I understand art about as much as the devil understands being held at the end of a hard day. In short–not at all.
I make my way into the Contemporary Exhibit. An arrogantly large painting consumes one wall. I shrug and walk on. Then, guiltily, I return.
“I have to try,” I tell myself
I take a seat on the bench. People always sit in movies when they are really appreciating art.
I cross one leg and put my elbow to my knee. I rest my chin on my hand and look through the painting.
“It is beautiful. It is a masterpiece,” I tell myself, firmly.
Then, a small voice, a child’s voice, in my head, whispers back, “silly goose.”
I ignore that voice and concentrate.
“He was a genius” a voice says, beside me. It is an older man. One leg is crossed over the other. Both his jacket and shirt collars are clean and even. He is looking up at the painting, lips parted and moist. I nod.
“Yeah,” I say.
“Are you an art student?” the man asks.
I shake my head.
“Just a fellow admirer,” he says. It isn’t a question.
I nod anyways. I look back at the painting.
Maybe, it is because I never learned to play an instrument, I think; or sing, maybe if I knew how to sing.
My back starts to hurt. The bench isn’t very supportive. I stand up. I move close to the painting. It envelops everything. I focus on a crook in the figure’s inner arm. It is thick and black as a pupil. It still looks wet. I feel the air shift beside me. I turn. The man is there. He is smiling up at the painting, appreciating my vantage point.
“If we get any closer, they’ll get fussy.” He sighs, “pity.”
“I would lick it, if I could. A taste of genius,” he says, thoughtfully.
“Mhm. It looks delicious,” I say, awkwardly.
The man chuckles.
I back away slowly, toward the bench. I want to move on; maybe my artistic epiphany is just in the next room, as I hoped in the last one, and the one before that.
But, the idea of leaving feels like a betrayal.
Back on the bench I lean forward and really concentrate.
“If I ever kill myself, it will be right here.”
The man has returned to the bench beside me. He is smiling. He nods at his own conviction.
“Just in case, you know, in case I come back a ghost, trapped. I want to be trapped here.”
He says it as though we are lovers, laying together in the morning sun, spent.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. I don’t dare look at it.
I continue my charade for as long as I can bear it, inspiring in myself nothing but sweat.
Finally, I turn the man.
“I have to pee,” I say. The man frowns.
“Really bad,” I add, standing.
His eyes, for the first time, are on me. They are startled, sad. I feel a black pit of guilt holding me to the spot.
“Sorry,” I blurt out. I turn and run from the room.