Dominique was born in France but moved to Chicago when she was just a baby. Her father died when she was seven and her mother raised her as best she could. When she was 18 her mother decided to move back to France but Dominique wanted to stay in Chicago and go to school or get a job.
Dominique went to the gallery opening because the exhibition was titled ‘Pierced’. She saw a flyer for it posted in the back hallway of a club where she danced. She wasn’t really an artsy type of person, she had only been to one museum in her life, but she was excited to go because she loved piercings. She had 20 of them herself and was hoping to get more.
She asked one of the other dancers, who went by the stage name ‘Flame’, if she wanted to go with her but she had no baby sitter for that night. The other girls at the club weren’t really very friendly and most of them sort of scared her. She would have invited her best friend at the club, ‘Trinity’, but she had been arrested for her 3rd DUI two days before and was still in jail.
She decided to go alone though it was very scary for her to do so. She never really went out to anything remotely ‘cultural’ even though she read about a lot of those sorts of events online. In her mind she wasn’t very socially adept, never really knowing what to say. She had gotten better at small talk, working at the club had helped her with that, but she still worried about talking about serious stuff. She had it all in her brain, she thought she was pretty smart after all, but she just sort of froze up when that sort of conversation was in front of her.
The gallery was in the art district of Chicago. She had never been there and got lost. She felt annoyed with herself for not figuring out how to get there in advance and felt a panic attack coming on. Luckily she found it right about then and was able to calm herself down by doing the breathing exercises she learned about on some fitness website she sometimes followed. She checked her makeup in the rear view mirror, reapplying her eyeliner just a bit and touching up her lipstick.
She dressed how she thought one should dress for an artsy event. She wore heels that weren’t too tall, certainly not her stiletto height that she wore on stage. She had on a maxi skirt, the only one she owned, with a bold blue and gold print. Blue and gold were her favorite colors and they matched her piercings. Her blouse was just a simple pale blue leotard type top. It did a pretty good job of reducing how big her bust looked, which she hoped for since she hated the attention they got when she wasn’t on the job.
The place had a beautiful sign hanging from the front letting her know the name of the gallery, Foray. The gallery was crowded but not so much so that she couldn’t make her way through. She had to go to the bathroom and asked a cute girl who, in spite of looking about 14 years old, seemed to have a certain confidence standing in the middle of the room, as if she knew the gallery. She pointed to the back of the gallery and said, “Go to the left back there and it’s on the right. I like your piercings, by the way.” Dominique thanked her and went off to find the bathroom.
Dominique chuckled to herself once she left the young girl. So young yet so confident, something she wished she had been at that age. She found the bathroom and relieved herself. There was a big orange vase made out of corrugated cardboard in the corner of her stall. It had a single white PVC pipe sticking out of it with a large paper flower sticking at the end. The flower was blue and gold and looked a lot like the stud coverings she had on her piercings. This made her happy.
She went back out into the gallery and started to look at the art work. She hadn’t really known what to expect since the flyer didn’t have a picture on it. She assumed it would be pictures of people with piercings, but it was not. It was large paintings of strange scenes. One was of a fat man on a fishing boat catching a giant Marlin. It showed a close up of the hook poking through the fish’s lip. Another was of a woman at a sewing machine. She was in pain with her finger impaled by the needle of the machine. It showed blood all over the sewing machine. It made Dominique wince. There was a very large painting of a man dead on the ground with a big hole in him. Another man was standing over him with a gun that was smoking.
It was all very strange to Dominique. She was repulsed but wanted to look at the same time. She had no idea what any of these paintings had to do with piercings at all. She walked into an area where there was a wine bar and food, which she quickly indulged in. She would have preferred water, her mouth was really dry, but she was hungry and thirsty and that’s what was there. The wine wasn’t very good but the little cracker thingies with the tan-colored spread on them were yummy.
She was going for a second helping when the young girl she had asked direction from came up beside her. “You found the bathroom, right?” she asked.
“Yes, found it fine, thank you” she responded. “I liked the vase with the blue and gold flower, that was cool. Who did that one?”
The young girl laughed, “Ha, that’s mine. It’s the only place my mother let me put it. She’s mean like that!”
Right then a woman who looked surprisingly like the young girl came up. “Are you telling a perfect stranger how mean I am to you? You always make me sound like the worst parent.” She laughed and grabbed the girl around the shoulders from behind and nuzzled her neck.
The young girl looked at Dominique and said, “That’s my mom, if you hadn’t guessed.”
Dominique laughed and said, “I figured. You two look a lot alike. She reached out her hand to the girl, What’s your name?”
The girl answered, “I am Veronique but I go by Vera. This mean person behind me is Cruella.”
Her mother laughed and said, “Yep, that’s me, cruelest mother on earth! Actually, my name is Angelique but I usually go by Angel. Nice to meet you.”
She held out her hand and Dominique shook it. Then she turned to Vera and shook her hand as well. Both hands were warm and strong. It made her feel good. “I am Dominique but I usually am just called ‘Dom’.
“So, what do you think of the art here?” Dom asked.
Vera looked at her mom and was about to speak when her mom said, “I am not sure, what do you think?”
Dom responded, “I like it I think. It’s sort of scary though. I like the colors he uses but I don’t really understand how the paintings relate to the title of the show. I only came to here because I like piercing a lot.”
Before she could continue Vera said, “I sort of got that.”
Her mother said, “Don’t be rude Vera.” But Vera rolled her eyes and protested, “I wasn’t being rude, I was just stating the obvious dear mother.”
Dom smiled and said, “I didn’t take it as rude, no worries. I know people look at my face and see a lot of piercings. Anyway, I thought it would about that. I am not sure what these are about. But then again, I don’t know much about art. This is the very first art gallery I have ever been in. And I have only been in one museum before.”
Vera sighed, “You are so lucky! I have lived my whole life going to galleries and museums, they can be so boring!”
Vera’s mother sighed back, “See what I get for exposing my daughter to a life of culture and beauty? Such an ungrateful little waif!” She then let out a big laugh and kissed Vera on the cheek.
Vera wiped her cheek and looked at her mom. “You can be so embarrassing sometimes!” she said as she laughed back.
Dom was completely enthralled by how fun this encounter was. Her spirits were lifted by seeing the relationship between Vera and her mom. But she was confused. “So, I have a question Vera. You said the vase in the bathroom was yours and your mom would only let you put it there. So Angel, does that mean you are the owner of the gallery?”
Angel answered with a smile, “No, not the owner. I am the artist. Vera wanted to take over the gallery with her vases but I, meanest mother in the world, wouldn’t let her. She got the bathrooms and she’s lucky to have them.” She laughed.
“You did these paintings? Really?” Dom said with her jaw open. She was now mortified. “I am so sorry I said I didn’t get them. I really do think they are good. Don’t listen to me, I don’t know anything. I should have just shut…”
Angel put her hand up to stop her, interrupting, “It’s completely OK Dominique. I wasn’t offended. I completely understand people will have all sorts of opinions about the work. I will say however that the reason I think the name of the show and the paintings are connected is that each painting shows something or someone getting pierced by something.”
Dom looked around. “Damn, how did she miss that!”, she thought to herself. “Uh…DUH me. Now I see it. Man, sometimes I can be so dumb.”
“No worries, you aren’t the first person who didn’t see the connection.” Angel said. “I was married to my husband for 10 years and he NEVER got any of the connections I was trying to make. But I still loved him anyway.”
Vera came up close to her mom and hugged her around the waist in a sweet, comforting gesture. Dom wasn’t sure what it was all about figured it wasn’t any of her business anyway.
Angel excused herself, saying she had to mingle with other guests. She looked at Vera and said, “Are you ok on your own for now?”
She laughed, pointed at Dom and said, “Yep, I am going to walk around with her and explain all the weird things in your paintings that no one ever notices!”
Dom and Vera did just that. They walked around the gallery and Vera explained about little secrets, and in some cases the larger story, behind the paintings.
They got to the last painting, of a man with a gun in his hand standing over someone he had just shot. Dom said, “This is the most gruesome of all the paintings I think. What’s the story behind this one?”
Vera looked at her and said, “This one is of my dad. He had to kill someone a long time ago to protect my mom and me. We went to the mall to shop and there was some guy who started firing a gun near us. My dad pushed us both down into a lingerie store and ran after the guy. He fought him and got the gun away and killed him.”
Dom was stunned. “Wow, your dad was a real hero that day! How did he get the courage to go do that?”
“I don’t know” Vera responded. “Mom says he never really was a scary strong guy before, but she said something just came over him and he did it. She tells me that he never said anything about it afterwards except that he loved us and wanted to make sure we were safe.”
“Wow. Did he ever talk to you about it?” Dom asked.
Vera looked up at Dom and said, “No, he died before I really was old enough to talk to him very much. I was only 5.”
Dom put her hand on Vera’s shoulder. “I am so sorry to hear that. He sounds like he was a really great dad. I bet you miss him.” She was crying as she spoke.
Vera noticed the tears and said, “It’s ok now. I remember good things about him. I am not sad that much anymore.”
Dom said, “You know why I am crying? There is something you don’t know about me. My dad died too. I was only 7.”
Vera looked at her and wrapped her arms around her waist. “I am sorry, it sucks, doesn’t it.”
“Yes, it does.” said Dom.
Vera and Dom went back into the main gallery to get something to eat and drink. They saw Angel again and Vera told her about Dom’s dad dying. Angel gave Dom a hug, holding on for quite a while. She asked, “Would you like to go to dinner with a few of us after the opening is over? It will just be another half an hour if you can wait. I would love to have you with us.”
Vera piped up, “Yes, you have to come, promise?”
Dom smiled and said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
The dinner was great, as was the fun day the three of them had at the Zoo a week later. Dom started watching Vera a few days a week after school while Angel was at her day job. Vera taught her how she made her paper vases and flowers.
Dom quit her dancing job a few months later. It was a big financial hit but she had saved up some and knew she needed to get out of that business soon anyway. She got a job at the front desk of the Foray Gallery and Vera would come hang out there after school. Dom eventually learned bookkeeping and took over running the gallery’s business side. Turned out she was good at it.
Angel became a very well-known artist and her paintings became much sought after. They started selling to not just collectors but museums as well. The gallery even sold one for $100,000.00, which blew everyone away. There was a big celebration that night!
When Foray’s owner wanted to sell the gallery to move down to Florida to be closer to his dying parents, Dom, Angel and Vera went in together and bought the gallery.
They remained best of friends for the rest of their lives.
Year later, when Dom was asked what was the secret of her success, she would always say the same thing, “The secret to my success is very simple. I had one moment of courage to go see art when I was 21 years old. Everything else came from that”
Drawing and Short Story © 2015 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com