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Emma stood in front of a Jackson
Pollock-like piece in a gallery
downtown, turning her head sideways to try to see the proper image. To her, everything must have an exact meaning; nothing is open to interpretation. Old fashioned black-and-white, right and wrong. Shefound nothing exact about this painting at all, which frustrated her. Again she shifted to what she thought would be a better position, only to determine that there couldn’t possibly be a correct way to look at something like this.
A scruffy, mysterious man about her age, dressed in paint-splattered jeans and a funky vintage tee came up behind her casually, a sharp contrast to her sleek, clean-line politician’s wife image.
“What do you think?” he asked smoothly, hands in his pockets.
“I’m not sure. What’s it supposed to be, anyway?” she asked, looking sideways at him.
Handsome, she noted.
“Nothing, really. It more represents emotion than anything else.”
“What do you see?”
“Confusion,” she guessed.
“Try again,” he urged with a bemused smile.
“I… I don’t know.”
“Look. Really look.”
Emma half looked at the art, and half looked at him, trying to come to some conclusion that would satisfy him.
“What is it you’re wearing, anyway?” she asked, instantly regretting her rudeness. “I’m sorry…”
He cut her off. “Look at the art, not at me. You’ll see it.”
She looked back and forth between him and the canvas a few times before sighing.
“I give up.”
“It’s a trap, you see. It gets you thinking, round and round, ‘What could it be, what could it be?’ And then, all of a sudden, you find yourself trapped inside it, too.”
“That’s not an emotion,” Emma pointed out.
“Fear. Fear of change. Hopelessness. That’s what I see.”
Emma blushed, feeling as if he had peeked – uninvited – through a window into her own life.
“Oh,” she responded quietly.
“How rude of me,” he said, coming a few steps closer and offering his hand. “Ben Creemers. I’m the artist.”
“You…” Emma’s hand dropped in reaction to this information. “You… You did this?”
“Yeah. Just a little afternoon scribble to get out some angst.”
“Emma Miller. I’m from uptown.”
“Uptown? What the hell is that? This is Chicago, not New York!”
“I keep forgetting. It feels the same,” she said, thinking of her beige-walled apartment, polished furniture, and ever-present wedding photo on display atop the mantle.
“I know what you mean. I’ve lived in every city you can name, and they all blend together after awhile. And yet, I always end up back in Chicago. Funny how life is, you know?”
“Yeah. Funny,” she agreed stiffly, as he again struck a sensitive chord.
“My opening’s here, next week, if you’d like to come.”
“I’d like to see you again,” he encouraged.
“You know what? I’ll be here,” she said, determined not to let a suffocating marriage or any other obligations get in her way.
The opening would be another step toward freedom, and another shackle of her old life broken.