“For a while and that day, it flowed easier. Maybe it was you or the cat. I can’t be sure.” He teased, but I knew he was showing me because he thought it was me that helped him paint. He thought of me. Maybe he’d done the same for me. That night was pivotal for me. That weekend, I’d met with Chuck on Sunday and negotiated a senior position in the firm. Was it because of Jordan, maybe? His presence during that weekend, for sure.
“This is beautiful, Jordan. You’ve really captured Perseus’ friendly personality. You must have caught him on a good day too. He’s full of joy,” I said, crossing my arms in front of me, suddenly aware that my picture had joy but the contrast with the sad painting of me, made me feel sad too.
“I want you to choose one to take home to Boston. I’ll send it to you if you give me your address.”
Jordan nodded. He looked at me expectantly. Perseus wound himself around my legs looking for attention.
“Let me put him in the laundry room.” He picked up the cat. Yeah, more water. But really, I wanted to see more of his work. Our sexy times were almost forgotten.
“It’s okay, buddy. I like you. You’re adorable.” I stroked the top of Perseus’ head.
“Yeah, but you are going to trip and fall under his affection.”
Jordan went to put Perseus somewhere else. I stared at the two pieces of work he’d shown me.
I looked at the canvas behind mine. The image was a destroyed building surrounded by a pile of rubble, a young boy slumped on the corner with his head in his hands. My stomach tightened as the memories of the big Los Angeles earthquake destruction creeped in.
My hand shook as I pulled the next picture forward. This one of me wasn’t joyful. In fact, it looked exactly like I did about three hours ago after a long day of work. Yet, I liked this painting too. It was truthful and raw. I looked back at the canvas of me, joyful. Had I just win a case or was it seeing Jordan? I pulled out the painting of me looking tired and laid it on the floor.
The next painting was of the Perseus. He looked the same, but Jordan used a different color scheme. Instead of purple he was bright blues and greens. Then another one of me where he used the bold color schemes, but my eyes were distinct. Exhausted? No. Not just tired and melancholy, it was as if I were in pain. I pulled it out and laid it next to the other one on the floor.
He came over to where I was looking at paintings of me.
“When did you do this one?” I pointed at the painting where I exuded happiness.
“A few years ago,” he said. He moved towards the pile and pulled out two more so there were four paintings with my face. “I made these in the last few years. This one is my favorite.” He pointed to the happy painting.
I glanced up at him. He was searching for my reaction to his work. I didn’t know how to react. He had been thinking about me — a lot. That warm fuzzy feeling came over me again. I’d been thinking about him too.
“What else do you paint?” I asked, wanting him to show me more, thoughts of sex fleeting away.
“I have a new show tomorrow night. It’s called ‘Devastation.’ I painted most of them about four years ago. I had a tough time after the LA earthquake. I lived downtown, and it was bad.”
How did we never talk about this before? I suppose our conversations were always polite and superficial, with a side of moderate flirting.
“I didn’t know, Jordan. I’m sorry, that must have been difficult.”
It seemed like an honest statement. ‘I survived.’ Not everyone could say that. Not everyone survived. A feeling behind my eyes tightened, a prickling sensation. Tears would follow unless I pushed them back. I chewed on my cheek and walked to the wall of windows, with their sweeping view of the Capitol, the city, the Mall, and maybe his bedroom had a view of the White House. Jordan stood in the kitchen, giving me space to gather myself. Perhaps sex was off the table now. I should go.
“You have a beautiful view, Jordan. You’re very lucky.” My voice came out huskier than I had imagined, the tears still threatening to fall. I shoved the memories away and tried to focus on Jordan.
“Yes, I am.” I heard him put his glass down on the counter.
I didn’t want to cry. I had cried over this many times, in New York, in LA, in Boston, in the Willard. Never in front of my colleagues. Always alone. This was different. Jordan wasn’t my colleague. He was my friend. Two years as acquaintances amounted to a mild friendship. Didn’t it? I bit on my lip and a single tear rolled down my cheek. I wiped it, wishing I could get this under control.
“Are you okay, Katie?”
I was afraid to speak. Afraid to melt down in front of Jordan. I hadn’t talked about the earthquake for at least four years after I had buried my entire family. I sucked in my lips, fighting the waterfall of tears bullying their way out.
I smiled weakly, afraid to turn around.
Afraid to show Jordan who I really was.
He stood behind me, his breath tickling my neck. He moved my hair and kissed under my ear, a feathery touch sending goosebumps down my back.