She would look back in later years and ask herself if she had been right. It was irrelevant, quickly became removed from the frame of present life, but, still, she wondered.
Never one to plan for failure, she had certainly positioned herself to be right, that night: she had worn the right dress, invited the right people, ordered the right drink. She had educated herself thoroughly on questions of technique and style. Where necessary, she had asked Paul minimal questions, inquiring about his influences but not prying into his inspirations: she wanted to appear intellectual, perhaps in possession of knowledge unavailable to the simple attendee, but not to flaunt her connection to the artist.
That night, she lingered in front of the pieces known to be masterworks, gesticulated near the controversial (and higher-priced) items, pointed out canvases that she thought friends and connections would enjoy. She lost sight of Paul only a few times throughout the night.
It pleased her deeply to see that he seemed to be enjoying himself, was engaging in conversations with pleasure, losing the usual rigid reservation that bordered on condescension and inevitably settled over him in groups.
In other words, the evening was going well, until she saw it.
She couldn’t fathom, at the time, how it had arrived there, how it had come to be hung on the wall with a little white card next to it, a blurb and a title and a price, without her having noticed, without someone (not Paul, certainly, but someone) informing her of its existence. But exist it did, on a scale more immense than anything else in the gallery: her head, her bare shoulders rising above the gathered party, her face drawn in either ecstasy or a half-sneer of pride.
The other form on the bed, she had to assume, was Paul, sprawled at her knees, legs spread.
He kissed the arm, flung sideways, that pinned him to the bed. He had no face, no skin, no shadows, a collage of bright colours with the outline of a human man. Beside him, she looked like stone.
Other onlookers moved away as Faith stood looking up at it, overwhelmed by unidentifiable emotion. His hand was on her back, he who seemed to prefer not to touch her when he could avoid it. In later years, she would remember thinking he had drunk too much; through the tide of wounded shame washing over her, she had that one petty point of clarity.
He moved so that he was standing in front of her, between her and the colossal painting.
“Is this a confession?” she asked.
He faded from her life, some time after, managed to evanesce though there had been papers to sign and furniture to divide and accounts to split. There should have been a shared existence to break apart but really there was just the painting and then the wondering, occurring at larger and larger intervals in the life that followed him.
word by Charlotte Joyce Kidd
colour by Eugenia Loli
From the author: “I was initially curious about the male figure in this piece. The crime-scene outline seems to indicate that he’s absent, but even if he has already left the bed, his relative colour and movement give him a presence and appeal that his companion lacks.
Where has the man gone, and why has he left? What is it about him that would leave such an imprint behind? Has he left it on purpose? Art naturally demands that we tell stories; it presents us with startling, intriguing, even troubling images and leaves us either to supply our own explanations for what is happening and why, or to remain startled, intrigued, and troubled.
In this case, my answer to the picture was to write about the woman in it, who I thought was likely to have her own questions about it.”
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