The Art Gallery
I pop into the art gallery lined with textured paintings of the seaside. The artist greets me as she works wielding a palette knife through thick clumps of color, scraping them across her canvas. There is a part of me that envies her, that talent, the ability to make the visual appear, the blues and greens of the ocean, the reds and yellows of a sunset on the beach, the long, thin blades of grass blowing in the sea breeze. I glance over the exquisite paintings feeling an emptiness, a haunting I didn’t have before I came in, like walking down a row of summer homes in the middle of winter when everything is closed, the stores dark, doors locked beside vacant porches waiting for the season to turn, to bring back the life I didn’t realize had died away.
I convinced him to take me to the antique mall filled with little booths of someone else’s treasures. The pungent odors of years past hit us right when we walked in the door. I ran my hands over old books, scratched records, and dusty coats. (He was always so modern.) I lost him in those aisles, just glimpses of his dark brown hair (He was always more independent than me) just the sleeve of his black coat disappearing around a corner and my hurried footsteps echoing in each empty alcove. I didn’t want to call out his name, so I pretended to shop for a table, (he hated when I spent money) settling on a harp design I knew we’d never buy. His voice like a ghost was some distance off talking to a man about rare and valuable coins, so polite, so congenial (he was always nicer to strangers).
High School Reunion
He is all arms and legs, having grown a foot since I saw him last, now walking down the hallway towards me barely recognizable from the boy engrained in my memory. We catch eyes and I am suddenly taken back to sticky summer afternoons, school uniforms, damp grass, cool nights out way past curfew. He smiles, then hesitates, stumbles over his own feet, nearly stopping in his tracks, debating whether to do something more. His face, appeared so unexpectedly, gone too soon amidst the crowd. I wonder what he would have done had I been alone, away from judgmental eyes, just the two of us together that night on the cavernous school grounds, what might have been under the oppressive florescent lights and the shiny linoleum tiles, if his hands still glided across my skin like silk, if his lips still tasted like Maraschino cherries.
Jennifer Novotney’s work appears in Red Eft Review, Mad Swirl, and Still Point Arts Quarterly. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won the Tipton Poetry Journal Featured Poem Award. Her debut novel received the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. She lives in Pennsylvania where she teaches English. You can find her on Twitter @jlnovotney