Gallery ~ Laurie Stone

A woman I had been friends with invited me to an art gallery. She had drifted away after the man I loved broke up with me, but here she was. She was pretty. She was always pretty. Her hair was the color of a campfire. She said, “I feel dead. My agent sent my book to I don’t know how many editors, and they all said it wasn’t personal enough. Why did I write a memoir? I hate that shit.”

I remembered stories about growing up in a trailer park. I thought she was making them up. There were no parents, and you couldn’t see the place. Was there a garden around the trailer or weeds and gravel? She gripped my wrists and said, “I can only be honest in fiction.” Her nails were bitten down. I admired my own fingers, which were long. I thought I would be good at directing traffic.

She straightened up and said, “You just missed seeing ____,” meaning my ex. Her eyelashes were thick. They had the look of caterpillars. The man’s name swung in the air, back and forth, on a hinge. Poppies were in a vase on a table. Everything was made of paper. On the walls were twelve canvases, painted by her husband, all versions of famous 16th Century Dutch portraits, and they all looked like him with his coppery beard and ruddy complexion. The gallery was near the river. My friend was wearing a silk suit, starched and billowy. She narrowed her eyes and said, “We’ve become friends. He wrote an essay for Lew’s catalogue.” I stared at her, my mouth open. She tilted her head and said, “You’re still hung up on him, huh, after all this time?”

I was wearing something I’d picked off the floor. Isn’t that always how these things go? I said, “Has it been a long time? What is time?” In all honesty, it had been a couple of years. I said, “It went by like that,” and I snapped my fingers close to her nose, which swerved to the left, as if she were smelling adventure on the other side of the room. She said, “He was over for dinner last night.” I could see her loft. I could see yellow tomatoes in a blue bowl on a gray counter. I could see him on the couch, his arms stretched across the back, a finger tickling her shoulder while her husband made a Bernaise sauce. Did he know?

She sighed and said, “He can’t connect. He’s one of those people.” I touched the soft spot on the inside of her elbow and said, “I don’t want to hear.” She smiled as if I had given her something. I had. I had introduced them.

I took the stairs to the street. It smelled of high tide. The man was waiting for her, leaning against a tree. He looked beautiful. He always looked beautiful with his sad, lean face and sweep of thick hair. It was nice to see him again, everything else aside. A pigeon stared up, waiting for something to happen. Gray clouds churned over the river, and our eyes met. The moment broke into frames I would have liked to describe to him, walking the length of the city as we had in the past and as if we had all the time in the world. I was sorry we had not stayed together long enough for me to get tired of him.

I snapped his picture with my phone. In the image he looks surprised, his hand moving up to grab something. He watched me walk away, and then he turned. I wondered where the energy inside me would go, and I was sorry I didn’t have a rock.