"YOU AREN'T REAL" BY PRIYA VANI LOKHNAUTH
My night shift began a few minutes ago at the art gallery. Tonight there aren’t many pieces. Mostly old ones that were left over from days ago. I wonder if I get paid enough for this. After an hour of staring at nothing, the door opens. An old couple walks in. I see them look around for a bit. Minutes pass and a few more customers come in. They’re all scattered around the gallery but one girl in particular catches my eye. She has her hood on. I think she’s hiding from the world. She’s looking up at a dark painting. The name is You Aren’t Real. I don’t really see what’s so interesting about it. It just has some black and white paint splattered on a canvas in the shape of an eye.
I’m startled when the old couple rings the bell on the counter to get my attention.
“We would like to get this, '' the old man says, holding up a painting of a tree with no leaves. The old lady is smiling happily behind him.
“That will be $439,” I say without looking at him, still thinking of the girl who had previously walked in. The man hands me the card and I pack their painting in tissue paper, carefully taping the ends with scotch take. I grab a bag, put it inside, and hand them the receipt. “Have a nice day!” I say with no enthusiasm. As they walk out, I search for the girl again. When I looked back at where she was standing, she was gone. I start to get a little worried that I would never see her again.
Once again, I am interrupted by another customer ringing the bell. This time it’s a middle- aged man who looks like he’s going through a break up. His eyes look puffy, like he was crying for the past few hours. They also look red. He probably didn’t get much sleep either. He is holding up the same painting the girl was staring at. I feel a frown forming on my face.
“This one’s not for sale” I say, in hopes that he will just let it go and get another one. He looks at me with a confused look.
“But there was a price tag on it!” He says with a mad tone. I see the girl watching our conversation from across the room. She has a defeated and sad look on her face. It kills me. I don’t care how mad this man gets, I am not selling it to him.
“There’s been a misunderstanding,” I say as I take the painting from him. Thankfully, he leaves after I say that. I put the painting back on the wall and went back to the counter. The girl is wandering around but ends up in front of the same painting. Once again, she stares up at the painting, almost as if she can talk to it. Her eyes pierce through the surface of the canvas, like she’s curing a spell on it almost.. I get distracted by an email but when I look back up, not only is the girl gone, but the painting is gone too. I get up and search the gallery to find either one of them. In the corner of my eye, I see the girl outside of the window, holding up the painting, still watching it with a magical look.
She stole it. She stole the $672 painting. She should have it.