A Difference in Taste
By: Megan Brown
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Everett. He sat two easels over in my Introduction to Oil Painting class and never failed to bring coffee with him to the studio. He carried it in an abstract travel mug one of his friends must have made him. The mug had a handprint where he could hold it since it didn’t have a handle. His thumb and forefinger almost touched each other because of how large his hands were.
The girl who sat at the easel between us didn’t speak. She wore dark lipstick, which looked like the juice that trickles out of blackberries when you crush them between your fingers. Her icy platinum hair was always pulled into a taut bun, and she wore a variety of oversized hoops. That was her uniform. Along with her Doc Martens, of course.
Sometimes I would forget she was there. That she was a witness to my thousands of glances over at the easel to her left. That she probably noticed how my laugh filled the room in response to whatever he said. He was witty, but not nearly as much as I gave him credit for. Thankfully, she never said anything.
The best part about the class, other than Everett, was how we had access to the studio at any time of day. My favorite time to go in and work was just after sunset when the sun was no longer at eye level, making me squint, but had drifted just below the horizon. The sky becomes gray and the outlines of trees and lampposts start to become hazy. Dusk, I suppose.
Inside, the overhead studio lights would be on. Bright with yellow undertones. I would stand at my assigned easel and paint. The room would smell like turpentine, more or less depending on how well I diluted my oil paints. I swear I did it just like how Professor Kuhlman showed us on the first day, but the turpentine never seemed to cooperate.
Then one day right before the end of the semester while I stood staring at my painting, Everett walked in. He was dressed in a blue knitted sweater with a white button down underneath. Cozy and soft. The studio lights reflected off his glossy, raven black hair.
A smile played on his lips. “Hi, Anne.”
I lifted my hand in a quick greeting. My eyes flicked back to my painting. The temperature in the room seemed to jump ten degrees.
He dropped his bookbag at the easel beside me. Blackberry lipstick girl’s easel.
“What style are you working in?” My heart sped up as he stepped over to inspect my painting.
“Baroque. When we looked at the paintings on the ceiling in St. Paul’s, I knew I had to.” I looked over to meet his gaze, but he continued to look at my piece. The pad of his thumb rested underneath his chin as his other fingers formed a crescent over it. He looked contemplative.
“I don’t like Baroque.”
I pursed my lips. “Oh.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, it’s just overdone.”
He swiveled on his heel and walked across the room to grab his canvas. While he did, I looked back at my canvas, and my heart sunk. He didn’t even say he liked how natural the shading was or how accurately I painted the light coming through the window. He dismissed it with the style. My throat began to feel tight, and pressure built up behind my eyes.
Hastily, I blinked away the moisture in my eyes when I heard his footsteps returning. As he set his canvas up beside me, I peeked at it.
It was weird. Most of it was dominated by blobs and lines, but there was a prominent dark color throughout it. The color of blackberry juice.