Isobelle Carmody Award
for Creative Writing
Arles, France 1888
My life is plagued by colour. Colour rains down on me like a storm,
immersing everything around me in passionate reds, soothing blues,
jealous greens and effervescent pinks. They all seem tomelt together,
like paint on a canvas, each of them crying louder than the other,
begging me to paint them.
The cacophony of noise drags me out of yet another daydream,
bringing me back into the present in the café. Le Forum was busy
during all hours of the day and night, housing patrons of different
statuses and wealth all under the one roof. The orange glow from
inside the café beckoned weary wayfarers in from the night like a
beacon guiding ships into the bay. I run my paint-stained hands over
the delicate stem of the wine glass, drinking deeply from a bottle of
wine bought with the last of my francs. The burden of this tough
week was finally taking its toll with the dull ache in my feet growing
more and more. I had been wandering from galleries to strangers,
trying to persuade anyone I could find to buy anything from my
motley collection of oil paintings. ‘Too strange,’ ‘Too different,’ they
would all say. The people of Arles didn’t like anything different. If
only selling was as easy as drinking.
Suddenly my gaze is drawn towards a particular newcomer to the
café. He stands in the doorway with his back to the cold night, a
hand running erratically through his ginger hair and in his other
hand, clutched tightly to his chest was a worn out, old straw hat. His
eyes scan around the already full café, looking for an empty seat.
Moments later, the bar stool next to me is pulled out with a dull
scrape and the stranger takes his seat. ‘One glass of red, s’il vous
plait,’ he says to the bar tender in a thick accent that I can’t quite
pick. I glance over at him, taking in his dishevelled beard and aged
face, long ago creased with worry. He catches my glance and raises
his glass. ‘Salut,’ he gestures at me before raising it to his lips. I
attempt a half-hearted smile. His gaze drifts down towards the stack
of paintings by my feet. ‘You’re an artist?’ he asks.
‘I was,’ I reply, scoffing at my own work.
‘Was?’ he stares at me incredulously.
‘No one ever seems to appreciate anything I’ve ever created. All I
see around me is a world full of colour, bleeding out through life and
all I can do is soak it up through the strokes of a paint brush and
disperse it onto a canvas. Why can’t people understand what I’m