‘Have you ever seen a patch of wall, that is just different to the rest? The paint, the texture the finish all the same. However, there is just something profoundly different. Maybe at one time, a painting hung at the exact spot, and for ages that was what its identity was, the little patch with the painting. Until one day it wasn’t there, and suddenly that patch of wall sticks out like a sore thumb.’
She paused, but I didn’t respond. It was quite clear that she needed little participation from me beyond listening. The pause was served better as she wistfully looked into the distance, focused on one particular point in space. As she blew a ring of smoke, it was as if she could see the patch on the wall.
“The biggest part of its identity surgically removed and because of that it never evolved with the rest of the wall, and suddenly it’s all so different. All it is characterized by is an absence, an absence so profound. That even if you glace at the wall in passing, even if you had never seen the painting that hung on the wall all those years. You can still feel its absence, perhaps more than you could ever feel its presence.”
She took another long puff; the silence would immediately engulf the room when she’d stop talking as if her voice alone kept it at bay.
“Have you ever felt that away about something in your life?”
This time she did wait for an answer, and I struggled to form a coherent sentence. It was as if my voice had faltered out into the silence. “I am not sure what you mean.”
Her gaze was a strange mixture of pity and bemusement.
When she spoke again, her voice sounded as if it came from further off even as she didn’t alter it in any physically discernable way. Just a wistfulness that I couldn’t describe no matter how hard I tried.
“The absence is important, but it is not all there is to it. What does that patch signify? More often than not it looks nicer than the rest of the wall if you focus just on the patch in isolation. Yet the asymmetrical nature of it, makes it more of a blotch. A philosopher might muse, how much of it is damage and how much of it is just the personal history of the patch? And if the two can ever be taken apart or are they tightly intertwined.”
There was a sudden stillness in her voice when she spoke next and for the first time a hint of uncertainty.
“Yet the question is never of what the patch is and what it symbolizes, we can debate it all day and reach nowhere. At the end of the day how you choose to describe that patch would say so much about you as a person, and your experience. More than it would ever about the patch.”
“Can’t you just put another painting on there if it bothers you that much,” I said. I knew the moment I would speak; I would sound stupid. The talk of the patch had started to bore me at this point, so I didn’t care as much.
She let out a soft giggle, not unkind. I would’ve never imagined she was capable of giggling like that. Her stern countenance melted as her lips contoured in a smile. For a second, I saw her eyes as they were meant to be: brown, not covered in a mask of sick derision.
“Of course, you can cover it with a plethora of things but as long as you do that the patch is in control is it not? It decides what happens. It has overpowered the rest of the wall.”
I waited for her to continue but as usual, she was in no hurry to make a point.
“You can delay it but at some point, you have to wrest control from the patch, whatever wonderful memory or delicate art hung there, it is now gone. You can go and buy something of the exact size or larger to cover the patch but that is merely delaying the inevitable, no? At some point, you have to ask yourself when do I rip the wallpaper and start afresh, a different color, maybe yellow. I do dream about a yellow wall these days, a strange little fascination.”
“…Or better yet, take a fucking sledgehammer to the wall. But strangely enough, even that the patch decides. There is no winning from absence once it settles so absolutely.”