The Artist's Girlfriend

By , Crozet, VA
Zip. That’s the zipper on his messenger bag. Pause, then one, two footsteps. Click. Three, four. That’s the door to the bedroom. Five, six, seven, down the hallway. I can count all these movements like redundant beats in a song, because they are the same each and every day. He breezes into the room, his bag flung over his shoulder, and stops in front of the tiny mirror on the wall (the only one we own) to fix his hair. For someone who doesn’t care what the world thinks of him, I’ve noticed that he seems to certainly care what it thinks of his hair. After a few moments, he’s content and turns back towards me.
“My show is tonight at the place downtown,” he says, and I look up at him from my place on the couch and nod. It’s not a question, I know that. He’s not asking if I’ll come, he’s notifying me. I have to be there because if I wasn’t he wouldn’t be able to introduce people to his muse.
Content with my nod, he smiles for a second and then returns to his typical “the-world-doesn’t-understand-me” face, saunters towards the front door and leaves. I sigh, half out of boredom and half out of relief. I contemplate falling asleep for a few hours on the couch. The apartment is dimly lit enough that I wouldn’t even have to get up to turn off the lights. He always says too much light disturbs him; his art looks better in the dark. All I attribute to the lighting is loss of eyesight, but that’s rule number one of Dating an Artist: Do not contradict him in anything related to his art.

(There’s a slight whistling noise coming from the kitchen, and I slowly drag myself from my comfortable position on the couch and shuffle over to the stove top, where I have a pot of tea boiling. I’ve always been a tea-drinker, long before I met the Artist. He likes to think he started me on it, but I know he didn’t. He did, however, remove the sugar bowl (which I bought) from the counter. He says that sugar dilutes the true taste of the tea and attempts to cover up what should be bitter and beautiful. I’ve learned to live with this, although sometimes I’ll smuggle home some sugar packets from a restaurant or something. I flip one of the fancy little cups we have sitting by the stove right-side up and pour the tea. It’ll take a while to cool down, so I start back to the living room. Before I can return to my sanctuary on the couch, my eye catches a certain drawing pinned to the wall. I know exactly what it is, but I stop to look at it anyway. It’s a sketch, a portrait really, of a girl. Of me, supposedly. Perhaps at a glance it really does look like me, but I don’t truly see myself at all. The lines are lightly drawn and undefined, the eyes blurry and lacking intensity.
I can distinctly recall the exact day it was drawn, the very same day I bumped into a somewhat scruffy, bespectacled young man carrying a sketchbook in a coffee shop, who gave me a look which at the time I categorized as “smouldering” and promptly insisted I sit down and allow him to sketch me. I never would have guessed in that moment that a year from then, I would be living with the same man in his dark, somewhat dingy little apartment/studio. But things had moved quickly with us. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of passion, and even easier when the object of your affection seems so unpredictable, so unconfined, and so beyond your control. The attraction of the unattainable, I suppose. But it’s also easy to forget about everything else. About a month in, I realized that I hadn’t spoken to my sisters in two weeks, my mother in even longer. I knew they didn’t like him. But when you’re in the throes of new love, you don’t want to hear about what may be wrong with the object of your affection. If your mother thinks he’s self-obsessed, she just doesn’t understand his creative needs. If your sister thinks he’s only using you, she must just not understand true love. Whatever they say is irrelevant, and you think the only one who understands is him.
But how about a few months later? The lust has faded; you can feel yourself drifting ever so slightly and things are sliding into perspective. He is self-obsessed, he is only using you. And yet you have nothing else. How do you leave?





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silver_moonlit10 said...
May 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm
I like it, but he's not the only thing she has.  If she tried to, she could talk to her sisters.  Her mother would always welcome her back.  But she can't see that.  Give her another few weeks.  She will.
 
sparkofheart said...
May 27, 2010 at 4:52 pm
thats good...a little sad but the conflict is what makes it good..you can really see the narrator's confusion about how she got there. great work
 
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