It's almost as if you want to be late to be cute.
I don't need to be late to be cute, this fucking bus was just parked outside Tim Horton's for 10 minutes. Get my ticket for me, I'll be there in 5ish.
It was turning into a long five minutes. The girl at the front desk of the gallery, who made eyes with me the first time I went up to buy a ticket, was less intrigued as I approached the desk for the second time.
“Hi, again. I'm just going to need another ticket, please. Same thing as last time, no Special Exhibition” I said with a friendly smile.
She looked taken aback, as if offended that I didn't wait in line again to ask for her number. Her vulnerability lasted briefly, as she regained composure and started typing away quickly at her keyboard, making up for the lost time. I always admired the composure a woman can summon in times of social awkwardness. I pretended to look around at the great glass ceiling in the entrance hall, and shortly after, I heard the girl's voice in a bland tone.
“Alright, that comes to twelve dollars.”
“Twelve dollars? I thought it was ten?” I looked up and checked the prices for today. “Oh, I'm sorry, she's actually a student.” I felt my words pierce through her like a knife through butter, the knife itself being “she.”
“I'm sorry, um, but they need to actually be here with a student card for me to give them the student special.”
“Aw, really? That's too bad. Are you sure you can't make an exception?” I looked her in the eyes and said with a smile. “Don't you trust me?”
I watched her wiggle around in her seat like it was too hot.
“Um, well, I don't know... I'm not supposed t-”
“I know you're not supposed to do it, but come on. Live a little,” I actually winked at her.
What was wrong with me? Looking back to see how many people were angry at me for trying to get $2 off, I saw her. “Ah, here she is now!” I waved her forward once she saw me, and she wove in and out of the line until she got to the front. “She's a student.” I looked at the card she passed the receptionist on the desk. Natalie Medal it read, from the University of Ottawa. I looked at her picture and was reminded about how she thought she looked like Wednesday from The Addams Family, with her expressionless face and dyed-black hair. The receptionist, Catelyn, it read from her name tag, typed in the student special and pushed Natalie's ticket and ID across the desk with pursed lips and loathsome eyes. I grabbed the ticket from Catelyn while Natalie was preoccupied searching her bag for her phone, and turned Natalie by her shoulders away from the front desk.
We made our way down the granite decline towards all the main exhibits, looking out the giant glass windows to the left. Walking down casually, I caught her looking at me from the corner of her eye. I waited a few moments, pretending not to notice her.
“Whatcha looking at, hot stuff?”
But she wasn't looking at me at all, ego check. I looked into her eyes and saw the reflection of a waking sun shining on a beautiful city, coated in an azure blue.
“You're really going to miss this place, huh?” I asked. She looked at me and nodded in silence. Something told me she wasn't seeing the same city I was. I had no idea what to say, so I just embraced the silence with her. A gallery is the perfect place to be quiet. You're almost expected to be noiseless, as if you'll wake up paintings or disturb the sculptures. Everyone assumes you are in deep thought about the piece of art in front of you. We've always belonged in a gallery together.
Once we walked down to the main hall, we decided go to the the aboriginal art section first and work our way up from there. We roamed around the first couple of rooms, glumly studying a piece or two, emulating the darker, hushed environment. As we approached the third room, we followed routine, but stopped at a sculpture near the end.
“Look at this one here,” I said. “This thing has like, six, seven, eight different faces.”
“That's almost as much as some people I know,” she replied with a petite smile. “But yeah, this one is really cool. There's a polar bear in the middle, too. It says here that it was made with whalebone."
“That's unreal. What did they use for the teeth?”
“Hm... real teeth. Hare, walrus, and polar bear. All of these native artists are legit.”
“Yeah.” I replied. “Let's hope we don't see a life-sized human sculpture anytime soon.”
We exited the aboriginal section and found ourselves back at the base of the stairs. Making our way up this time, we walked to the next section of the gallery.
“Oh, this is much nicer,” she said. “It was starting to feel kind of morbid down there.” She was right. We entered upstairs in higher hopes for the art to come. The first hall was high and narrow compared to the basement, with brown rafters stretched across the ceiling in an almost artsy way itself. Light bounced around the hall from a long window, but in an orchestrated way it seemed, so as not to disturb the lighting in the paintings. The walls in the hall featured paintings mostly from the late 17th century. No big names we could recognize, but still, we were enraptured by their excellence.
The next couple of halls had various themes to them. One hall was full of some of the first photographs, with such poor quality they actually looked more like drawings. The next hall had a collection of paintings that were either of portraits or water. The next hall we entered was full of abstract art.
“Ah. I was waiting until we'd come across something like this,” I said as we approached a painting. “Why is it that something like this always makes it into galleries?”
“I'm not too sure. To keep the hipsters happy?”
“It must be. There's always those one or two people that genuinely appreciate a piece like this. But let's be honest, there's seriously nothing else to it besides the two colours.”
“It must be something super deep. Like the red could represent anger or lust or blood. And maybe the yellow represents all the happiness after the angry red feelings,” she said. “That's just what I think, who knows.”
“It's called Paranoid. I don't see how this can represent paranoia at all. This just reminds me of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Yellow. Just add some blue in this, and there's the whole set.”
She smiled and said: “That's totally what they must have been going for. Well, there must be something to it. This is the National Gallery, after all.”
“There's nothing to it, this is garbage. Can you think of all those artists out there spending months, years even on painting and sculptures, and this Tousignant guy just has to paint two rectangles on top of each other, and he gets a spot in the Gallery. They need to sell this thing at a garage sale,” I said, pacing around her.
She laughed and grabbed my hands. “This stuff really does get you riled up, doesn't it?”
I gazed into her full hazel eyes, and up and down her body.
“Not as much as you do.” I grabbed her by the hips and pulled her into mine passionately, gently burying my teeth into her shoulder and kissing my way up behind her ear like I always did.
She pushed a little and said, “Stop you goofball, there's a security guard right there.”
“So what? Don't be so Paranoid. This is probably the most liveliness he's ever had on the job.”
We embraced together, filling the quiet hall with the sound of wet lips. It took the guard five minutes and almost falling against the painting to summon the courage to approach us and ask us to move along now, please and thank you.
By then I had wanted to stop anyways; you can only play tonsil hockey for so long. We made our way to the next section holding hands, the next with our arms wrapped, and the last with her head on my shoulder. We knew this would be the last of us. Walking down the stairs that had led us to the main halls, she suggested we wait outside. I knew what she wanted; I saw her searching her purse without looking. Walking up what was now the granite incline, we made our way outside.
“What was with that girl at the desk?” she said as soon as the doors closed behind us. “She gave me death eyes.”
“I don't know, maybe she's been having a rough day,” I replied, looking back. You asshole. “So, this is it, huh. When's your dad coming to pick you up?”
“He should be here any minute,” she said, quickly puffing down her cigarette.
Anything we said after is now a blur to me. We spoke for about five minutes, but it might as well have been five seconds. Her father had pulled up onto the side of the road. I hugged her and held her tight. Part of me will never let go. We held both hands and she gave me a teary-eyed last look like a soldier being drafted would have given his beloved; the last look forever. I was at a loss for words. I felt her left hand leave my right, and her right hand leave my left, finger by finger, as she backed away. The shutting of her dad's car door echoed in my memory for some time. When the car made off down Sussex Drive towards the airport, my arm was still extended. Her cigarette let out a final wisp of smoke that disappeared into the summer air.