The Lovely Lady

~Jon Patrick Sage

On the wall of my office, hangs a beautiful portrait of a lovely young lady. It is the only picture of a woman, other than my wife or family members that I have. If I had to guess, I would say that it will be the only one of “another lady” that would ever be allowed, now or in the future, to reside on any wall in the house, let alone the wall directly opposite my desk. I am confident that the only reason my wife allows it to stay is twofold– the first part being that she knows that, for whatever reason, I like it; and secondly, I am usually the only one in my office, and my dear wife never really has to look at it… at her. “Her”, or that “lady”, a generic descriptive is all that I know of her, of the portrait. I have no idea, nor will I ever, of the origin or name of the lady in the portrait. It is a mystery. She is a mystery. However, to me, it is a grand mystery, one that is better left unsolved. To solve it… to know of her… to place her, would be to ruin her forever.

It is so much more than just a portrait of the lovely young lady.

If I had to attest to some fact, the first would be that the portrait of my lovely lady is haunted. Pictures, mirrors, especially those with the oval shaped glass, seem to me to be peculiarly inclined to house a spirit. However, if the portrait is haunted, the spirit is evinced in the eyes of the lady, and not necessarily the glass or the frame.

I bought her at an auction, some 3 or 4 years ago, and still haven’t been able to aptly describe my fascination with her. I did not choose to bid and then buy the portrait; rather, I was imageirresistibly drawn up to it, and made my bid while standing next to her. I was captured by her eyes. Even tonight, I am baffled, and yet transfixed by the gaze. She is dressed in the fashion which might have been popular between Elizabethan and 1910’s America. The print was made in color, or rather the technique of that time in which a certain tinting was accomplished, giving at times an almost “too perfect” definition to the features of the subject. With eyes cast upward, she is passing underneath a large and hanging group of pink roses, and the petals are brushed aside by her bare shoulders, exposed from beneath a plain blue robe.

The lady is forever on her way to some destination, possibly to tea beneath a vine covered trestle out in the garden of a manor? Or, it could be that she is walking up a pathway back into her own house, and the roses are an ornament to some wall, growing out over the top of an ancient brickwork, with mortar cracked and missing. Possibly some of those roses have taken root between the brick, and the plants are anchored in that homestead, as is the lady. The entire scene is now framed as a still, stopped by the flash. And although she is in motion, she may never move from that spot, wherever it may be.

Simply because I am unaware of the location in the print, it will never change… it will always remain, just as it is pictured. Equally unknown and frozen in time, is the young lady. Whether or not the eyes are animated by some spirit, they are nevertheless full of life, and the life will never leave; the direction of the gaze will never change. The slight smile on her lips will eternally remain just that, the slightest of smiles. It is impossible to say if and when they ever parted to speak… to breathe… or stiffened downward into sadness.

Because I don’t know her, she will never change. Her anonymity to me has given her immortality, so that she will always remain just as she was, even though I must change… forced into growing older. Of the thousands of portraits I have seen, of all of the images pressed between the framed backing and glass, I am indescribably attached to the one which I know the least about. She is perfectly preserved– beautiful and pristine, despite the ravages of time which occur outside of the frame.

At least 100 years have passed, and she has not known the difference… I hope she has not known the difference. For the sake of our collective spirit: those who have already gone, and all of us who will someday go… I hope she has not known the difference.

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