You find it outside of the Thrift and Save hidden underneath a pile of crumpled newspaper used to wrap fragile used vases and picture frames. It is poking out of the garbage can, sprinkled with petals of ashes from dead cigarettes and stained with a splash of RC Cola that was flung in, just barely missing the rim. You don’t quite understand what the painting is doing there, in the trash. Sure, it isn’t pretty or inspiring, but it could have sold for at least .89 cents, if not more. You decide to steal it. No, not steal because it’s not in the store. You decide to rescue it and think about placing it in your bedroom. You have been meaning to find something to talk about after sex and this piece would be a worthy conversation starter. Men will either find it creepy or sexy, you aren’t sure which. You know this doesn’t actually mean anything because you haven’t gotten any since Doug. After you fuck a Doug it’s going to take a while until you get a Nick, James, or Adam. Henry’s are like that too. Never fuck a Henry unless you are prepared for the consequences.
Your bedroom is the shade of a bland beige. You picked the color out yourself because you liked to think of your room as a sandstorm. It didn’t strike you until later that no matter the crafty name, beige is beige. You hate to admit it, but everything in your life is a messy sandstorm, right down to your breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar. The painting stands out against your barren walls. You tilt your head slightly to the right as if this movement helps you to recognize any hanging errors.
“Perfect,” you breathe softly to yourself.
From a distance, you admire the desert landscape depicted within the canvas, a blaze of blood-bathed sands, orange fiery freckles, and a daring midnight sky of obsidian verging dangerously close to the flames of the desert below. It was chaos and calm contained in a 20” x 12”. You find it disturbing because it reminds you of the innumerable contrasts in life and other things you don’t like to think about, heaven and hell, success and failure, warmth and chill, faith and betrayal. Still, you wake up every single morning to that image penetrating your eyelids. You think about throwing it away, but you are afraid of what image would take its place. Even disaster is better than emptiness. You know this from experience.
Doug has left you with a three-month dry spell and you realize that if you do sleep with anyone they won’t find your wall hanging sexually arousing unless they are a sexual predator. You start to check the locks on your windows frequently and consider buying a gun or a pit bull. They both deliver the same result, but a gun is less maintenance.
You get lonely and desperate so you place a personal ad in The Daily Gazette. You claim to be 5’ 8” when you are really only 5’ 6”. The most attractive male you ever dated told you tall women were beautiful and you believed him. Your hobbies include reading The New Yorker, watching Woody Allen films, and rock climbing. You have never been rock climbing, but are fond of the idea of being a woman that would like rock climbing. You have dirty blonde hair that is getting far too close to becoming red and blue eyes. You make certain not to mention your natural transitioning hair color because you are terrified of becoming a red head. You think they all look the same.
For months, you get no response and you blame the painting in your room for every aspect of your life that has failed since you took it. Rescued it. Salvaged it. Whatever it is you did to it, you thoroughly regret it. Sometimes.
You receive an email from John, a response to your personal ad that has been running for three months, exactly. This date will have cost you $30.00 before you even sit down for dinner. John is a financial analyst and a huge fan of John Grisham. He has read everything by John Grisham and this bothers you, but you think to yourself “at least he reads something”. You can tell a lot about a person by what they read and this should have been a sign of a defect in your date, but you only thought about the fettuccine. You wanted to look skinny so you fasted all day and now the acid in your stomach was burning a hole through the lining. You were slightly worried, more than your should have been at least.
“You know, a lot of people underestimate just how fascinating financing can be. I love numbers. I mean I really love numbers.”
You were never this overly enthusiastic about your job. Of course, you loved listening to woes of troubled teens and depressed single women, but you weren’t going to go on about it through an entire plate of pasta. He paid for dinner, but only left a 10% tip. For a financial analyst he was stingy and you didn’t like him already. Despite everything, you wanted to sleep with John so you invited him inside.
“Wow, this is a really great place you’ve got here. I used to own a little one floor place like this back in the day. It was a real fixer upper, but….”
He went on about his old place, his new place, his hybrid car, he probably talked about his watch, and maybe some more about numbers, but you stopped listening a while ago. Your ears typically go numb after anyone says “back in the day”. Anything following that statement never bodes well and you’ve known this your entire life thanks to your father.
You take him to your bedroom and he begins to kiss your neck. He pulls you onto your bed and before things get heated you excuse yourself to the bathroom. You wanted one last look in the mirror before you screwed a John, a financial analyst, a 10% tipper. You weren’t certain, but you thought afterwards you might look different and wanted to keep a mental picture of your prior self.
As you reenter your room, you notice John standing across from your bed, examining the chaos and calm.
“You must have a natural ability in picking out the good ones. This is a beautiful piece of art.”
He called you three times to see if you felt better and if you wanted to “pick up from where we left off”. You never returned any of his calls and you took down your personal ad. It was mostly a lie anyways. Despite your better judgment, you kept the painting hanging across from your bed. If nothing else, it would at least identify the sexual predators. Eventually, you decided to paint your bedroom red because the most attractive man you ever dated told you he thought red was sexy and you agreed.