Tell me what you think by Michelle Elvy

“Dites moi ce que vous en pensez,” said the old woman. “Tell me what you think.”

The girl had been gazing at the canvas, an astonishing explosion of color amidst a grey background of tattered cardboard and greasy clothing and tired plastic bags, and she now sensed the woman’s gaze on her. What could she say? That she wanted to press her cheek into the cool ocean purples, put her lips to the milky sky and drink? That the sweep of greens and browns rising up with the sun’s golden fingers parting the trees just so hinted at the home she’d left and nearly forgotten? That the feathery texture of the grasses down low reminded her of the brush of her lover’s hand on her neck, that she was sure that the depression in those tall wildflowers was made by him and her, right there. And that the line of black birds off in the distance placed a thin, cold emptiness in her chest which had nothing to do with the November Parisian morning?

For a moment, she wondered if she could take this woman around the corner and buy her a hot tea, sit with her and talk about the color of warmth and love and home, of sorrow and loneliness and fear. She wanted to know how an old woman could capture everything that was in a girl’s heart in such a small square. Instead, she tossed a coin into the woman’s worn grey cap and muttered: “Oui, c’est bon.”


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Filed under Michelle Elvy

14 responses to “Tell me what you think by Michelle Elvy

  1. Wow, that opportunity, that moment to connect, lost because of it all being said to herself. How often we do this and for so many reasons! I love how you brought out her reaction then so nimbly shut it down.

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful image. Maybe I should get out more and talk to real people. My “slice of life” flashes are too random and involve strange plot devices like Cereal and Shadow People. Peace.

  3. beautiful + melancholic, and almost like mirrors: the old woman, the young girl.

    also, i really like the way the issue starts in Paris with a painting, and ends in Paris with a painting.

  4. Kim Hutchinson

    Perfect ending. C’est bon.

  5. So well done! I love how your words describe something that leaves someone speechless. Also how you remind us the best work is not necessarily to be found in a Gallery …

  6. guy

    What keeps her from gushing about the picture the way narrator does? Language? Class? Fear? Or is she just in a hurry?

  7. Robert Vaughan

    I love this piece, Michelle, so relatable and I wonder, as Guy does, what makes her hold back, unlike the narrator? I like that I get to speculate about that.

  8. Very sad. We so often miss out on connections because of received ideas about appropriate speech and actions.

  9. Thanks everyone for the comments. The inability to say what she was feeling was, at a most basic level, related to a language barrier, the girl unable to express all those things in French. The piece started out with this idea of language, but in the end I wanted to leave the reasons the girl can’t say what is on her mind ambiguous (and Guy: yes to all those things you wonder — except her being in a hurry. I had not considered that as a possibility, but the others certainly play a part. She is lingering there, so I don’t think she is in a hurry anywhere — but she certainly rushes off when confronted with the idea of having to express herself fully.)

  10. You’ve captured so much here. I think this is my favorite flash by you.

  11. Oh, this story made my heart sink and leap at the same time, and my eyes water – fuck you write gorgeous, sad stories!

  12. Have just read some more comments here but not Michelle’s: for me, for her to comment would be just too too much, and how could it possibly be expressed anyway, in a conversation, even without a language barrier, on the street?

  13. Beautiful. Shows how the beauty of art can make the utility of the spoken language impossible. I will ponder this for some time. Peace…

  14. Pingback: Week #27 – lost in translation « 52|250 A Year of Flash

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