You are sitting on a park bench on a warm June day. You’ve been there since ten o’clock, looking for everything and nothing at all. From the bench you watch the sunset and feel the city welcome the cool night. You watch as the night crawlers fill the streets and walkways. Across from the bench is the gallery. A chalkboard sign out front informs you that it is opening night and the entry fee is twelve dollars. Below it is a list of featured artists. Julie Mark, C.J Evers, Joseph Good are a few. You peer into the rectangular window that contains the gallery. Inside there are about thirty people. Some of them are artists, some friends of artist. Among the crowd there are critics, then those who were invited with the hopes that they would buy a piece. The noise and chatter seeps through the windowpane outside, and even though it’s faint and dulled by honks and conversations of pedestrians, you could describe the scene even if you couldn’t see it.
Each person is different, and even though they are mature adults who have some greater knowledge of the world, they cannot escape categorization. The invisible divide among artists, critics, and buyers bends and stretches as they intermix in the confined space of the gallery. Regardless, there are cheers and champagne smiles. Glen Watson gives Anna Tow’s ass a light squeeze while George O’ Connor makes racist jokes.
The night goes on.
You check your watch and decide it’s time to go. You gather your things and before you turn to leave a woman catches your eye. Full of champagne she half waltzes to the paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Her hair is in a high ponytail that hits right below her narrow shoulders. As she pauses at a sculpture, a waiter comes to refresh her drink. Her light sun tan is complemented by a white cotton dress. It flows in the breeze she creates as her short gold heels skim the tiled floor, moving on piece by piece. She remains uninspired until she comes to a painting at the end of the gallery where the wall wraps around and meets the glass window. She tilts her head and purses her lips, gazing into the off-white canvas. She’s moving further and further away even though she’s standing completely still. The outlined green triangle below the top edge is tilted, mimicking the minute hand of clock when it’s ten past the hour. A red circle near the center seems to bounce across the canvas. The yellow square aligned with the triangle is fully outlined but half shaded. The shapes take up three quarters of the woven canvas at least, but she sees none of this. The only thing she sees is a thick slanted blue line lying gracefully across the bottom of the canvas.
She follows the blue line, examining how it starts out thick and narrows towards the end. How the lines are straight and angular but not sharp. The color is the perfect shade, approaching teal but not even close. The line has a lightness to it. Clutching her glass below her breast, she sighs as she realizes all she has ever wanted to be is that line. She tips back a little dizzied from her thoughts and continues to look at the painting, hoping that the canvas has more than a face and will extend its arms to pull her in, but it doesn’t. It hangs still on the gallery wall half mocking her, half empathizing. The muscles in her face tighten and she clenches her glass. She will never be that blue line because she’s spent her whole life trying to be something else. All this time she has been fighting to be on top and had succeeded. She graduated top of her class in high school and was able to get into the college she wanted. She aggressively snatched up a work-study she had set her mind on. She never took no for an answer, bringing her boss coffee every morning, putting in every extra hour she could find, until he promoted her to manger of digital media at the corporation she worked at. She looks into her glass watching the bubbles rise, burst, and fall. She wants to cry but like her happiness her sorrow cannot manifest itself. Even though she is well into her fourth glass, coldness breaks over her. The woman who never takes no for an answer has settled.
She bites the inside of her lip, almost breaking the skin as the blue line begins to recede into the distance. Another sip of champagne to wash away the taste of iron lurking in her mouth. She feels dizzy, probably from all the drinks.
A tall, well-groomed man walks over. His soft brown eyes, essential to his façade, almost fool her. To everyone else he is her husband but to her he’s the guy who charges flowers that she never receives. He tells her she’s had enough champagne and that they should leave. She doesn’t want to leave, but doesn’t argue, because even though it is the middle of June, tomorrow is Monday and she still hasn’t packed the kids lunches for camp, or looked over her weekly calendar which is sure to be full with business lunches and soccer games. She looks at the painting. He follows her gaze. His voice breaks through the cold bubble she’s put herself in. “You’ve been looking at this piece for over an hour,” he says. She parts her lips as if to respond, but there is only silence. He realizes the only way he’ll ever get her to even think about moving is if the painting goes with her. He calls the clerk over. He’s too tired and tipsy to haggle, and caves at the price listed. They arrange a drop off date. It won’t be delivered to their apartment downtown until the showing is over, but they are lucky to have snatched it up. “Can we go now?” he asks handing her a small red clutch as a waiter comes and takes her empty glass. She kisses, Simone and Ryan, the owners of the gallery goodbye with sticky champagne lips. She and her husband walk down the street to catch a cab.
It’s nearing two and the city is taking a little rest. In the gallery the artist and stragglers linger on until closing. The clerks and waiters clean up the mess, bring in the sign, shut off the lights, and lock up the gallery. You get up and make your way home, within walking distance. Tenth Ave lay exposed under the blue lights of the convenient stores that are still open. When you get home you brush your teeth and wash your face. While in bed, you stare out the window, examining the back of a red-brick building, until you are tired. You think in restless fatigue and find peace knowing you aren’t the only one who wants to live below the clashing of definite colors and shapes. Your desk is overridden with paints, brushes, sketches, and canvas. There is some left over paint in jar. It is the perfect shade, approaching teal but not even close.