I pretended to be Kevin's little sister so that I could get in for free with his season pass, and then we were in and I had to admit it was sort of cool. Light poured in from the glass ceiling, and this winding wooden walkway did loops through the air like a snake winding towards the sun.
"Like it?" Kevin asked.
I pointed to the right, where a hallway led off to one of the exhibits. A poster of a few post-impressionist pieces hung on the wall beside it. "They have Van Goghs here?"
"Want to check it out?" he asked.
"Sure," I said.
Kevin waved me forward. He seemed to know his way around, going straight past the first few paintings. I caught a Monet on my way in, an O'Keefe, and a Guaguin. It brought me back to high school art class. Don't even get me started on it. It was like the councillors decided to shove every troublemaker in one room, but still, it was my favourite time of the day. I had a knack for painting, and it was the first time I didn't have to cover up my insecurities with jokes; I actually felt special.
I didn't do art much anymore. With university and Mr. Xing's errands it got pushed to the side, and now I was that girl who looked like the type but really wasn't.
I forgot about getting back home for a while. Kevin and I drifted through the galleries, letting ourselves get lost in the little rooms, each one blending into the other seamlessly. I watched as he leaned in close to the paintings, long, hooked nose almost brushing the canvas. His eyes followed the brush strokes. Then he would straighten and take a step back to look at the whole.
"You're an artist, right?" I asked.
"How did you know?" He pulled at his Tim Horton's uniform. "I thought this hid my secret identity."
"It's just the way you..." I tried to find the words. There was something about him, but I couldn't figure out what until I looked at his hands. I picked one up and turned it over. "You have paint under your finger nails."
"I do?" He looked down. His hand was twice the size of mine easily, each finger long and knobbly; artist's hands. They were firm and precise and dry from scrubbing the paint away. His cuticles were horrid.
"You do pottery as well?" I asked, but I already knew the answer. "The clay really dries out your skin."
"Just this one project I'm working on. It's for art school." Kevin met my eyes, and my heart did this thing that may or may not have been the beginnings of a heart attack. I really had to stop eating so much pizza.
I let go of his hand and quickly clasped mine behind my back. I continued into the next exhibit where an old white couple pointed at one of the paintings and spoke in hushed voices. A guard stood in the corner of the room and whispered into a walkie-talkie.
"Which art school do you go to?" I asked.
"OCAD," he answered.
"Never heard of it."
"Seriously?" Kevin asked, grinning. "It's nice, but expensive. I'm going to have to find a new job soon."
"Sorry for getting you fired," I said.
"It wasn't your fault. The boss was crazy. In fact, I'm sort of glad to be out of there, now that I think of it, although I doubt I'll get a beaming letter of recommendation for my next job application."
Kevin grinned down at me, and he had the sort of smile that scrunched up his cheeks. He had a prominent Adam's apple, a long, giraffe like neck, ears that stuck out, and those eyes; elegant, gentle, big, and slanting.
"You're staring at me," Kevin said.
Kevin tried to hide a smile and rubbed the back of his head. "How about we check out the other exhibits? Then we can get something to eat."
The sun had begun to set, leaving the sky a bloody red that seemed to drip onto the buildings and stain them too. I'd eaten my fill of deep dish pizza. Who knew that this errand would be so nice? A cute boy had never asked me out like this. I almost didn't want to leave. Almost.
But my legs ached, and I'd eaten a bit too much, so much that I could pass out. My head felt light, although the headache had passed, and I could have held someone at knife point if it meant having a bed to lie on. Not only that, but we'd spent so much time out that Kevin managed to pop into his apartment and change before he walked me back to AGO.
His place was on the second floor of a narrow apartment building, and although he had three roommates, he still managed to squeeze his artwork all over the walls.
"You know those paintings you used to do when you were a kid? You'd fold a paper in half and splatter one side with water colour, then press the two halves together? Well that's what I do, but on canvas. It's called Rorschach art," Kevin explained.
I stared at the painting, two canvases connected by metal hinge, with layers and layers of blotted, smeared, and splattered colour, each side identical.
"Want one?" Kevin asked.
"I'll give you a small one so it's easier to take home." He crossed the living room, a tiny minefield of empty ramen noodle cups, video game controllers, and soda cans. "This one. It's called Autumn Rhythm for Rorschach, a tribute to Jackson Pollock."
I grinned down at the busy colours; tan, pitch black, and white, like a city in the fall.
And so now I had a small painting in my bag, and I held Kevin's hand as we walked back. The night had cooled as the sun went down, and the busy streets and blinding heat had merged into a comfortably warm breeze and gentle evening bustle of couples and families going out to dinner. I hadn't been this happy all year.
Finally we reached the AGO. I wondered if we were going to kiss. I wanted to, but I sort of thought my mouth would taste like pizza. Well, at least his mouth would taste like pizza too. I turned to face him as we reached the pillar beside the Group of Seven poster, closed my eyes, and leaned forward.
He didn't even try. After a few seconds I opened my eyes and saw that he wasn't even looking at me. He had this concerned look on his face, and he bit his lip and looked at his watch.
"Sorry, are you late for something?" I asked.
Kevin noticed me, raising his thick brows. "No, no! I was just thinking how stupid I am. I forgot to show you the best part of the gallery."
"What's the best part?"
"The fifth floor. It's my favourite. I'm so forgetful sometimes." He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "But I guess you have to get back."
I looked at him, then looked at the pillar, where the way back home stayed hidden from the world, then back at him. I chewed on the inside of my cheek.
"How much longer is the art gallery open?" I asked.
"Another half hour. It closes at nine on Fridays."
"That's enough time, then, isn't it? We could go in, see the top floor, and then go out. I don't mind staying up a bit later."
Kevin's eyes lit up and my heart fluttered again. I'd have to get that checked out when I got back home. Definitely unnatural. "Really? Awesome, let's go!"
He tugged at my hand and we ran towards the entrance.
What a terrible idea.