I was awaiting a bus for forty minutes under the rain. Compared to last year this spring was a hot one, but that day it was raining like hell. I should’ve had a ridiculous appearance in a short cotton dress soaked through. Raindrops were moisturizing parts of my skin that I had forgotten all about.
There was a sweet scent on my mind, shifting from pastry to roses, from roses to chocolate. Feeling drowsy, I could smell a touch of burning wood among other odors as well.
2:30 p.m. The street was empty. There was only a young lady ten meters away from me, chain-smoking under the torrential rain with an indomitable will. She was sitting on the forest-green metal railings. A dying cigarette on her crimson lips, crossed legs, a silver lipstick lighter in her right hand, flicking away a half-smoked cigarette in the broad highway beneath the railings every two minutes. Both ends of the five-lane highway underneath overlapped with the horizon, where she had turned her head to stare at. Sun was clouded in the region she was investigating with her brown gaze. Her knitted brown blouse, black boots, and black leather skirt were indicating she knew about the weather.
As she smoked all her cigarettes – insofar as could be smoked – she shook the cigarette packet to assure it was depleted and then threw the packet into the highway. Before I could object, she grabbed her cream-colored leather bag and hurled it toward the high-speed chain of cars below the railings. My irritation turned into curiosity: if I were in her place, I would definitely look down to see the result. She was gazing at an unknown point in the thick and dark clouds instead, as if waiting for something to happen. Her long fingers with polished black nails found the cream jacket hanging from the railings, grasped it and flung the crumpled piece of linen toward the horizon. Was I supposed to say something? What was she thinking? That urban highways were some sort of giant pipes for washing away our wastes?
She removed her silver necklace and black boots, throwing them as well onto the highway; her face was expressionless as if she was doing all this in her bedroom on a normal evening. A surreal wet painting. I could see the white skin of her head under the sparse threads of her dark brown hair. She raised her head to watch the black clouds and stayed like that for a short while. A little push, and she flung herself onto the highway. The last piece of waste. I stayed in my place for a while, confused, not knowing what to do. As I came to my senses, I decided to call the police but there were no sensible sentences in my mind. I was left there alone, with an irresistible gravitational source emanating from the highway below my feet.
I swallowed and moved toward the green railings. It took me a lifetime to screw up my courage and lower my head. My eyes started hunting for her, but she was nowhere; as if she hadn’t fallen at all. While inspecting the broad highway, the old orange-colored bus arrived, accelerating in my direction.
The first thing I felt was the weight of its left tire, climbing my left leg from behind. I turned my gaze and the orange color wavered before my eyes, contaminated with my blood fountaining, blinding me. My hands grabbed the green railings as the huge metal monster tried to pull me under. In a blink, all its weight was on my waist. I closed my eyes, heard my bones smashing and felt my flesh ripping apart while screaming at the top of my lungs. Angry tires reached the railings, hitting it hard. I was on the verge of unconsciousness, pressed amid the two belligerent metal parties, watching the highway. My eyes were seeking her, but tears and blood had limited my view. The warm blood-drops were falling from my nostrils and chin into the highway. The bus was still pushing the railings.
I blinked, clearing the tears. She was nowhere to be found. The bus drove its wheels on the deformed railings and lifted what had remained of my body. I was no longer a physical entity, flying off the railings and falling into the highway. My eyes still searching.
About the Author:
Z. Majidi is – currently – a Ph.D. student at Sapienza University of Rome, living in Rome, studying Astrophysics and Space Sciences. She writes in her free time and recently has started publishing her short stories. She won 2010 Kharazmi prize for writing the novelette “Eternity” and one of her short stories has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine.
Majidi is a tri-lingual writer who writes in Persian as well as English. ‘Trap’ stayed in my unconscious for many months while my dreamspace attempted to find an image that would accompany this compact piece endowed with supernatural intensity and the power of a superbly written flash piece.
As the summer months sailed by and with imminent autumnal days in the horizon, I started to remember how blue I would feel as winter approaches. Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period came immediately to mind.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881, baptised a Catholic, with a long list of names in honour of various saints and relatives, and passed away an atheist in 1973. The Blue Period is a term used to categorize his works produced between 1901 and 1904 in Paris. These works are defined by their predominantly monochromatic hues and sombre tones. Picasso had a difficult time selling these works initially although his series from the Blue Period has become synonymous with his name. I suspect viewers at that time were perturbed by these canvases–of dark greens, greys and blues– so devoid of the usual exuberant and cheerful block colours that he was associated with. Viewers today are still left with a lingering sense of melancholy upon seeing one of his Blue Period paintings.
Actually, the Blue Period represented Picasso’s own melancholy at losing his friend, Carlos Casagemas, to suicide. Spurned by unrequited love, Casagemas shot himself in the temple after an unsuccessful shot at the object of his love, Germaine. Casagemas featured in many of Picasso’s Blue Period paintings posthumously. It seems that by painting his Catalan friend, Picasso was able to find catharsis and a sense of psychological release from the guilt of having abandoned his best friend at a time of need. It was Casagemas’s suicide that sent Picasso into a bout of depression that would last many years. However, certain art historians have disputed the cause of Picasso’s depression to Casagemas’s death due to the questionable chronology of the suicide and the initiation of the Blue phase, including some paintings of Casagemas rendered in colourful tones which defies the categorization Blue. Upon Casagemas’s demise, Picasso also started an affair with the very woman who’d caused his friend’s death. One wonders at the unethical behaviour of this Spanish artist but one could also say that it was his (unusual) way of coping with such a trauma. My rationalization is that the human psyche finds ways to cope–untoward, unethical or unusual as some of these ways may be.
Reflected in the paintings during this (Blue) phase were also the debased portraits of prostitutes, beggars and drunks whom Picasso met during his travels through Spain. It seemed that Picasso was very taken by the downtrodden and marginalized communities in his home country. The canvases from this period is a mirror to his own sense of self-worth, in my view. It feels to me that he identified openly with the old, the frail, the down-and-out, and the blind as he painted them repeatedly during his Blue Period. It would seem that these canvases resonate with his own sense of anxiety, fear and profound feelings of helplessness: he was in this period, a struggling artist.
‘Celestina’ was painted in 1903. The subject, Celestina, is blind in one eye, blindness being a theme and motif found in many of Picasso’s Blue Period works. I felt that Celestina is the best segue into Majidi’s story because of the themes that are explored in ‘Trap’. Celestina meets our gaze directly, demanding that we pay her attention. We are forced to look at her tensed face–the dimpled half-moons by her pursed flat-lined lips indicate this tension and we get the sense that she is distressed. (In fact, the longer I look at Celestina, the more I see how her lips seem to be quivering as she stares imploringly at me.) Her deformed eye looks out at us and this handicap is worsened by the grey-blue backdrop and her funereal ensemble. This portrait of a distressed woman evokes a sense of morose in the viewer. She is frozen, trapped, in her phantom-like pose which lingers in our mind’s eye disturbingly. No wonder Picasso’s Blue Period paintings lost him his reputation as a formidable artist. It was not for technique that he was criticised but for the subject matter and the tones he had used.
If painting is a form of expression, an outlet of our (pained) psyches, then Picasso’s Blue Period was reflective of an unconscious outpouring of grief and desperation. The Blue Period was followed by his Rose Period which was named for his canvases of blush pinks and earthy tones although blue hues remain but less sombre. It is said that Picasso was still depressed during his Rose Period albeit the more cheerful and softer tonalities. Picasso’s depression would last for more years to come as he painted away his blues, eventually lifting as his later paintings indicated.
I wonder if one is really fully cured of depression.
Picasso, Pablo, ‘Celestina’ (1903).