12.2.21

COLORS

 Father Husik Sargsyan
(Translated from Armenian by Tatevik Stepanyan)

His name was Aivaz. As for his surname, even he didn’t remember it at that moment. The only thing he remembered was that he signed his paintings “Aivaz.” His neighbors, friends, everyone knew him by that name.

The night was unbearable. Only once in forty-three years did he have such a night, during his twentieth year which passed so quickly, when his tooth was tormenting him severely, tearing his nerves apart. Now the pain was there, but the tooth wasn’t… or… anyway, the night was unbearable.

He tossed his blanket aside and without feeling the cold (it was late autumn), went to the bathroom half-naked. He came up to the blurred mirror and started carefully examining the twisting reflection of his already twisted face. For a moment, it seemed to him that he was in front of a distorting mirror in a funhouse. He pulled down his lower eyelids one by one (that's what the doctor did yesterday) and started to examine his big eyeballs full of blood. Then he opened his mouth and seemed to be surprised that several of his front teeth were absent (his blue tongue could freely go in and out of the open mouth). He was no less surprised, when the length of his beard caught his eye. “It’s a priest’s beard, man!” he smiled silently and mumbled, “Hallelujah, hallelujah!” He decided that all this was an illusion or a dream: he had to wake up. He turned on the tap. A deep muffled sound was heard from inside the pipe, then a whistle, next came some air spurts, and finally the tap spat out the rusty water. Seeing the color of water, his heart longed for tea, though his mind was hesitant: tea or coffee? While his thoughts were thus succeeding each other, the water cleared a little. Neither the first splash of water woke him up from the assumed dream, nor the second, the third and nor even the fourth. It was neither a dream, nor an illusion, but the reality.

He went to the kitchen with heavy steps, put his hand in a black dusty bag and taking out some pieces of solid alcohol, started a fire. The blue fire, pouring out of the barely burning pieces, warmed his soul. He automatically stretched out his hand to the small bowl and the yellowish syringe that were protruding out of the bag, but… his mind argued again: tea, coffee, or…? Down with “or.” Tea, for sure. “There’s only one week left. Let’s live these seven days like a human, equal to a human, in colors of a human.” Colors… his own “colors” came into his mind, the colors of the paintings of Aivaz (he always dreamt of being called “Aivazovski”), gloomy and bright, comprehensible, and yet not. They came into his mind and touched his heart. “What right did the doctor have to tell me something like that?” mumbled Aivaz mournfully and went out on the balcony with his cup in his hand, “Why just not let it happen in its own good time?” Once again, he didn’t feel the cold air. He lit a cigarette, held it between his fingers for a while, but his mind argued again: cigarette or tea…? Getting angry at himself, he threw the cigarette out of the fifth floor, and a sudden thought made his heart jump for joy: “So good I’m not the cigarette! It took it only five floors to be leveled to the ground, while I have two floors more, seven days.” He greedily drank his lukewarm tea and entered into his bedroom-studio. “I need to leave something behind for the humankind, a final message. That’s the duty of an artist,” thought Aivaz and took his brush. For a moment he pondered over the brush. “Is it mocking me?” he thought, seeing that the hairs on his paintbrush are the same length as those on his cheeks. “Is it mocking me or not?” his mind hesitated again. “Hey, man, you are losing your mind!” he murmured and fixed his eyes on the window, “Well, Muse, go ahead!”

Along with these words the ringing of the Cathedral’s bells was heard, with a crystal clear inviting sound. He hurried to the balcony, still holding his brush, and fixed his gaze on the dome of the Church, upon which there arose the big cross, embracing the sparkling of Venus. “I have to listen to this at close range. Who knows! It may be the last time,” he thought and throwing on his coat, dashed out, without forgetting to grab the black bag from the kitchen. He threw the bag in the dustbin in front of the Post Office and headed toward the Church at a fast pace. When he got there, the bells weren’t ringing anymore. Priests were chanting as usual (he remembered that at one time he himself wasn’t bad at singing). He passed through the pillars, in the center he bowed and kissed the Book and the cross in front of the “Table of Descent,” as he always did, and started to study carefully the icons.

An icon of Crucifixion particularly caught his attention. “In the center, on the big cross, there is Christ, but who are the other two? One is most likely Paul-Peter, and the other Gabriel,” he thought, but his curiosity made him stay there and wait for the right moment to ask a clergyman about it.

“They are two criminals,” answered a young monk, “who were crucified at the same time as Jesus. A thief to the right of Jesus achieved salvation, in spite of his sinful past. There is mention of it in the last chapters of the Gospel of Luke.”

“Thief–criminal–sinful,” in the head of Aivaz these three words in no way matched with the word “salvation,” however he didn’t stop thinking of it and the icon till he got home.

He began skimming through his bookshelf quickly and found what he was looking for, a black book with a gold cross on it and a piece of writing: “New Testament.” He turned the pages and found the last chapters of the Gospel of Luke. Then he started reading greedily. He read each line several times, making a whistling sound through his absent teeth. Eventually he found the line he was looking for: Luke 23.39-43.

“And one of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.””[1]

A drop of tear flowed from the eye of Aivaz and rolling down his cheeks, fell on the palette. Aivaz took the paintbrush and looking at the cross which he could see outside the window, sketched three crosses on the pale canvas…

…His name was Aivaz. As for his surname, even he didn’t remember it at that moment. The only thing he remembered was that he signed his paintings “Aivaz.” Only one of his paintings did he sign otherwise, “Aivazak,”[2] and labeled it “Forgive me.”

Twenty years had passed since that day. Every morning Aivaz woke up to the ringing of the Church bells and inwardly rejoiced at the fact that the doctor had been so ignorant… or… God knows! For He is the Almighty Who was Crucified for us…


[1] The text is taken from the New American Standard Bible.

[2] There is a wordplay here. The word “thief” is “avazak” (ավազակ) in Armenian. Labeling his painting “Aivazak,” Aivaz joins his name and the word “thief.”


Բնագիրն այստեղ՝ https://www.sarkavagagirq.net/2010/08/blog-post_1343.html

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