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We met in this gallery last spring. Do you remember that day? Raindrops fell against the windows, casting anxious shadows over the masterpieces; portraits of men wearing expressions of disdain, discomfort, boredom. As I lingered, you approached, and I felt your irritation on my skin before you reprimanded me for daring to allow my umbrella to drip onto your perfect parquet flooring.
At least I had an umbrella with me that day, which was unusually efficient of me. But you did not yet know that of me, any more than I could guess that you organised your sock drawer by hue, transforming the balled-up beige, green, blue woollens into something resembling a close up of an Impressionist painting.
Eyeing your flint-stern expression across the gallery made me yearn to run my fingernail against the soft wax of Anish Kapoor’s imaginings, perhaps trace my tongue across his grooved landscapes, press thumbprints into his abstract-thoughts-made-physical, or peel the wax right off; reveal the soft edible layers beneath.
Your horror amused me; my laughter disquieted, then, unexpectedly (to me, at least), enticed you.
We reached an understanding as I stared into one of Turner’s stormier seascapes. You came up behind me, tucked two icy fingers into the soft warmth at the inside of my elbow. And for a moment I was underwater, unable to draw breath, fighting to break the surface. You waded in to save me. Do you remember?
Judy Darley can't stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her stories, essays and poems are widely published by literary anthologies, magazines and websites in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, US, and India, including Cypress, The Mechanics' Institute Review and The Pomegranate. Judy is the author of short fiction collections Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). Her third collection, The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain, will be published by Reflex Press in 2022. You can find Judy at http://www.skylightrain.com; https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.