She was speechless. It took a moment to comprehend. And then she started to laugh.
Gina wasn’t an artist. Well, not the kind that would be in art galleries or museums. She created, but in her own way. She was a writer, mostly. She loved to create stories and poems. Sometimes she made jewelry, stringing beautiful patterns of handmade beads into bracelets to encircle her delicate wrists. And she took photographs, on her iPhone. She gave up her big camera with the interchangeable lenses for a big digital camera after she could no longer buy film. But even that seemed too much. The iPhone was always in her pocket or purse. At a moment’s notice she could capture an image. She liked that. Capturing images.
This was one image no one should ever capture. Her laughter rang through the empty rooms of the art museum. She couldn’t help herself. Who in their right mind would think a bottle of hot sauce sitting on top of a toilet paper dispenser could be art? Not only art, but art in the biggest and one of the most honored art museums west of the Mississippi just east of Utah.
But there it was sitting proudly in front of a blue wall that must have been taken directly from a restroom somewhere. Art. Her laughter swelled.
He didn’t say anything but silently stood beside her glancing at her and then to the hot sauce and then back to Gina. She snorted. That’s when she noticed him.
She could see he was smiling. He was taller than she was. Well, almost all men were taller than she was. His blue eyes sparkled and his grey hair caught the canned light from above making it seem like silver curls capping his head.
Gina looked a bit younger than she really was but that was because she dyed her hair and inherited her mom’s genes for good skin. Also, she never sat in the sun. When she was young she was always pasty white, but she hated the hot sun. It gave her a headache. Now, at fifty-eight, she was glad not to have as many wrinkles as most her age. She didn’t know if that’s what made her feel young, or the fact she never had children, or the fact that she just liked to be happy and silly sometimes. But she knew, even if he didn’t, they were probably about the same age.
“Oh, I am sorry. Am I too loud?” Gina looked into his eyes. They were smiling at her.
“No. I just wanted to see what was making you so happy.” He turned away to look back at the hot sauce. Gina turned the other way and wiped her nose with the sleeve of her sweater. Every time she laughed hard, her nose ran.
Gina looked at the tall man. He had a kind face. He held his arms clasped behind him. He wore a blue sweater with grey stripes over a light blue shirt. His jeans were neat and sharp and his brown shoes polished. He was casual, but dressed with care. She liked that.
He turned to catch her eye and she quickly looked towards the hot sauce once more. It was the wrong thing to do. She couldn’t help herself. It was such a ridiculous image, she broke out in huge guffaws. Grabbing her waist she turned to find the bench behind her and sat down.
He followed, this time joining her in her sentiment. Laughter ensued between the two of them to a crescendo that almost shook the blue wall behind the hot sauce. Gina reached into her pocket and pulled out a packet of tissues offering the stranger first pick. Then both wiped their eyes and then blew their noses.
After that, both took a simultaneous big breath filling their lungs, a slight pause, and then equally large exhales. Surprised, they turned back to one another and at the same time started to introduce themselves.
“I’m…” They both paused.
Starting again, “I’m…” and another pause followed by another smile, big breath, and exhale. They just looked at one another for what seemed like blissful eternity.
It was a moment Gina would remember years later as she packed up the bottle of hot sauce in bubble wrap followed by the toilet paper dispenser which she had taken apart and carefully placed piece by piece in the shipping container. It was the last remnant of that wondrous afternoon in the art museum and the last memory of the artist himself, the man with the blue eyes and heartfelt laughter following the cold but lovely rainy day ceremony at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Thank you to my friend, Sheila Lepkin, for the inspiration for this piece. The photo belongs to her. It just charmed me and I had to use it as my writing prompt tonight.