That was it, he wasn’t even suggesting dinner.
“I’m busy,” I replied,
“Ok,” he said, there was an acidic tone in his voice, “are you playing games with me?”
“No,” I said, I did actually have a lot to do, the gallery was due to host some events for Fashion Week, and I was busy prepping for those. I was enjoying the buzz and starting to see some payoff in my gruelling job. The last thing I wanted to do was waste time and energy on someone like Rupert.
“Look, there’s a party at the gallery next week, I can put you on the guest list if you’re desperate to see me,” I said. Porsche-guy was hovering over me and I was late for a meeting. Rupert said nothing, maybe he wasn’t used to being spoken to sharply by a woman. I could just hear him on the end of the phone. Maybe shuffling from one foot to the other, thinking of his next move. Gina was pulling faces at me, I shrugged. She could see it was one of ‘those’ conversations.
“Look, I have to go,” I said to Rupert,
“Why are you being like this?” he asked,
“I don’t even know what you mean by that Rupert, you never call me, and now you are hassling me at work, I’m supposed to be in a meeting now, I need to go otherwise I’ll get fired.” I hung up the phone without waiting for a reply.
I had invited a Kimono maker to exhibit his work in our gallery during Fashion Week, a sort of artistic take on the business of fashion. The Kimonos were hand painted silk, showing scenes from Japanese mythology. Frightening gods, warriors, and beautiful seascapes.
Porsche-guy glanced across the photos and was genuinely impressed. He was very much the money-man behind the gallery, but occasionally a deftly orchestrated piece of artwork would raise a half smile on his cynical face. I considered this a huge triumph, reaching through to a hard philistine. Perhaps there was a tiny soul in there somewhere.
The next day a bunch of flowers arrived for me at reception. They were from Rupert. The card read, “I’m sorry you’re cross with me, I hope we can still be friends.”
They were an impressive bunch of dahlias, peonies and white roses, which I displayed on my desk as an odd trophy. Bittersweet and looming. The scent was almost sickly, but it reminded me of the wild, of overgrown gardens, grassy banks leading to rocky streams, petals like shameless bursts of colour, catching the sunlight from the wide office windows. Yellow pollen falling onto my desk, staining my papers and lingering for days.
I watched them die, slowly, in their glass tumbler of water. Their roots clipped off, the stems becoming withered and dry, the spread petals falling one by one. The morbid wilting display, unfolding and disintegrating over a fortnight, until only dry stalks remained. I crumbled the petals into a cup on my desk, and thought about scattering them somewhere, like ashes. Perhaps in Central Park, where they could decompose in the soil and return as new life next spring when the bulbs were planted by dutiful civic gardeners. Maybe my dying roses would be reborn as brash tulips, daubs of yellow and red against the green grass of the park. Maybe a passing man would pick them and give them to his sweetheart.
Rupert didn’t come to our party. Maybe he was too proud. Or maybe he was actually hurt. Who knows, and who cares? I was meeting new people who were actually taking me seriously, grown-up conversations about the meaning of art and how best to run a gallery in the modern age. I wondered if any of them knew Rupert. Would they mention him? Yes, a British art dealer, travels a lot, tall, handsome, but rather arrogant, do you know him. And I might reply, yes, I met him, briefly in New York, but I don’t remember much of him.