Trey was used to visitors who were there simply because they hadn’t found anything else better to do on a rainy day. Or who seemed to think they were at a museum. They observed each work in meticulous order, one by one, with either awe or contempt; which didn’t matter anyway because they were not there to shop. When one of those visitors arrived, Trey usually stayed put, smiling and nodding. If he felt particularly generous — or bored — he administered the whole treatment: he would approach them, share some facts about the piece in front of which they were standing at that time, and ask if they were interested in any particular artist. Sometimes that was enough to make them flee; otherwise, the price tags would do the job.
Those prices. There were works priced at more than ten times his yearly salary. He was sure he could create similar objects, even better, if he had enough money to buy the materials, and more space in his tiny apartment.
When the gallery was empty, Trey meandered around the cold sculptures of unrecognizable shapes, the brightly colored acrylic-on-canvas paintings, the unstoppable video installations. Then, hiding his action from the CCTV camera, he would leave his mark: a couple of scratches at the edge of a painting, two notches at the corner of the metal sculptures; all carefully done with his magic coin, always ready on his right pocket. Only the videos remained unscathed.
Sometimes, Trey couldn’t resist touching the marks on his back, either. When there were no new pieces to work on, or visitors to boo out, he rolled the coin along the marks he could reach. Light thick irregular lines, un-treasured childhood mementos embossed on the canvas of his skin. The mapping of a long-gone pain. Once, the gallery displayed a German artist’s painting of a man with a slashed back that looked just like his, or at least, of the pictures of it that he took with his phone. Trey wanted to ask the artist about the painting, but didn’t get a chance. Some abstract works also reminded him of his back. Not that he needed these paintings to remember his marks. Although he couldn’t see them directly, only through a reflection or a rendering, he knew they were there, always. To his relief, the drunken father that gifted them to him was out of the picture.
A painting doesn’t show its back; it is always against a wall. Unlike sculptures, which can be seen from any angle. Trey wished he was more like a painting than like a sculpture. Even worse, wasn’t he rather like a freak walking installation?
Today, one of the real customers, those who sometimes phone to inquire first, and always walk straight towards the artwork they are interested in, asked him about the scratches. This particular client was old enough to be his father.
Trey replied without missing a beat, “All of the works in this series have these marks; would you like to see some more?”
Lucía Damacela’s poetry and prose have been published in more than ten countries, in journals and collections such as The Binnacle, Into the Void, Duende, Tales of Two Cities (Ethos Books), Flash Frontier, and Bath Flash Fiction Anthology. Four of her short fiction pieces have been recently shortlisted for international literary awards. Lucía currently lives in Singapore with her family, blogs at notesfromlucia.wordpress.com and tweets as @lucyda.
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