Nov 18, 2007


Grant looked at the abstract art before him and laughed out loud, must to the mystification of other museum patrons. Come ON, he thought. I'm not the smartest person, but this doesn't evoke any emotion whatsoever. It's a lot of colors and lines and splotches. This is why people don't like modern art, he reasoned. There's always a feeling that someone is getting over on someone else, and if you're not hip, something's wrong with YOU. This emperor has no clothes, and it's not funny; it's just pretty sad.

Grant caught himself rambling, and laughed out loud again. A security guard across the floor looked at him and started his way. Grant got the feeling that this space was just for those who appreciated and understood this crap. Grant took leave of the space.

He walked through the rest of the museum, glancing at the world-class collections of ancient armor, of fabrics, of woodcrafts. He completely bypassed the photography exhibit, in deference to his desire not to get caught up in a particular section. Besides. he reasoned, I could always come back. As he thought of things he jotted them down on a small notebook. Random things filtered into his mind, as his brain synapses fired with random and varied minutiae: send so-and-so a birthday card, get milk, I haven't had Twinkies in a long time.

He was hoping that a breakthrough in this new presentation would come to him. That's why he was here. He figured that being around artsy stuff would rigger that in him, and he would use that to his advantage. He had the words already written down; what he'd say, what he'd emphasize, and what each slide would say, but he needed a theme, something to draw it together.

He was still thinking about it when he stopped by the museum gift shops. Huge books of collected photographs of exhibit past and present filled the brightly lit room, and he could tell the art students, the kids who were learning to be creative in a wold that put dollar signs on their creativity, leaf through these vast collections. Postcards, posters, and wrapping paper dominated an area of the space where older ladies looked for things to get grandkids and send to adult children. Heavy, bronze-cast replicas of sculpture acted as bookends. Grant looked at these and made a note to get a set for his niece, who was showing some signs of being an artsy type.

He left the gift shop and looked at his watch. He still had half an hour before his boy was meeting him for a light lunch and a couple of drinks, and he had nowhere else to be at the moment, so he sat outside on the museum steps and watched the people going by. The lunchroom was across the street, so it would take no time to get there, and Grant was in no hurry.

After smiling at roughly six cute babies, saying good afternoon to about twenty people (and getting a response from four of them), and witnessing two near-misses between bike messengers and pedestrians, Grant decided to move along.

Lunch was cool. His man Dwayne was a corporate VP who somehow hadn't gotten the memo that, somewhere in his ascent up the ladder came some perks, like taking a lunch that lasted longer than 59 minutes. This guy still acts like he's a junior exec, Grant thought.

Dwayne, truth be told, envied Grant and his job, although he was too proud to say it and had worked too hard to acknowledge it. Acutely aware of the token status of his employment, Dwayne was still harshly aware that his successes merely kept the wolves at bay, that he was expected to screw up somehow. He kept disappointing them, though.

With all this on his shoulders, Dwayne couldn't stay in a relationship, and lunch was spent with Grant listening while Dwayne had the same problems as before. No matter how understanding they were, the women always walked out when he had to choose them or the job. Grant listened impassionately, chewing each bite of salad fifteen times before swallowing.

After checking his watch for the sixteenth time, after talking for 43 minutes of his self-alloted hour, Dwayne asked what was up with Grant's world. "What's up with Mr. Big Shot Consultant?" he asked, half-kidding.

Grant shrugged. "You know how it goes. Keep cranking out the work, keep getting paid. The checks don't change much, but the people signing my timesheets do." Grant took another sip of his below-standard iced tea. Mental note, he thought. Everyone else's iced tea sucks.

Dwayne looked at his watch again. He had a seven minute walk back to the office, and it was getting about that time.

Grant sighed and figured he needed to end this charade quickly. He'd wanted to bounce some ideas off a creative soul, to be able to laugh with someone, not laugh at Dwayne's ass and his eventual marriage to some chick who amused herself while he was at work and would half-listen while he complained about this job he didn't like and no one seemed to appreciate him doing.

She came into mind. Grant shook his head to get her out of it, but that was no use. To make it worse, Dwayne had asked him his thoughts about possibly quitting his job, of jumping into consultancy like Grant was. "It seems to be doing you well," Dwayne offered, hoping that his friend could give him that kick in the ass, that bit of encouragement, that push to seek employment outside this racially-charged atmosphere at work that Dwayne's internals were not prepared to deal with.

But Grant, not really hearing the question, nor noting the tone, was in the middle of getting Her, his ex, out of his head, and Dwayne, mistaking that shake of the head as an answer to his inquiry, fell silent. Grant walked him a few blocks, both engulfed in silence amongst the busy traffic of the major thoroughfare. Grant shook his hand as they parted and wished him luck on the woman thing. Dwayne shook his firmly, already gearing up for the return to the office. Both men's adrenaline amped up; Dwayne's for the problems of work, Grant's for the problem of Her that wasn't really a problem, but an oncoming rash of nervousness.

Grant went down a block or so, dodging the crowds that rushed past him. He found a doorway that afforded some cover and took out his cell phone. He still had her on speed dial, oddly enough. He had wondered if he'd take her off in the days since they split, but that would be contrary to their "grown and mature" resolution. They'd still be friends, she had demanded, and he figured that was better than the unease that kept him from talking to any other exes.

So he dialed. The phone rang once, twice, three times. Voicemail. Grant exhaled. His adrenal glands slowed their production, and his blood pressure went down. He wouldn't have to talk to her, not directly, anyway. He could leave a message and put the ball in her court. We'll see how far she wants to take this "friend" thing, if she was lying or just saying that to make me feel better.

I hope she calls though, he said out loud.

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