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The Last Remaining Wonder in the World
Always stand with your hands behind your back when you're looking at graphic Art. It makes you look like you can hardly keep your hands off it, and it's flattering. At least, that's my philosophy, and hey, it doesn't hurt to make these natural actions become some kind of law, give them a purpose, make everything you do in the course of this all real. I also believe in smiling with your eyes, first, when you're not sure you want to smile all the way at someone. You want to see first if they need to be smiled at. Then you can turn it on and they'll be pleased.
I imagine gallery patrons surrounding me, although there is no one else in this hall where the students' graphic art is currently on display. I'm practicing my on-the-spot critiquing, in my head. I'm dressed for a party, though. Black suit and blacker shoes, just a handkerchief for color. It helps me get in the mood.
I move from piece to piece, and then try to clear my brain and do it again. Every time, I have someone who inhabits my practice landscape ask me a different question. It's a good way to relax, when I don't really have to do it, and at the same time maybe I can learn something to apply later on.
"You one of the theatre students?" The voice is off to my left, and I turn to give the eye-smile, keeping my hands holding each other behind my back. It's a dancer. You can tell the dancers when they're standing still, by the way they look physically exhausted instead of emotionally spent coming out of rehearsal.
"No." Slowly, I turn to face him completely. I want to say, 'enjoying the exhibit?', but I smile a bit and continue, "Art. The other Art."
"Oh, the graphic stuff. Yeah." The dancer pushes his hair up off his forehead, even though the bangs aren't very long, as if it's a habit he has. He's got more muscles than I, even though we're about the same height, black-tan thick hair and pale-tan skin. "What do you do?"
"I buy art, critique art, recommend art."
"You do that? Are you studying here or are you an alumnus?"
I grin. "I study here. I happened to become involved with a firm that decided to tap into the student talent. There aren't many buyers with impressive reputations who are willing to sink themselves into a firm. So I'm practicing, because I feel like it, here, and I have classes, and I do this for a living."
"No kidding? You don't have your degree and you're working with a buying firm?"
I remove my attention entirely from the displays. "That's right. I got lucky. Now I can build my reputation in the firm and they get an educated buyer, and I can go on from there after I get my degree."
"Lucky? How do you get _lucky_ with a thing like that? There aren't any others who were rioting for something like that?"
I puzzle at him for a moment. His dark brown eyes, of the kind that go with his complexion, appear genuinely curious. "I don't know. I just happened to be the right choice."
He looks back at me, seriously. This is becoming interesting. Most of the art students never care to ask me what I'm doing with most of my time, so it doesn't get around to the inevitable cries of envy and 'I could do that better than you!' and only semi-mocking spite due to one's good fortune. He doesn't look at the art, just at me. Finally he says, "How'd you do it."
Perhaps he feels he could learn something from me. Maybe he could. I broaden my grin. "Look very closely at my face."
The other student leans in, doing just that, peering with concentration on my eyes, chin, all, then backs up and his brow gets a single line in its middle before he ventures, "Are you wearing make-up?"
I laugh, pleased. "Yes. That's it. If you notice, black mascara and just a touch of rouge. _Not_ too much."
"You wear it all the time?"
"Whenever it counts."
"Ah... It makes a difference, does it."
"Of course. Think about it. You're a dancer, I see. You wear it onstage when it's important to see your face, or you'd get washed out by the lights. We all get washed out. It's simply a matter of where, and how much."
"Heh, that's great. I had never actually thought of it that way." The brown man holds the back of his neck with one palm, for a moment, thoughtfully. "So that's how you did it, you think."
"Undoubtedly. That and my handshake. I practice my handshake. If my sample critiques hadn't been any good, well then it wouldn't have mattered anyway. But there are other good students in my major, with some of my same ambitions. So you have to go for pure appeal, whether they realize it or not. You wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't told you to look, but you noticed anyway, on some level."
"Maybe that's why you looked attractive. Maybe that's why I sort of stopped and talked to you, here."
I shrug, just a little. I feel myself getting a bit shy and turning my eyes away a bit, smilingly, without planning it. "Could be, I guess."
"Well, may I try the handshake? What's your name?"
"My name is Francis." I offer my hand, which is small and white, white as the rest of my skin, which is the reason for the rouge. I just don't have much color on my own. At least my black hair and lashes are well-defined. Doesn't hurt to help them, either, though. The other student shakes. He seems to feel whether it comes across to him as professional or not.
"I'm Gordon. And I'm a dancer here, that you know. My last year. Yours?"
"Yes. One to go. I've got something lined up, and I'm glad."
"I can sympathize with _that_. I'd love to have something lined up. The only thing is, with the professional shows I've danced in, they're not very long-lived, and no companies are hiring. Nice handshake, Francis. And nice mascara."
He leans with an upper arm on the wall between two prints and continues casually: "I've got a house rented over by the old-new development on Joaquin in Hollywood. Move in with me."
I almost consider it for a minute. I'm not seeing anybody, and there's something about him noticing me like this. Still, it's nuts. Nobody does that. "Well, I'm flattered. Very much so." I grin, and I don't think my blush needs any help right now.
He smiles, not showing any teeth, just sort of kept in but enough all the same. "Why does 'flattered' always mean 'no'?"
I shake my head. "It's one of those things, I guess. Anything but 'yes' means 'no'."
"Aw, well, I figured I'd ask. You didn't look like the type I'd scare away, and now next time you see me, you'll remember me."
At that, I just about turn right around and say, I'll get packed. I gaze at him for a second, and he leans there, unmoving. It takes me some time to reply, "Undoubtedly."
"Ah, then I'm pleased. I look forward to seeing you again, Francis. And I must consider your techniques. They may be worth something."
"They have been for me."
"So I see. Not many people would go for such unconventional applications of make-up so easily." He takes a long time over the word 'unconventional'. I get the feeling long words always wander around in his mouth before he can steer them out. I like him.
"I say, what's the point of not making use of all the ways you can be made to look good? They're all there, emphasis for all your most pleasing features, and men don't want to touch them. It's a shame."
"You may be right. It's been nice indeed meeting you."
The dancer, Gordon, holds out his hand again before leaving, and this time I feel him imitate my own hand from before. How he moves is definitely important to him. And I'm not complaining. I watch him walk away. Not that I'd want to have muscles like that, but to look at on someone who wears them well they're a pleasure. Same goes for anything anyone wears well, I guess.
The moon is changed. Nothing changed it. No
one touched it, but it changed all the same.
Reality changes in more ways than you would think it does. In the one night when it was out and I couldn't see it, it must have happened then. It was in a time when the rest of the Earth could have been watching, and no one happens to have told me yet just how the transformation took place. All I know is, there was a moon that night, it was hidden from my view, and since that time it has been a different thing altogether.
I go for a few days without seeing Gordon,
but he was right about asking me to move in with
him-- it hasn't been easy to forget him. I find
myself almost regretting that I didn't say 'yes'
right away. It would have been interesting to see
how he responded to that. Somehow, I get the
feeling he wouldn't have batted an eye.
I stand again in the hallways by the dance studio, and he does not appear, but it could be that the class he is taking is on alternate days. It's not like I'm planning around him suddenly standing out here and noticing me, or I him, and exchanging a greeting. Where I was once before I ever knew he existed I can be again without ulterior motive.
On the fourth day, I wander in through the wood-floored lobby with its strips of carpet, strolling towards the student gallery, humming to myself because I just had a talk with my favorite supervisor and client in the firm (the supervisor is a fierce lover of Art, and the client is a tame lover of Art but an unabashed lover of listening to Art critics). I time out my projects that I have to do, and consider my parents coming down for a visit sometime and what we'll do for entertainment; maybe one of the stage shows in Hollywood that I haven't seen yet. As I turn the corner into the plain hallway (plain so it won't clash with nor detract from the exhibits), I hear old rock guitar music on what is probably a small stereo.
I stroll more casually, and more slowly, and wander down the hall, stopping at the pictures, but I can see that down at the end of the hall, someone is stretching on the floor, probably after a movement or dance class. Two more side glances and I can tell it is Gordon, and I just go ahead down there and see what he's up to. He sees me coming, and faces me, but his hand is still extended out to his straightened foot and ankle. Next to him is a black portable stereo.
There's a vigorous, far-reaching woman's voice singing "I-- really like you baby, I-- wanna be you baby--"
"Francis, hi. Imagine meeting you here." He smiles, lips together, innocently.
"What music is that?"
"Melissa Etheridge. I'm reeling you in with it. Even though this meeting is totally unplanned, as you can see."
"...I'll gladly make you my first tattoo..."
It's amusing. I like it. "Okay. What do you want me to do."
"Great! Good. Yes. I want you to go out for a coffee and dessert with me or something and then I have rehearsal, but you're going to give me your phone number so I can call you every other day after this."
"I can't have caffeine, and I don't like coffee without it. But the rest of that sounds good."
"Well then! All right." He stands up, shakes out his arms and loosens the tension in his legs. He turns off the music and hooks an arm through mine, but he's still singing it in my ear. I smile at him. I can tell his forte is dancing, not singing, but he has a lot of enthusiasm. I decide to see what happens if I start a conversation.
"I can't have caffeine because I had a seizure, and the doctor I went to after Student Health said it might happen again-- he's afraid I have SCABS, not a permanent low-degree condition, but one which might change at any time. If I eat anything too strong for the other body I might end up in trouble."
Gordon is walking me towards one of the other doors, probably to cross by the drama women's dorm to a small coffee and ice-cream shop on campus. He replies, almost carelessly, "Understood."
"Yeah, so, if I suddenly go into convulsions and turn into some kind of lagomorph in front of you, don't be alarmed."
He pauses, and I do too, since our arms are linked. He looks deeply thoughtful for a moment. "Okay," he says, blinking once and nodding briefly, "got it. No alarm will be shown."
We walk on for about three or four steps before he adds, "What's a lagomorph?"
I laugh. "Something along the lines of a hare or a rabbit. I'm not sure which. I think I'm a rabbit."
"How do you know? What's the difference?"
"I just like the sound of the word 'rabbit' better. I don't know otherwise. I just would rather be a rabbit, if I have to be one or the other. Maybe I'll change in front of you sometime and you could identify it for me. And the difference that I remember it by is that hares are born with hair. Rabbits aren't."
"That's the only difference?"
"No, I'm sure there are more, that's just how I remember it."
"Okay, well, if you have that happen I'll be sure and grab a bunny book and look it up."
"You do that." I grin. He's making me grin a lot, without my planning it. Usually I grin ahead of time, you know, look pleased to be with somebody, but I've learned that from charming the Art community. I like to be made to just naturally smile once in awhile.
"I've had the Flu. Sometimes I wonder if I have SCABS, only it just doesn't show. Like maybe you do, you know, unless something about you has changed that I don't know about."
"No, this is pretty much it. I look like I did before I ever contracted the Flu." I consider telling him that not even my parents know, because I wanted too much to stay here and didn't want to worry them. I don't think I'll say anything to them, although if it happened a lot, they'd have to know so it wouldn't be even more frightening if I changed into the rabbit when they were around. I just kind of count on it not happening. But I am careful to avoid chocolate or caffeine. The doctor had that worry, and I don't want to be to blame if anything happens to me that I could have prevented, when I'm keeping this from my folks. I almost tell him all of this, and turn that over in my mind; he's very easy to talk to. He doesn't _have_ to know about my seizure, but I told him straight out anyway.
I smile at him, still, and he goes along casually, a dancer walking, you can tell them anywhere on campus from the way they move even everyday and in their street clothes.
"You're a man, aren't you? In what you want to be as well as what you are, I mean?" He turns to me and waits with the line in his brow for my reply. He doesn't ask a question without wanting the answer, it certainly seems.
"You mean about the make-up? That I wear it even though I'm male?"
"Yes," I reply happily. I haven't had personal attention like this since I left my last boyfriend back in high school, and he never asked me anything he cared to know the answer to, anyway. "I'm male. Am it, want to be it. It's like I said that first time we talked, I just like to use what makes me look good. Don't you?"
"Sure, I just never thought of it that way. So, would you wear a dress?"
"If I looked good in it."
I blush. "Mainly I just wear suits."
He considers the one I'm wearing, tilting his head as he walks to look at the cut of the back. "You look good in suits, too."
"Thanks." I feel that unbidden shy-grin again and turn my head, which makes me notice more the feel of his arm through mine than what he looks like, and I decide I like him either way. He's a comfortable presence. I wonder if he gets milk in his coffee, or anything else that would make it seem sort of soft, or whether it'd be black-strong. It's hard to decide either way about him, whether he's soft and strong or just appears to be one or the other. I look forward to the coffee break.
We get to the shop just as a few girls, some of whom I know, are coming out through the door with its tinny bells on it. "Hi, Francis!" Two of them call out. A third stops me, hissing close to my face, "Who's your _friend_?"
"Gordon," I say. I've stopped, so he's pulled back by my arm, and I hold my hand up to introduce him. "Gordon, Monica. Monica, Gordon."
"Nice to meet you," she says to him. To me, as I watch her leave, she makes her sign for 'burning hot' by shaking her fingers. I blush.
"They in your Art major?" he asks me as he pushes open the two-way swinging door.
"Some of them."
"You like them?"
"They're all right."
"That's good. It's nice to be in a nice-people major."
"I agree. Wait, let me guess. Sugar, no cream?"
He grins. "No. Black, with cream."
I hold my head back, taking in a breath just to think this over. I really like this man. "Okay, I wanted to try it first, anyway."
"I already know you don't take coffee."
"I'd like a shake."
"It's yours, M'Lord."
Oh, one of _these_. I won't pretend I don't like it, either.
He orders his and I order mine and he pays for both, and we sit down and begin talking. Each time he puts his mug down on the table, he looks at me wordlessly for a moment as if he's sizing me up while there's a pause in the talking, and each time I watch his eyes and inevitably think of his invitation of four days ago. Eventually I admit, "I can't stop thinking about your proposal."
"I knew I was holding onto that one for the person who'd really appreciate it."
"What, you don't say that to _all_ the guys?" I flutter my eyelashes at him. He chuckles.
"Not by a long shot. Plenty would accept and then I'd be in trouble. Now, when you accept, I'll actually have meant what I said."
"_When_ I accept?"
He nods, and takes another sip of coffee. "When you accept."
Dang. He's good at this.
I take off my coat. I wear it here, I think, even though I really don't need one most of the time in California and even if it seems overly formal, an overcoat like this, because then I can take it off and bring to myself the vulnerability I'm trying to cultivate by meeting here at all. I give it to the woman at the desk. She's the friendly face they have here at this center for when you come in the front door, and she checks coats and such. I don't think she'd really need to be here, sitting behind a nice laminate beige reception desk, but I figure they make her stay in the one place so there will be a constant. And I constantly come in my overcoat, and hand it to her, and she smiles quietly and nods me into the room two doors down on the left.