A Beatrice of My Own by Jennifer Garcia

This was an assignment for my creative writing class.

Rich images often create inspiration and imagination. The purpose of this assignment is to spark creativity and begin the creative writing process. Select a visual art piece—painting, drawing, or photograph—from a gallery, online gallery, or museum.  The idea is an “art” piece—not a photo someone took on vacation.  In a 1,050- to 1,750-word paper, write a creative piece—poem, dialogue, essay, or short story—on your reaction to the visual art. Let your imagination run. Consider the following questions to help spark (do not make this a Q and A response) your imagination to create a creative piece:

·       What story comes to mind; what images come to mind?

·       What dialogue is taking place in the story among the character(s)?

·       Consider what might have happened before or what might happen after.

·       Describe the culture of the image.

·       What is the main object or image in the artwork? What is its purpose? What is the person thinking?

·       Consider why this piece was created, or the perspective of the artist.

·       What do you think about when viewing this piece? Any particular memories, emotions, or reactions?

A Beatrice of My Own

“Whoa, excuse me,” I said. I looked up to see who bumped into me. A beautiful girl, maybe right out of high school, stood there flustered and apologetic.

“No, it was my fault. I’m so sorry,” she said with such an angelic voice.

“No, I should have been watching where I was going instead of watching my feet,” I said.

Just as she was most likely going to say it was her fault again, a man called her.

“Sorry, again, gotta go.”

She ran off with the older man who was most likely her father. As I watched them until they were lost in the crowd, I couldn’t help but feel a loss at her walking away from me. We were in the Victoria train station in London. I was on my way to the airport, but it looked like she was going somewhere else.

I graduated college a few weeks ago and wanted to backpack through Europe before I had to act like a real adult and get a job. I wasn’t sure how long it would take since I was playing it all by ear. My plan was to start in England and travel from Venice, Italy all the way down the country as I could.

Surprisingly, I made it to Florence in great time. In less than two weeks, I had managed to see many cities on my way down, but I had a feeling that I would be staying in Florence for a while. The city was beautiful and full with so much history. From what I’ve read so many famous people were born there.

I found myself in Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The church was magnificent and so grand with a huge dome and a tall tower. It looked very Gothic. As I strolled through looking at every piece of art and admiring all the statues, I found one painting that called to me. I had no idea what it was about or who it was in the picture, so I began to read the information plaque.

It said, “Domenico di Michelino, Dante and His Poem, 1465.” The painting was so strange but interesting. In the middle stood a man holding a book and around him were different buildings. I wasn’t quite sure what one of them was as it had what looked like a bunch of dead bodies piled on top of each other. The guy in the middle looked as if he was floating, almost orchestrating the scenes surrounding him. He exuded dominance and surety, and he looked like someone of high status. I stood there for what felt like hours staring at it until a familiar voice from behind me grabbed my attention.

I wanted to check and see if it was who I thought it was because, in all honesty, it would have been too much of a coincidence. I pretended to look around at the room as I stretched. Yeah, lame move, but it was all I could come up with. There she was speaking quietly with her hands to the same man she was with before. She was still as beautiful as the last time I saw her. Her long brown curly hair, her supple bronzed skin, and her big brown eyes were captivating.

Without an ounce of shame, I eavesdropped on the conversation. I focused my vision back on the painting, trying to keep up with her description of it.

“Dad, look. This is my favorite painting. That is Dante Alighieri, the author of The Divine Comedy. I’m sorta obsessed with this man,” she said and giggled.

“Yeah, I’ve heard of him. So, what’s this painting about?” asked her father.

“Well, let’s see, where to start … Okay, it all started when he met a girl named Beatrice when he was about eighteen years old. He fell in love with her right in that moment and had an unrequited love with her. There was no real love affair or anything and they actually ended up marrying other people. I guess they may have seen each other a few times in between.

“Then he got caught up in some type of political trouble and was exiled from the city he was born in that he loved so much. It was the worst punishment anyone could have ever given him. Sometime after that he found out Beatrice died and he was heartbroken. So, he wrote this love poem to her and to his beloved city,” she said. I was in complete awe at her knowledge of this Dante she speaks of.

“But what does that have to do with this painting?” asked her father.

“Oh, well, the poem he wrote is about Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. See in the painting … that right there to his right is Hell. Behind him is Purgatory and to his left is Heaven or as he called it, Paradise.

“In his hand, he’s holding a book of the opening lines of his poem. Dante said, ‘In the middle of the journey of our life/I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight path was lost’ (“The Divine Comedy”, 2005).”

I had questions to ask her but I didn’t want to interrupt or come off as rude. Instead, I pictured this Dante and what he must have felt when he wrote that poem.

“This painting is a representation of his poem. The artist took some liberties, because the dome was not there when Dante was in Florence. But it doesn’t matter, the point of his poem and what the painting is showing is the redemption Dante went through to cleanse his soul of all of his sins. He wanted to be good enough for Beatrice so he could meet her in heaven.

“He also wanted to be good enough to be invited back to his city. He came up with the nine circles of Hell and the journey he goes through to get to Heaven. It was amazing what he went through to be good enough for a woman he never really knew. I hope one day I find someone who loves me as much as he loved her,” she said with a sigh.

I had to speak to her as her view of the painting made me feel even more of an attachment to it than I already did.

“Excuse me. I don’t mean to interrupt, but I couldn’t help overhearing your description of this painting. I have to tell you it has interested me greatly. Can you tell me more?” I asked.

Her father looked at me skeptically, and it reminded me of my manners.

“I apologize. Let me introduce myself. I’m Nick Collins,” I said.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Gina and this is my father, Greg,” she said holding out her hand. When my hand met hers, I felt a jolt shoot up my arm. My body flinched in reaction and the way Gina’s eyes bulged out led me to believe she felt it too. I did jump back, however; when her father cleared his throat.

“Um, yeah, it’s nice to meet you, Sir,” I said as I held out my hand. He looked at me, then at my hand, and finally took it.

“You, too,” he said.

I looked back at Gina and asked her to tell me more about the painting. The passion that exuded from Gina as she described poured out of her with every expression and every word. She truly loved the poem and admired the man the painting was inspired by. Her excitement was contagious and I found myself under its spell. I had never felt such a love for anything such as the love Gina described Dante felt for his city and Beatrice.

“The way you describe the painting makes me believe the artist was paying homage to Dante. And to think that it was all to get back to this city right here and be with the love of his life. Look at his stance; he’s presenting the pieces of his poem to all who look at this painting,” I said.

“Will you tell me more about Beatrice and their love story?” I asked.

As I strolled around the basilica with Gina and her father, speaking of great loves, I realized I might have found my very own Beatrice. What were the chances that I’d ever see a girl I bumped into in London all the way over in Italy, if it wasn’t meant to be?
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di Michelino, D. (1465). Dante and His Poem. [Painting] Retrieved from http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Post/1125154

The Divine Comedy. (2005). Retrieved from http://www.nvcc.edu/home/vpoulakis/translation/dantetr1.htm