We walk into the gallery. Outside, a horsehead sculpture, smile charmingly smug. Inside, acrylic whimsy stretched in magnificent detail across every wall.
She greets us upon entry, compliments our outfits, follows our progress from frame to frame. She talks, she talks, she talks.
“Where did you get your coats?”
“Well, coats are great. Now put your coat money toward a thousand-dollar painting.”
Probably a thrift store coat, in at least one case. Hardly a comparable expense.
“Yeah, my daughter’s a thrift shopper. Wears her finds to galleries in Europe. You can buy that painting in hundred-dollar installments, you know.”
We really can’t afford—
“You’d just spend it on food or something, otherwise.”
We really don’t have the space—
“I live in a studio. I had no money, once. Anyone can come up with excuses not to invest in a painting.”
Uh-huh… Ooh, we would live in that painting, if we could…
“You can. If you buy it and put it on your wall.”
(What part of ‘we have neither the money nor the wall area’ is she not hearing? Where does one hang an artwork they skipped on rent to obtain?)
We’re tuning her out, now. Finish our browsing. Purchase a small something to gift a loved one, no thanks to her. Wonder if she really believed that she had ever been like us; and if she was, which path do we avoid so as never to become her?
We walk into the gallery. Statuary looms. A four-foot frog, a large-as-life lion, a dark metal horse rampant, all in a cunning and costly clutter.
He points out that the tiny figurines we’re eying in the back-corner cases are such-and-such a price. (Inexpensive enough that we could buy them, exorbitant enough that we couldn’t justify it.) We give him fair warning that we’re too broke for this place, just dream shopping while on a sightseeing jaunt.
“Oh, where are you from?”
Not far, as of recently. In fact, one of us is employed just a few minutes away.
“Nice place to work.”
It is, at that. One of us keeps up the chatter (it isn’t me), while the other (it is) crouches over a bronze – a girl stretched on the ground with a book ‘neath her nose.
He watches from behind the counter, nonchalantly digs into his lunch, asks with mild interest, “What’s she reading?”
To our delight, a half-legible page reveals its heart with an ‘Open sesame’ –the tale of Ali Baba! – and just as magic, one half of our two hearts (mine) falls in love with the girl and her reading. No point looking at the price tag, though. Still no money, no space.
Our other heart half (hers) leaps at a statue of two golden otters, large and sinuous, the usual cutesy take on the creatures eschewed in favor of predatory power.
He – (somehow also like a predator, stately and sensual, but lately fed and therefore less a threat) – marvels at my other half’s impassioned otter rant. “Are you an interior designer?”
No, she’s just got a lot of feelings.
Nearly out the door, we pass a dish fashioned of translucent waves and the undines who dance among them. My eyes, on it, full of longing. Her eyes, on me, all affection. His eyes, on her; his words, to me: “She’ll get it for you.”
She would if she could. She will when she can. Someday, when we’re wealthy, it’s here we’ll return, for readers, otters, undines.
As for paintings… well. We’ll see who’s doing the selling.