A/N: 7/15/2011 Edited text & changed a few things for clarity.
Author notes and fan art for this story are on my (new!) website here: tagged/art_criticism
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Someone asked me about doing a one-shot with these characters. Sure! But I need some ideas. O_O You can help here: tagged/oneshot
It is moments like this that I start to wonder where the hell I went wrong. Was it the undergraduate degree in art history? My complete failure at the age of twenty-two to know what I want to be when I grow up? Or maybe it is the fact that I work for Melissa Anderton, one of the bitchiest, hard-ass gallerists in San Francisco?
Oh, and I thought I was supposed to change the world through my witty art historical observations or something. Yeah, not so much.
Is this really my life? I ask myself as a guy named Turkish—no last name, just Turkish—yells at me for forty-five minutes about the stupid catalog the gallery is printing to go along with his stupid photo exhibition. Yes, apparently this is my life.
"The piece is not called that anymore, man," he is telling me in that airy California stoner voice I detest—especially on him because it is so obviously an affectation. Your work has to be pretty damn good for me to tolerate that sort of whimsical artist-persona bullshit and believe me this guy isn't it. He isn't even a cheap knock-off of it.
Then he brushes a fringe of curly black-brown hair out of his heavy lidded eyes with the longest fingers I've ever seen. I watch with interest—which is how I know it has been way too long since I've been on a date—I am checking out fingers on a guy who is yelling at me. It makes me feel pathetic for about two seconds, which in turn makes me cranky.
But then I immediately remember why I don't date when he continues. "So when it says the photo is named Ascension, it, like, undermines the whole thing because it should be Ascension, then parentheses, In My Mother's Bathroom. It's the parentheses that makes the whole thing right? It doesn't make any sense without the parentheses in the name."
It's called a title, you idiot. A name is something you give your pet. You give your artwork a title. But I bite my tongue on this point. I am not that petty.
"I see," I respond flatly from behind the desk of the white walled gallery where I am stationed. I find myself taking off my dark rimmed glasses and wiping them on my blue button up shirt—sometimes I do this when I am upset. "And when did you have this fascinating little revelation?" I ask as I put them back on.
Turkish is dressed in a ripped white t-shirt and exceptionally tight jeans, a bullet belt slung around his narrow hips. I think I see an Alexander McQueen scull scarf hanging out of his back pocket. He is completely trying too hard (kind of like his photos, actually) and I find it distracting. That, and I can see one of his darkly colored nipples through a hole in the front of his top. I suppress this ridiculous line of thinking and concentrate on his words—his grating, ridiculous words.
"Yesterday, man, it suddenly just started to make sense," he states excitedly, like I'd be real interested. "I just don't want to live a lie, you know?"
My eyes narrow. "And I know that you know that the files for the catalog went to the printer six weeks ago. I am expecting those books to be delivered any day now. It is too late to change what's on the pages. It is already physically there. Just because I don't have them doesn't mean they can still be changed." I speak slowly hoping he can pick up on this concept.
Did I mention I hate Turkish? The guy is unrepentantly dickish. Not to mention his photography is of the shallow snapshot Vice Magazine and hipster album cover variety. Don't get me wrong, I love photography, but this shit could be taken by any drunk with a 35-millimeter. It is an insult to the medium.
"Fuck this shit, little dude, I wanna talk to Melissa," Turkish snaps, with an uncharacteristically prissy wave of his wrist.
I can feel my cheeks flush in humiliation and I look down and clean my glasses one more time for good measure. Unfortunately for me, his crappy art sells. It sells very well, in fact, which means Melissa coddles Turkish and his stupid chatter and his whopping ego.
So he gets to call me things like 'little dude,' and I have to grit my teeth and take it. Who the fuck does he think he is anyway? The Richard Avedon of our generation?
"She's not in today," I say flatly. This is sort of a symbolic conversation, because Melissa is never in. Well, that is not completely true. She is in when the big name clients are in, but never when this kind of stupid shit is going on. Then it is just me and whatever said fuckery has arisen for the week. Mostly, that would be Turkish.
"Get her on the phone then," he demands.
"Okaaay," I say, "but even she cannot break the space time continuum and have corrected catalogs in time for your opening."
"You can't lie to people, either," he counters, pointing an accusing finger at me, "it's unethical." You know what else is unethical? I want to snap back—abusing people on a dismal hourly wage. This guy makes more money selling one lousy photograph than I make in a one lousy month of this kind of crap.
"Of course, it wasn't incorrect until approximately twelve hours ago," I point out.
He huffs dramatically. "That just shows how much you don't get it," he informs me, "the title was always wrong. I just didn't know it yet."
"Whatever," I mumble as I dial Melissa's cell phone number without looking. "Hi it's me," I say rapidly when I hear her answer, "Turkish is here." I meet my tormentor's eyes as I speak, keeping my face neutral. I think I'm going to end up losing this battle, but I don't want him to know it yet. Never give this guy an inch is my motto.
"And?" Melissa demands. "You know that I'm trying to get things sorted for selling at the fair in Miami—so spit it out quick, James."
"He wants to change the title of one of the images in the catalog," I say as if it is of no concern to me. "He says the old title is a lie," I add.
"Which one?" I can tell she's doing something else while she is talking to me.
"'Ascension,'" I say, "which should be Ascension, parentheses," I glare at Turkish, "In My Mother's Bathroom."
"Which one is that?" she asks, annoyance entering her tone. Whatever she's doing, it's a hell of a lot more fun than what's happening in her gallery.
"The one with the dog," I reply as I drum my fingers on the desk.
"It's not about the dog," Turkish hisses at me, "how can you even say that? Why do you even work here?"
I shrug helplessly. God, I don't even know.
"Yeah, I already sold one of those," Melissa notes, sounding a bit more cheerful. "I guess we should call the buyer and tell him it has a new title."
"No," I say in my snarkiest voice, "not a title, a True Name." I look up to see if my cutting remark has hit home, but Turkish is just nodding like an idiot. I guess he's immune to sarcasm. Too bad, it is my best weapon.
"Don't start that shit with me, James," snaps my boss, who does not share the photographer's inoculation against my charms. "I don't need it right now. Look, tell Turkish we can't reprint the catalog, but we'll paste over the title when they get here."
By 'we' she means me.
"But there are, like, two thousand copies," I grumble pathetically. Turkish isn't totally unaware of social cues, though, because the smirk on his face tells me he knows he's won this one. Poseur asshole.
"What is going to take longer, relabeling the print or talking about it with Turkish?" she asks like a mother trying to break up a fight between siblings. God though, she is so right.
"Fine," I growl, "I'll make labels when they get here."
"Yes, you will," she says curtly. "Now get off the phone, I'm busy."
"Thanks," I say, "appreciated." I give Turkish a wide and completely insincere smile. "Great news," I chime, "I think we have an idea that will work out for all of us." Have I mentioned how much I hate this guy?