Orange Is The Only Kind of Fruit in the Room
The story was inspired by the life story of Egon Schiele, the Austrian painter with a unique and sexual way of portraying human body. His short yet dramatic life was attractive in all his talents and in the relationship between the people around him. What is exactly the thing that made him who he was, his talents or his characteristics? Or, is talent an inseparable part of one's personality? Assuming two people share Egon Schiele's talent and personality collectively, the story tries to answer the question: what is the most precious thing one can hold on to?
October 2016, Short Story, Individual Work, Position: Writer, Translator, Illustrator.
For an original version written in Chinese, please check here.
An RPG adventure game based on the story is in the process of making, check the art design here..
It was S who waited behind April when she stood in line for a pancake in the cafeteria.
The aged woman in worn-out apron soaked her shovel-shaped tool into water that had onions floating on the surface. Pieces of eggshell were then picked from the half-done pancake made of purple rice. The person behind April couldn’t wait any longer. He shouted: “Same as hers, please!” April looked back with her pancake in hand and saw a quite delightful smile on S's face. He tilted his head, grinning harmlessly. This is the pancake-version of their first meeting.
Quite ordinary, simple enough to be called crude. That April failed to realize this is exactly the so-called meant-to-be in a long time.
Their first meeting in S’s mind was quite different, though he didn’t remember it well. It might be a brush he had one day outside the studio, or a glimpse from the open-air café beside the street. “People don’t usually remember their first meetings like you do.” S said. There were several glowing-green oranges in the basket that afternoon. S looked around before he took out an empty glass bottle of wine and put it beside the inanimate objects: “They need a bottle here…”
April had learned not to bother to stop him. She simply wished she could do the painting without S being around. But S showed up in the atelier now and then. Sometimes he sat on the pile of used paper in the corner of room, painting. Those were the most painful moments in April’s life. Compared to S’s talent, every piece of her work seemed to be screaming for her banality and inutility of her previous endeavors. The truth that she had no talents in painting. But every time when she asked herself if it was time to let go, her sunk costs was always remaining silent.
Yet this afternoon, S seemed not planed to speak ironically of her. April felt relieved. She was painting a still life: oranges, basket, a glass bottle with linen cloth beneath them. Oranges were not something used to see in the studio. Mr. Cyan in the studio was hardly order than his students thus lacked a sense of confidence, especially when the students asked to eat the oranges in the middle of a class. He tried and failed to cover up his shyness: flying out of the studio right after every class, always standing at the back of the classroom and commented with a voice so low almost couldn’t be heard. His students knew that they’d be allowed to do anything, eating the oranges, for example, as long as they involved their instructor in it too. They gave Mr. Cyan a segment before eating and Mr. Cyan would be flattered, acquiescing them even in taking away other fruits. So as a result, orange showed up in the studio lesser and lesser. They didn’t eat apples without peeling. Lemons were sour enough to prevent them eating directly. Therefore, students finally behaved themselves.
There was only one teacher in the studio. He did his part-time job in the studio every afternoon in Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The lecture included still life drawings and watercolor only. “To call it ‘Lecture’ was a little bit confusing.” April said, “After all it was always you who do the paintings.”
S nodded and had a bite of the pancake: “Wednesday and Thursday were not available?”
“Cyan needs to take care of his family store.”
“A fruit store.” April said, starting to feel a little bit bothered. Was she even responsible in popularizing the business status of the studio she was in？Yet S saw nothing unusual in it. He sat pleasantly in the summer day of August, under the pipes which were located on the ceiling of the first floor of cafeteria and covered in black smoke stains and white water stains. S had natural black curl hair. He was wearing a ripped T-shirt. There were sunburnt marks on his arm. Right in the middle of the summer time.
At half past twelve, a gust of wind blew in through the east windows of the cafeteria. Two boys dressed in camouflage separated from the crowd with noodles in hand and sat themselves beside S and April. April found herself unable to blame the freshmen who couldn’t read the unspoken words written on her face when she sat alone at a table of four.
“There are noodles in the cafeteria?” She whispered to S.
“You want noodles now?” S fixed his eyes on the noodles that belonged to the boys in camouflage.
Those two slightly chubby boys looked up from their noodles, the one with golden hair and a paler skin answered: “It’s over there, where they also sell fried eggs. You still got an appetite for noodles?”
April denied hurriedly.
“Use mine!” S said, reached out his left hand.
70 days from this moment, April would go through something like this again. The plot located beside the gallery ticket office. The ticket girl with a green eye shadow would be annexing the seal on the free tickets. S would be standing beside with his head raised to read the attentions stuck on the glass.
“What pleasant summertime.” He would take back his student card, saying those words to April in a singing tone.
For the main female character April, her counterpart hasn’t showed up yet in the story. In those moments when she had to sit together with couples who feed on each other and when she encountered the frightening shadows of lovers wrapping their arms around each other at 2 o’clock in the morning, she threw one and one only question to life: “Where is my main male character now?”
Her hero was now sitting on a delicate handmade carpet and it is until October would they confront each other. Before that, Cyan had carefully worked out a schedule for every student in the studio. They all conform to a sequence: cubes and spheres, cylinders crossed with cones, Ionic Chapiter, horse’s heads, the plaster statue of Sire Ma, the plaster statue of Voltaire, potteries and fruits, endless potteries and fruits.
Cyan was the only child in the fruit store that his parents ran for a living. They paid Cyan his college tuition with apples, strawberries and kiwi fruits in a not so-called easy circumstances, only to find their son facing faked reality in studio everyday- hollowed apples, lemons made of plastics and pears with a bluish red that were extremely lifelike but yet, not real. They were shocked. “You shouldn’t cheat on those children only because you’ve been deceived by grown-ups.” Cyan’s mother said and thrust leftover fruits into his hands.
Cyan arrived at the studio two hours earlier, with a bag full of apples, oranges and lemons. The studio located in an office building. It cost the owner a lot of time and money because it was the only left room facing south. An advertisement was put on bulletin in the art department building from a college nearby. Cyan was about to graduate from college at the time, wondering if he should inherit his family fruit store. But his parents were not even in their fifty’s, thus in no need of an extra worker. Cyan was full on his head when entered the elevator with the plaster statue of David on his shoulder. The other two girls in his grade were talking about the galleries in the city.
“I heard that you’ve already got an offer. Is that true?”
Cyan answered vaguely and the girls started giggling.
It was not a lie. There was a gallery that wanted to sign him. The owner even offered to exhibit one of his paintings on his daughter’s birthday party several weeks ago.
The girl looks like his father in a certain way. She smiled beside her father when he did the toast and after the speech, continued standing alone beside a flourishing plant in front of the French windows. Cyan remembered the shadows casted on her black dress. Light came from the spaces between leaves of the plant. A few moments he even got the delusion that the girl was standing in the middle of a forest, her face flickered in the swaying leaves. Her looks fitted into every painting hanging on the opposite wall.
They are the portraits of the girl back when she was fourteen.
Is talent part of the unbearable part of being? Her mother left home after finishing those paintings, leaving behind the canvas, brushes, her colors, husband, daughter and the rabbit. Father was depressed for a whole half-year and the gallery opened.
Cyan failed in finding his painting that evening. Yet the owner didn’t break his promise and Cyan’s work was hanging on the wall in the women’s washroom the whole night. This is the only work enclosed with a short introduction: CYAN. However Cyan was disappointed and left for home quite early, thus his first meeting with Mrs. W was delayed for three days.
Mrs. W didn’t notice the painting at first. She shouldn’t be in the washroom fixing her makeup at the first place if it were not for the champagne she accidently took. But life was full of uninvited bitterness, and in this one she saw the self-portrait of Cyan. The young man’s black eyes were not fixed on anything, instead looked right through everything she possessed.
So she went to the gallery’s owner, contacted Cyan and they met in a diner. Except the look in his eyes, Cyan was exactly the person she saw in the painting.
Lemonade on Gillardeau oyster fell down their throats first.
Cyan stared at the little ‘G’ engraved on the oyster’s shell. He couldn’t refuse a payment so rich and generous and agreed to paint a portrait for her. Yet Mrs. W was not his muse, however sincere and thirsty she was. The memory of their first meeting trapped him: a plump oyster whose shell was slightly open. Or, maybe he was actually the one who was desperate for water?
Those paintings were not taken away. They were placed against wall and wrapped with white waterproof cloth. To look at the paintings, to perceive their existence, no need to put the cloth off and Mrs. W would fly all back to those days. The sunny afternoon, lying in the middle of the blankets laid on the floor. The young man looked at her with total carefulness.
“Please keep looking at me.”
This was the wish that Mrs. W recollected in Cyan’s gazes. However, Cyan could not yet understand at the time. He hadn’t learned to appreciate everything in life: the branches full of yellow buds in spring, wrinkles growing on skin, loosen teeth that gradually discolor, water stains on mirror in rainy days, curling eyelashes of girls and the expecting yet depressed look in one’s eyes.
Cyan was still holding David the plaster statue when he saw the advertisement on the bulletin. An art room was recruiting part-time instructors. At here he and Troye met.
“If you are going to apply for the job, would you let me be the model?” The handsome looked from David to Cyan. A smile came across his face.
This was May the 14th, 2013.
Painted all in white, even Michelangelo couldn’t carve a statue out of marble more perfect and powerful than his look. April couldn’t express her astonishment except the following description: as if he was born to be the beauty. She could name every muscle on his arm that was supporting himself on the side table. The curve of his ribs went all the way down to the shadows cast on him by his own body.
April arrived late this day. When she opened the door, the first 20-minute sketch was right about to end. She rushed in and came face to face with Troye who was stretching his body elegantly. S was burying himself behind his easel. A column of light filtered through curtains was shining on his curly hair as well as on Troye’s body. Even David, the plaster statue of Giuliano Medici, was eclipsed in this.
“The second pose, 20 minutes, go!”
Cyan pressed the timer in the back of the studio. April hurried to the empty easel beside S. S lifted his hairy head to take a look at Troye. Troye smiled a little back at Cyan.
This was the 22th of October, 2016.
Everyone painted in different orders, starting from head or the total opposite. Some were used to draw the outlines first while some preferred started from eyes. However with Troye as the model, neither way betrayed those 20 minutes. Cyan leaned against the wall with his eyes closed. He couldn't help himself but thinking about the dawn with charcoal flame and smokes around. What remains unchanged was this very smile.
Yesterday he made it to the studio with the plastic bag in hand, in which his mother, again, put an extra 2 kilograms of orange. He got all things down in the studio, cleaned up the red velvet and left with the oranges for Troye’s house after every poster on wall was neat. The bag went missing in the middle of all the cloths after 5 minutes. Troye was in the same college as his, studying textile design. The cloths in the room, the Mulberry Doupion Silk, diablement fort fabric and the linen blanket piled from table to sofa, layer upon layer onto the ground. Old heating installation huddled into the corner of the room. Cotton cloths fell on them from the windowsill. When winds blew in though the half-opened window, they flew away like sea mews in all kinds of color. Sometimes they flew back into the room too.
Troye hurried to close the window and some oranges showed up under a pile of poplin. Juices and flesh splashed everywhere on the cloth. They stuck into the textures. Cyan was finally able to figure out his favorite one, like brushes swept on canvas softly, smooth but rough, wet and a little bit salty.
“If you…” Cyan said.
At this moment in the studio, students could bear no more but started shouting and sharing oranges.
“There is an exhibition in the gallery!” S raised his cell phone for April to see. The picture was quite familiar: April had been looking at the same posters for a while, on the studio’s walls. They were full of all kinds of exhibition posters, all covered with unknown color of water spattered on them. Those were all the words that Cyan failed to say.
Troye started to pack his things.
Sunset. Red-orange lights reached out to the deepest corner of the room. There was this one painting depicting the cloth that wrinkled and rolled. April’s painting.
Troye remembered her touch on his cloth when she passed by. Her skin was so close to his that he could hardly feel. The girl had a certain kind of look in her eyes that could be named proud. It was because of this particular look that he recognized her 20 days after, in front of the ticket office of the gallery. April and S was picking up their ticket beside the gate.
“I don’t have an identity card… Are foreigners not allowed to visit galleries?”
April rolled her eyes with the ticket girl: “Student card. At least you got your student card with you?”
S took out the card unwillingly: “It has my Chinese name on it. But better spelled in characters: E-g-o-n-”
S was showing his perfect smile on the card, his curly hair was quite perfect too. Its term of validity dated from September the 1st , 2013 to August the 31st, 2017. The name…
“Only my family name was printed on it. Actually I am not yet used to people calling me by my first name. So ‘S’ is Okay. In English it spells s-c-h-i…”
“My name,” S said, “is Schiele. Egon Schiele.”
When Schiele met Edith for the first time, the latter was sipping a white-and-yellow striped cup of lemonade under a white-and red striped sunshade in an open-air café. Her head moved slightly, like a marble figure. A quiet girl.
This was the June of Vienna, the lemon tea version of their first meeting.
Schiele had left the prison for a week. The city that gave birth to his mother didn’t give him the approval he expected, just like the unwelcomeness he had always felt from the past. Yet, Neulengbach did give Wally her expectation that lasted for a whole 24 days. And they moved back to Vienna nevertheless.
Wally felt that she did live in Schiele’s paintings: She was only herself when he was holding his palette and all the arguments of life unfold to her when Schiele gazed her with his brown eyes. She was so much more than the lower-middle class girl who gave herself to men twenty years older than her. When Schiele asked her to be anything she liked on the soft carpet and spent a whole afternoon painting, she found herself silently screaming: ”Please look at me. I am here. Please don’t forget me…”
Sun shines on her curly hair.
The light of an early autumn, cloth fell layer upon layer from the lounge to the ground. It was surly not Wally alone that was trapped into them.
Schiele put his hands on the linen blanket beside Wally. Wally struggled not to move. But there was still a long way before Schiele finished. Sun shined through the blanket onto Wally’s skin but the purple on the palette was left with few.
Wally slightly twisted her body on the linen blanket, secretly asking herself with expectations: “Does it feel the same under his palm?”
Schiele was so close yet seemed far away from her reach. What color should Schiele use to describe the warm and moist skin that curved under the golden sunshine. And the color beneath it…
Maybe he shouldn’t care so much about the color. Maybe an appropriate strength and place would make it Wally whatever color he used.
“I will…”Wally said, “I will still be there.”
Wally raised her hand and Schiele took back his as if he sensed it.
Why is it so difficult only when it comes to express one’s true feelings? What Wally wanted to tell him is that even if Schiele had lost all his talents, she would still be in love with him. But would Schiele still be Schiele without all his talents? Wally hadn’t thought it through. It was the only way for her to express love, loyalty and gratitude. She was so devoted that she even forgot to check whether Schiele cared or not.
And it was during this time Schiele met the Harms sisters, Edith and Adele Harms. When Schiele was not in his studio, they played together on the street, four of them. The two daughters of the railway worker didn’t mind Schiele’s little unpleasant experience. Schiele was so handsome with a gift in art that rich people were willing to pay for. They knew that Schiele had had his individual exhibition at the age of 16 and Klimt offered to exchange works with him. Yet to the sisters, the name Klimt meant no more than what mentioned above. What Schiele had was just the right amount for the sisters from middle-class. The lively younger looked up to the painter with all her innocence. The older one, on the other side, was always quietly smiling. Who would be the one that lasted on canvas?
“Schiele chose Edith.”
“Wally was actually Klimt’s model. She died in Dalmatia as an army nurse. Scarlet fever.” Wally had always been the first one to leave. When Edith came to Wally with her charades, Wally didn’t hesitate too.
Troye bent to take a careful look at the painting. Death and the Maiden was completed a year before Schiele’s marriage with Edith. The girl in the painting was still Wally and Wally only. Wally in reality, however, wasn’t the one who couldn’t let go.
Is it the same thing, loving someone and loving someone because of his talents? Are talents practically everything that consists a personality?
“I do not regret.” Wally said, “It was not you nor me that let it go.”
April also believed that she had felt everything Schiele tried to say in his paintings: the proud coming with a sense of incapability, small pieces of happiness existing in life that were made mostly of pains. But even paints have their own hierarchy.
When April was little, her parents fought a lot. Mom would take her out for 40 minutes and bought a bag of peanuts, because father loved peanuts. An hour later her dad would sit in front of the table and ate them expressionless. “Don’t do that…” Little April wanted to cry, “Please don’t act like you feel nothing.”
When out having dinner, a family rushed into the diner ten minutes before the shopping mall closed. The father chomped hungrily. Empathy did not change the fact that I was also one of them.
Haute cuisines never fill a single dish, so that people are saved from looking directing at their own desires and feelings. Hence they are called haute cuisines. People restrain themselves in expressing love, so that their don’t scare others.
April, on the other side, only wish she could forget the fact that she herself is also human. She looked at others so harsh and so carefully, yet she was also one of them with all the limits.
Troye was so different. Some middle-aged women in a travel group were at the exhibition and they asked Troye to take a picture for them. His smile was so sincere that April felt her heart collapsed at once.
What kind of travel agency would bring their customers to the exhibition of Vienna Secession?
What kind of people pay for others with all his heart?
“There must be a lot of girls that were willing to give themselves to you freely.”
“Not that many girls.” Troye smiled.
Then it must be boys. April cried silently.
Yet, please look at me carefully and painstakingly. Look at me through the short sleeves I am wearing, through my blood vessels and skin. Look at me with the beat of my heart that is bouncing way too fast now.
Go upstairs and then turn right. The office was dark and hot compared to the silent air-conditioned corridor. The door indicated a magic moment. An electric fan lost one blade. A box of beer was lying on the ground. There was an upside-down bicycle tire between a chair and a sofa.
It took some time for April to adjust to the dark. She carefully sat herself on a swivel chair beside the door.
“See thyself, devil!”
April was shocked. It took her a while before she realized it was someone doing a simultaneous translation. A crude self-made play was being projected onto the wall and the background- the background was exactly this abandoned darkened hot small office that April was sitting in. Actors were reciting their lines in an extremely excited mood. There were three people sitting in line on the sofa, S waved his hand through a distance, grinning so wild that she could even recognize his teeth.
“Beers’ in this way.” Someone told April.
April bent to take out one from the box. A glass bottle of beer. Someone took it and helped her with the lid.
At this moment Edgar who dressed like a peasant had just walked his blind father Gloucester to the imaginary cliff. Gloucester threw himself down and fell onto the ground.
“Farewell, sir. And yet I don’t know if conceit like this could take away the treasure of life, if life itself yields to the theft…” A senior translated the lines into Chinese.
“Maybe he’s already gone-but now he is back!”
“What are you, sir? Have you not been gossamer, feathers, air, you couldn’t have survived. So many fathom down precipitating, you should have shivered like an egg. But you are still breathing…”
“But I didn’t fall.”
“You fall from the dread summit of this cliff such steep. Look up: so far that the shrill-gorged lark cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.”
“And I have no eyes. Has wretchedness even deprived the benefit to end itself by death?”
“This is above all strangeness. Then upon the crown of the cliff, what is it that just parted from you? As I stood here below, I see his eyes two full moons. He had a thousand noses. His horns waved like the enridged sea.”
“It was god who blessed you.”
“You can’t bear the thought of living your life doing nothing. You see yourself as someone who is worthy of being loved; yet their attention is too much for you on the other side. You dare not look back when people stare at you in the subway. When the party ends and your friends ask you why were you so quiet the whole night, you are shocked because you think yourself acting ordinary enough for the party. That you were silent but that was when silence was allowed. I just found out that… Sometimes I just wish I wasn’t there. They all seem so delightful and they all feel so easy at life. I don’t need to be part of this. I just want to look at them silently, please don’t judge me. Please don’t look at me… Hence God blessed you.”
“I do remember now. Henceforth I’ll bear affliction till it do cry out itself: ‘Enough, enough,’ and die…”
“Bear free and patient thoughts. But who comes here?”
Entered King Lear, fantastically dressed with wild flowers.
“That was not the right translation.” Someone beside April said.
April woke up to see Troye sitting beside her. She and Troye and Schiele were sitting on the sofa from the café in the gallery. They were watching the open ceremony of the 100th anniversary exhibition of the Vienna Session.
People applauded and Schiele looked back to the stage.
“This one is for you.” Troye said.
Something fell down from the back of the chair beside April. Troye caught it just in time. It was a blanket.
“When I was about to graduate…” Troye said.
“When you were about to graduate,” April said, “you were working in a project. Teamwork. The girl was your classmate. When she was young, her mother went abroad on an exhibition tour and never came back. She knew hardly anyone from her father’s contacts, thus surprised every one of them when she first showed up at the meeting: she looked exactly like her mom. And it was not only about the looks. They were so assembled in every possible way.
“Her name was Shahtooth. Did you know Shahtooth before? The first time I knew about Shahtooth, it was in my high school’s corridor. My high school set exhibitions on one side of corridors. They were all about protecting endangered animals and plants. One of the exhibits was a cape made of Shahtooth. There was a coin-sized ring and the Shahtooth went right through it. The best way for a piece of Shahtooth to prove itself true.
“The last time you saw S was the night before your graduation. You went through two-thirds of the city to see her, yet she didn’t even wait till you finish the greetings. Someone you didn’t know grabbed you, asked you to change on a suit you didn’t recognize. She called you here for her play, because of the absence of a character. You got strangers all around you. You realized that you were just someone she knew. She didn’t even bother to introduce anyone to you, because you were nothing special. Everyone was an equally small part of her life, with no one being special. You thought, maybe, she came to know me just for this one moment.”
She saw nothing in me but I jumped right into it.
“So you decided not to care anymore.” April wished she could too. But she was finally able to tell Troye: “I understand them all, I really do. I have always wanted to tell you…”
“But even if I knew this all the way through, I could not throw it away.” Troye said, “After I had my own studio and when the studio turned into an art room. I brought that blanket, my graduate project, with me every time I modeled there. ”
At the glance in the art room, April saw right through him.
“But this was what she was supposed to do.” S looked at them, tilting his head, “You were here for each other.”
S said to April: “You sympathize with Egon Schiele’s paintings, because you are the same kind of person he was. You just don’t have the talents and the approvement he got. But Schiele at his time wasn’t approved by all, too. A part of him longed for identification, the other part of him contempt at everything around. And I am the projection of him inside of you.
“There is no meaning in life. Pains or happiness, loving mankind or doubting yourself, you still live. If passion only grants you the talents and the driving force that one needs in order to become special, then half of the people who suffered could find their comfort. But gods blessed you because of your pains. ”
Meeting S in the cafeteria, having classes with him in the art room, unexpectedly breaking into the playgroup that belonged to a senior, and, when looking through the window in class, seeing S dancing the Yangko dance in the classroom nearby with a fan in hand.
He was waiting for me here.
“This is just the first day.” Boy No.1 dressed in camouflage said.
Boy No.2 dressed in camouflage was concentrating on his noodle with eggs in it: “Don’t worry. The ultimate goal of Art is no more than introspection. But life itself has no meanings at all, right? Pains or happiness; loving the mankind or doubting yourself, people still live. ” Boy No.2 dressed in camouflage with a pale color of hair and skin picked out a leaf, looked at it and then put it back, “Although they do not yet understand it now.”
S nodded: “She looked quite confident, yet cannot even stop doubting herself for a single second: maybe I just got no talents inside; maybe what I have is just some vulgar return of my endeavors that were too ordinary to mention. There is no difference lying between those whom I disapprove and me. She spends everyday doing self-analysis, as if it is the only way to develop courage that gives her the meaning of life.”
“Some gave up early and stopped to expect. But if the very thing you gave up was the only flame that burns in life, what would you do?”
“Wait—They are here for each other. You were trying to say that, right?”
Schiele pretended he wasn’t paying attention and took another bite of the pancake.
“Well, since the truth is quite close.”
The boy in a checked shirt and a pair of slippers walked pass them with keys rolling in his left hand and a girlfriend dressed in chiffon skirt on his right. This one thing, Cyan was incapable to give to someone else, April didn’t have it yet was always endowing others, Schiele got it naturally and Troye thought he didn’t need, yet received from April.
And there are 4 days left from now on. Cyan is going to head to Troye’s house with a bag of fruits, April is going to meet Troye in the art room for the second time and S is going to visit the exhibition with the three of them.
“And it ends here.”
If you give up the ability to feel, even if you are deprived of it instead of choosing to be, life would be so much easier. But April would always choose to be herself, the oversensitive girl.
Whatever her fate and whomever the people she is going to rush into, at least she will always have this one line that will always be available when feeling hopeless. Painful as it might be, it is me that stand here.
“So young, and so untender?”
“So young, my lord, and true.”