La Tristesse Durera Toujours”

“Thank you.”

I turn off the microphone.

No applause. No clapping.

Just the silent crowd bundled in a bunch. Well, after all, this isn’t the end of the story. Death is just the beginning, isn’t it? Life must go on for those left behind.

‘But this is boring,’ I think to myself.
‘Not just the silent crowd, but the situation I have gotten myself into: is boring.’
‘What made these people, the crowd to gather here today?’
‘Is it the death of my friend?’

“Ahem, now, I will read the last page. This part is separate from the main content of the book. It’s dedicated to the protagonist on a personal level,” I begin the final act.

Rosario follows: “After this, we are moving on with the program as planned: A ‘Q and A’ session which will be the last one on our list tonight.”

‘Finally, just a few more minutes, I’ll be at ease from all these.’

I give my throat a couple good clear before reading.

“Page 330, Epilogue.”

‘This one is for you,’ I think in silence.

“At most lonely nights secluded in my constitutions, he used to visit me abrupt and say: “Hey, how about that drinking tonight? Didn’t you say you wanted to try the Absinthe?”

Then I would look at him in smile: “Sure, why not,” I used to tell him each night. I added a smile at the end as I got up from the reading chair: “But I can’t join you on the Absinthe. You know hard liquor never does me any good,” I used to tell.

I wanted to try the Absinthe but never had the guts for it. I wanted to, but never did it. I’ve always wanted to do something out of myself but never did it… not just the Absinthe, but the life as itself.

That was me. ‘Someone who never gave the world a meaning of me…’

‘Imitation of many things’ was who I was. I felt that I never truly lived life to my heart’s desire. I knew I was an introvert by nature and an extrovert by day’s effort… I was the kind to say, ‘No, but thank you, really,’ before the speaker has finished his sentence. I never courageously outdid something of my life to achieve that purest one thing. That one thing was the purest of my desire that I wanted to do every day before today. Like, singing in front of many or finally seeing that end of the trail or riding on a bus to the end of the stations for no reason; or finally eating that Putine from Montreal or that backpacking plan…

I’ve always fantasized writing a book about my life, or owning a bar or a café where everything will be my rule and the purest of my effort. I never fully lived my life nor understood what I was to do with it.

Not until I lived with him.

Years went by while my hands didn’t reach out to those begotten dreams.  That was me; a spectator to my own decaying future.

After two decades with Vince I finally realize. His courage I greatly admire affirmed under any pressure. His cravings in life excelled in appetite much greater than I hoped to grasp. His certainty in living for the dreams he had was far beyond my devotions paid to life. I chased him pretentious to learn a day of his as a greater change in mine…

And now that you have left this world, you will be forever missed.

I won’t be saddened.

Instead, I will live my life as you said to me on the last evening.

“Live!”
“Live your life.”
“Life is not a system, you can’t beat it.”
“Destroying it is you in the end result!”
“So joy! And indulge in it!” he said to those gathered around his deathbed.

No great words, no great sentences, no greatest books will ever suffice your story.

I dedicate this book written with each drop of my blood to the biggest passionate fool in the history.”

In memory of Vince,
and for our times,
(together with Dora and Cat)

I close the cover and turn off the microphone. I tried best not to show but as I suspected, it felt emotional reading the last page.

My heart pounds and throat’s cloaked.

I am speechless for the moment.

“Let’s have the Q and A session now, anyone?” Rosario sitting beside begins the Q and A. She’s my agent.

“What can you tell us about the authenticity of your book?”
“Why is it called Surviving Vincent van Gogh?”
“What does Boulevard 63L mean? Is it the Address?”
“You said the book is real, is that true?”
“What can you tell us about your relationship with Mr. van Gogh?”
“What is the credibility of your book?”
“What can you tell us about Mr. van Gogh’s paintings?”
“Are there any more of them?”

The crowd, mainly reporters, in my living room begins to pour out the question they meant to ask: “Is the book real?”

My throat has deserted. I drink some water from the plastic bottle set near me.

“Yes.”
“It is all true.”
“There’s not a scant of honesty in my book.”
“It is real.”
“It is about life of a man written close in Existentialism interpretation.”

I didn’t want to be here tonight but Rosario had me convinced. It’s better to do it at least once if the book sells hefty.

“The story is real and the characters are real. Though the protagonist has killed himself in the process of… pursuing his dream: that part of him called ‘the passion.’”

“So it is true that he killed himself?”
“Was it a suicide?”
“What can you tell us about his suicide?”
“What do you have to say about his death personally?”

The crowd begins oozing out the question they held in since entering the room: ‘Did van Gogh kill himself?
It’s fascinating how the death of a friend shall be their business.
I understand how this works: they don’t want the truth. Nobody shows patience for the boring truth.
They want the fascination; what’s fascinating to their eyes – something to wow the crowd and make profit out of it – stories filled with nothing but short-lived intrigues.
These are the crowd of crows.
If they beg to differ, then I beg to differ that Vince wouldn’t have killed himself.

“Was he not a religious man?”
“Wasn’t he aware of the sins committing a suicide?”
“Did he forfeit his faith after he failed as a missionary?”
“Did he really kill himself?”

I take a fat breath in and breathe it out:

“Yes, and yes and yes but no.”
“He was a religious man, and a man of flourishing gigs. In fact, he was more religious than anyone in this room; a true believer of good faith; a follower of doctrines; a practitioner of good deeds…”
“He was most knowledgeable in the Bible than anyone around me.”
“Still, even, now.”

So he knew what he was doing? Is that what you are saying?”

‘You wretched blood suckers!’ I yell inside.

“Young man, are you religious?”

“Yes.”

“Do you ever doubt yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Then wouldn’t others? You know the answer.”
“Vince – as I have addressed him throughout our lives together – he knew the direction in life far more concise than anyone, had the appetite for life more than anyone, and savored the love and the pain far more dearly than anyone in this room.”
“And yes, that includes me, and you.”

I ignore the questions and carry on: “He had the guts to say no to things as we, as morsel bits of society, couldn’t afford to for petty reasons; because, we might be loathed by someone or be blamed as the consequence of our decision.”
“He had the wills to say yes to strangers who were asking for help.”
“I seriously think it’s far more demanding to do it than speak of it.”
“Are we not even afraid to shake hands with strangers?”
“Are we not pitiful hoping that a poor wouldn’t ask for a lending hand?”
“But, Vince… he wasn’t.”

‘It feels stupid talking about a friend to such length.’

“He wasn’t just a kind man; he was the man of purest heart.”
“It wasn’t that he had the guts to sit down with a homeless and share the bread, tell him that he was shameful for not having more…”
“It wasn’t the guts he had.”
“It was just… natural for him, to share, to help and believe in fate.”
“That’s more of a man than anyone I know.”
“His heart was just… too fragile at times; too easily broken and vulnerable against those he let inside it.”

I notice I have given too much of passion the crowd couldn’t handle in my response.

“Let’s move on to the next question,” Rosario handles the transition.

A youthful one raises his hand looking to be noticed.

“Yes, young man.”

“What can you tell us about his love life? You didn’t really write about that side of the story in your book.”

“You are right, I didn’t.”

“Can you tell us why you omitted his love life?”

“I never write love story. I barely can keep track of my own.”

“Hahaha,” the cheerful crow squeezes out some laughter in unison. They think it is funny – to talk about love.

I didn’t mean it to be funny. I learned from Vince that there are two things a person has that can bet with one’s life: first is what makes a person smile; second is what makes the heart – beat.

Vince and I were at a beach, sitting on dry sand at English Bay. It was just like any other days, with our backs against dry log, just sitting there; talking… thinking… and breathing… Time took its time brushing past us… and we didn’t care a scant.

He fancied the peace from the scenery and I liked the waves that sound made. Yes, the waves that sound made. The waves gave us what we missed living in the city: to be home, in Bouville.

Along the moments of being there, we said anything that came to our minds. Like anything meager and at times things that were more profound than the life itself:

“When the day has ended…”

I spoke at the sun admiring its work in sunset:

“…the sun flames the night in his heart…”

It was red, glowing over the horizon; in violet it danced, in orange it submerged then left in crimson yellow.

“…without a worry, the heart chases the past,”
“…like a horse running for his freedom…”
“…memories banish as do the morning snows…”
“…until the red dawn breaks anew…”
“…the sun keeps burning the past in him…”

Then I breathed out a long one.

“That’s a fine say, who wrote it?” Vince asked.

“Goethe… but I improvised, but I think I shouldn’t have. It sounds stupid coming from me,” I told him.

“That’s a nonsense, a one that I can drink to,” then he indulged his Absinthe on the beach.
“You may just have what it takes to be a writer, least a poet, to be precise,”
“Think about it,” said Vince admiring the work of nature in the sky.

He used to paint the sceneries there at Sunset. He said it was a fine sight. He found it: ‘almost too good to be true.’ As we spent many more days there, I wrote poems and what have become the parts of the published book.

And I agree – English Bay still has the best sunset in town.

“I want you to remember this, Ro. Smile and love more, for therein lays the great strength to do many things.”
“And there are two things one can bet with his life: first is what makes him smile; second is what makes his heart – beat. Without either one, his life would be in vain; a complete blasphemy where one is never fulfilled in his ideal.”
“Even God can’t cure the gap in such a bleeding life.”

Then I told him that moment I knew what he was saying. That family and love were the two things I can bet with life. Former being what makes me smile and the latter being what makes my heart beat. He told me he was happy for me and that I should cherish them throughout the living life.

“Either one,” he said, “once they are gone,” he paused a bit, “you will miss them dearly throughout your time here.”

I gave gentle nods in agreement.

“That, we will, to miss the loved ones,” I said.

I asked whether his were the same as mine. Then he said to me “no.” I asked whether they were the same subjects but in different order. He still said no. I couldn’t guess what they could’ve been at that moment. But now that he’s no longer, I now understand what he meant:

Love and passion, those two are the only parts of me that I truly tend deep in heart,” he said in calm.

“Hmm, love and passions… I think they suit you well.”

I didn’t ask why he didn’t want his family to be either one. We spent enough time together to ask for answers about our choices.

Vince never had the deserving share of love from his parents. Parental love was forbidden to him before birth. I felt the inherent pity he received from his family members and the talks that townsfolk did behind his back. Well, I guess it was intriguing enough for them to take joy or pity whatever they wanted to feel committing the act. Since having the name after a baby who could have ‘supposedly been his older brother’ was the beginning of his misfortune.

‘Can you imagine living with your former brother or sister’s name? Like, exactly the same?’
‘Why not, you said? Then how about even the exact same birthday?’
‘Every birthday until death will be the day of reminder that you are living someone else’s life.’

The one before him also had the same first and last name. His mother, Mrs. van Gogh, used to tell how he must live up to the expectation of two men’s worth of life. It was like a fate to him, a shackle to be hung around the ankle with no key hole to attempt an escape. A ‘replacement child,’ he was called by the townsfolk. They used to pity him behind the scene.

“Love is the one that makes me smile, whereas, passion makes my heart beat,” he added after a pause.

I thought: ‘Isn’t love to make you smile; passion to make your heart beat? Why is it not the other way around?’

“Hey, isn’t it usually the other way around?” so I told to him.
“Love being what your heart beats towards? And smiling while you do things you love to do?”

“I guess I am a bit of rascal, after all.”

“That right you are: a rascal,” then we laughed to end our conversation.

Those days were nice; sharing words with Vince – pointless, however needless it be – we talked away many hours, many days doing what we wanted to do.

– CONTINUED –

Copyright by D.

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