Obsession: Indulgence in an Art Museum

Source. Pexels.

by LJ Frank       

It was a warm, light rain. I looked out the window at the river several stories below and then grabbed my worn trench coat before exiting the hotel. I was to meet her at the art museum. I wasn’t sure what she had in mind. She gave me directions over the hotel telephone an hour earlier as promised. I only knew I was compelled to see her again. It might be the second and last time before she departed. She didn’t tell me where she was headed.  Nor did I know where she was from. She seemed to appear in my life like a fantasy, but tangible. 

I like walking in a light almost delicate shower. There’s a misty, sensual quality to it. The senses are enveloped. My imagination slow dances to it, like the wetness of two lovers in each other’s arms, bare skin to bare skin. I thought of our last meeting. Reverie arrives easy on a rainy day.

Walking down Michigan Avenue I passed a shop where a book sat front and center in a store window on top of dozen or so similar works. The title was – What is the Return on Belief vs Disbelief?

The rain grew heavy for a minute. It lightened up again to a drizzle. I spotted the Art Institute of Chicago. The classically designed Beaux Arts marble edifice was suggestive of the human wish.  It was partially surrounded by a variety of flora save the front of the building where the street accentuated this cultural destination. The architecture was symbolic as was the location and history.  It was an easy place to brand. It was like other major museums of the world inspiring the mind. It invited desire, openness of thought and emotion. Sophisticated, provocative, lascivious, libertine, literary, and romantic. It was an invitation to indulge.

Some people who walked through the doors appeared dialectically preoccupied while others were merely soaking up the passions of color and the stimulation of the moment and still others because it was wet and noisy outside. And then there were art lovers and art escapists.

Three teenagers hurriedly walked into the museum out of the rain wearing tee shirts with messages on them as if the three were a religious motif or perhaps symbolic of an existential tale. One teenager wore a tee shirt that read: Are you absolutely sure you’re who you think you are? Another had a tee shirt that read: I am programmed with emotional software. And a third wore a tee shirt that simply read: I Consume.

And like a character from a cartoon or Wall Street a pre-teen looking girl wearing dark horned rim glasses followed the teenagers into the museum wearing a tee shirt that read:  I’m into stock buybacks and dividends.

And finally, I saw an old man wearing a baseball cap that read, whatever comforts you.

 Visiting an art museum can be a culturally and socially informative experience.

I pondered that thought while making my way to the gallery where we agreed to meet. As I walked into the gallery deep within the museum, I saw her standing alone looking at a painting. She was wearing an above the knee black dress, open toe high heels an anklet located on her left ankle, a necklace with a small pendant and matching earrings. She turned to watch me enter the gallery. I recognized the entire outfit, as I was the one that helped clothed her. I was wearing slacks, an open collar shirt and blazer. There was something I didn’t know. I could feel it. I couldn’t identify it. She told me she was given time to meet me again.

What did she mean?

We kissed and then she asked, shall we?

I smiled. I’m here.

She looked around the gallery. We were alone. That was odd, but it happens.

What now I asked. It was a little late to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

I’m not wearing anything underneath my dress, she said,

Oh?

Except my character. Could you do one thing before I……? She didn’t finish her thought.

What?

She then whispered in my ear her request.

I glanced around. We were still alone.

She lifted her dress enough. I knelt and gave her the kiss of devotion, gently……  and then rose and she kissed me on the lips holding my head in her hands.

Thank you. Her smile possessed a mysterious quality.

You’re welcome.

Her lips parted……. a deal is a deal.

We embraced, not wanting to let go……yet she withdrew, a tear forming in the corner of her eye and she whispered again in my ear – step back from me and look at the painting to your right.

I looked at her, stepped back and then towards the painting. It was her in the painting in the same black dress, open toe high heels, and jewelry. The woman in the painting had a tear in the corner of her eye,

I then returned my gaze to the woman in front of me. She had vanished.

My head began spinning. Taking a deep breath I looked back at the painting. What? Am I living in fantasy world I asked.

Did you say something? A woman nearby asked me.

No. Sorry. Just talking to myself.

Good place to do it.

Thanks. I departed the gallery, peering into other galleries in search of her.  She was nowhere to be found…… except in the painting. I departed the museum. Walking down the museum steps I stumbled.

Are you okay a man asked.

I nodded and headed back to the hotel.

A month later I was in New York City. Strangely it was another rainy day when it happened. As I was walking up Fifth Avenue towards Central Park, I saw a familiar looking woman descend the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She looked like her. It couldn’t be. I followed her. I halted in my steps…… told myself I was not one to be obsessed…… I followed her to the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) on the park.

I watched the woman walk up the steps and followed her into the museum. She slipped out of her raincoat to reveal that she was wearing a black dress. I rationalized black was a popular color in clothing in this city.

Folding the raincoat over her arm she ventured into one of the galleries.  I moved closer to where she was standing. Turning away from the painting she was gazing at she looked at me. Was she a clone or doppelganger or just a similar presence? She smiled. An enigmatic smile. She parted her lips, seemed about to say something and then turned and disappeared into a crowd of people entering the gallery. I tried to follow her to no avail.

It probably wasn’t her. I flew back to the city by the great lake. I visited the gallery to view the woman in the painting. The painting was missing. I inquired from a staff member what happened to the painting. He told me it was on loan and then mumbled something about life being on loan. He added that he didn’t know with certainty where the artwork ended up. It might have been on loan from a private collector.