“Yay, you're coming! If you pick me up, I can get us to the gallery. Wear whatever. Just not yesterday's suit.”
I was getting the feeling she was used to getting what she wanted. When I thought about it, I wasn't surprised. She's cute and and can be sweet. I wondered if other people felt jerked around like I did. Either way, no time for that now. Had to get ready for the event.
I showered and slicked my hair back and found a different black suit in the closet. Then I went hunting for my favorite scarlet cravat, which I didn't dare wear to the office. It would be Odd. Now that I had assembled an outfit, I carefully took off the top parts and prepared and scarfed down a peanut butter sandwich. Then I got dressed again and headed out to pick Dani up.
I pulled up to her apartment and dialed her on my cell... no answer, but a moment later she appeared and hopped in the car. Short short red plaid skirt, black leather corset, choker, and stompy boots. She looked me over and nodded like i'd followed her instructions to her satisfaction.
“ 'evening” I said.
“ 'afternoon,” she corrected me. It WAS still light out, but it was also Louisiana in the summer. She continued, “I'm SO glad you're coming! I told Mara you would! I hope you like it. She's showing a whole bunch of new paintings!”
“Is she the one you wanted me to meet?”
“Yeah, she's a fantastic painter and she's lived all over the world, and she's really interesting! She can't get out much, but the parties always seem to come to her.”
“All right, then. You said you could direct me?”
“I've been to Camellia before, but i'm not great with directions, so here's a map. I hope you can read it.” She handed it to me, and I looked over it.
“I think so, yeah. Just let me know if we're headed into Reaver territory”. I got no response and made a mental note I had to show this girl Firefly.
The gallery was in the Quarter, so it was hell to find parking. The gallery was on the second floor of a Spanish colonial building, and going up the staircase gave the feeling of something grand and elegant about to happen. Camellia did not disappoint. Brochures and wine were available at the front. Mara Chemes was the artist's name. I grabbed a glass of white wine and followed Dani around the gallery. Dani and I were two of the youngest ones there.
Mara seemed to specialize in portraiture, but her work was abstracted in a slight but unsettling way. One painting, called Sunrise, caught my attention, and I didn't notice as Dani walked away. It was as if Velasquez and H.R. Geiger made love to the same canvas. A little girl with black hair and a red dress stood in the foreground. The dress ended at about her knees, but he did not seem to have legs. She floated there, but there were shoes where feet ought to go. In one hand sat a black and blue and green shape that might have been a seed or a ball or a bomb. It had wires and machinery, but it seemed to pulse with life. Rays of light shot out of it. The girl stood in a hall with a stone floor and a wooden table. There seemed to be a window, but it was shuttered or night outside. The whole scene evoked the melancholy I understand, like Friedrich, with just the faintest ray of hope. It looked like it had been painted a long time ago, or was in imitation of court paintings from the time of the Reconquista. Though the girl was young, there was something old and weary about the scene. As I was trying to absorb all this, Dani returned with Mara.
Dani was practically skipping. I wondered how much wine she'd had. She led Mara by the hand, and I couldn't tell if Mara was resisting or just moved slowly. The whole thing seemed a bit undignified, but then, I'm a stranger here. Who knows what's appropriate?
“Naomi, Naomi! This is Mara! She's the one you had to meet!”
I turned to Mara. “It's nice to meet you. Your paintings are fascinating. How long have you been doing it?” It's hard for me to gush, even when I am impressed or when I should out of politeness. At least, I don't gush when it doesn't involve food.
She shook my hand. She wore gloves. “It's nice to meet you too. Welcome to my city. I've been painting a while.”