Van Gogh Draws Angelina Jolie in an August Light
Kyle Hemmings


At first, she told him about the blind guy who dumped her after morning coffee, the way she'd remember the scent of Java beans and his misshapen eyes, how her life felt like well water. Level and dangerously low. He began to draw her in Coptic perspective, large eyes in a body floating in space,  and she said it really wasn't her, that she had the heart of a Roman with regressive anorexic tendencies. Van Gogh apologized for his room in Arles, splotches of oils on walls, the fresh mud under his feet, a scatter of horsehair on the floor. He made several more sketches, compared her to the woman from last week, her vacant eyes and her sky of need. I'm sorry, said Angelina, none of them are really me. She asked him to cut off his beard and make love to her with eyes closed. He said, Let me think this over, I mean the beard. While Angelina spent more time in coffee shops, he began a series of self-portraits, a bald Van Gogh, missing one eye. For some reason, he couldn't bring himself to the proper measurement of thirds. With a razor, he made several nicks by the jaw line. He kept thinking about peeling an apple to its core, the death of color. When she returned, smelling of hickory nut on her breath and complaining of dizziness, he told her he couldn't do it, shaving it off. They both cried. Eventually, Angelina went back to a man named Billy Bob, and Van Gogh let in the woman with vacant eyes, charging an arm for a lousy lay, the far-off smell of haystacks, the burning yellow eye of an August night. 

First published: August, 2009
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