“I want to paint you in Prospect Park,” Gabrielle said as I walked into the bedroom. “With the Terrace Bridge in the background.”
“You do, huh?” I crawled into bed. Her scent—a mix of citrus and vanilla—permeated the air under the blanket. I wrapped my body around hers and inhaled her essence.
She snuggled into my embrace. “Yes, I do. Today. Right now. I can’t wait to capture my feelings about you on paper.”
“Can we eat breakfast first?” I nuzzled her neck with light kisses.
“If you insist.” She answered me with an exaggerated sigh, then pulled my face to hers. “But let’s not dally,” she whispered with her lips on mine. “I don’t want to lose the light.”
Gabrielle extricated herself from my arms and left the bed. “You have my word, Lexi,” she said as she grabbed my hands and dragged me out from under the blanket, “that we’ll continue this later today.”
She yanked on her gray sweatpants, the pair she referred to as her “artist pants.” I wore a white T-shirt and ripped black jeans, an outfit she selected. “I love you in these,” she declared as she perused my wardrobe for the right “look.”
We headed across the street to the park. She carried the easel and portfolio with her fancy Japanese paper tucked inside. I hauled a foldable chair plus a backpack loaded with her pencils, erasers, inks, pens, paints, and brushes. As we approached the bridge, the early morning sun peeked through the tree branches and cast shifting patterns of dark gray against the bridge’s aged concrete arch and abutments.
“This is perfect,” Gabrielle said. She turned toward me with her brows drawn in thought. “Lexi, stand here and face the water.” She guided me to the iron guardrail that bordered the stream flowing under the bridge and gently arranged my body and positioned my head. Then she snapped several photos of the pose with her phone.
“You’re so beautiful,” she muttered as she set up her chair and easel.
Her words left me speechless, so I smiled as I grasped the handrail and stared past the other side of the stream.
Below my window, shadows from my building darken the street. The calmness of the afternoon subsides as a succession of cars, trucks, and buses crowds the road. Drivers honk and shout at one another as they maneuver their vehicles to unknown destinations. Pedestrians dodge bumpers and fenders as they dash from one side of the street to the other during infrequent respites in the traffic’s continual movement.
I try to look away, but I’m transfixed by the activity and the macabre possibility of a casualty. How would people on the street respond? Would they notice or continue onward in their own spheres? How would I react? Do I have the strength to witness an injury or the indifference of bystanders if one would occur? Or would I turn away?
Mankind is unpredictable, and its erratic nature teaches us bitter lessons. Because of this, my questions are unanswerable.
The tune Gabrielle hummed was unfamiliar. Although the melody was haunting, her voice resonated light and clear, the way I imagined an angel sounded.
“That song’s beautiful,” I commented as we strolled along the pathway that led to the street near my apartment. “What is it?”
“Mad World. It’s one of my favorites.”
“I’ve never heard it before.”
“It’s an old one. But the music and lyrics… well, they’re still relevant. We go through the motions of living without really seeing one another.”
“That’s so sad. Do you think it’s true?”
“Yeah. Sometimes I’ve felt invisible, as though people didn’t see me for who I am… what I am.”
Gabrielle stopped, and I did, too. “It’s a rare gift to find someone who sees you… the real you,” she said as she held my gaze with hers. “And accepts you anyway.”
I put my arms around her waist and drew her as close to me as I could. She laughed as we both bumped the portfolio and easel in her hands. “You are a rare gift, Gabrielle,” I whispered as I leaned in and brushed her lips with mine. “And I think I’m falling for you.”
“I know the feeling,” she replied as she returned my kiss, then pushed me away. “Let’s stop wasting time here and get back to your bedroom.”
The joy I felt at that moment left me breathless. I couldn’t help but laugh. I wanted to shout for everyone to hear that I had a girlfriend. A beautiful, talented girlfriend who lit up my life like the sun. I picked up my pace, anticipating the lovemaking we’d soon share. And she kept up with me.
We reached the street. My building stood a few yards beyond it. She and I stepped off the curb and passed between two cars parked in the perimeter lane. Both of us were impatient to reach my fourth-floor apartment. As I’ve done countless times before, I spied a lull in the flow of traffic and darted across the two-lane road. Winded, I reached the sidewalk on the other side and turned to grin at Gabrielle. But she wasn’t beside me.
I spun when I heard the screech of brakes and the crunch of metal on metal. A fuchsia delivery van filled my view. In front of it, a lone figure laid crumpled on the asphalt. Without thinking, I ran into the street. Cars stopped and horns blared, but I didn’t care. I had to get to Gabrielle.
Someone caught me as I raced toward her and locked me in an embrace. The arms were soft and the essence of honeysuckle emanated from the voluminous bosom.
“You don’t want to see her like this, sweetheart.” The voice belonged to an elderly woman. I tried to break free, but the soft arms were stronger than my courage. I gave way against her, and she held me as I sobbed.
Darkness claims its grip on Prospect Park and I watch through my window, an audience of one. In the street, the surge of cars continues while pedestrians, unafraid of the night, stroll along the sidewalk. My laptop still hums, and I absently swipe the mouse over its pad to wake up my screen and shut down the system.
I contemplate the two women in the painting on my wall. The yellow-haired woman is Gabrielle, and the dark-haired woman is Lexi. Neither gaze in my direction. Gabrielle shuts her eyes while Lexi gazes at something unseen. But my interpretation of their expressions differs from the one the artist shared with me months ago. Although they are sharing their last kiss, Gabrielle isn’t afraid for the world to see who she is. She closes her eyes in bliss, for she has known love.
Lexi is heartbroken, and yes, losing Gabrielle is the source of her pain. But in my version, it’s Lexi, not Gabrielle, who lacks the strength to face the world.
The clock on the windowsill tells me it’s ten o’clock. I crawl into bed and wait for the morning to confront me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll venture out.
Check out Part 2 of “Final Kiss.” A love of art brings Lexi and Gabrielle together. Have they found their soulmates? An LBGTQ+ love story.Tweet
Written by Allorianna Matsourani