The driver pulled up to a red brick building on M street. A modern, unassuming storefront gallery that, when you got inside, was full of treasures like Jordan’s paintings. Soft music played from indoors and the murmur of voices tumbled out of the building.
The front of the gallery was filled with people. Some of them I recognized from the political papers and others from Hollywood. What was this? Was Jordan famous?
The hostess took my name and pointed me towards the drinks and art. I didn’t see Jordan right away, but I saw Eleanor. I walked over to her as she stared at a picture of a little boy sitting cross-legged near his house. I’d seen a version of this in Jordan’s loft. This painting was similar, but instead of greys, dark jewel tones, emphasized the dramatic scene.
“Evening, Katie.” She squeezed her shoulder. “It’s good to see you here amongst the thieves and liars. DC people are always up to no good.” She grinned at me like a Cheshire Cat and kissed me on both cheeks.
“Is this your first art show in DC?”
“It’s my first art show ever.” I laughed, my nerves on edge.
“Well, these differ from the traditional art shows. Lots of politicking will be happening. I just came for the art and to support my friend Jordan.” She drew her arm into mine and she lowered her voice. “This work might move you. Be prepared. I saw your face when I gave you that painting. It meant something deeper than I imagined. Art has a way of needling into your heart. I’m sorry mine moved you to tears, honey.”
I stared into her eyes. They were warm and brown, like a shadowed mountain with a setting sun. She scanned me again, her lips turning up to a friendly smile.
“Art opened your heart, I understand it now.” She nodded as if what she was saying was the truth. “You’ve got a pain you’ve been hiding and now it’s out. That’s a good thing, baby girl. Don’t let it scare you. Let those demons out. Let them infect some other poor soul for a bit.”
How did she notice so much, knowing nothing about me? She patted my arm.
“It’s time, darling. They would be so proud of you.”
I stared at this old woman with my mouth gaped open, gasping for air like an out-of-water goldfish. For as much as I believe I’m a damned good orator and litigator, Eleanor left me speechless. “How do you…” I trailed off, not sure what I would say.
“I’m an old woman who has dealt with her own demons. I recognize the pain that’s squatting in your chest when I see it.”
I didn’t know what to say. Staring at her, I tried to imagine what she knew about my life just from my reaction to her painting.
“Thank you. This weekend has been enlightening… And thank you again for the painting this morning. You’re right, it loosened some of that pain I was hanging on to.” I took a breath and wrapped my hand around her firm artist hand. She was part of my healing. Her picture, a small reminder of who I was. “Today was a good day.”
She placed her other hand over mine as if we were long-lost friends, planning a coup of the art show.
“One of my works is here tonight, but I didn’t sign it.” She gave me her Cheshire grin again. “Let’s see if you can find it.”
I’m not sure I could recognize her work by sight, I’d only seen a few of her pieces. She pulled me to another part of the large room.
“Of these three, which do you think is mine?” she asked.
All three were landscapes of the various monuments. All were beautiful, but the Jefferson Monument reminded me of the painting Eleanor had given me earlier today. The bright colors radiating happiness.
I pointed at the colorful Jefferson painting.
“Nice eyes. You’re correct. We’ll make an art critic out of you in no time.” She said looking at the paintings like a proud teacher. “This is my favorite monument. I love them all, but this one in the spring is beautiful to capture. Especially the light in the morning. Don’t you think?”
I loved the monument. I flew into Reagan Airport just so I could see it as we flew in.
“Who did the other two?”
“My students, Jared and Stephanie. They go to school nearby. They were bothering me one day, and I gave them brushes and paints. Every Sunday, they come and I teach them what I know. They did a beautiful job.”
I was curious. “You did the same for Jordan too?”
“When he came back from LA, he wasn’t right. He had a lot of pain hiding in him. Those demons follow us and if we don’t kick them out of our soul, we’ll wither up and die.”
Jordan was so happy and strong, it seemed impossible that he could feel pain.
“He worked through it. All that pain moved to the canvas where it belonged. This work is the result of that pain.” She looked past me and the smile left her face.