He circled the corner and was transported. She towered in front of the canvas, and it was hard to tell where Modigliani's brushstrokes stopped and where she began. Liquid leather leggings painted her skin in the same black as the 5:15 November twilight absorbing into the Victorian buildings across 54th street. She had the hair of a crow, casually wrapped around a sock like a cinnamon roll, framing the v of her nose and the pine of her eyes.
He had been here before; the same excruciating scene played out more frequently than he cared to admit. Him, standing there like a damn fool, feeling his feet form an ionic bond with the hardwood floor while he convinced himself she was no good. Sure, she could be different. Yes, maybe he had matured. Of course, true love is searching too, waiting for him to step into the light. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
The faint Daisy smells of Jasmine petals and musk sucker-punched him allowing only a second more of consciousness to notice her small scarlet mouth and Calla skin as he veered by. He was hoping she would look his way. Eye contact. A smirk. A nod. An affirmation. An opportunity. He made his first failed pass.
“It doesn’t matter anyways,” he told himself in the neighbouring round room. He’d read this chapter. What starts as lustful enthusiasm quickly turns to misplaced words, overanalyzed reactions, distance, and dying. He shifted the 8 ⅛ hat on his head in diffidence questioning the morning’s wardrobe decisions in his weakly lit studio. “Stupid hat.” He muttered. He told himself he was happy she didn’t see him. He was comfortable with his current complacency and moped passed the greens and pinks of Matisse without looking up.
Though she did notice him. She first admired his hat, then his boots, and appreciated the comfort displayed in his self-expression. A brief fantasy made its way across her mind: the two of them sampling the delights of Spices and Tease before searching for antique treasures at Junk while beating the storm back to her place only to sit by Geranium candles and watch “Populaire.” She imagined a honeymoon in Mumbai. She quickly corrected herself. “Shutup.” she reminded. “I’m better alone. He wouldn’t understand me: just like the last one.” She stopped and secretly wished to have had the same loss of inhibitions as the five nude woman dancing in front of her on the basic greens and blues so that she could start a conversation. “Show me the Klimt that makes your stomach hurt.” She imagined herself rhapsodizing to him.
At the lilies, he regrouped “No. I have many failures of which I am the most proud. Today is a day of growth.” He paced in a crazy-eight and retook his course. He knew better than to backward cast his eye on prospects drear. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
She made her way into a windowed corner and stared at the steel roof next door. She justified her cowardice “Probably has a girlfriend.” The deepest sigh.
Upon his return, the men admiring the Madame on the wall were not what he was hoping to find. He searched the galleries and raced for the steps. He saw the red soles of her Louboutin’s disappear under the second floor’s balcony. “Wait!” he grunted, three floors too high for her to hear. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen.
Step. Step. Sixteen. Step. “excuse me.” Step. Step. Seventeen. Step. “Pardon.”
She listlessly exited the museum.
He puddle-jumped through the lobby.
She looked back. Nothing. “Another cab ride alone.”