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Hero Worship
Author: Amelia Wilde

I used to dream about art galleries.
Clean spaces. Hardwood floors. Champagne and hushed voices. People admiring the pieces on the walls for their artistic merit and nothing else. Not the artist’s mark in the corner. Not the rumored wealth or danger of her father. Just paint on canvas.
I still love the idea of art galleries.
The reality of art galleries is that they’re a headache.
Cream or white makes inescapably logical sense for a gallery. It puts the focus on the pieces, where it belongs. But Jesus, it’s bright.
Every ritzy gallery in LA has gone with this motif, and it’s hell. Although an artistic rendering of hell would be dark. I’d rather look at brimstone than all this off-white. My head hurt before I got here. Now, an hour into Marie’s show, it spears through my temples and into a dull ache at the top of my spine.
If I owned a gallery, I’d make the walls black. Navy at the brightest. Curators and gallery owners who think it’s only possible to draw attention to art with white walls suffer from a shocking lack of imagination.
Unfortunately, having a powerful imagination doesn’t transform the white walls into anything but what they are. It also doesn’t transform the show from ongoing to over. Marie’s garnered a decent crowd, but not large enough for me to slip away unnoticed.
I don’t want to sneak away. That’s why it’s such bullshit to have this reaction to something as common and innocent as white gallery walls. That’s why it’s so incredibly frustrating to be so sensitive to things like…lightbulbs. Sunlight. Illumination in general. I’m trying to be a decent friend, for God’s sake, and it would be easier if I wasn’t always teetering on the edge of a migraine.
The sensible thing would be to text my driver now and make apologies later.
I type out the text and delete it.
“Daisy!” Marie’s arms go around my neck with nervous force. Champagne sloshes in my glass, but I don’t let it spill. “Thank God you’re here. I didn’t think anyone would come.”
I hug her back, never mind that her body bumping into mine has made the headache worse. “What are you talking about? You have a crowd. These are men with money.”
She pulls away and sneaks a look over her shoulder. “Are they?”
“…yes.” I turn her to face the gallery with a hand on her elbow and gesture with my champagne glass. “The one in the blue suit is a supplier for a luxury interior decorating company. And the man he’s next to—”
“The one with dark hair?”
“Yes, him. He buys his wife fine art as foreplay.”
Marie gasps, her cheeks flushing pink. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“It’s true. And he’s obviously on the hunt tonight. Look at him.”
The dark-haired man studies the pieces on the walls with a gleam in his eyes, ignoring everyone else in the room, including the artist. Marie’s auburn-haired and unassuming, and she’s been mistaken for a caterer’s assistant once already this evening.
“Do you think…” She drops her voice. “Do you think he’ll buy one?”
“Yes. Watch.”
The man steps closer to one of her pieces. It’s smaller, tucked into the corner of the gallery, but I know exactly why he’s attracted to it. Marie’s other work is like her. Bright. Kind. Unassuming. She does landscapes, which I’ll freely admit doesn’t sound like the kind of thing a man would buy as an erotic gift, except that these landscapes are different. Not because she’s chosen unique subjects, but because of the light.
Marie’s pieces are sunny and warm. They’re bathed in a summer glow. It makes me jealous. Not of her, but of the light. I’ve never been able to spend as long as I wanted outside in the summer. As a child, I forced the issue more often. All children think they can be invincible if only they believe it hard enough.
I’m not invincible. If I spend too long in the sun, or in the light at all, my own brain will remind me of how fragile it is.
So Marie’s landscapes make my chest hurt. They’re paintings of a warmth that will always be out of reach.
Other people, like the man who wants a piece for his wife, see that gold haze and feel nostalgia. They have wonderful memories in light like that, and I’d bet most of those memories aren’t bookended by being in pain, and being sick, and finally blacking out.
The dark-haired man shakes his head like he’s waking up and reaches for his wallet.
“Oh my God.” Marie clutches at my arm. “I don’t know what to say. If he comes over here—I don’t know what to say.”
“He’s not going to come over here.”
Her grip relaxes. “What?”
“He’ll buy from the owner, not from you. But don’t be surprised if he comes over afterward to talk to you about the piece and shake your hand.”
“But it’s—but that one—”
“He picked out the moody one.”
“I didn’t think anyone would choose that one,” she whispers.
“It’s okay,” I whisper back. “It’s great work. It will make great foreplay.”
“Daisy, it’s a painting of an approaching storm!”
“Haven’t you ever had an orgasm?”
Marie dissolves into laughter. “Oh, no. I’m never going to make it here.”
“You already made it here.”
“I mean…here.” She waves a hand at the men and women attending her show. All of them have money. I can tell by the clothes. By the way they stand. By their faces as they take in the work. People born to wealth have a certain kind of aura. I would know. “I’m not like these people. I’m not even like you.”
She puts a hand on my arm, apologetic. “I just meant this is easy for you. You know what to say. You know all the jokes to make.”
“I would save the orgasm jokes for friends.”