Observer Portrait: Draft 2

Narrative & Argument:

I changed this from class after getting feedback that Evan was too perfect in the first one. I called Evan again and told him my dilemma and just talking to him helped me work out some of what I had gotten wrong. It was kind of like a therapy session too. This one is really choppy as I tried to get down some of my thoughts before they left me, apologies

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 Evan sat to my right and there were three other people congregating around the other side of linoleum kitchen table with us. Though the average age of the people at the party was around twenty, the house was decorated in 70s-style décor complete with a floral print couch and macramé owl. The time warp was surprisingly fitting for the shabby basement apartment. I watched with guilty fascination as they lit up a joint. As any good host would, the girl holding the blunt looks at us and asks, “Want a hit?” I decline and her eyes move to Evan. She raises her eyebrows to silently ask the question again. I am aware of how hard I’m staring at him to see what he’ll do. We’re not dating anymore, so he can do whatever he wants. What does he want?

Our eyes lock for an instant before he responds to her. “No thanks, I’m good.” Then he refocuses to the guitar in his lap and continues plucking at the strings to let the moment pass.

We never looked like a  ‘good couple.’ At just under six-foot four, Evan was an exceptionally tall person and at exactly five feet, I am an exceptionally short person. My Vietnamese heritage has given me a petite frame, straight dark hair, and a slightly tanned complexion. Evan, on the other hand, is an ideal Swede with a mass of curly white-blond hair, blue eyes, a prominent nose, and fair skin that he himself has described as “impressively white.” He is muscular, but because his limbs are so elongated, he always appeared more gawky than strong. I imagine we looked comical to most people when we walked together, but there was always something about the asymmetry that I liked.

I first met Evan in our eight-grade history class. With his lanky figure, acne-prone pale skin, and shirts that didn’t fit properly over his long torso, I thought he was a shy kid that got lost in the teenage crowd. To my surprise, he quickly became my best friend and easily one of the most interesting people I’ve met.

More than half the time I’d meet him at his house, he was in the basement painting. As we descended the stairs together I would be greeted with the sound of his favorite jazz or blues music. He was the most diligent young artist I have ever met and, even back when he was a high school student, he had a passion for his medium that made me worried whether I would ever feel the same way about anything I did. Evan would wake up, start painting, and then keep painting all day for hours, only stopping to eat. Without an exhibition coming up or assignment required for class, he’d happily work on a painting day and night for weeks. He was extremely talented and, even if we weren’t friends, I would have liked his work. As an artist, he constantly experimented with different techniques and styles, but they were always beautiful in different ways.

I wondered how much the people at the party knew him. Maybe they just recognized him from another party or as the guy with cabin in the woods that would host wild bonfires. Maybe they had seen him dripping liquid THC onto his outstretched tongue or trying to throw his ax across the lake. Evan is someone worth getting to know.

In the eight years I’ve known him, I could see how the different categories of his life were all on the same plane and gave him the same level of enjoyment just in different ways. He collected things he learned from this or that to redistribute somewhere else. He was just as inspired reading about artists he admired or talking to his favorite person, his grandmother, as he was thrilled by artistically vandalizing a building or a good bottle of whiskey. He once told me I was one of the few people patient enough to see all the sides of him and, as he put it, “be his weirdest” as he worked through the things that interested him in our conversations. It wasn’t ‘patience,’ it was genuine interest. Without trying, he taught me how to love learning about art and to see the world through the lens of an artist. He told me history of blues music and the struggles of his favorite musicians. He played The Beatles for me. We hung out in bookstores and coffee shops and talked about the Whys and Hows of life and it all seemed so normal to me.

What, in fact, I never could accept was his indulgence in drugs, drink, and rebellion. It was the part of him I refused to see and deeply resented. I never understood why he would waste his time with such things even when he tried to explain to me. I want to say one of them is the “real” Evan, but I know they aren’t separate. If you let him, he’d effortlessly have a sincere conversation with you and if I let him, he’d show me how to relax a little bit.

‘No thanks,’ he had said. It was his way of being patient with me, still.

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