A Portrait of Me

This portrait you have just bought? It’s a portrait of me. You are currently reading this diary of mine because I ordered it to be given to whomsoever purchased the portrait. Read on stranger.

I did not have this painting commissioned, my wife did. She thought it would please me, and it has, but not in the way she imagined it to be. She didn’t like the way the artist did it. She’d been hoping for a picture that would remind her of me in the younger days, of a suave me, when the vices of alcohol and tobacco hadn’t sunk their claws into my body yet. What she got instead were the very things she hates in me – all those faults that manifest themselves in the picture through the shadows on my face, the smoking death I hold between my fingers, and the malice that hides in every fold of my robe.

She’d been angry with the poor painter for doing his job, till he explained my orders. Then she knew, and she was afraid, and so she left me. No, don’t let your eyes wander to the portrait again, keep reading. Her leaving didn’t alter my lifestyle; I continued to live as always, smoking forty cigarettes a day, allowing those gray snakes of death to filter through my lungs, while the amber ones from the bottle ate away at my stomach. The only other important constant left was this diary, the one you are currently reading. You must have been intrigued stranger, to see this last entry of mine, written on the day before I move on. I must confess today, right now, while my body still allows me to. This is something no one but my wife knows. You are the only one other person, stranger, whom this deadly secret shall be divulged to. Stop your eyes from wandering over to the portrait repeatedly and concentrate on the book. This is important for both of us.

When I was 21 years old, in the unusually humid summer of 1963, I made a pact with the devil. I know your curiosity must be piqued, so I shall continue. I had been betrayed into bankruptcy in both love and money. I was looking for a way to take revenge and end my life simultaneously. Then he met me. To mock me he presented himself in my image. He offered me 70 years of life with everything I could ask for – wealth, game, power, and love. I was desperate and young. My soul I did not care for as long as I had my love back, so I agreed. Your eyes are drawn to my face again I know. Don’t look.

So I spent these 70 years enjoying myself and fulfilling every dream I had; aware, with ever beat of the heart and every turn of my head that time was ticking away. And now the time is up. But I made another pact, after this portrait was painted. Another soul in exchange for mine he said. I agreed. So I cursed this portrait. You will find you cannot stop reading this. It is a part of this curse. When you reach the last words of this page, your heart will stop beating, and my soul will be freed. So I must thank you my friend. You may look at my portrait one last time. Curse all you want there is nothing you can do anymore. Thank you for your sacrifice my friend, I am indebted to you. Goodbye.

Juhi Mendiratta