Martin had told me three months earlier, over lunch at a corner sports bar, that his bank account was a little stretched. It was Friday, and I dared to order a pint of cool and delicious amber ale – assuming Martin would take my lead and indulge as well.
“Eh, going out to lunch is already pushing it,” he sighed, dipping the third and final section of his crispy fry into a depleting pool of BBQ sauce, “I can’t throw a 5 dollar beer on top of it.”
“It will just have to be on me,” I said as I flagged down our server and ordered Martin an amber as well. “It’s Friday!”
He talked about how his grad school loans were painful to pay each month, and how his landlord has recently raised his rent. I listened, but only half-way, feeling bored by the conversation I had shared with each and every 25-35 year old I knew. We enjoyed our cold one and went back to our favorite conversation topic – how much work sucks, how we don’t make enough money, how boring it is to sit in a cube from day to day.
“We should have gone to art school,” I suggested, “Computer Science seemed like the right idea at the time, but that’s just because I was unpopular in high school. It’s really not worth the boredom.”
“I know. When I was 17 I thought that being able to calculate angles and distances in my head meant I was like some kind of super computer. I thought that I was going to be writing video game code or working for the Pentagon. Not writing code for some software company. Man, I’d do anything to get a cooler job.”
We cheersed the final swallow of our beers to the sad and distant idea of having a super cool job, grabbed our colorless suitcoats from the backs of our chairs and exited the restaurant. It wasn’t until about a week later when he started acting funny.
“Remember when we were at Hemmingway’s? And we were bitching about work, and you said that we should have gone to art school?” he asked me one afternoon in front of the tiny kitchen fridge as he cracked open a Diet Coke.
“Yeah, that would have been awesome.”
“Are you good at art? I mean, have you studied art?”
“I took a couple of electives in undergrad – just an Art history and an Intro to the Nakeds or the Classics, or something. But I don’t remember shit about it; accept that Leonardo Da Vinci was gay.”
“Gay? Really? Huh. I guess that explains the Vitruvian Man.” Martin deadpanned.
“Never mind,” he laughed, “you don’t remember shit, do you?”
“No Hablar espanol either.” I said, “If it wasn’t in my major I just tried not to sink, you know? The art stuff was cool, though. I maybe should have paid more attention. What’s your interest?”
“Oh, about the art? No big interest, I was just reading some stuff about an international art auction in New York. Wondering how much that stuff goes for.”
"I don't really know anything about it,"I said,"but I feel like everytime there's an auction like that the numbers are just crazy - millions of dollars for some painting of flowers or of some ballet dancer or something. Money that I can't imagine spending on a home, let alone a 10X10 canvas to hang on a wall!"
"Yeah. Millions. That much money only exists in suitcases handcuffed to the arms of bad guys in the movies, right?" Martin's eyes drifted off to the floor. "That's why people steal art. Millions of dollars for some little picture. Millions."
---To Be Continued---