I was feeling bored. Confined. Drained. A lion in a cage.
After spending nine weeks in this little, provincial town, I was ready to bolt, my restless spirit itching to move on.
Arles. Out of all places.
This small town, with its fifty thousand inhabitants, and maybe as many tourists pacing its narrow streets, lined with ancient houses. Annoying. Boring. Not my thing at all.
Through the glass of one of the windows of Vincent's Yellow House, it looked so remote, calm and quiet. So deceivingly peaceful and simple.
Just like Vincent, on one of his ever rarer 'good days'.
But, as soon as I opened the window, the town's real nature hit me square in the face. The awful noise of the cars stuck in the evening rush hour. The fast trains speeding in and out of town, bringing back more annoying tourists each time. The insupportably loud music blaring from the pubs and restaurants on the high road. The large, slow boats and ships splashing on the waters of the nearby river. The obnoxious airplanes, zooming in the darkening sky above the house...
The life-force of this town, boiling just under the fragile surface of the window pane.
Exactly like Vincent's temper, threatening to erupt at any moment.
Or my own, for that matter.
We were so different, and at the same time, so similar. Too similar to live for long together, in peace and harmony.
I told him so, when he begged me to come here, but he wouldn't listen.
Now, after no more than seventy days of sharing this house, this life, we couldn't stand each other anymore.
Our friendship was one interminable roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs, never the same...
At the moment, he despised me for confining him indoors, making him paint from memory. However, with his mood swings, visions, panic attacks and strange behaviour, I was scared to let him stroll around the town, and his beloved, surrounding countryside on his own.
I tried my best, yet I couldn't take care of him anymore. I wasn't strong enough. Vincent was sucking my energy, draining me. A great friend became a dependent child. I had to leave, to free myself from this responsibility. Shut the door and never come back. Now. Fast.
I grabbed my empty luggage from the top of the wardrobe, smashing a glass jar full of paintbrushes in the process. The shattered glass allowed their colourful handles to explode and roll in a confused rainbow on the floor.
The sudden noise brought Vincent to my door, perplexed, a wet paintbrush still in his hand, another one stuck behind one of his ears.
"Where are you going? I knew you would leave me alone in the end."
He looked at me, shock and suspicion obvious in his bright, haunted eyes.
The look of him made me freeze. He seemed so bewildered and lost...
Vincent's white shirt was full of colourful spots and splashes of paint, there was some in his red, unkempt hair, too. His voice was tremulous, unsure and unbelieving of the scene he was seeing in front of his sad, pleading eyes.
How could I leave him?! What was I thinking?
Yes, we fought and argued, but we had also spent great times together. I learned as much from him, as he did from me. I was his best, maybe only friend apart from his brother, and here I was, ready to leave him when he needed me most. Now that his illness was becoming more obvious, and difficult to handle.
Our friendship wasn't always smooth and easy, but it was strong. It was one of a kind. If only Vincent stopped drinking and took his medications more seriously, it would survive. It must.
"I am not going anywhere. We are. This place is driving us both mad. Come on, we need a little break. Pack your bag, we will drive to the airport and take the first plane that flies somewhere far and exotic. Thailand, Africa, Hawaii, I don't mind."
"Why?" he asked, puzzled by my sudden decision, gripping the paintbrush in his hand so strongly, that his knuckles turned all white. As if his life depended on it. Or on this decision.
Because I feel that if I leave you alone this time, I'll never see you again. This thought had been haunting me for a few weeks now.
"Because I want to go on a long holiday, and my best friend is coming with me," I said instead.
Vincent kept looking at me, speechless for a little longer, and I gave him time to process the situation. To make his decision. Then, without a word, he obliged.
Soon, I could hear him rummaging trough his bedroom, while I was packing my own luggage.
I would not leave Vincent, my best friend, alone. Not this time.