Someone To Love
I trail off, thinking about Zach’s eyes and what I might feel if he ever looked back at mine that way. I’d probably melt into a puddle on the floor.
While I’ve been thinking about Zach, Ms. Day has moved on to analyzing other parts of the painting. “What details do you notice? Look at the background.”
The class goes silent. We’re stumped.
“See this statue of a cherub on the left?” Ms. Day walks up to the screen and touches the left side of the painting. “Can you see what he’s doing?”
“Oh my god,” Emma squeals. “I totally see it.”
Everybody squints and leans forward. We’re still all confused.
“The little cherub? He’s holding his index finger in front of his lips. He’s trying to keep everything a secret.”
Ms. Day smiles and draws circles around the other statutes in the garden with her finger. “What about the other sets of cherubs? The ones below the humans looking up?”
A few students respond to her question.
“They look concerned.”
“More like afraid for her.”
“I think they’re scowling.”
“Yes. This is obviously an illicit love affair,” Ms. Day says. “Yet the painter casts off the moral concerns of the day to illustrate a moment of lighthearted pleasure. It is frivolous. Free. In fact, the painting’s alternate title is The Happy Accidents of the Swing.”
“They’re definitely, like, living life to its fullest or whatever,” Emma says.
“YOLO,” Nate adds.
“Exactly.” Ms. Day laughs. “Homework for tonight is to research...”
I lose myself in my thoughts while she gives us tonight’s assignment.
I can barely remember the last time I felt truly happy like the woman on the swing. When I was younger, tapping into that feeling of freedom seemed so much easier. I could ride my scooter fast down the street. I could get on a swing and pump my legs until I was soaring high over the playground. What happened to that girl? Did I lose her?
Am I living my best life? Am I even trying to?
The bell rings for lunch and all the students start piling out the door. I slowly put my notes and my textbook in my backpack while Ms. Day turns off the projector.
“Olivia,” she says. “I wanted to tell you something in studio art this morning, but you were out the door too fast. Do you have time to stick around for a few minutes?”
Of course I have time. It’s not like I actually eat lunch anyway.
I have only one rule about eating at school. I don’t do it.
“Yeah,” I say. “What’s up?”
“There’s an opportunity that would be great for you.” She walks to her desk and grabs a neon-yellow flyer. “One of my old friends from grad school is part of the staff at an art gallery that wants to feature young artists from the area.”
My pulse quickens. This could be huge. “Which gallery?” I ask.
“It’s called the Wynn. It’s fairly small, but they have a great schedule of contemporary artists lined up for this year. It would be a huge deal when you’re applying to art schools to say you’ve shown your work there already.”
“Sounds...great,” I say, unsure.
I’ve heard of the Wynn before. It’s an up-and-coming gallery that mostly features artists early in their careers, but I’m not sure I’m good enough. I sketch and paint constantly, but I don’t like showing my work to people. I come up with these concepts in my mind, but I can never seem to execute them exactly the right way. Sometimes I feel as if my skill will never match up with my vision.
“It’s a ways off—the show won’t be until near the end of the school year—but you have to submit a portfolio to be considered. They’re going to take only two or three artists total.”
How can I pull off a full show in eight months?
I’m a perfectionist. I take forever to put together a painting.
“That sounds pretty intense,” I say. “I don’t know what I would paint.”
Ms. Day puts down the flyer and looks at me. “Olivia. You need to start believing in your work. Really. It’s time for you to push yourself. Find your voice. You’ve been experimenting with figure drawing lately. Why don’t you try painting live models?”
I want to ask Ms. Day what she means by finding my voice, and exactly how I should go about doing that, when the fire alarm goes off.
“Really?” Ms. Day shakes her head. “We’ve had three of these damn things this week already. Wish I could catch whatever little delinquent is responsible for this.”
Lights flash on and off as the alarm buzzes. The school installed these alarms with strobe lights that practically blind you. It’s most likely a false alarm, but they’re so annoying they make you want to leave the room.
She heads for the door. “You don’t have to decide now,” she says, holding the flyer out to me. “You’re the only student I am recommending for this, so please promise to think about it.”
“Yeah,” I say, taking the flyer, my stomach tightening with nerves. “I promise.”
t h r e e (#u1995046c-ced6-510f-bc7e-f1466276fb70)
“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”
I’m sitting with Mom and Dad at a table at Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard, dining under the chandeliers in the ambience of mahogany decor and literary ghosts. Faulkner. Hemingway. Fitzgerald. Steinbeck. Parker. You name the writer—they ate here. The restaurant is old Hollywood classy. Waiters wear red jackets and black ties. Mom and Dad love this kind of stuff. A sense of history appeals to them.
I had to go home after school to change just so I could go out to dinner with my parents, even though I have absolutely no interest in eating.
It’s Thursday. Today was supposed to be a fast day.
I’m trying to break a plateau. My goal is to get down to 100 pounds, and I’m not going to get there by eating ham steak or a rack of lamb or whatever.
When the waiter delivers my salad, Dad starts doing this thing he always does at these dinners, as if his life suddenly revolves around my eating habits.
“A house salad?” Dad asks. “That’s it?”
I get irritated with them at dinners because they’re always commenting on what and how much I put on my plate, making me feel guilty for whatever I do or don’t eat.
Believe me. I already judge myself enough for my own eating habits. Like those two Rice Krispies treats Mom made that I binged on yesterday? They made me feel terrible.