by M. Awais Aftab
There is no place like home to heal your wounds. And that is where Adam Edwards headed when he felt his soul being eroded by the big city life; like a turtle seeking refuge from the sea by burrowing a shelter in the sands of the shore. Perhaps at some level it reminded him of the warm comfort of a mother's lap. Or, perhaps he felt as if he could once again find himself revisiting the places where he had grown up. Living in New York had been suffocating; there in that small town, he could breathe. Given his experience as an artist, he easily got the job for which he had applied at the local art academy, the same establishment where he and his brother had once been students. The memories felt distant, ancient, archeological... Guiding the young artists, polishing their talent, he experienced a freedom and an inner peace that he had desperately lacked in New York, where his life had been turbulent, subject to continuous frustration. But he was putting too much blame on the metropolis for the ills of his life. Like Hegelian dialectics, many of the contradictions of his life had a source inside him. It was his soul that was too fragile for the life he was trying to live. And that was why he needed to escape.
But the past has a way of catching up with the present. Matters left unfinished do not remain silent; they pop up at some unexpected moment in your life, demanding to be dealt with. And so one day during an art class, as he was assisting a boy with his brushstrokes, he heard his name being called in a voice that was too familiar.
He looked up and a weak smile came to his lips. "Big brother, I knew you'd find me eventually."
They patted each other on the back.
They patted each other on the back.
"That was quite a stunt you pulled vanishing from New York like that. You could have told me where you were going, you idiot."
Adam responded with a brief laugh. "Hey, how about you wait in my office? It's right down the corridor. The class will be over in 10 minutes. I'll meet you there."
Noah had found him, as Adam had anticipated. But what would he tell him about why he had left? Should he tell the truth? Reveal to him the violent emotions that were thrashing like a Tsunami inside him? He did not know. He knew his brother cared for him. And unlike Adam, who had been struggling as a professional artist, Noah was a huge success. He had always tried to help him, always tried to take him along, to spill a portion of his success into Adam's life. And that's what made it even more difficult for Adam to be honest about his feelings.
After the class, as he entered his office he saw Noah examining the paintings on the wall, some of which Adam had painted himself.
"Hey, I brought you some coffee," Adam handed him a cup.
"I see that your style has undergone some interesting and significant changes since you came here," Noah pointed towards the paintings.
"Panta rhei, brother, everything flows," Adam smiled.
They both sat down sipping their coffee, distinctly aware of some awkwardness in the air.
"I keep reading about how you are totally dominating the art scene in New York. Gallery owners are desperate to get hold of your paintings." Adam said, bringing the cup to his lips.
"Yeah, life is going good for me. And it would have gotten good for you too, if you had stayed."
"I don't know about that."
"You have got talent, Adam. You could make a name for yourself out there! But you ran away. Without even telling me! God, for a moment I thought you might have thrown yourself off a bridge or something! What are you doing here anyway?"
"I am teaching these students."
"You are wasting your talent! Come back to New York with me. I have talked to a gallery owner. He is willing to display your paintings. This is a great opportunity for you. I know that the art critics can't appreciate the uniqueness of your work, but that's the style you choose to paint in. With time they will. You don't have to give up." Noah was talking hurriedly, gesticulating widely.
Adam shook his head. "You don't get it, do you?"
"I can never be as good as you are. In New York, I was constantly living under your shadow. You have done great, Noah, and I am happy for you. But everyday that I painted there, I had to live up to your standards. Anything else didn't feel good enough. I couldn't help but constantly compare myself to you. I felt inferior! I don't want to hate you, brother. But that frustration was eating me from inside. I couldn't live like that. I had to run away. And you have no idea how guilty I felt about that. I had to face the fact of my own failure, its stark comparison with your success, and the intense guilt of feeling that way. It was all killing me!"
Noah was silent and stunned. He never knew Adam felt like that. And that his own good intentions to help him had only brought him more pain.
"I need to find myself, brother. On my own terms. Here, I am doing something worthwhile. Teaching these young artists, I am making a difference. And someday when the time is right, I will come back, and be the artist that I am, without having to compare myself with anyone. But till then, I have to be here."
They both sat quietly for a long time, the silence momentarily broken by the sips of cappuccino. They didn't know what to say. Noah was hurt - there was no denying that. His reason tried to keep his thoughts in control, kept saying that it was okay, but he felt an insurgence rising inside, breaking all his defenses. A voice that was angry, that felt betrayed, and the intensity of which was rising in a crescendo. He had been his friend, he had gone out of his way to help him, and this was how he had repaid him. That ungrateful man!"
Well, umm, I guess I should be going," Noah stood up, picking his coat. As he was about to leave, Adam called out, "Hey!"
He stopped and looked back.
"You have been a good brother to me, Noah. And I would always love you for that." Adam went forward and hugged him. As he did, Noah comprehended that his brother did love him, and despite everything he had said he was a victim of his own emotions. He couldn't forgive him right now, it wasn't human nature, but he knew that someday, silently, in the middle of some painting, forgiveness would come. So he hugged him back.
He realised that sometimes loving someone means having to walk away from them. And Noah walked out of the office.
[Published in Us Magazine]