The party raged well into the evening. Leanne and I talked about lots of things, but the story of the portrait wasn’t among them. I sensed that wasn’t something she really didn’t want to explore too much.
Besides, the evening became a parade of eccentricity. I met all sorts of wild people with every conceivable issue and opinion and commentary on this god damn world. We had great pretentious conversations full of sincerity and concerns and grand theories and philosophies. We all hmmm’d and yes’d each other to death, pretending to hear and care about all of this nothingness, with oh so serious looks and intellectual deceptions. So many people with so many things to say, and in the end very little of it made any sense, and certainly, none of it mattered.
I tired of all the talk and eventually, amazingly, I fell asleep – passed out to be more accurate - in a huge leather chair in the middle of the living room in the middle the party. Thank god I didn’t know anybody.
When I woke up it was cold and grey and the house was ugly. Leanne was gone, and all the serious people with all the answers were gone as well. Instead I looked around and saw bleak reality. It was all unfamiliar and strange.
In the morning light everyone seemed like sniveling runaway kids in torn and tattered clothing; down and out kids with no place to go; this was a rotten stink hole filled with dirty people. My ears picked up the sound of sick coughs, morning junky coughs, hack coughs, deep ones that break up and heave. It sounded like people were getting punched in the chest. I needed a surgical mask.
I smelled that skunky weed again and sitting a few feet away from me two sickly kids smoked the remnants of a joint. Anything, I suppose, to thwart the pain and depression of cold junky mornings.
I got up and stumbled toward the kitchen. I stopped in the doorway and watched a poor child of a girl struggle to make a giant pan of eggs. She was pale and thin with blonde straight hair that hung down to hide half her face. She kept sniveling and wiping her runny nose with her frail wrist. Then she'd tuck her hanging hair behind her ear, all in one motion. It made me depressed just looking at her.
She was cracking the eggs on the side of the pan. Bits of egg shell kept getting into the eggs. She slowly picked out the pieces one by one with a larger section of broken shell. It was all slow and deliberate and went on for several minutes. I figured at this rate it would take a few hours to make scrambled eggs. The burner apparently wasn't working right either. After a few minutes it had barely started to heat up, if at all. It was all broken dreams in a broken kitchen.
Eventually I woke up to the fact of where I was and what I was doing and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Sometimes when something is right in front of you, you miss it. The resolution of opportunity doesn’t always go by the clock or the calendar, or by convenience.
One day it came to me. Out of the blue, it just made sense. The woman in that painting was Leanne. It was a self-portrait. Of course it was. In retrospect, I should have known, but it went right passed me and got lost in the night.
Anyway, I have often wondered if I had figured this out when I was there, in that house, with her, that night, if things might have been different. I think, yes, I would have bought that painting, and maybe, Leanne would have been happy. Instead, my wall is blank, and Leanne, well, who knows, maybe somebody else got it right?
© AC James