119,292
07.03.2019

Finally closing my mouth, I hold up the large bouquet of red roses I bought for her.

’Cause, yeah, I’m smooth like that.

Dee’s extremely grateful. Holding the roses in one hand, she trails the other down the lapel of my charcoal gray suit, over my stomach, and cups my junk in her hand.

It’s unexpected, but always a pleasant surprise.

“They’re beautiful. Thank you,” she whispers while stroking my dick, before pressing her strawberry-flavored lips to mine.

After she pulls back, I murmur, “The priceless art doesn’t seem so interesting anymore. Maybe we should just stay in?”

“Oh no, this is a dress that needs to be seen. And . . . you look way too hot in that suit to stay home.”

Can’t really argue with that.

Unlike the exhibitions at major museums like the Met, private gallery shows are smaller, more intimate affairs. Although it’s open to the public, typically only serious buyers attend, and the wine and hors d’oeuvres served by the white-gloved attendants are chosen specifically to cater to the expensive tastes of those patrons.

Both of us enjoy a glass of white wine as we peruse the photographs and paintings on the walls. The floors of the gallery are natural wood—the walls, stark white, with dramatic overhead lighting accenting each piece. Guests are scattered around the maze-like rooms, voicing their opinions of the works in hushed, pretentious tones. Delores and I are alone in one partitioned area, whose walls are dotted with vibrantly colored and variously sized canvases depicting a wide range of subjects.

“Which one’s your favorite?” I ask.

“Why? Are you going to buy one?”

The prices aren’t displayed, but I know from experience that any of these pieces will easily go for tens of thousands of dollars.

“Thinking about it.”

But that’s not why I asked.

Art preference is very personal, almost subconscious. It’s the same as learning if a guy prefers boxers, briefs, or going commando—art teaches a boatload about the kind of person you are.

Dee strolls the perimeter of the room, stopping in front of a painting of a white farmhouse on top of a hill, with a fiery red-and-orange sky on the horizon.

“Katie would like this one.”

“How come?”

She tilts her head. “It’s very neat—cozy and safe. But the sky . . . there’s kind of a wild side to it too.”

I point to a piece on the opposite wall. “Drew would go for that one.”

She glances at it. “Because it’s a picture of a naked woman?”

I chuckle. “Yes. And . . . because it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s not a picture of a flower that’s really a vagina—like it or hate it, it is what it is. Drew’s a big fan of the direct approach.”

“Which one do you like best?” she asks.

Immediately I point to a Jackson Pollock that’s not for sale. It’s busy with splashes and swirls of every color against a black background. Dee approaches it, looking closer, as I tell her, “Looking at it never gets old—I see something new every time.” I glance back at Dee. “Which brings me back to my original question: Which one is your favorite?”

She opens her small green purse and takes her phone out. She scrolls through the pictures on it before handing it to me.

“That’s my favorite.”

I look at the screen. “That’s the periodic table.”

She shrugs. “To me, it’s a masterpiece. Harmonious. Perfectly organized. Dependable.”

“Aren’t some of the elements unstable?”

She smiles. “Sure, but the table tells you which ones they are. No surprises. No disappointments.”

And this right here is the perfect example of who Delores is. Safety-goggle-wearing chemist by day, glitter-covered club girl by night. She wants excitement, spontaneity, but a part of her—the part that’s been dicked around by one too many pricks in the past—craves reliability. Honesty. Truth.

I want to give her both. I want to be her roller coaster and her merry-go-round, her adventurer and her protector. Her impressionist and her periodic table.

As the show winds down, most of the guests congregate in the main reception room of the gallery. While Dee goes to the ladies’ room, I stare at a huge sculpture in the corner, trying to figure out what it’s supposed to be—either an endless cavern or a swamp monster.

I don’t notice the person who comes up beside me until she speaks.

“I’m thinking of acquiring this piece for my music room. It has a very inspirational energy, don’t you agree?”

It’s Rosaline. She’s well put together in a strapless beige dress, with her dark hair piled on top of her head—not a strand out of place.

And she’s smiling at me . . . like the spider to the fly.

“I’d say more confusing than inspirational. It doesn’t seem to know what it is.”

“Perhaps that’s because it’s willing to be anything you want it to be.”

The tone of her voice, the playfulness in her eyes—I’m pretty sure she’s coming on to me.

“Do you still dabble in photography, Matthew?”

“I do.”

She giggles softly. “Do you remember that time we went out to Breezy Point and drank too much of that awful Chablis? Your camera got a lot of use that day.”

I remember the day she’s talking about. We were young and worry-free and drunk on cheap wine and each other. But I don’t look back fondly on any moment with Rosaline. If you have a can of white paint and add a drop of black, the whole batch will be tainted. Gray.

The memories that should mean the most—the starry-eyed, first-love kind—they just make me sick. Because every touch, every word and kiss . . . none of it was real.

Before I can respond, Delores is back at my side, holding my arm comfortably. “There are paintings hanging in the ladies’ room! How do you think those artists feel? Their work is in a respected, renowned gallery . . . but only in the shitter.”

For just a second, Rosaline’s expression turns sour. Then—like the actress she is—she covers it with courtesy. “Well . . . hello. I’m Rosaline Du Bois Carrington Wolfe. And you are?”

“I’m Dee.”

“Dee what?”

With a toss of her hair, like some blond bombshell from the forties, she says, “Just Dee.”

“Do you and Matthew . . . work together?”

❮❯