Lunarscape by Kimberly Lee
She’d never liked how she looked in pictures.
Photos were fine, actually—they were accurate, the diminutive black machines saw to it. It was the paintings that annoyed her, prompting her to hide behind the nearest water-logged cloud. Which would explain why they unfailingly depicted her shrouded in cloud cover or veiled in mist, an obligatory afterthought in a landscape concerned with more important things.
Not that she wanted to be the center of attention in one of these oil-on-canvas wonders; she was content to exist on the outskirts, circling the beautiful one, staying on path in her own lane.
It was the monotony of her life that depressed her. The paintings boldly drew attention to it, stirring up her irritation. She was always placed one-third of the way down from the top of the scene, oriented to the extreme right or left, gray layers streaking over and around her form. Slight variations, but never too far from the basic portrayal. Those who had “talent” loved to emphasize her imperfections, detailing every crater and crevice with a heavy, unsympathetic hand.
She got a glimpse when they displayed the artwork, in halls with tall windows. It would be night, the venue filled with snobby people in black outfits. Artificial lighting on the inside; her own light pouring in from outside; unflattering images of her flooding the walls. She would’ve rotated away if she could have.
Tonight was different. An outdoor evening class where she’d be the unwitting model, posing as they painted. “Nocturnal Undertakings”—an inane course name created by an undoubtedly inane teacher. She surveyed the students from above and was less than thrilled until she saw the man with the tattoo on his left arm—“Te amo a la luna y de regreso.” I love you to the moon and back. This piqued her interest. He began painting to his own beat, ignoring the instructor’s whispered commands. She watched him as he looked up to study her, then bowed his head back to the work. Over and over this sequence repeated until the instructor signaled that time was up. She couldn’t see the painting but it was a masterpiece, she was certain. She’d felt seen, loved. The man took a final long look up and she knew what she had to do. A star had taught her how—they did it all the time—but she’d never felt the urge to do it. She squeezed with everything she had, gathering the strength of a millennial’s worth of volcanic rock and iron, and she shimmered and shook, one huge crater closing slightly then reopening. His eyes grew wide and she heard him mumbling. “What?” The instructor was impatient, ready for some other type of “nocturnal undertaking.” Looking directly into the instructor’s eyes, the man repeated himself, “The moon just winked at me.” The instructor gave him a crazed look, then stalked off. Other students stepped away cautiously, but he didn’t care. And neither did she.
Kimberly Lee left the practice of law some years ago to focus on motherhood, community work, and creative pursuits. Her work has appeared in Fresh Ink, Toasted Cheese, Literary Mama, Thread, Toyon, Soft Cartel, amongst others. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.
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