You may have already guessed that the portrait artist was none other than Richard. If you hadn’t, then perhaps this comes as quite a surprise. How did their friendship blossom? And how did he come to draw such an exquisite portrait of Amelia? To answer these questions, we first need to return to their high school years, and to that first morning when Amelia, and her older brother Josh, escorted Richard into the high school and created such an uproar.
Amelia had been nervous that morning because she knew the risks of befriending Richard; she knew it would likely lower her status with her friends, and with the rest of the student body. But she also didn’t care, because she knew in her heart it was the right thing to do, and she was a strong-willed and determined girl, who was willing to fight injustice, especially if it meant bringing happiness to someone like Richard, who reminded her of a wounded bird. Besides, her best friend, who also happened to be her brother, was on her side, so she had all the support she needed to stand up against everyone else.
At the time, Amelia didn’t recognize the significance this new friendship with Richard would have, because as the morning progressed, she was preoccupied with the emotions that she was having, and couldn’t imagine anything beyond her own feelings. She felt excited and powerful as the morning wore on; and as her prior fears evaporated in the heat of her own self-righteousness, she grew more confident and joyful at the prospect of living free from the anxiety of always trying to fit in. She was elated at having risked her self-image and having survived. The future pitfalls of this new-found freedom—the risk of someday becoming a bully herself—this potential overcompensation, where the victim becomes the oppressor and lays down a new law that others must follow, this risk was not yet even conceived of in her mind. She was just happy to be free in this moment, to care for someone like Richard, and to be no longer bothered by what others might think.
The three sat together for lunch. This was the first time in his entire school career that Richard ate lunch with someone; he couldn’t keep from smiling. Josh was also happy but for a different reason. He had been observing Richard now for quite some time and had grown curious by his manner of living; he appeared to live so simply, in many ways like a wild animal, or perhaps even a plant. He meant no disrespect by this observation but rather meant it in a very complimentary way; and he was enjoying now just watching Richard eat in this unusual, and completely un-self-conscious way. While he watched his new friend with interest and admiration, Amelia felt compelled to speak.
“How is your lunch Richard? Would you like some of mine?” she asked, more concerned about the silence between them, than about the meal.
He shook his head violently, as if shaking off a fly, or a mosquito. It appeared almost as if her words hurt or annoyed him, merely the sounds themselves, not their meaning. Then he looked up at Amelia and Josh with an enormous grin—his entire face aglow—and he began to laugh. Josh and Amelia quickly looked at each other quizzically, and then smiled widely as they looked back at Richard; and all three broke out in laughter.
Some moments in life have a profound meaning, one that transcends the mere event itself; a moment imbued with significance, maybe only partially understood at the time, possibly not understood at all and only unfolding in our understanding years later. This was one of those moments. A beautiful silence—purity, innocence and an absence of shame—only attainable when trust and honesty exist between people, this was the immediate meaning of that moment for both Amelia and Josh. They had shared this special silence between themselves for most of their lives, especially on the water when they sailed, but they had never shared this silence with a third person before. They looked at each other and knew that each had comprehended this meaning, and they knew that Richard also had this special quality which would allow this kind of silence; and that he would not run or hide from it. In fact, he preferred it, because silence was a home to him, and he was naturally attuned to silence.
One could even say that Richard embodied silence, and that his entire being was a manifestation of life lived within the essence of stillness. This is a difficult thing for most of us to understand since we live our lives predominantly ruled by activity, noise and motion. How could one really dwell in the antithesis of these things, things which seem to most of us as the very essence of life itself? What is life if it isn’t our activities, our thoughts, and the noise we make? And for Josh, life, true life, was to be found beyond the activity and the noise of this world, in a place where one stilled these distractions and dove into a deeper conscious experience of life, deeper than words or concepts, but in a state of simplicity and unity. For Josh this silence was a place to be sought and fought for, but for Richard it was simply the place he had always lived. For Amelia, silence was a relief from the pressures of life, and the doorway to discovering beauty. Silence allowed her to ignore the world’s problems and enjoy the beauty of nature, and to bring peace to her beleaguered emotions.
When their laughter subsided the three friends sat quietly on their benches under the trees. Amelia would later write in her journal about this moment: “It’s incredible what can happen when everyone doesn’t have to be constantly talking all the time. There is a drama occurring all around us all the time and we can’t see it because we’re too busy. Richard, Josh and I are enjoying the drama forever, and we’ll never look back!”
* * *