I’ll never forget the time Ana and I first met. We were in an art gallery filled with Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and yet it was her who shined brightest. I was there with a couple buddies of mine, we were new in town and it was a place that came highly recommended.
I have always considered myself an artsy person. I love fashion and abstract films, but for me, museums often take the artsiness miles too far. I remember walking around one section in particular where the wall was filled from floor to ceiling with "original Picasso's." I get it, Picasso became one of the greatest artists of all time, but that doesn't mean his stick figures and clearly meant for the bottom of a trash bin original drafts belong on the wall of a museum. I dabble in writing. I have written my fair share of poems and love letters, but even if I turned into the next Shakespeare I can't see any reasons why my poems scribbled on the back of napkins would belong in a place so prestigious as this.
I voiced this opinion to my nearest buddy. "Can you believe this is on a wall in the same museum as the American Gothic?” I extended my finger out towards a Picasso drawing that was literally a straight line in the middle of a white page.
Up until that moment I had never experienced a true scoff, but my buddy scoffed at me so hard I nearly flew back and knocked the original Picasso line down to the ground. "That is a Picasso! You ever heard of him? Only of one the greatest artists that has ever- no, he is the greatest artist that has ever lived... So I guess my answer is yes, I can believe that this masterpiece is in the same museum as the American Gothic. And if I’m being honestly here, the American Gothic should feel honored to share the same oxygen as this masterpiece."
"Okay, even if I accept the fact that this… thing is as good as the best Picasso ever created, the American Gothic shouldn't feel 'honored.' It's earned its place on these walls... And now that you've brought up the American Gothic-"
"You brought up the American Gothic."
"Either way, now that it has been brought up, what makes it so damn special? It's just a painting of two farmers... This is what I don't understand about art. How come something like the American Gothic, or the Mona Lisa for that matter, can be so well known around the world and nobody knows what art like the Veiled Christ even is?"
"The veiled what?"
"That's my damn point. We just accept art as good art because some art expert told us it was good art... It's ludicrous." At this point I was so fired up that there was no stopping me. "I get it, painting is difficult and the American Gothic and the Mona Lisa are great... but there are countless masterpieces gathering dust, masterpieces that nobody but their creator will ever get to see, yet everyone in the world has at least seen a picture of these paintings. It’s like if we took all of Shakespeare's plays and said, 'Okay, we're good. We don't need any more plays.' Then we wouldn't have any plays like… like ... Well I don't know any plays, but my point is-"
Out of nowhere a voice, which I later came to know as Ana's, decided to join in on the discussion. "Death of a Salesman, You Can't Take It With You, Angels in America, Jonesy Get Off the Roof, Amber Needs to Calm Down, Your Rent is Due…"
"Exactly! Thank you, exactly. If we gave up on plays after Shakespeare we never would have had..." I had completely lost all of the names somewhere in her eyes. "Any of them... And if we stop accepting art after Picasso or the damn American Gothic, then we will never get good art again!"
At this point my buddies had gathered so much distance between them and I that it appeared I was just yelling at myself. In fact, the entire museum besides Ana had spaced themselves far away from me. But I didn't mind. I turned to Ana.
"Thanks for that... I've never heard of any of those plays, by the way, but I appreciate the help."
"Don't worry about it, I ran out plays after Angels in America and just started saying random words... I don't think anyone here really knows about plays... or art in general for that matter."
"Right? Real art connoisseurs don't walk around museums like these."
"I totally agree, museums are meant for people who know nothing about art and need to be told what to like."
She laughed. I will never forget the sound of that first laugh. I came to know it so well over the years, but there is nothing quite like hearing the sound of God for the first time.
I have often tried to figure out the perfect words to describe how I felt in that moment and the best I can find is when God describes how the second coming of Christ will look to all of his followers; feelings of eternal hope and joy as you watch your soul rise to eternal paradise. That is how I felt as I soaked in her first laughter.
"My name is Darrell, by the way."
"Ana." The heavens opened as my hand and her hand touched for the first time.
"By the way, the Veiled Christ is my favorite sculpture."
"You know of it?"
"I do know of it. I actually saw it when I traveled to Napoli."
"You have not seen it!" My curiosity was growing exponentially.
"Yup. I traveled all over Italy with my family a few years back. We saw many sculptures: The David, the Fountain of Trevi, Disillusion, but none of them even came close to the Veiled Christ."
"Wow... So if you have seen all of those, what are doing at a place like this?"
"These paintings are still pretty spectacular."
"I guess... but the Veiled Christ!"
Her laughter once again blessed me with its presence.
Ana and I roamed around the entire museum three of four times, though I don't think my eyes ever wandered to any of the paintings, I was too perplexed by the greenness in her eyes. We spoke about our favorite writers; hers were Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We talked about the history of theatre and the development of Broadway. We discussed our love for Hamilton in such detail that we could have filled a book, though it would have mostly been filled with me repeatedly saying things like, "How great is Lin Manuel Miranda?" "Lin Manuel is a genius, a complete genius!" "I love Lin Manuel Miranda." I am sort of a fan, Lin.
We spoke of music and politics and poetry and I am fully convinced that I learned more in that one conversation that I ever did in all my years of schooling. We walked and talked for so long that the guards had to practically kick us out of the museum, but before they did, we spent another fifteen minutes staring at Picasso's drafts.
By the time we left the museum we had spent over 6 hours together, but still we weren't done being with one another. We went to an ice cream parlor and sat there for another 3 hours discussing our families past and our life plans. She told me she wanted to travel the world. She had already gone to Italy, England, Greece, Brazil, Costa Rica, South Korea, and Canada, but she wanted to see more.
"The greatest thing about traveling is that you get to see how other people live. You see other cultures and can discover the pros and the cons of each and every one of them. So, by the time you come back, you have learned a new way to make the world you live in a better place and you can share with them ways that your world has made life easier... Does that make sense?"
Nothing had ever made more sense to me in my life. I looked at her with such passion that she couldn't help but take notice. She smiled and looked away coyly. Every nerve in my body was pushing me toward her. My lips cried out for hers. So forward I leaned.
The most terrifying moment in a man’s life is the first time he leans toward a person that he desires. Because, for at least that moment, you are the only one leaning and all you can do is pray that they will join in on the leaning. Thankfully, she did.
The kiss lasted only a few seconds, but I swore time slowed down and I lived in that kiss for a lifetime. I felt myself grow grey. I felt my life whizz by and at no moment did I try to stop it, because in no way could I have made that life any better. This was the highest I had ever felt in my life.