John was a straightforward man. Fresh out of his literature course and already editor assistant at a mediocre publishing company, he earnestly climbed his way up the professional ladder. Due to his honest straightforwardness, his boss frequently used him to tell certain authors why they had their submissions denied. It often left the authors offended, but he was truthful and said what they needed to hear without any sugar on top, or inversely, being unlawfully disrespectful.
“Look, Mr. Garrison, it is not about the story.”
John’s straightforward tongue was backed by a medium-length black hair which was clean-combed to not bother his eyes or ears. He also had on respect-donning spectacles to aid his patient green eyes, though he only used those for work. He was in good shape, always dressed in clear buttoned shirts over his almond, Latino-oriented skin, but also kept his collar loose so not to undermine his speech or breathing. He sat at one end of his desk, and he was finishing reading the synopsis of the book in question, so to better remember which book he was criticizing, as well as the criticism itself.
“Well then, what is it about? Certainly not the writing, I made sure it was up to perfection. I even matched it against Nobel Prize winners.” Across the dampened wooden desk was a middle aged man, and it was evident the man was enjoying retirement, doing none a thing other than writing and working out. Already partially losing his gray hair, he was intent on not losing anything else; he had decisive, high and mighty brown eyes.
“I believe that is the problem,” John said, closing a book entitled ‘The Otherworldly Passion’ while looking up at his would-be client with a bowed head. “The writing is impeccable, to a point of exaggeration. Even I had quite the hard time reading it.”
“Then what authority do you have to judge it?” The old man rightfully inquired.
“Because the point isn’t if your book is a work of art, Mr. Garrison. What matters is if it will sell.” This problem often occurred, people thinking the little guys live on cult hits and likewise masterpieces, but it was just not true. “It is difficult to find a passage a common reader would completely grasp, let alone have the patience to read; you have almost no descriptions that aren’t entirely made of metaphors and/or their more complicated cousins,” John explained, a little tired, for it had been a long day.
“I am being denied for being too perfect a writer?” Mr. Garrison asked, dumbfounded.
“‘Fraid so. Our goal is to sell books, Mr. Garrison. Our idea of a masterpiece is something that sells as much as it’s printed; yours won’t because the average reader wouldn’t be able to understand what they’re reading.”
“Like yourself? If you can be considered average, that is.” The man tried to offend, due to his now irritated disposition.
“I said it was hard; not impossible, Mr. Garrison,” John said, with a tone that indicated Garrison should refrain from attacking him again. “The story is acceptable, but I’m afraid you’re too much of a complicated story teller for our readers,” John bluntly put it.
“This is outrageous. This is writing of the finest order, I made certain of it.”
“Well, it is not reading material of the finest order, Mr. Garrison. I propose you submit it to a big publisher. This piece is a good candidate for a Nobel Prize, or any of the other lesser, though equally dignified awards. So even if it doesn’t sell that well,” and it won’t, “the advertising alone is worth the try, notwithstanding what it’ll sell if you actually win an award.” He knew a lot of people would then buy it but never read it, “but I digress. We just can’t afford to publish this book. We can estimate how much it will sell and it isn’t nearly enough to cover its publishing,” John cut himself off; he had more to say but he realized that after he had told him to go to a bigger publisher, the man had shut off all interest towards him, and his company.
Well under 5 minutes, the discussion had ended, and Garrison was out the door, leaving behind little else but a grunt at having his time wasted by someone beneath him. John just allowed him to leave, tired of holding in what he thought about how Mr. Garrison phrased his remarks. How a person could talk like that and feel it demonstrates some kind of superiority was beyond him.
John sat back, massaging his forehead. He was so easily irritated by this kind of people, they did not know that their creativity was not imaginative, just laced with gold. All over the world, creators strove to be new and inventive, not with the tools, but with the product. Words are the writer’s tools and these writers are the few that focus all their attention on embezzling their tools, so that their mediocre product is laced with beautiful shiny gold, thus beautiful to the intellectually rich. But for the average reader, the gold is fake and the tools hold no value; only the imagination matters, and so only the product is valued.
Abstract, symbolism, John hated the whole adoration these concepts received from high society’s intellectuals. What was the point of using a metaphor, or an oxymoron, if most of the readers don’t grasp the meaning they are conveying? Things need to make sense, objective sense. And just as John was contemplating this in mild frustration, he remembered he had to go to an art exhibit.
“Oh, that’s right,” he said to himself, retrieving the ticket from his drawer. “This thing’s tonight. I better be off now so I don’t make my sister wait.”
It was a pretty cold day so John put on his dark brown jacket and the green-tipped red scarf over and around his neck. He then remembered to put away the book and his notes, doing so in a cabinet. Finally, he cautiously dressed his upper head in a black round cap, placed his dark-green gloves on his hands, and left to meet his sister.
His sister was shorter and skinnier, dressed in a closed black coat, and wearing a skirt over leggings which protected against the cold. Also, just like John, she was wearing dark green gloves and a round black cap over her head, which had brown curls sprouting from under her hat, curious about the snow.
“Hey, John,” she greeted, with green eyes that were glad to see her big brother.
“Hello, little sister. How’s college treating you?”
“Like a slave, I’m sorry to say,” she sighed, undoubtedly remembering all her home-works and other college-related tasks. “Thank you soooo much for coming with me. I totally owe you one,” she smiled content.
“I had the time, don’t worry about it.”
It didn’t take them long to reach the exhibit. Once they did, they went in and around, looking at the various pieces. For John, it took less than a few seconds’ glance to take in an image and decide it was meaningless. The only paintings he liked were of portraits of landscapes, or people, or a mixture of the two; things portrayed using colors that enhanced the emotion of it, a method through which he could see said landscapes, or people or a mix of the two, through the eye of the author. But as he walked away from the concrete beauty, and stepped into the abstract hall, he paid less attention to the paintings and more to the people.
It was so obvious, their eyes seemed confused even though they spoke words of clear interpretation, their expressions showing forced bemusement and wonder at what could very well be but a child’s doodling.
“What do you think of this painting?” His sister asked, pointing at what John could describe as line art, but where the line was drunk and dizzy and did not know the way.
“Messy,” he said, without blinking or caring. “Looks random and messy.”
“Why do you have to say things like that out loud? You embarrass me so much,” She complained, slightly blushing.
“I didn’t invite myself, did I?”
“I didn’t invite you to be rude,” she argued.
“You didn’t invite me to lie, either. And that’s an invitation I wouldn’t accept anyways,” John told her with a smirk.
She smiled back, shaking her head in disappointment.
“Oh, John; I should know better than to be next to you when you’re looking at abstract art.”
“Yes, you should,” John agreed.
“I’ll leave you to wander by yourself then. Alone,” she said, sticking out her tongue at her brother. She then winked and stepped away to explore that section of the gallery on her own.
John smiled, disappointed. What could he do? He didn’t like abstract. From his point of view, abstract was vague; a random sequence of ideas tied to either imagination or dementia, that resulted in a work that some people like. For him, an abstract piece was a naked king some people say is dressed but where even they disagree on what exactly he’s wearing.
He had no quarrel and did not hesitate to tell people that he saw no meaning in a painting, or a poem or a music video, that makes them cry. He liked to protect those who actually think things through and make their works out of – or to result in – a message: one that’s manifested in a work powerful and able enough to be understood by most, if not all, who contemplate it.
It was this behavior he observed. So many people pretending to see some deep and heavy meaning behind a sordid mess of lines and colors, just so they could be perceived as intellectuals, people that supposedly have a deeper understanding of things.
I wish ‘deep’ were still interpreted literally when used towards them, John thought, that way, their descriptions would be at least half-accurate. They’re deep but empty. Their immense deepness is filled with nothing of interest, nothing but the hollow need to feel special and smart.
John was starting to feel the need to bother someone with passive-aggressive comments at paintings, and so he chose one, it was being contemplated by three people, two men, and a woman.
As he approached them, he smirked slyly, looking attentively at the painting so as to be as accurate as possible in his depiction.
But then, as his eyes examined the painting, they recognized something. They didn’t have the courtesy of informing him what it was, but they did bother to send a chill down his spine.
He became alert and more curious than ever, as the three watchers turned around to leave.
“This one didn’t really connect,” one said.
“I dunno, I think I saw a lot of regret, but I couldn’t make it out,” the woman commented.
In his effort to find out what was wrong, John had heard the comment. So in the anxiety to uncover what was bothering him, he tried to interpret regret.
He looked and observed, glared and stared, but nothing.
The painting looked more like a maze, a maze done by a child bored from class. But it was colored and toned over the lines; there had to be something else to what was apparently just another attempt at pleasing the ‘deep’.
He turned his head to the left and then tilted it. Maybe it was like those pictures that had two forms. You can only see the other if you “un-see” the first one you noticed.
He straightened and squinted his eyes, focusing. People were walking around him but he paid them no mind as he analyzed the painting.
Ah ha! He thought, triumphant, as his eyes finally caught a shape that was half recognizable: he saw a kid’s face hiding for solace in his hands. His heart skipped a beat, and it bothered him he did not know why. He thus breathed in and redoubled his efforts.
Why is this thing having such an effect on me? What is it? He asked himself, just before focusing his head on finding the answer.
He tilted his head to the right and now it seemed he had zoomed out from the boy. A very irregular square was behind him, and it seemed to be weeping.
John frowned, annoyed, and backed off a little from the painting. He stumbled against someone:
“Excuse me,” He apologized, without taking his eyes off his quarry.
He opened his eyes, un-focusing, and then stared at it again, trying to find the right perspective, physical or even mental, to see it, whatever it was.
Besides the cube, he could now see a girl. She was smiling and, for some reason, he interpreted the smile as apologetic and remorseful though that information did not come from his eyes.
What did come from his eyes, very much to his surprise, were tears. He cleaned them off with his scarf in a motion that suggested some speck of dust had disgruntled his vision and then approached the painting.
I can’t believe it. I remember summer break. I met a girl, we became really close, and then it was over. We promised to meet again, but she never went back there, on any of the following four summers. He took his scarf out of the way, and it seemed the tears had washed his eyes clean.
His eyes focused on a perceptible but misshapen set of three panels. One had the waving girl, her…the other had the crying boy, him…and the final one had tears. No, it was rain. Rain on grass, or floor; rain mixed with tears, he somehow knew. His heart raced as he remembered what he had forgotten as a child’s crush. It was nothing but a child’s crush, but irrespective of all of that! Why was he so affected by this painting?
Because for her… He thought, for her, it wasn’t just a childish crush.
At that moment, a woman approached him.
“Do you like it?” She asked, curious.
Managing to not react startled, he politely paused and answered “yes. Somehow, it grabbed me.”
“Yeah. I guess. It looks like it was a fluke, though.”
“Yes. It looks like she was actually trying to portray her past, but accidentally spat out this mess of emotions,” she explained. He turned his head to look at her surprised, having realized who she was. “It looks like she wanted to do something but regret held her back, and left her with that.”
“You’re the author, aren’t you?” John asked, catching her eyes as soon as she turned them towards his, startled.
She smiled, awkwardly, her cheeks reddening in embarrassment. She had pretended to be a common voyeur and been found out. She fidgeted her fingers in her clasped hands, looking away.
“I…I…jeez, am I embarrassed. I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intention to…I just like to know what people think of my art, I like to pretend I’m another observer, make conversation, find out the truth like that.”
“That’s alright, I understand. People fake a lot and lie even more often. It’s understandable to want the truth.”
She looked at John again with a clear smile, which made his chest momentarily flare. It felt aflame. He breathed to contain it and control himself. He liked to be composed under all circumstances.
“So you really like it?”
“I adore it,” John answered, looking at the painting again.
“May I…may I ask how you figured it out?”
“That you were the author?” John asked.
John smiled; she could only see half of his smile, and, unfortunately, couldn’t see his eyes, which very neatly represented his insides, perhaps his very soul, in their glow.
He nudged his head in the painting’s direction, and replied:
“That’s because I’m portrayed over there.”