Short Story: American Graffiti

1First dates always made me nervous, especially blind dates; however, this time I was to be meeting a co-worker’s supposedly very handsome older brother who had just finished grad school. Admittedly, his albeit short bio intrigued me and from a less superficial perspective I felt that, at the very least, we’d have good conversation, being that we shared our Alma mater. It didn’t hurt either that he was taking me to my favorite restaurant in town, a small tapas bar that I had overly frequented as an undergrad due to its proximity to campus.

When I walked into the restaurant I learned that I was the first to arrive. Standing at the bar, I ordered a glass of wine and a plate of bread with cheese. It wasn’t long before a rather large broad shouldered man squeezed himself into the space I had left for my date.

“Mia?”

I nodded my head as I laughed, trying to scoot aside to give him more room to stand, “And you must be Sean.”

We exchanged greetings and ordered more food. After about two more glasses of wine and plenty of food, I decided that Sean was a very special person and that for once, I had been set-up well.

It was during dessert that I caught Sean staring strangely at me.

I wiped at my face, “Do I have chocolate on my nose or something?”

He shook his head good-naturedly, “No, sorry, it’s not that, I’m just now noticing how much you look like the girl in this mural I pass by on my way home.”

I laughed, the wine making me bubbly and full of giggles. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Sean laughed also, “Do you go out towards Grand and Fifth Avenue sometimes?”

“Yeah, I head in that direction for work, but usually I just take the highway and bypass all the traffic downtown.”

He nodded his understanding, “Well, I’d like to take you sometime to the mural I’m talking about. It’s new, I think the artist finished it only a few weeks ago,”

I smiled, “That sounds great.”

***

That weekend, Sean picked me up from my apartment and together we set out to see the mural. Around the corner from the mural we parked the car and stepped into a restaurant for lunch. Afterwards we walked to the corner of Grand and Fifth, taking in the mural from across the street.

I felt as if I was staring at a reflection of myself, only subtle differences indicated that the picture I was looking was not in fact of me, but of some illusion of me, a better me. Painted two stories high on the side of a building was the most beautiful depiction of a woman I had ever seen. The artist had captured her beauty in a way that every woman hopes can be seen in herself. The painting had somehow captured her grace in the curve of her neck as she threw back her head, her mouth partly open in laughter. The longer I looked at her, the less I saw of myself and the more I saw someone I wanted to be more like.

We were only looking at the painting for a few minutes, but to me it felt like I was there for hours, staring at this happier and more confident depiction of me.

Sean’s voice interrupted my inner ramblings, “See, you do look like her.”

All I could do was nod, the shock and implications of this mural beginning to settle in.

“Let’s see if we can talk to the artist,” Sean pulled me across the street.

After we crossed I stopped mid-step making Sean trip. “Wait, what if this guy is some creep whose been stalking me?”

Sean reached out for my hand, “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but if it’s not I’ll be there the whole time, I wont let anything happen to you.”

I felt reassured and together we walked into the gallery on the other side of the mural.

As we approached the receptionist she stared pointedly at me. “Oh my god,” she gasped when I finally reached her station.

“Hi, we were wondering if we could talk to—”

Before I could finish my sentence the receptionist leapt out of her chair and ran towards the back of the gallery.

I stood dumbfounded and looked up at Sean who seemed just as confused as I was.

t wasn’t long before the receptionist came backing out of a hallway speaking in rushed tones to a man in jeans and a black t-shirt. He pulled a cloth from his waistband and wiped his hands as he followed her to where we stood.

When he saw me, his jaw visibly dropped. He quickly gained his composure and held out his hand to us.

“Hello, my name is Pablo.”

Sean took the proffered hand and introduced himself.

I also reluctantly shook his hand before blurting out, “Why did you paint me?”

Pablo’s eyes softened and a faint smile curled the side of his mouth. “I know how this must look to you, but I promise you, I was not painting you.”

Sean and I exchanged looks as Pablo pulled out his wallet from his back pocket. He fingered through the folds quickly and handed me a picture.

I took a step back as I stared at a reflection of myself dressed in a white summer dress holding a baby.

Wide-mouthed I looked to Sean, who seemed just as shocked as I was.

Confused and feeling suddenly very afraid, I pointed at the picture, “Who is this?”

Pablo held his hand out for the photo; with shaky hands I returned it to him. “That is my wife, Luna, and our daughter when she was a month old.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

Pablo gave us a weak smile and gestured for Sean and me to take a seat on one of the gallery cushions as he sat across from us.

Thankfully by that point Sean had recovered from the shock enough to ask the question for me, “Do you not see the resemblance?”

Pablo nodded his head and rubbed the back of his neck, in a nervous chuckle he responded, “Yes, I do. I’m just trying to come up with the right words to explain it.”

Feeling uncomfortable, my eyes wandered to the art within the gallery. As I scanned the pieces a set of canvas grouped together caught my eye. These pieces were different in style from the rest of the gallery, they were abstract depictions of nature, thick brush strokes evoked a sense of the artist’s confidence in the work and bright bold colors took center stage.

Seeing where my attention had faltered to Pablo offered, “Those are Luna’s.”

I continued to stare at them, feeling connected to them in a strange but not wholly unsettling way. It was almost as if I could connect directly the paintings, like they spoke to me and to me alone.

“How long have you lived in the city?”

“My whole life,” I quickly replied being snapped back into reality.

“Wow, this whole time, you were right here,” Pablo said half to himself.

“Wait, what does that even mean,” I asked, beginning to feel exacerbated.

Pablo sighed, “I haven’t figured out the best way to say this, so I’m just going to come right out with it because I think it is safe for me to assume that my wife, Luna, is your sister.”

The words hit me like a cold front colliding with warmth. I instantly felt the room begin to grow dimmer as questions tumbled through my mind haphazardly.

“You were both put up for adoption as babies. Luna spent many years trying to find her twin—”

It was enough that my mind was whirling out of control, so I wasn’t sure if I hallucinated the word ‘twin’ or not. At this point, I was really beginning to feel faint and had to dig my fingers into my seat for balance.

Pablo sighed, “I know this is a lot to take.”

I managed to nod my agreement.

“Both of your adoptions were sealed, Luna explained to me that unless sanctioned by a court order, she wasn’t allowed to try to contact you.”

My breath felt heavy as it came out in wheezes. As Pablo talked, the illusion of my world came tumbling down. I finally spoke, “My whole life I thought I was an only child.” Emotion overwhelmed me and tears began to wet my cheeks as a feeling of hope and excitement mixed with trepidation consumed me.

“Can I meet her?” I asked expectantly.

Pablo shook his head sadly, “I’m sorry, Mia.” He leaned forward and hung his head in his hands as he struggled to speak, “Luna was in a horrible accident a few months ago.”

The reality of his words hit me harder than the news that I had a twin sister. I instantly felt crippled with shock and reached out to Sean for support, gripping his forearm tightly in my hand.

Without further prompting, Sean pulled me into a warm embrace as sobs escaped my lips, “I’m so sorry,” he whispered as he gently rubbed my hair.

The weight of the truth felt insurmountable. I had been so close. All this time, I had a twin, all this time I hadn’t know about her but she had known about me. All this time…

Grief and anger flooded me. My shoulders heaved uncontrollably as I cried in agony over the life lost and the life I would never know. It felt as though an icepick had been mercilessly driven into the core of my heart.

My sobs came to an abrupt stop when a small voice called out to me, “Mommy?”

I looked up to see a young girl standing next to me, her eyes filling with tears as she stared at my face.

Pablo pulled her to him, “No, sweetie, this is Mia. This is Mommy’s sister.”

The little girl’s shoulders sagged as she looked from me to Pablo, “But she looks just like Mommy.”

Pablo closed his eyes as he held his daughter close, “I know, baby, I know.”

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