Artist As Witness

Entry by: Olivia

19th June 2015
Artist as witness
He squeezed her hand, pleased that they were able to touch outside for once.
They marveled at their freedom, stunned themselves with their openness. Planned and hoped; gone was the despair that dogged their lives. Normally cautious, they grew reckless, their recklessness made her bold. But she feared her own voice, scared that she might just push too far, ask for too much.
They usually had so little time, just so many snatched moments, moments that were barely strung together, woven only by texts and quick calls. To have a day was to have a lifetime. She knew she wanted more and feared her longing would overwhelm their fragile time.
Isn’t it at this point that it is always pointed out that it ‘started so innocently’, that they had been ‘forced together by circumstances’? Only she knew this not to be true. She had seen him and wanted him her belly told her this, the warm tingle between her legs told her so. She had to have him and knew that this raw need was simple.
She had plotted and planned. Made herself available, was helpful and generous and oh, so appropriate. She wasn’t needy, was she? There was no way she was going to beg. Just as always happened, he began to notice her, the ‘dropped off’ coffee on his desk, the unsent errors, corrected and replaced without him even realising he had made a mistake.
He didn’t remember ever making a move or ‘starting something’, it just seemed to happen. Somehow the single coffee became a shared one, which morphed into lunch. He never wanted to be rude, so always agreed to her requests; after all, what was wrong with having lunch with an office friend? Only he never tested out these hypothetical questions, they swirled around, directionless, any consideration of the issues just pushed to the back of his mind. As for telling Lucy, somehow he never got round to telling her he was having lunch with Sally. It was only lunch after all.
Sally had got stage 1 of what she wanted. She had a man who gave her attention, a house, money in the bank, what more could she want? She wanted the comfort that a settled romance brought her. Its all well and good when the adrenalin is high and the passion is tangible, but mighty lonely when the curtains are drawn and there is uncertainty and insecurity.
They wandered through the streets, still holding hands, drenched in their love making of the previous night. The warm sun lightened the day and she felt that they were in a bubble of their own making, for whole minutes she forgot her other life. The life of solitude, longing and scheming. She knew that normally he didn’t like any of her whispered endearments, words of love hung, unsaid, between them.
If only they had walked right on, past the cartoonist, she might have held on just that bit longer. ‘Oh lets’ she implored, pulling his arm down, ‘let’s have one together’. She sat down on the artist’s little stool and patted the one next to her. He looked trapped and indecisive, not sure what to do, where to draw the line. The camera shutter clicked and the polaroid print started to arrive. The artist pinned the print to his board and started to sketch. Sally felt the invasive strokes from the start. It was as if he were outlining her with touch and then reaching right into her soul. He began talking; his low, rich voice was sensational and seductive. He told them how long he’d been in this particular slot (5 years) and where he had been before (Paris). He chatted fairly aimlessly but suddenly felt the need to pass comment about his sitters.
‘You’re not married, are you?’, ’No’ Sally replied, ‘but what made you say that?’ ‘The tension in your eyes, what is troubling you? Why not tell me, I can make lots of pictures, take your time.’ She felt her lover’s hand tighten round hers. An attempt to silence her or a kindly warning?
Sally wanted to tell this grubby fingered artist that her heart was aching for love, her longing threatening to overwhelm. ‘I knew it’ he yelled, like a latter day Rumpelstiltskin,’ I could see it before you sat down. So what’s the plan, what about you mate- you gonna sort this out?’
Tom didn’t reply, simply lingered, holding her hand.
‘Yes mate, you should snap her up or she’ll be gone’
Sally held her breath, the cartoonist could see right through them, witnessing their complexity and insecurity. She felt scared and anxious, the day shrouded in inadvertent discovery and the fear of rejection. Tom grew restless but the moment passed and the cartoon was finished.
‘Here you are, take and enjoy’ and took from them an exorbitant fee. He passed them his card and they walked rapidly away. Tom was sweating and his palm was wet and slippery. ‘What an awful man, how dare he?’ was all he managed and the day never did regain either its balance or its fun.
Sally knew she couldn’t take him today and gave herself over to jealousy when he slipped out to phone his wife. Idly she glanced at the cartoonist’s website. In among the pictures was the one of her and Tom, she felt uncomfortable and prickly. Cross with Tom for not guarding her from the cartoonist’s inquisitiveness and for not being man enough to deal with her love. Tom’s wife was nothing but a face book click away and that, she resolved, was what he deserved.
She tried hard but the cartoonist had broken the spell, her plans were crumbling. Tom refused to discuss ‘their future’, the cartoonist had witnessed their love and jinxed it, she was convinced.
She tagged Tom to the polaroid shot, knowing his wife would see. Sod it, the cartoonist didn’t need to be the only one to know, to witness her relentless effort and his indifference. After all, she had held back hadn’t she?