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Last Evening: Photographic Exhibition
"Excuse me… Hello? Yes! In the blue and white striped shirt…"
"Yes! Stop! Please! Come closer. No! To the left… No, no, sorry, I mean to the right, your right. That’s it, yes me, me! The second one from the end."
"Have I seen you before somewhere?"
"Maybe, but that’s not important. Can you tell me who he is?
" ‘He’ who?"
"That man, the one on the right… Sorry, left, your left. The fellow with the glasses."
"What… You mean John Howard? I thought everyone knew who he…"
"No, no, not him. The next one over, next but one."
"After the girl reading the book?"
"Yes! Him! Who is he?"
"No idea. Looks kind of up himself though. Looks like he never lets a photo opportunity go by I’d say."
"Typical. Everyone feels threatened by someone with real personality… But what’s his name? Please tell me."
"How should I know? He’s just some faggy-looking bald guy with glasses."
"How can you say that? He’s adorable! God, the last thing you men can do is be honest with yourselves about another man’s attractiveness."
"I dunno, alright, maybe…"
"Well don’t you think he’s good-looking at least?"
"I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. The arty-farty type who dresses in black and all that. Anyway look, it’s been interesting but…"
"No, no, don’t turn away, look into my eyes."
"I already did, and very nice they are too."
"Do you think? I wish I could see his, but I can’t quite make them out from here. It’s a bad angle you know. So what are they like?"
"Well, they’re nice eyes actually: quite warm, and that gentle down turn at the corners is very welcoming you know, it’s…"
"No, no, not my eyes you foolish man! His! What are his eyes like?
"Bloody hell! What do I care about his eyes…?"
"Come now, don’t carry on so. It’s only a small favour I’m asking. It’s hardly going to kill you."
"Alright, hang on… They’re blue. Yup, blue. Well, darkish blue…"
"Oh God, is that all you can say? Not ice blue, slate blue, powder blue, cornflower blue, Pacific blue, cerulean blue, sky blue? You’re all so dull and unimaginative…"
"Alright, give me a break. Hmmm… I’d say… Lapis-lazuli blue. They’ve even got little gold flecks in them too."
"Lapis…! Well, you are surprising aren’t you? Very classical. I rather like that. See, it’s not so hard when you try, is it?"
"I guess not. Anyway, look, I really have to be going…"
"No don’t go, please, not yet. Stay a while more won’t you? Look into my eyes, won’t you please?"
"I already have, and I described them to you and you called me a fool, so why I should…"
"I said you were foolish. There’s a difference you know. My, we are touchy this evening, aren’t we?"
"Well maybe I’ve got my reasons. So, tell me: why should I stay here?"
"Because I need you."
"Huh. That argument’s never worked when I’ve used it."
"No really. I need you to see him."
"Who? The faggy guy? Him…? What are you on about?
"No, don’t look at him, look at me. That’s it. Now, let me explain. He’s next to me here against the wall, right?"
"And we’re both facing out into the room aren’t we? He and I that is."
"Well it’s when you look into my eyes that I can see him. It’s the only way I can see him. When you look into my eyes I can see him reflected in yours."
"Ah, Christ! So that’s what all this is about, is it? I swear I will never ever understand women…"
"Please, don’t be angry."
"Don’t worry, I’m not angry with you, I’m angry with myself. I’ll never learn will I? You don’t care about me. Nobody does. I mean, what am I even doing talking to you anyway? You’re just a picture on the wall!"
"No! Stop! Don’t go, don’t turn away! Please… Just stay a little while longer. Let me talk to you and look at him. See his face? That intelligent, picaresque little smile? I knew they had to be blue..."
"He looks like a right little poser if you ask me"
"Now really, there’s no need to be nasty. If you really look into his eyes you’ll see he has a truly beautiful soul…"
"Maybe, but they all say that don’t they?"
"Well it’s one of them cliché things, isn’t it…"
"Really? So what do you say?"
"I don’t know. I’ve never given it much thought."
"Hmmm… Well it’s never too late you know. To start I mean."
"Okay, maybe I’ll give it a try. Tomorrow…"
"Why not now?"
"I’m feeling a bit raw right now."
"Oh, well, no need to rush things, give it time. Uhm, tell me… has he said anything to you? About me I mean?"
"I think I must be going nuts."
"Now now, please! Don’t shake your head… It makes him go all blurry. There, look at me, that’s better. He reminds me of someone, someone who was a big part of my life, when I was alive. He’s haunting me…"
"You didn’t ask me why I was feeling down myself."
"Did you want to tell me?"
"I guess not."
"Thought so. You just want to keep feeling sorry for yourself, right?"
"Listen, this is getting a bit weird, I’ve really got to go…"
"No, stay, please stay…"
"Look, I’d love to but I really have to go, my feet are killing me and I need to sit down."
"Alright… I understand. But listen, listen to me: the exhibition ends this evening at 9 pm, in just a few more minutes in fact. Then they’re going to take me down, take us all down. Unhanging they call it. It’s something you’ve probably never thought about, but personally I think it’s far worse to be unhanged than hanged!"
"Hanged? What the hell…??!!"
"Hanging is when they put up a picture or a painting, and unhanging is when they take us down, you should know that."
"Oh God, for a moment I… Yeah, I get it: in-joke. I should have realised, except I don’t really go to galleries."
"So what brought you to this one?"
"It was my girlfriend’s idea. Well, ex-girlfriend. We were supposed to meet and talk. Somewhere neutral… You know. She probably figured I couldn’t cause a scene in here."
"You’ve already caused a few?"
"And she hasn’t shown up?"
"Have you been waiting long?"
"Oh, you poor dear. Ah well, there are some things that just aren’t meant to be. I can tell you that from experience…Oh come now, don’t cry. You’re making him go all blurry again. Hey… you’re not planning on doing anything foolish are you? That hanged-unhanged business was just a bit of silliness, just me feeling sorry for myself. Goodness though, you went as white as a shee…"
"Yeah look, it’s okay, don’t worry, forget it. I’m fine. I’m in control. Just tired, that’s all. Really, really tired."
"Look, maybe we can both help each other."
"You go and sit down, but sit where I can see you. See your eyes. And you can tell me about it. About her. And about him too. I think you need to talk to someone. There, look: that bench, beside those two lovebir…. Oops… sorry."
"I can see that tact is not one of a photograph’s strong points. Look, I guess I can stand here a little while longer. Am I okay here?"
"Hmmm, you could tilt your head a little more to the right. To your left I mean… That’s it, there, perfect! Oh my goodness, he is absolutely divine!"
"Oh brother, women…"
"Don’t be patronising, young man. I can begin to see how your girlfriend might feel about certain things."
"Please, don’t remind me. I know how much I let her down, how patient she’s been with me…"
"Patience is something you can learn, you know. I did. I had to. We’ve still got a few minutes, so why don’t you start practising with me?"
"Believe me, I have been already."
"Don’t be insolent."
"Relax, I was just teasing a little."
"Oh… Well, it’s nice to see you smile, finally."
"Yeah. You know, I think I’m actually feeling a bit better for talking with you."
"There you see? I’m not that irritating after all, am I?
"No. Huh, funny: I don’t seem to feel so tired any more…"
"Oh no, don’t close your eyes, not yet! No, please don’t shut your…"
"So you actually saw what happened?"
"Yeah. We were sitting on the bench there and the poor guy just collapsed. He’d been acting a bit strange, standing there staring at that photo and kind of shifting around and talking to himself."
"What photo? The Prime Minister?"
"No. He seemed to be kind of obsessed with that older lady on the end. At one point it even looked like he was crying."
"Did he do anything else? Say anything, make any kind of threatening gesture?"
"No, not at all. He was just kind of there. We really only noticed him when he turned around and looked at us. He looked… Disturbed, kind of."
"Hmmm. Well it might interest you to know that we found a knife on him."
"Oh my God…"
"Yeah. We’re going to have to take another look at front-door security I think. Anyway, look, thanks for staying back. We’ve got your details so the police will probably be in touch in the next few days, they’ll want some kind of statement I suppose. Now, Tony here will see you out: you’ll have to go through the loading dock I’m afraid, the main entrance is already alarmed."
"Where is he now?"
"He’s in the first aid room with security and the doc. Nervous exhaustion or something. Anyway I’d love to chat but now I really have to ask you folks to leave. We’ve got to wait for the cops and then get all this packed up. We’re moving this whole shebang to Melbourne tomorrow."
"It’s all got to come down tonight then?"
"Yep. It’s all coming down tonight".
© V. Stevenson