A thick fog swallowed me in darkness.
"Help me," her voice called out. I tried to run forward but my legs wouldn't carry me.
"Please... help me," her weak, broken voice begged once again. Fear pushed me to turn, but everything was too dark. I was blind. I had no light to lead the way.
The dense fog thickened and poured down my throat, clogging my lungs. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move... I couldn't help her.
"I am afraid... I am so afraid..." she sobbed. Her words whirled in the heavy wind, lashing across my face. My eyes closed, unable to cope with the pain in her voice.
"I can't get to you," I shouted as the heavy fog forced me to the cold ground. My hands raked at the hard dirt as I fought to get free.
"I can't... I can't... Go on... I'm so tired..." she cried. I could hear her fading away.
Panic filled my body. I couldn't lose her. I had to say goodbye.
"No!" I screamed. "Don't leave me!" I clawed harder at the ground, my fingernails snapping under the pressure. No matter how hard I fought to push forward, nothing happened. My heart pounded in rhythm with the rumbling thunder overhead. Cold blood trickled through my body. I couldn't break way. I couldn't get free... I couldn't get free...
Scalding tears filled my eyes as an agonized pain gripped my heart. "I have to say goodbye," I screamed into the nothingness, "Let me say goodbye!" The skin on my fingers tore and bled as the hard dirt turned into broken glass, the sharp edges slicing deep into my flesh.
"Protect them... always protect them... please… please..." she begged. I could hear the defeat in her voice. She was giving up. She was slipping away.
"No! Wait!" I tried to scream, but no noise came from my mouth. I clawed at my throat, but I couldn't make a sound.
A light appeared in the distance, but it was too far from my reach. Dread filled my mind. She was leaving. She was leaving... and I couldn't say goodbye.
"Wait!" I silently screamed... "I haven't said goodbye!" But I was trapped here, caged under the weight of the black fog on this cold ground, my frantic voice muted, my body paralyzed.
The fog grew thicker and thicker and the light up ahead dimmed from white to gray. "No," I silently cried, "No!"
Relentlessly, the fog closed in, removing the fading light from view and with it all my hope.
She was gone…
Suffocating with grief, I fought for breath. But there was no more air, the nothingness of the fog was all consuming.
Rage filled tears trickled down my face as I lay here, defeated. I tried to close my eyes, I tried to push the pain into the back of my mind but guilt remained, splintering me from the inside.
The fog pushed down harder, wrapping me tightly in its hold.
Darkness was consuming me. Darkness was taking my soul.
"Goodbye," I mouthed with my final breath, "I just wanted to say goodbye..."
Jerking upright on my bed, I was panting hard at the dream I'd just had, when I heard, "You got a phone call."
Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I took a deep breath trying to erase the dream that haunted me. My hands were damp with sweat, but I just wiped them on my pants, kicked my feet off the bed and made my way down the hallway to the phone.
"You, Elpi, you're happening, your debut."
Every inch of me froze, and I gripped the phone so tightly I thought it might shatter under the pressure. "Vin-"
"You're ready. Your work is ready. Your collection is a masterpiece and must be shared with the world."
"Vin… I appreciate everything you're trying to do for me, but-"
"No buts. It's all arranged. It's been worked out. I've made this happen for you. You need this, Elpi."
I worked hard to cool down; hot blood coursed through my veins. I drew in a long, deep breath.
"You're ready," Vin pushed, his voice this time less business, less coercive, and more supportive.
But I didn't want it. None of it.
"Where's the damn exhibition?" I snapped.
"Elpi. Don't be this way. You're an artist-"
"I'm not a damn artist!" I interrupted through gritted teeth.
"You're an artist!" Vin commanded. "You're the best damn sculptor I've ever worked with. Your work surpasses anything I've ever seen, including my own work. You're someone, Elpi. Believe me, you are someone."
"It'll be in a smaller gallery, in a smaller museum, in an academic setting. It's your first exhibit, and it shouldn't overwhelm you."
"Where, Vin?" I asked, exasperated, and ran my hand through my long hair.
The air sucked out of my lungs as Vin carried on telling me all the good things about Seattle-the art scene, the people, the culture…
"Elpi, I know you'll probably argue about the show being in Seattle, but-"
"I'm in." I interrupted sharply, and was met with Vin's shocked silence from behind the crackling receiver.
"No argument? No telling me your art is only for you and no one else? No telling me you want nothing to do with the art world and the people in it?"
"Right, well… that's… perfect! I've set up a flight for you to come out here in two weeks' time. I'll pick you up from the airport. I'll get you an apartment-"
"Don't bother?" Vin questioned slowly.
"I've got somewhere to stay."
"Where? With who?"
"Don't concern you," I said coldly. I felt a hand tap on my back. I turned and nodded at the guy behind me and turned back to speak into the phone. "I gotta go."
"Right. Well, I guess I'll see you in two weeks. But if you need anything, if your 'place' doesn't work out, call me."
I paused, closed my eyes, and tapped my hand twice on the chipped painted wall before me.
Immediately hanging up the phone, dread ripping the shit out of my stomach, I headed down a dark quiet hallway. Raking my long hair out of my face, my nails then scratched down the heavy dark stubble on my face.
In two weeks, I'd be in Seattle, ready for the next part of my life to begin, but not before having to face a truckload of unresolved shit from my past…
New York City
Running across the road, I dodged people left and right in my rush to get to my interview on time. The New York weather was humid and sweltering. I was so happy I'd tied my long hair back in a bun.
Gripping tightly onto my purse, I jogged along the sidewalk, frantically checking my watch. My plane had been delayed and getting ready in a Boeing 737's tiny bathroom cubicle wasn't exactly ideal for presenting flawless makeup and hair.
But it was worth it. This was all for the exhibition of my dreams. I intended to nail this interview. There was no choice. I would do anything to curate this show… even fly to the East Coast last minute from California to land it... even leave my beautiful newly-curated Contemporary Art gallery at UCLA in the hands of the Art Director.
Finally reaching the front of the Met, I ran up the stairs in my favorite black Louboutins, straightening out my black sleeveless dress as I reached the top.
Pausing, I inhaled through my nose, and with a slow exhale from my mouth, pulled back my shoulders and walked into the entrance.
In minutes I was whisked away to the private offices by the museum director's assistant and told to wait in a small room dominated by a large wooden table and six chairs. Artwork, from up and coming artists, was hung without rhyme or reason on the white walls. I slumped into a chair, nervously playing with my hands.
Hearing footsteps outside the room, I forced myself to relax and straightened up just as an older man walked into the room.
Vin Galanti. The famous sculptor himself.
Vin was dressed all in tweed, his gray hair a fluffy halo enveloping his head. He looked every inch the eccentric artist.
His light blue eyes met mine and a wide smile spread across his face. "Ms. Lucia!" he greeted. I rose from my seat to take his has outstretched hand.
"Mr. Galanti! It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. I've studied your work in great depth."
Mr. Galanti gestured for me to sit. He sat opposite me. "Please, call me Vin. And I'm very happy to meet you too, Ms. Lucia. I was honored to see the Contemporary Art show you curated in Toronto last year and I was extremely impressed."
"Thank you, Vin," I said in reply, genuinely taken aback by the compliment.
"No, thank you. It is truly an honor to meet someone so young who is so passionate about art."
"I am, sir," I said happily, "It's the center of my entire life."
Vin sat forward like an excited child. I had to stop myself from laughing at the grin on his face.
"So," he said conspiratorially, "Elpidio..."
"Yes," I croaked, my voice barely audible. The mere thought of curating his work made me feel weak at the knees.
"At last I'm commissioning his first show and I am looking for the right curator to put it all together." His eyes narrowed. "Do you believe this could be you?"
"Yes, sir," I retorted with confidence. "As soon as I heard about the position, I dropped everything to fly out here to meet you. I know I'm the best person for this job. I've studied his work. I've written academic journals on his methods and on his themes. I've written articles on his rise to fame."
Vin sat back, clasped his hands and nodded his head. He seemed to have lost his enthusiasm. My stomach rolled. I wanted this position so, so much.
"I've read your articles and journals, Ms. Lucia," he said. I waited for him to say more. "You're an exceptional art scholar and you clearly have a passion for my protégé."
"Yes, sir," I replied, "He's one of my favorite contemporary sculptors." I paused at what I'd just said and lowered my eyes to inspect the wooden table. "No, excuse me," I said nervously, "Elpidio is my absolute favorite contemporary artist, period."
Vin's head tilted to the side. "Why?" Vin's eyes had lit up with interest.
"Why…" I whispered, contemplating how I could express my love for his work in words. I took in a long breath, thinking through my answer, and opted to speak from the heart. I closed my eyes picturing his sculptures and let my words flow.
"His works… They are both the saddest and most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen. Every curve of the marble comes from deep within his heart. The themes of his works are both provocative and gutting at the same time. I could get lost in every single one of them, all day, everyday for the rest of my life and never tire of it. They are raw and poetic… so tragic, yet so beautiful.