v. Everyone has a story.
In the afternoon, Kate visited the Community Art Center at the park. The Art Foundation provided an open studio upstairs, complete with free canvases and oils, part of their mission to make the creation of art available to everyone, even those artists who couldn’t afford supplies.
Kate made annual contributions to the foundation in support of their mission, but also so that she, as someone who could afford oil paint, brushes, and canvases, could use their services guilt-free.
When she was nearly done, another artist approached.
“That’s interesting,” he said.
She looked, as if for the first time, at her work. She’d been painting without thought, following feeling and allowing herself to get lost in the sensation of paint on canvas.
She hadn’t even consciously realized that she’d selected a monochromatic palette or that she’d painted a strange, skull-like creature.
“It’s Audrey, right?” The other artist asked. “Feed me…“
It did look like some insatiable appetite. This was what she’d felt inside that morning, though, having lost herself in her work for a few hours, she didn’t feel that way now.
“I suppose it’s Loneliness,” she replied.
“Feed me...” said the artist. “Man, I remember the first time I saw that film.”
She glanced at his too-eager face, then turned back to her work.
“How could I forget?” he continued. “It was the night I lost my virginity.”
While she completed the painting, he told the story of that night–his date with his high school crush, an art student at the college, who took him on as “her project,” and how that “Little Shop of Horrors” would always, for him, be inextricably bound with satiation.
“I know. TMI, right? I’m always doing that. Sorry.”
“Well, yes, it is kind of a lot of info for a totally rando stranger to dump on someone, but,” she continued, when she saw his smile and earnest eyes, “heck. We’re both people, right? Both artists? We probably have more in common than we realize.”
Still, she felt relieved when he wrapped up the conversation and returned to his own easel, where he was working on a still life of oranges, apples, and bananas in rich, warm hues.
While her canvas dried, she headed to the plaza to pick up some empanadas from the vendor. A man in gold did his best to imitate a statue. From a distance, he seemed cold.
But up close, Kate saw the moisture in his eyes. His shoulders slowly rose and fell as he breathed. He didn’t wobble, but up close, it was easy to see that he was fully human.
She went to find a table where she could eat her snack.
“You can join me, if you like,” said an older man.
There was only one chair at his table.
“It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it?” he asked. “Reminds me of when I first met my wife.”
What was it about her that encouraged other men to tell her about their romantic encounters?
She was about to leave, when she heard something in his voice. His words caught, as if his throat were constricting, and Kate realized that he needed to share. He needed to tell another living person this story about how a stunningly beautiful woman in a red dress ran breathlessly into a courtyard, glancing nervously behind her, and how she fell immediately into conversation with him, as if he could provide her a cover, should anyone be looking for a single woman alone, and how he wrapped his trench coat around her, not because she was cold, though she was, but to hide the red of her dress. He was a hero in this story. His wife, the damsel in distress. And maybe, in the retelling, he’d find his way back to the warmth he was missing.
Everyone has a story.
And most everyone is the hero of their story.
And most everyone wants to retell their stories so that they can find their way back to the center, when they get lost.
And we can listen. That’s a gift we can give.
She looked after him, as he left, watching him walk down the street, with the faintest bounce to his step.
What a funny thing we are, people. So complicated.
Her phone buzzed. She found a text from her boyfriend.
Hey, babe. How are you? We’re in Ushuaia for a few days. Pick up supplies. ‘Sup with you?
They chatted for a few minutes, until he lost his connection.
Can you feel both closer to someone and further away, at the same time? And would her boyfriend turn to some rando stranger, there in a cafe in Argentina, to tell the story of when he first met her?