Her eyes are tinted as if by fire within, puddles quivering with unspilt tears. Her hands keep working, though I see they, too, are red and raw. I never understood her obsession with wire, but I was hoping that perhaps her novel medium would succeed where so many had failed.
“Please…” Her voice is raw as well, and heavy with exhaustion.
I nod, and step back. Her hands drop to her side, the needle nose pliers slipping from her grasp.
It is just a whisper, but the autumn’s breeze carries it to me as I drift out the door.
Time is short, I need to find another.
Normally I avoid universities; the art programs quickly kill natural talent, and mold original thought until its flowing lines conform to the rigid boxes of the curriculum. Art galleries and open mic nights are my preferred hunting grounds, but I can feel myself getting weaker. The wire forms did little to sate the hunger, and their artist seemed to draw more from me than I got in return.
Term has just begun, and if I’m lucky I can find a freshman who hasn’t yet been corrupted. I sit in the quad between the art buildings, and open myself to the world around me. Students scurry around, hamsters in the wheels of their schedules, round again tomorrow, and the next day. Round and round. Dizzying.
“Are you okay?”
I open my eyes, and realize that I’ve fallen back on the grass. A form blocks out the sun, a halo of light surrounding him. I blink, and realize it’s not the sun, but raw potential that forms his aura.
“I’m Marla,” I tell him.
“Scott. Are you okay, Marla?”
“Are you an art student?”
He raises an eyebrow. “No. Poli-Sci, minor in Sociology. You aren’t hurt, are you? It kinda looked like you passed out.”
I shake my head, then squint, realizing that it hurt to do so.
“Here,” Scott says, and extends a hand.
I take it, and he pulls me up. I am still dizzy.
“No offence, but you don’t look well. Can I take you to the infirmary?”
I start to shake my head again, but think better of it. “No, thank you,” I give an embarrassed smile. “I’m not a student.”
He looks at me, then nods once. “Well, at least let me walk you home – you live nearby?”
I haven’t found a new place to live, yet. Usually that comes along when I find the next artist. So often they are loathe to see me far from their sight. At least at first.
Scott’s brows furrow, and I realize I’ve taken too long to answer. The gallery is nearby, and the dizziness is getting worse. I sigh and say, “no, but I’ve got place to go.”
Light forces its way past the grime on the skylight. Blessedly the electricity is out, as we walked here my eyes began protesting the brightness. Scott escorts me in, and I collapse into a director’s chair.
He wanders around the room, taking in the works that are scattered haphazardly on every flat surface. The walls are plastered with paintings, sketches, posters and vector art. Sculptures of all types of medium are on the floor and several long work tables. A rollertop desk in the corner has stacks and folders and binders of paper, poems mostly, but some prose as well. His fingers flick through the pages, and he finally looks up at me.
“This is all you,” he says.
I blink, but say nothing.
He turns around the room again, then looks back at me, studying me. “No. Not quite you. Close, but not quite.”
I nod. “Not quite.”
“Who did all this?”
“Various people. The latest is the wire, there,” I point to a green and yellow sculpture on the corner of a table. “Andrea. She preferred to paint wire rather than using the coated stuff. Before that it was Meg – she was a painter. Poet before her – he never gave me his name.”
“It’s like a shrine to you.”
I snort. “It IS a shrine to me. Rather, a shrine to what they want me to be.”
Scott stops wandering, and comes to sit down next to me. “Why?”
I shrug. “It’s the best they can do. They, most of them anyway, enjoy having me around. Having someone they can blame when things don’t turn out quite right. That’s just me being fickle. They credit me when they’re doing well but are afraid their work is too radical for modern convention – it’s just where I led them, in those cases.”
“But what do you get out of it?”
I look at him, sitting at my feet. He’s managed to sit in the small square of sunlight. Even muted, it brings out the blond in his hair. He blinks, his blue eyes intense with curiosity, echoed in the aura that dances around him, but tempered by a practiced patience.
No one has ever asked me that before.
I’m not sure I should answer him, even if I could.
He waits, and when it is clear I’m not going to answer, his lips turn down in a little frown.
“You know,” he says after a moment, “I’m only doing Poli-sci because of my parents. They’re paying for undergrad. I’m going to go back, though. Grad school. For art.”
I smile, and reach out a hand. He takes it, and I squeeze his fingers. I can feel the raw energy there, and the queasiness I’d not noticed before subsides. He may not be the one I’m looking for, but he has potential.
“Grad school?” I say.
“Why wait?” I ask, and he shares my smile.