The Last Letter of Vincent Van Gogh

The Last Letter of Vincent Van Gogh 

I cannot remember when exactly I first opened the old yellow colored dusted letter. The letter is so old that it is wrinkled all over and time has emblemed it with all its signs. But it is there and it is still there with me. It was passed over to me by my grandfather on his deathbed. I was just six then. I had no idea what that letter is but my Dutch grandfather who was respected all over the village throughout his life called me before half an hour of his death and said, 'Daniel, I have nothing else to give you but this. If I was true in my life then you will be a true human being when you grow up. Read this letter, it will never let you walk in the wrong path. And you will understand what life is after all. It's not money it's not lusting it's not woman, but life is all about overcoming all thisand finding out for what you are here to survive. Daniel, He will be always with you.'

It was the last words of my grandfather to me. Then I thought the word "He " means Jesus Christ, but now I know clearly that He was not God. It was him. It can only be Him who wrote the letter.

In a freezing cold night of my adolescence, I first opened my letter when I cannot sleep and the candle on my table dance restlessly creating shadows on the walls. That night I was a bit broken as I saw Catherine, the girl of my neighbor and my first love move out of the village and went to Paris. I never told her about my love, I had no idea how to say that but when I saw she along with her brother and sisters and parents moving away, she stopped once and turned to me. Her eyes on me. My heart jumped. It was too late. I knew at that time that I should have said what I felt for her. But then the time was gone.

That night, I opened the letter in the light of the flickering candle. It is a long letter but after writing it was crossed and rejected and crumbled. The crumbled marks are all over the letter. Still after so many years. My grandfather kept this letter within a big fat volume of a book. And the yellow sheet got somewhat ironed. But the wrinkles will be there forever. I promised that night I will not let them get worse. That was a strange thing to think as that means I am fighting against time and I am prepared for it.

My broken heart in the light of the candle reads the letter throughout the night.

The letter began as a draft. A First draft which the letter writer decided to copy later on must be.

It was written:

"I write to you this letter in French and not Dutch because after living for the last couple of years in the south I have fallen in love with the language. Tonight, I can't sleep again and I listen to the winds and see the night outside bluish black in color. There is no moon tonight. I like the moon. But sometimes the clouds come and grasp her. Robbing the sky of the stars and the natural illuminated light. Strangely, dear, I feel very lonely today. As if I have lost strength all of a sudden. The darkness always sips in me. I cannot say what happens but I feel that when I swim in colors and the black all around strangle me like a serpent. In these nights I come out and sit outside in the garden. All the rooms of this small pension are closed and except my window, no window is lit. The night is not windy and so cold I would have brought the canvas out and paint the night. But what I will paint tonight? Even the stars are gone. Are these of signs? Can I understand? Can you understand? I think of my life today. My life in Hague, my young years in London and in Paris with you. The nights I roam like a vagabond in Montmartre and drew a hundred sketches of a hungry girl, the drunk, the laborers, the rich and the gorgeous upper-class women as well as the prostitutes.

Have I ever told you that one night I got lost on the street? I was skirting from street to street when at one time I saw I was at the top and the grand the mysterious the magnificent Sacre Coeur is in front of me. Trying to say me something. As if the white angel whispering me about my own life. I sat there on a bench and cried. I was hungry. I had not a franc left. It was not new. I had spent numerous nights like this. I know I would survive. I did. You were always too kind to me. That night I came down to my room at dawn and painted till afternoon. What will happen to all my paintings? Sometimes I wonder if there is any meaning of all of them? There is I know. And what about the women I loved? Why they all left me? I did everything possible for them but yet but yet...sometimes I look at my self-portraits I painted and my real face on the mirror. I always have a feeling that I am stuck in one age and I have never grown up. Can it be true? No, I know that is absurd. Ah! This black night. I come back again to the light of the candle and write to you. It is often good to return to the light. But tell me, dear, am I becoming too much a burden for you? When my paintings will sale? Will it ever? Am I being too selfish to ask money from you always? But I have no one else dear! Only you! Everyone else has left me. I even think I was born at the wrong time in the wrong place. What I am blubbering? It is this night, just this black night. I think now of the morning the soft orange dawn and Adeline, the beautiful sweet girl at the Auberge Ravoux cafe bringing me the first cup of coffee and smiling to me a charming smile. Ah! Hours to the dawn...must paint today. I must paint on the field again where I often feel I find the real peace real surrender real dazzling bright magnificent colors painting my eyes my skin my fingers my heart my soul. ah, I must paint today. I must paint colors to eradicate this suffocating black night..."    

In the end, it is just written,

With a handshake in thought


28th July, 1890


I cannot sleep that night. I was a changed man. I knew that the letter has got engraved in me and I will never be the same. Never. From the next day, I came to know who Vincent Van Gogh was. The letter was his last letter I sent unpublished. As the next afternoon on 29th July, 1890 Vincent shot himself.

I became obsessed with him. Obsessed! Let it be an addictive word. Because a man like Vincent never will let me do anything wrong. I will suffer horribly suffer but I will be honest. And I will be true. Because at the end of the day when I stand at the mirror, I should look at myself and be clean and clear and happy.

I soon found out that my grandfather used to be the waiter and the cleaner in that pension where Vincent last stayed. He was almost a kid then. He found the letter from a dustbin at the back of the garden three days after Vincent died. No one noticed it. Even not his brother Theo Van Gogh to whom I am sure the letter was written before he got disgusted and depressed and crossed the letter crumbled it and threw out of the window to the garden which got stuck within the leaves of a sunflower tree. I shivered! The sunflowers! Yes, it has to be the sunflower.

I am a treasured man. I work in a school teaching. I earn enough to sustain myself. I have a small house in Auvers-sur-Oise and though I had an invitation to move to Paris, I never did. Whenever I think of leaving this small town almost a village I think of my grandfather and a letter and how he kept the letter with him for years. For ages till he died. Now, it belongs to me.  I knew very well I can become a millionaire if I auction it ever. But money cannot give me that happiness that fills up my heart each night when I read the letter. I whisper to him. I talk to him. I try to make him understand. I laugh at him. I pride in him.

And at the end before sleep or in soft orange dawn I handshake with him in thought.

With Vincent.

Vincent Van Gogh.

(The story is purely a work of fiction and imaginary. Except for the details of the place and the house which were as per letters of Vincent Van Gogh and other biographical works on him)

Subhadip Majumdar

Subhadip Majumdar is a poet and writer and has had a number of writing published in Ariel Chart.

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