SMILE, PEOPLE DON’T LIKE YOU
It had been a while since I’d hung my wares on a wall. It was my first art opening since getting back from the west coast, and things were up in the air as per usual. A young gentleman who turned out to be my saving grace for the months to follow was in attendance, and he purchased nearly every large piece I’d painted in the last six months. He mentioned he had heard my name on the lips of locals and it was never in a positive light. Why he deemed it necessary to get a jab like that in prior to his purchase still escapes me. Perhaps he thought he could elicit melancholy and I’d be more inclined to negotiate, and then saunter off with my tail between my legs and drink heavily from the shame of giving in. Such was not the case.
He told me he came to the show in hopes of getting his hands on as many pieces as possible now before I blew up and he couldn’t afford them anymore. I let him know that was the nicest thing a collector had ever said to me, even though it was preceded by the strangest thing a collector had ever said to me. I’ve dealt with numerous individuals simply looking to make their wall complement their couch, but thankfully that wasn’t the case here- he seemed to truly appreciate the work. Although, if the bills are past due you’ll bite your cheeks and smile like a whore for the housewife who will never know what cadmium is.
I swiped his card and my bills were paid for a bit. Money is a large part of life when you brave the leap from hobby to career. The pretentious, well-read, technique-laden, judgmental, crotchety, critical imposters who claim to be the real artists will tell you time and again that sales don’t matter, it’s the work that matters. And it most certainly does. But what they’ve either failed to recognize or failed to experience in their lives is that passion alone doesn’t pay the rent. You work twice as hard for half the pay- if you’re lucky. And if you don’t have a nine to five to accompany your drips and splatters, you need to toil and sweat blood- unless you’re looking forward to ramen and tuna for the rest of your days, in which case keep at it. Because this is a sales position, and unlike most it is strictly commission. So we can bump gums about artistic integrity until our faces are flush, but unless you’ve dipped your feet in the pool, you haven’t earned the right to say the water is cold.
I thanked him for his sizeable purchase; we shook hands and began to part ways. But not before the perversity of human nature sunk its greasy talons into my psyche and I stopped him. I asked out of curiosity, who it was that had made an attempt at character assassination. He refused names, and would only say that they were local artists. Not one, but several.
For the first time in my life I knew I was doing something right.
For the first time in my life I knew I was doing something right.
The first and last time I smoked opium was an accident on my part, although deliberate on someone else’s. I’ve never been keen on recreational supplements, save for the marijuana haze I finally came out of after college. Even that upsets me the older I get, not because I disliked it, but because the only thing in life you can spend and never get back is time. There was an enormous amount of time pissed down my leg because of leafy greens.
I’d been with a friend most of the day on a weekend and we didn’t have much going on so we stopped at another individual’s house and smoked a bit. It wasn’t long after that we suspected we’d been sabotaged, but for what reason? Sick amusement by a third party? Much later, he would confirm our suspicions that there was something special in the dose in question, but we didn’t need his confirmation. All we needed was to get home before things got out of hand so we could deal with this in a familiar environment.
I was dropped off at my place where luckily no one was home, and laid on the couch while I cursed the shithead who would do this to anyone for any reason. I felt like I was on a canoe in the middle of rough waters, and that if I remained in pitch black with the lights off, everything would be fine. I finally gained control of my head space once again until I remembered I was to meet the girl I’d been dating at a restaurant for our second anniversary dinner.
To begin with, let’s marinate on the concept of anniversaries. If you don’t have a ring on your finger, are they necessary? How much stock is put into the arbitrary designation of the day you first locked eyes at a pep rally? Friends of mine couldn’t care less about their own birthdays, let alone some non-legally binding agreement straight off the reel of an after school special. But I digress.
When I arrived, the restaurant was dimming lights and locking doors, as closing time was approaching. It was no intention of mine to be late, but when shapes are shifting minute by minute before me, I couldn’t care less about the face of my watch- I need a familiar song and something stable to lean on while I ride it out. I caught the hostess in time and pointed to the front door. I could see my date, the only one in the place, waiting with pursed lips for me to get where I needed to be thirty minutes ago.
I sat down. The imminent speech was delayed when the waitress came to my rescue and said they could fix us a small plate if we hurried. So we ordered, and when she headed to the kitchen the floodgates opened. An astounding wave of humiliating statements about my childish behavior and lack of punctuality filled the area.
I pled my case with her and let her know that, although it was ultimately poor judgment on my part, there were shades of grey. I hadn’t planned for this and I was incredibly sorry, of course I was. I told her the entire story and after much groveling she was sympathetic.
I got up to use the restroom and the ocean waves hit again; when I looked down at the brick below me it was morphing into fantastic shapes. I scurried into the men’s room and locked myself in a stall where I would eventually throw up something awful. It resembled blood, but by this time most of the things in my field of vision were red. I had lost all concept of time. I could’ve been gone a minute, but it was just as likely thirty.
Either way, when I returned to my dining room seat, the pursed lips were once again present; her compassion dissipated by my extended stay in the restroom, and my plate of food had gone cold. My girlfriend’s plate was empty, no doubt from the dangerous combination of hunger and impatience. I began to regain my senses and calmed down.
We left the eatery and I wished her a happy anniversary, and apologized profusely once again. She didn’t say much, just nodded her head a time or two, eyes darting in every direction but mine. We got into our cars and headed home. I didn’t sleep well that evening, and I can only assume she didn’t either.
Not long after, for some reason we began to drift apart.