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The Painting of Pearl

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Had Jasper woken that morning at his promised time, he would have seen outside his window a sunrise; for several minutes he would have appreciated this sight and then went about his daily routine. However, Jasper never rose at his expected time, and so he missed the sight entirely. Only after the sun had reached the afternoon’s peak did he rouse and thereafter rise. Unaware of what he had not seen, Jasper proceeded with his morning’s schedule unafflicted: he instantly made his bed upon waking; he showered without much delay; he dressed in his specific order—socks, undergarments, top, and only then pants—; he made his usual breakfast, and then seated himself window-side. Jasper ate with little haste that morning, for he had nowhere to arrive. Though, interrupting his breakfast was a knock at the door, and Jasper’s neighbor announced himself beyond it; Jasper very much disliked his neighbor—he always came at times of little propriety, announcing himself whenever Jasper was up to much though never when Jasper was up to little. Had Jasper greeted his neighbor at the threshold, he would been quite glad for having done so, for his several bills had gotten misdirected that morning to his neighbor’s home. However, Jasper never allowed the interruption of his breakfast, and so he missed these bills and received one’s of a higher amount the following week.

Despite Jasper’s satisfying breakfast that day, he could not avoid feelings of loneliness throughout the morning. In Jasper was a fear that never in his life would he marry, and that with him his family name would end. He tried many things to distract these pestering phobias, though instead decided that a visit to his friend would help to assuage his feelings of uncertainty about his future.

The event that followed at his friend’s house did in fact happen, and should it not have, it would have only occurred the next day or the day after. Jasper’s friend, Noah, was a painter, and that afternoon Noah had finished a portrait of a young woman very close to him. As an artist, Noah saw the world through different eyes than Jasper: Jasper thought that things were agreeable as they presently were, seeing beauty in the everyday; Noah, however, thought that things were disagreeable as they presently were, and saw beauty in only the things which reminded him of the past, and sought to preserve them for the future through his artwork. Such was the painting of the young woman he had finished that day, she a young friend of his that reminded him of childhood memories. Jasper, finding the feelings of his loneliness shaken upon seeing the painting, was immediately hypnotized by the portrait and demanded that he be told all about the lady in it.

Noah informed Jasper that the lady whom he had painted was named Pearl. For quite a length Noah spoke of her to Jasper, describing in detail their friendship and history with one another. However, Jasper did not listen. Too enthralled was he about the visage of Pearl. Pearl’s face was an example of excellence, both her jaw and eyebrows exquisitely angular, her brown hair streaming along her shoulder—though all dulled in comparison to Pearl’s eyes, they seeming to gaze through the barrier of the portrait itself.

Jasper felt a great urge to purchase the painting, and knew that after much persuasion Noah would agree to sell it, for life as an artist had proved rather meager in terms of finance to his friend. And as such did things proceed, Noah carefully beginning to package his newly finished creation, though was stopped quickly once Jasper made known his interest in gazing into it during his walk home. Immediately upon arriving, Jasper gave the portrait its home upon his bedside wall, where for several nights he looked on it until falling asleep. From his home Jasper shunned all visitors—even those he normally welcomed; all his attention wished to focus on was the painting and the girl within it. Every morning he now woke at his promised time, though instead of beholding the sunrise he beheld the painting; and every morning he ate his breakfast in bed so as to keep his sights forever on Pearl, no longer enjoying the breakfast’s taste but eating it all the same. Jasper had analyzed the painting in its entirety, memorizing all about Pearl’s features and expression. It was not long before his affinity to the piece of art transformed into obsession, and after several days of not leaving his home, Noah grew worried and visited.

For several minutes Noah knocked but received no answer at the door. Upon granting himself entrance, Noah started at the sight of his friend sitting unshowered on his bed, staring only onto the painting, the shades drawn and a stack of plates beside him. Seeing with regret what affect the painting had had over Jasper, Noah felt compelled to remove his friend from the sight of it, though was faced with much resistance; not once did Jasper even reciprocate eye-contact. After wasted effort, Noah found only one way that he could pull Jasper from his hypnosis: by arranging a meeting between him and Pearl. After hearing that tomorrow evening he and the young lady would be in one another’s company, Jasper’s senses restored.

On the day of the meeting Jasper showered and dressed as he usually did, preparing and readying himself with more effort than normal, and as dinnertime neared, Jasper departed from his home for the first time in a week. As he made way to the restaurant where they were to meet, Jasper envisioned in his head all the ways he remembered the painting to look, it appearing in his mind’s eye more elegant and defined than he had yet seen it. He could barely keep himself from shaking as he arrived and took his seat, and, before long, from across the room approached a young, brown-haired woman. She asked him his name and Jasper answered, whereupon she smiled and took a seat, introducing herself as Pearl. Had Jasper taken a liking to Pearl that evening, in time both she and he would have married and shared together three children, and she and he would have grown old and watched their children age. However, Jasper realized he did not like her one bit, and in that second of realization their possible future died—love, marriage, children, and all.

In fact, Jasper felt nothing at all once seeing Pearl in person. He felt only disillusionment: her jaw was not nearly as perfect as the painting had portrayed it to be, her eyebrows less angled and different from one another; her brown hair did not gleam or shine, it in fact rather short and unable to glide along her shoulder; and most importantly, her eyes lacked a certain empathy that the painting had shown, leaving Jasper with a sense of disappointment greater than any he had yet felt. He did not love Pearl—he loved the picture, and thereafter Jasper returned to his home and again did not leave. He fell into the same habit of glaring long into the portrait of a woman he now knew in fact never existed in the way he thought her to, realizing with pain that a pearl is always more beautiful in its painting.





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