Self-Portrait, by Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent looks the reporter earnestly in the eyes and begins to tell his story:
“I always knew my parents were gypsies. When I was growing up my friends even called me Heathcliff. My governess would chastise me and turn my buttocks pink whenever I mentioned the subject, but that was only the “foreplay,” if you will. Later they would take me to the drawing room. My father, a very important merchant, in those days, kept his katana swords in there. She would stand before them and unsheathe the longest one, named Lady Anna for a woman of my father’s acquaintence. (It was rumored that I was half-japanese, but I knew this was an untruth.) The name didn’t suit her–she looked like Lady Colombia to me–with the sword stretched out before my neck and screaming “YOU ARE YOUR MOTHER’S CHILD.”
My only refuge was my secret cave. One afternoon, I fell to the floor, beating down the clay in a fit of rage. I lay there imagining that a very large beast had stepped there and shit me out from under it. I swore to find my real parents. Meanwhile, I began to paint my real family. The first painting I completed was of a woman full of mirth, helping her actress daughter, a prima donna, dress for her show. I imagined that I was this daughter, secretly dressed as a woman, ready to receive roses. I would sleep with any man who approached me afterwards, so warm with the glow of success. I named it “Cornelia.” Every Sunday after that, I would scrutinize the photos of lost children on telephone poles and milk cartons, always seeing some similarity in the child’s afro or his manner of dress.
One fateful afternoon, I met a very similar actress in a bar. I felt immediately that she was my sister and that I had had visions of her, a sort of sanguine bond. When the thought struck me, I began to kiss her cheeks. She was confused for a moment and told me to slow down. I insisted that she did not understand, so I set out to show the obviousness of our connection. I asked her where her father was. Her eyes lost the familial sparkle. Does he not collect knives, smell so sweetly of poppy fields, and have many intimidating tattoos? She assented. I then called the newspapers, elated.
I heard from her a few weeks later, and she asked to meet me. I agreed and I was shocked to see her tear-stained face and she walked into the restaurant. She picked up the nearest glass and shattered it against my right ear, which is why I have this bandage.”
The reporter asked, “So, you aren’t the mystery kid after all?” Vincent looked away abashedly and clucked his tongue.