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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XLVII: Present

“As you wish.” Orion set his glass down. “I’m too curious about people, normally a positive trait, unless one takes it to extremes and ceases to think of a person as a person and instead as a puzzle. I lack a certain amount of empathetic capability, but have taught myself to see things I can’t understand, to remember what gets me the response I want and what to do to avoid situations I dislike.”

“You sound like you’re describing a psychopath.”

Orion laughed and gave a rolling, one-shouldered shrug, his gaze like knives flicking about the room. “I have emotions. I’m just selfish and wish everyone thought as I do even knowing that’s unrealistic to the extreme. But knowing is half the battle and being in control of myself allows me to avoid much of the drama of my youth.”

“You? Having drama?” The anger hadn’t fled, but it’d banked in the easy acceptance Orion had of laying himself bare in such a simplistic, open manner. His faults on display, his complacence lacking in malicious intent.

“I assure you, the amount of drama existing around my younger years would have drown you. Especially if you’ve become less reserved, as shy persons are wont to do as they gain experiences that teach them to be less afraid of the world in general.”

“I’m not afraid of the world. I just don’t like it invading my space.”

“You’re afraid now.” Orion’s gaze turned considering. “I’m just not sure of what.”

“I’m not a puzzle,” murmured Brendon.

“You’re an artist. Artists see the world far differently than I do.”

“I can’t disagree with that,” and Brendon’s tone spoke sardonic like it was its own language.

“Take our waitress. I see a high school student pocketing some summer cash. She chats with coworkers and complains the complaints of every teen with at least somewhat caring parents. She’s tired, her smile disappearing the moment her back turns. What do you see?”

Brendon turned his head just far enough to stare at the waitress as she set down food at a nearby table. “I see unnatural shadows against her eyes, a purple that pulls the gray of her eyes into something magical. Her hair is wispy from kitchen steam and her apron hangs low from a loosening knot. The overhead lights make her look older, lengthening the lines of her face. If I were to paint her, it’d be her stripping off her apron to run free into the paved city blocks where a fancier apron waits with her name.”

“Maudlin. Maybe she’ll walk past the job and do something else.”

“Or maybe she wants to be a chef. Who are you to judge?”

Orion sighed. “There’s no right way to view a painting like that and plenty of wrong ways. But thank you for proving my point.”

They lapsed into silence, and though Orion didn’t say, Brendon thought the silence may have been purposeful. A gift to settle Brendon’s mind.

After they ordered, Brendon not quite meeting the waitress’s gaze, he opened up the conversation again so talk could turn to Diana Tagalori’s merry-go-round painting, to her panther.

“What did you see in her room?” Unspoken was the addendum, “while I was busy viewing the world through artist eyes.”

“Black hairs on her comforter and she’s a red-haired child with a red-haired mother and a blonde-haired father. Marks on her bedposts. Long, parallel and downward.”

“Again. They might have a cat.” But there was little fight left in the suggestion.

Emma’s salt-stained couch, Diana’s clawed bedpost, Jennifer’s dirt-speckled carpet. Like dreams. The kind these ladies, of far different ages and worlds, could relate to. Robbie would have stressed the word dreams. Casey would have gotten that far-off look in his eye, gaze piercing the possibility.

Brendon wasn’t sure exactly where he stood.


Next Chapter: XLVIII