“As your best friend, I’m obliged to tell you that this is fucking crazy,” Hannah said. She was sitting on a chair in front of the canvas, studying her friend’s work.
It was that same man again. Short black hair, brown eyes, dark skin. This time, Jane had only painted his upper body – his broad shoulders and his eyes looking right at you, through you. The man was not at all remarkable – only the mole above his upper lip distinguished him from an ordinary passerby. “It’s been three months and you’re still painting him. You had only talked to him for like five seconds,” Hannah continued.
“I know, but… Maybe it was his energy, his aura or something,” Jane tried to explain, fumbling with her brushes.
“I thought you didn’t believe in that kind of stuff.” Jane took off her apron, her painting now finished. She examined it once again – she always used sober coloring when drawing him. She didn’t want anything to take away the focus from his face, not even occasional splashes of color.
“I didn’t. But experiencing something like this makes you wonder.” Hannah sighed in response.
“Experiencing what exactly? He held the door open for you at the metro. That was it.”
“You don’t understand,” Jane said. Hannah stood up from her chair, making for the door. She had better things to do than listening to her friend obsess over a stranger. But then Jane said: “I decided to exhibit all my paintings of him.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Jane asked innocently. “They’re good, aren’t they?”
They were, Hannah admitted. Entrenched with melancholy, ambivalence, and intensity. “But that’s not the reason you want to display them. I know you better than that.”
“He’ll see them. My paintings. An exhibit about only one man, that will be publicized. He’ll hear of me. Of us,” Jane said.
“God help me. You’re mental.”
After Hannah left, Jane took her place in the chair, inspecting the white gaps, planted like snowflakes in her painting. Maybe her friend was right and this obsession was getting out of hand. But she couldn’t help herself. Every action, every thought was infused with his memory. Since the moment he held the door for her and told her to have a nice day.
Jane never called herself an artist but an observer. Walking on the streets, she scouted her surroundings for interesting faces, radiating personalities, and entrancing color pallets. She remembered all the faces, all the people she met. She never used models. Only her mind’s eye. She was never fully present because to see, she had to remain unseen herself. Maybe that was why she hadn’t replied the man. And now, she was in love with that stranger, without even having had a conversation with him.
“You want to exhibit what?” the gallery owner asked. Madeleine Richmond owned one of the most highbrow galleries in Newport, one where Jane had exhibited her work several times before.
“Portraits of a man,” she replied. The hand in which she held the cell phone was clammy from sweat.
“Just one man?”
“That’s weird.” Madeleine never shied away from honesty, a trait Jane both admired and loathed. Jane was one of those people who rather sugarcoated the truth, afraid to hurt others’ feelings.
“Maybe a little bit. But the drawings are good. You’ll like them.” When talking to galleries, she always tried to come across as more confident than she was. Although she knew that Madeleine liked her style and approved of most of her work, she still had her doubts about whether Madeleine would enjoy these paintings.
“You have to come up with a concept, though. There has to be some theme.”
“There is one.” Her story.
“I want to see the paintings before I make any promises. I’ll come over tomorrow,” she promised and hung up.