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Vincent, 1875

by Jacqueline Kharouf

           He fled out of the flat, away from the immobility of his studio, far from the sounds, the smells of his fellow boarders. He had no money in his pocket, but tonight he would write Theo.


           He whispered mademoiselle to a streetwalker with warm, black hair and fair, white skin, unmasked emaciation at her throat and between her fingers. She said, “Love me,” her hands pawing his pockets, but he only wanted talk, a voice other than his own, other than the absence of his own—words to remind him of the heath, the brook, the garden, the roads of the Hague that led back to the sea, and the color blue—assurance that beauty belonged to no one, even if it could be duplicated, stocked, and sold.


           Still alone, he stood in the street. He decided he would write to Theo about art and religion. He had already chosen three stories to explain: Martha and Mary listening to Jesus; the gathering of the disciples; a parable about a man living his belief. To create art, he would explain, is to shed light on doubt, to sit at doubt’s feet and wait for it to call you by name.


           The Thames swept through the city and the flinty stone houses where young men boarded and imagined and all the spaces in between. The old river filled Vincent’s mind with color. Lavender. Green. Pink. The gas lamps faded. Yellow glowed under the blue cave of night. And the stars bloomed.

Author's Note

I started to read a rather hefty history of Van Gogh when I came across a line in the book that mentioned Vincent’s famous letters to his brother Theo. This collection of letters, the authors explained, is one of the most complete accounts of an artist’s growth and work practice. I was so excited I immediately left the big history book so that I could read the man’s words myself. In reading those letters, I found Vincent alone in London, abandoned there by his family because (let’s face it) he was a bit of a weirdo. I suppose I wrote this little piece as a way of writing him back.

Jacqueline Kharouf is a graduate of the MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A native of Rapid City, SD, Jacqueline currently lives, writes, and maintains daytime employment in Denver, CO. Her work has appeared in Gingerbread House, The Examined Life Journal, South Dakota Review, Shout Out UK, Fiction Vortex, NANO Fiction, Numéro Cinq Magazine, Otis Nebula, and H.O.W. Journal, where she won third place in a fiction contest judged by Mary Gaitskill. Jacqueline blogs at:; tweets: @writejacqueline; and hopes you “like” her Facebook professional page: Jacqueline Kharouf, writer.

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