If you have a romance short-short story, please submit it to Divas on the Prowl
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And here we go....
I was invited to his home for an art exhibition. Actually, I wasn’t invited, I just happened to be in the right place at the time which was the elevator. My neighbor, the host of this party, who previously inspired me to channel my inner artist, had three canvases propped against the wall as he pressed the down button. When the doors opened, I offered to help him. Just holding the doors open would be good enough he said. All the way to the car, I was commissioned to open a door and just hold it. He said that he would need help when he got there. I looked down at my layered t-shirts, and jeans. I wasn’t dressed for a party, but after looking at him, neither was he. I wasn’t even dressed for the cold, I eyed his Kelly green peacoat and he gave it to me.
For the first time that night, my neighbor opened and closed a door for me as I put on the seat belt. Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out resonated in the SUV twice before the cd player was allowed to play The Boss. He waved his hand announcing we have arrived to Jonathan’s loft apartment that belonged to a friend of a friend of a lover that my neighbor had. Jonathan was the newest protégé of this group. My neighbor made a phone call, told me to stay put, got out, locked the doors, and then made his way to the building. A handsome, lean, young man in knee-torn jeans and a wrinkled white t-shirt came running to the car with a roll of clear plastic. He came over to the driver’s side. I unlocked the doors and got out. His eyes were bright and his frizzy, fluffy, hair flopped all over his head. Other than his hideously wide cartoon smile, we could have been siblings. He told me he was Jonathan laughed as he told me my neighbor’s name. “Tiffany”
The studio/home was decorated with silver ribbons, helium filled aluminum balloons, and frosted white globes adorned the many plants everywhere. White Christmas lights ran seamlessly along the ceiling, floorboards, windows, and doorways. And, then there were the people. Tiffany unwrapped the paintings, put them on easels, and began the show. Jonathan asked me if I liked his paintings and wanted me to be honest.
“I don’t get them.”
He stared at me pulling on a cigarette and replied letting smoke escape with his words, “I don’t like yours either,” his smile stretched for miles before frowning, “Red.”
My face got hot and palms began to itch as I tried to explain, “I didn’t say I didn’t like them. I was just saying that....”
“I’m just picking with you, Red.” He put the cigarette out, picked up bottle of wine, and poured a glass for me as he suggested that I drink it fast, that I’ll need it. I did and before I was done, he had another glass ready for me. “Drink this one as you like.” I downed that one and kept the glass. He found another bottle, tucked it under his arm and grabbed me by the wrist, “Stay with me and learn.”
I tagged along behind him as he entertained the crowd with non-sense riddles and made up stories of his life that received laughter mixed with tears of pity. A few side murmurs were audible to me, “He must be on drugs.” “He is definitely gay.” And then there was one concerning even me, “Who is she?” “Why is she here?” “She must be a relative because he wouldn’t date anything like that!” Immediately, Jonathan took a bow and applauded the little group in the middle of a conversation and walk off, but not without grabbing my wrist.
He closed the door to the bathroom, let down the lid of the toilet, and offered me a seat. With his cigarette, lighter, ashtray, and bottle of wine lined up along the tub ledge, he climbed in, sat down. He looked at me and in a mimicking falsetto, “She must be a relative because he wouldn’t date anything like that.” My eyes widened and then I laughed out of surprise that he heard them. He then continued in his own voice. “Would you date anything like me? I’m not on drugs other than these,” holding out the cigarette and passing the bottle to me. I took a swig while keeping my eyes on him. He looked so innocent with his frown lines and puppy dog eyes. And then he smiled making laugh and spray wine all over myself. It seemed like a proposal, but I decided to take it as a hypothetical question and never answered it.
It was early April and some of the strings of lights were still blinking. Since most of my clothes and work supplies were gathering at Jonathan’s place on his suggestion I didn’t renew my lease. He kicked an etched glass tree ornament and it traveled across the room in my direction. He told me to just leave it. I would have picked it up, but my arms were full. The place was a mess, nothing like my old, neatly organized apartment. Abstract paintings, portraits of random people he just met, more protesting graffiti covered the walls. The splattered, foot printed, hardwood floor began to look like piece of art itself. I looked at the ceiling, no paint. His sticky blue fingertips grabbed my cheeks, pushing my lips to pout. He’s going to paint his Red blue. His whole mouth covered mine as I became another mistaken canvas. After wiping his hands on his jeans, he took the brown paper bag of delivered Chinese food from my arms.
The only thing not touched by paint was his Christmas present to me – bought after I stayed at his house several days after the party. It was a laptop for me to write. The bathroom stayed clean in the sense of no dirt. I scrubbed my cheeks. I looked into the mirror, my face looked was sullen from the blue wash. I rinsed the paint from the sink and paid no attention to the streaks of colors everywhere in what was supposed to be an all white room.
I returned to the vast area that I would have separated into a foyer, dining area, and office. Jonathan made a pallet on the floor with two pillows. The cartons of food and a bottle of wine were on the paper bag he torn open for a table cloth. I took my seat across from him before noticing there were no glasses. One thing Jonathan taught me was not to over complicate things. We could drink out the same bottle. Why waste the effort to get glasses to dirty and later have to clean. We drank from the bottle and recycled it. Perfect.
“I’m quitting my job,” I interrupted his story on how he would steal art supplies. He never told me about it, but I heard twice before from his fans.
I followed his eyes as the tried to seek out my facial expression before they finally met my eyes, “You’re dead serious this time.”
“Yes, I’m putting in my two weeks notice.”
“Putting in…Why not ‘ I put in’? When are you putting in your resignation?”
I took a deep breath and let it go slowly, “Tomorrow.”
He mumbled, “Good,” as he pushed noodles into his mouth with chopsticks.
“Do you really think I can make it?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s about what you know. Do you know that you can make it?” Jonathan stared at me chewing and waiting for an answer.
“I really don’t know.”
“Well, if you don’t believe in yourself don’t expect anyone else to. If you’re not sure about it, then stay at your job and let them drive you crazy.”
I let the thought go and ate. Another lesson I learned from Jonathan was worry equated to failure. If I had a dream, a plan, and the drive, then I should worry. He finished telling his story. From the way his fans told it he was a poor little kid who couldn’t afford supplies to creatively express himself. I interpreted the tale as a kid from a well-off family who joined a gang. They went into superstores stealing electronics and he would happen to pick up some spray paint to tag buildings with gang signs. By the end of the story I was full and I sat there with a Mona Lisa grin.
Jonathan stood up and got the trash and I put the pillows away He went back to his canvas and I sat Indian style on the bed before the laptop. I played with the Jamaican colored beaded anklet he gave me. I always assumed that he was from there from the accent, dreadlocks, and after dark soccer games. He was a Marley relative for sure; at least he favored him. Four months and I never thought to ask where he was from. For all I knew he could have been from Virginia. I checked my emails, groups, and the normal sites.
“Jonathan, where are you from?”
“Jamaica,” he answered before coming into the room, “Queens.”
I shook my head and smiled at him. He had to be playing with me. “Seriously, where are you from?” My lips were pressed, nose flared, and eyes wide.
“I was born in Jamaica Queens, but my parents are from Negril.” I was about to search it and asked him how to spell it, but he closed the laptop and put it on the floor, “I’ll take you there one day.” Jonathan lay down with his head at the foot of the bed. I stretched out a little, my feet near his chest.
“Do you get to go there often?”
He began turning the anklet, “I used to go each summer when I was in school. Sometimes during Christmas break. But now I go once every two years. How often do you go home?”
“Not often enough.” I had not been home since I met him. I called them for Christmas since they were traveling. I was going to call them then, but ended up falling asleep once Jonathan got in the bed the right way.
His skin was always tanned. The only time the sun saw his skin was if he woke up late to go running. That would also be the only time I jogged. He would jog with me until I panted and sat on the steps. I would cheer him on each lap around the block. Then he would drag me on the last lap. His skin was just reddish. He should have been the one nicknamed Red. It was weird that in the wee hours of the dawn I would be analyzing our skin tones and come to the conclusion that I was pale and jaundice in comparison to him. I was comparing our skin as if I was testing samples at my job. Yesterday was my last day of comparing liquid color on an intensity scale. It was an hour and twenty-six minutes before snooze time. I pushed the switch on the alarm clock to off and kissed Jonathan between his shoulder blades. He rolled over and his lips touched mine. --- JettLove