There are two ways of putting about the restless August wind: a thoughtful stroll along the downtown avenue, where the romance of the long sweep of lamp posts is too exquisite. And muddling along to the wonder of the moving pictures, like slipping quietly into an old familiar habit.
Among the finer things of a green Sunday morning is a promise of leisure. I hauled my worldly possessions in my purse, left the dishes on the sink, folded the rack and ruin of scribbled notes, and locked the apartment. I am in no great hurry – just on a mission to escape plain keeping and traipse the day in fine thoughts of adventure. I have lived under the influence of romantic poets – rushing to lift the window curtains at the height of a raging storm.
I was at a local sweetshop, wearing a serious expression like a confirmed bargain hunter, emptying buckets and returning them in lost places where they don’t belong. Maeven rushes at my side wearing an apologetic look, I’m sorry has the movie started yet? I shook my head, halfpast noon, the poster said. We plucked the articles on the shelves, scooting through hallways for jellies and stood tiptoeing to prettily-wrapped biscuits the next.
The perfume was thick and mellow inside the cinema. I stumbled on a slouching figure and I could hear an och! as I waded unsteadily into the darkness. Maeven held a brown parcel closely about her, clutching the rear end of my blouse.
We settled into a comfortable silence as the dim light slowly fell away. There was a swirl of lively colors and deep vertical lines at the screen I reached out to her shoulders, and whispered this is a wonderful film. She smiled a little, sipped a cordial amount of soda, how do you know? I relapsed into silence. But of course I could know, I replied. She upset the parcels at her feet and giggled, Oh Jo. A flat brown face stared at us from in front and turned to look away, avoiding all eyes.
We emerged bleary-eyed. The hallways looked awash with dirt, as if it was scrubbed until it filled with the warm yellow light. We tumbled into an ice cream stall while inspecting quaint little stores springing with all things wonderful and bohemian. A coffee shop was perched side by side a dimly-lit souveneir store. A stream of trinkets stretched on the blurry glass walls, and the carved wooden etchings begged to be noticed. Ah, memories. We seem to lock them in rusty metal boxes and lose the key. We trip into April suns and forget the stale breath of November just as soon.
We didnt shuffle and passed quickly. Maeven stopped on her tracks, looked around her, and announced the brown parcel was missing. The geography of our struggle was arbitrary – we rushed in the upper floors, ascended flights of stairs, drawn curious looks from random passersby, and laughed outright when we found it perched pertinaciously – all crumpled and crisp next to an ice cream stall.
I sallied forth at an art exhibit of an artist named Bisai, a couple of blocks from the lounge where we stopped for refreshments. The gallery was relatively narrow and dim, but the lamps offered sufficient light to illuminate the paintings. The white-washed walls paled beneath the havoc of colors and crassly pointed strokes of each piece, hung steadily on the empty walls and carrying the quiet dignity fit for their beauty. I have an immense admiration for abstact, and Maeven shared a little of the enthusiasm. A couple of visitors inspected the works, chatted a bit, and took photographs of the paintings.
For some time we passed on slowly across one piece to another. And for a magpie I couldnt resist the urge to collect some sort of memento. A young man chanced to walk across our direction in gradual steps. He wore a thick chestnut brown coat, hemmed with fur at the neckline, and a loose padded jeans. The crop on his head is thick and occupied inches of space. He carelessly hung his hands on his sides and turned to look at all the paintings with an eye of a connoiseur. I tapped his shoulders. He turned around with a blank look on his face, and I shamelessly asked him to take our photographs on one of the large paintings in the room while gently thrusting the camera on his hands. He hesitated for a moment, looked at the camera curiously, and conscious of being waited at, took it from me while adding inaudibly under his breath, “Im the curator”. Its connotation pulled a string and I helplessly made the attempt to snatch it back but he firmly signalled me not to. So there I was with a silly smile plastered on my burning face and Maeven grinning from ear to ear beside me with all the naivete of a five-year old haha.
We thanked him and resumed our larking. Sometimes I pull too close and the tip of my nose would touch the canvass. It amused me privately and the undecided patterns lured. He suddenly came up beside us with the same air of assumed indifference.
Do you know what that painting is?
Sure. Its an abstract.
It has no pattern, all shapes and indifinite, I replied.
He came closer and pointed at the figure of a nude woman, and turned to me.
What makes this abstract?
I returned his look and smiled wanly. I shrugged my shoulders. His eyes softened a little.
The unfinished lines make this abstract, he explained.
Both Maeven and I nodded child-like. I beckoned to another slightly geometric painting.
Is this cubism? I asked, noticing the bold and firm outlines.
He raised his brows, and his thin lips twitched a little.
What is cubism for you?
I slowly dragged my gaze back to the painting dreamily.
It’s too full of shapes, and figures I couldnt help remembering Picasso’s women.
He laughed heartily and told us he kept surrealist paintings on the stock room, and would we care to look at them?
Maeven nudged at me from behind, the look which warned me that if something horrible should happen while we are in that enclosed room we have each others backs.
The stock room was a couple of meters from the reception area. He led us with greater enthusiasm and explained he was an artist himself. I was overwhelmed.
It was with difficulty that he hauled the heavy canvasses to the open doorway. We arent allowed inside, he explained. And it was rather a relief. The paintings were very intricate and each figure is rich with detailed symbolism. I softly ran my fingers on the canvass and I could trace the brushstrokes without looking. He explained the patterns and the deceit by which surrealists are masters of. Maeven delighted on the spectacle and both of them reveled at the minute curiosities of the painting. I simply stood watching him, and noticed the sudden lightness of his conversations. The mastery by which he prided on his art and the steady patience of a guardian to his children.
It didnt keep long. Some visitors were coming to see the gallery and he should act his part as host. He left us to our own devices and hurriedly excused himself. It was nearing dusk, 5:00 pm. Maeven and I decided to leave the gallery and dine at a nearby restaurant. As we were making our way out, he called us from behind and added coyly that we are to sign over the visitor’s logbook. We obliged him and Maeven scribbled her name. I signed as Scarlett O’Hara.
So, you are Scarlett O’Hara? He asked dubiously, peering at the book.
I turned to look at him with a bemused expression.
I’ve written a fictional character. That isn’t me.
A strange and slightly mischievous look fell on his face. He suddenly held out his hand.
Well then, I am Leodeca.
I laughed, and warmly received his outstretched hand.
Scarlett O’Hara, sir. Nice to meet you.
Maeven and I left the gallery laughing over the recollection.
But in some cool days many weeks later, while I listen to Chopin’s Nocturno on the record, a nostalgic and fond memory would settle gently on my thoughts. Of friendships that might have blossomed, of kindred spirits in the guise of strangers, and of endevours that carry its artists to the bosom of generous listeners. And I long to see the young connoiseur again.