She saw him standing, back to the wall, one foot slightly bent, hands deep in his jacket pockets, staring at the painting across the hall. She could see it, loud swirls of orange and yellow exploding out of the canvas, staining the wall, screaming. An exhibit that wanted to be seen. That would not stop until it had been acknowledged. It was not her kind of art. She liked the real painters, painting real things, things that weren’t a hundred things at once. Explicit. The harmonious song of a definite mind. A thousand hues that were decidedly black or white.
He was lost in that declamation of colour. He had tried to explain one night. How his mind responded to art. Something about sensation and emotion and perception. The way the viewer becomes part of the painting. One continuous story. Points in the same plane. She knew he had a different angle of appreciation. Surely if the artist was trying to communicate with the world outside him, he would use an easily decipherable language. And if it was just a coded articulation of his private thoughts, then guessing his state of mind would hardly be a true understanding of his art. She had tried to argue. On another night. He had smiled and turned his head away. She dreamt that they were caricatures on a massive painting, two tube stations apart, passing messages scratched on train carriages.
When she had raised an eyebrow at a print in his study, calling it amateurish, he hadn’t said a word. A week later, driving to dinner with a friend, he talked about how it revealed the sexuality of the artist, the squiggles and triangles presenting her anxiety about her unsated passion. She knew better than to laugh out loud. The friend shrugged a neutral shoulder. He though sexuality was better represented by colour and texture, patterns were more complicated. She wondered about the conversation. Surely they weren’t serious. She shook her head, scattering images.
Is it dawn? Or sunset? It looks wet, so just after rain? She tried to be pleasant. Clever. He didn’t look at her, eyes fixed on the painting. He thought it was orange juice. Spilt. The man tells his wife he knows she’s cheating on him. She is surprised. Shocked. Drops her glass of juice. There are puddles on the counter, on the floor. Reaching for one another. The morning light streaming in through the kitchen window is dancing on bubbles of freshly squeezed juice. There are dark lines where her skirt is reflected in the shattered glass, in the wetness. She looks at him, not denying. Not agreeing. Who will give in and clean up the mess? Something always breaks when they talk. He watches the patterns forming on white cabinet doors. He wants to interpret the shapes like a Rorschach test. Does it matter to him at all? What is he feeling? Jealousy? Humiliation? Relief? The orange lines quiver to a stop. He offers a childish sullenness. He isn’t going to mop this one up. He walks away quickly. She doesn’t move.
She turned back to the painting. Pushing the hair from her face with a hand that shook just a little. Just for a moment. Her eyes were wide. You got all that from that painting? He was watching her face. Another drop crawled slowly down the white cabinet, taking its time. Her fingers felt cold and sticky.
He turned to her, carefully, handing her a shiny blue brochure. It is dawn, after the rain. Says so right there. Then he was gone.