The One I Gave Away

I have a story to tell you about the sketch that isn’t here.


Now it’s been a couple of weeks since this happened, but never mind, I wrote it down as soon as I got to the museum.  After I found my seat on the bus that day I did a so-so drawing of some guy below me, when we stopped at the Veteran’s Administration stop.  A man got on and sat down next to me.  He immediately asked, not wasting a second, are you an artist?  Will you draw me?  Oy, I thought, there goes my anonymity.   As an aside, I’ve learned about the big difference between sketching someone I know, even sort of, and “drawing under cover”, not just in space but in thought.  One needs to objectify that person which is just easier when they are in fact an object with no emotional attachment.  And this was even different again because he ASKED me, which has never happened before.  But he was a vet, after all, and given my intense interest in soldiers I couldn’t say no.  So we struck a deal.  I asked him, If I draw you will you tell me what it was like in Vietnam?  He said yes.  I also told him he had to promise to pretend he didn’t know I was drawing him.  

Since he was sitting next to me, all I could get was a profile, which filled up most of the page.  I was a bit self conscious, but I managed to get into it, sort of.  Learned a lot!  When I showed him, he looked and then said, well I guess this is how I look, I wish I looked younger (he noticed all the lines I drew in his face) but this is how I look.  I told him I’ve drawn younger people with lines, I tend to like to lines and follow them.  Then he said, you know it looks like the actor in the “Godfather”!  (Marlon Brando).  We agreed it was the way his lower lip stuck out.  He was much happier with it after that.  He was a really nice guy, very insightful, thoughtful.  I wanted to ask him more about himself and his life, but I didn’t.   

Then I started to tell him about the book I’m reading, “Matterhorn”, a novel about Vietnam, which describes vividly what it’s like to fight in the jungle with the leeches, as only one small example and asked him if he had experienced that.  He looked at me and said, actually I wasn’t in Vietnam.  “I was stateside”.  I told him I wanted to hear about it.  He was stationed at Fort Ord from around November of 1970-July of ’71.  All the time he was talking I kept thinking that he’s probably around my age, which kind of blew my mind, because the other wars I had been reading about were all before my time, except this one.  (So you will understand the next part of the story I need to tell you I told him that I was a teacher).  He told me about when Jane Fonda came to their base to rally the troops and how they went out on the freeway!  In my literal way I was trying to imagine all those troops on the freeway.  I didn’t want to embarrass him, but I had to ask, was it a freeway or a highway?  He smiled and said, you are very insightful, you are a teacher, you are right to ask, it must have been a highway because we couldn’t have gotten onto the freeway, which we both agreed about. 

I’ve never given away a sketch, it has never come up, but I asked him if he wanted it.  He said yes and thank you; said he would show people how he looked like that actor, folded it up and put it in his backpack.  Then it was time for me to get off, at Fairfax, and as the bus pulled away I looked up and he was smiling at me and then we waved goodbye to each other. 

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commented 2012-04-15 17:25:07 -0700 · Flag
Lovely story!
followed this page 2012-04-14 16:16:49 -0700
published this page in Blog 2012-04-11 15:47:00 -0700
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