I nodded because I knew. I understand why the show was called, “Devastation.” Each piece showed the destruction that the LA earthquake caused.
“You helped to unblock him?” Jimmy said and looked at me.
“Me? What do you mean?” I asked, not sure what he was talking about.
“Well, he came back from LA. He was still healing from his broken leg. Then he met you one day at the bar. He said you said his work was good.”
I smiled at that memory. “Yes, I stole his book of sketches.”
“He had done a few pictures, but after that, he became prolific. Busting out one after the other. All of this work is from that.” Jimmy explained.
“I didn’t realize I had such an influence on him. I was having a bad day. I’m glad I could do this for him.” I’m not sure what it was. I thought about that day in the bar, and each sequential time I saw him after that. We always talked about me and my cases. Occasionally we spoke about our personal lives. More him than me, as I didn’t have one.
“You being here today is a big deal for him. This show is for all of his friends and family. He was in a dark place after LA. It took him some time and effort to get over it, but now it’s all out of his heart and on the canvases. It’s like he’s healed and these represent the distant memories for him.”
Jimmy squeezed my hand and was quiet as we viewed the pieces.
Slowly, people left the show with promises to meet me again. I wasn’t sure when that would happen after this weekend. I was too busy for this lifestyle. One with friends. I’d made one decision to be with Jordan for this weekend, I couldn’t risk the haunting pain if I lost someone again. This was for the best. Just this weekend and then I would immerse myself back into the work that consumed me.
I strolled around the gallery again. Charles’ voice traveled towards me. He and Jordan were congratulating themselves on a successful show. It was a successful show. The bidding on some paintings had reached an unprecedented high.
“Are you sure you want to donate all the profit?” Charles said.
“Except for your percentage, of course. You need to be paid for your efforts.” Jordan clarified.
“I have plenty of money, J. This didn’t take much to sell. Your name sells it all.”
They both were quiet, and I felt bad for eavesdropping. I moved further into the room I hadn’t seen before. These paintings were different. One captured my eye before all the rest. This one filled the entire wall. It was colorful. The sun setting in the distance and a woman with blonde hair stood at the street, her back facing the viewer. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. In the woman’s right hand, dangling, was a dirty teddy bear. Brown and fuzzy. Oranges, yellows, and browns highlighted its importance to the center of the image. Its tiny furry face peered into my eyes.
I recognized the bear.
It was hers.
My daughter’s bear stared at me with its empty dark black eyes.
This was me in the picture. There are these moments in life where everything is still, the body ceases to function, time stops and you can’t breathe-this was one of those times. My life was on this canvas. This huge six by twelve foot canvas looming over, the image of me holding my dead daughter’s dirty teddy bear.
I looked around the room, searching for anyone to confirm the images. I stepped closer to the painting. The dress, light grey, the one I had traveled in to get there. My home. It took me two days to arrive, after waiting for a plane and finally just renting a car.
When I did, this is exactly what I witnessed.
The house I shared with my husband and three-year-old daughter crumbled on the canvas like the magnificent Roman ruins.
How was this painting possible?
Tears welled, but none of them escaped. I scanned the picture, looking for other details that I had forgotten of that site. I remembered reaching my home and the devastation I felt once I got there. Firefighters hadn’t found their bodies yet, so I didn’t know. I made some assumptions. I had hoped. Begged. I prayed to a god I didn’t believe in to bring them back to me. I spent the night in my rented car from Arizona.
Warm fingers pressed on the small of my back and his deep voice resonated, waking me from my memories.
“When I woke up from the hospital, this was on the front page of the newspaper. She must have been devastated. This image haunted me for years. So I painted her. I never followed up to find out who she was.” Jordan’s voice traveled over me like a cool stream in the forest. I didn’t turn around, I didn’t want the picture to go away.
Jordan stood next to me. Still not taking my eyes away from the painting, I touched his arm. “You were right.”
“About?” He tightened his arm around my waist. I glanced up at him quickly and then back to the painting.
“I was devastated.” I barely whispered it, and I wasn’t sure he heard me.