The atrium was supposed to air out quickly, but he could still smell fresh construction, new paint and sawdust. It was opening day and he watched her from his post. She filled a napkin with free cheese and crackers and wandered around with a sketchbook in hand. She climbed up on one of the benches, faced the water, and began to draw. A few coils of wild black hair escaped from under her wool hat and her worn boots left dusty prints on the leather seat.
“You can’t stand on the benches.”
She didn’t respond, so he moved closer.
“What are you doing?”
“Planning a painting. To go there.” She pointed at a large empty space on the wall.
“You’re the commissioned artist?”
“No. But once it’s finished, you won’t be able to say no.”
“Not up to me.”
“Look at the windows. They frame hundreds of small scenes.” She hopped off the bench, grabbed his face, and turned his head towards the honeycomb facade. “Like rigid palisade cells elongated beneath a glassy membrane. Each one captures a different bit of light.”
“Mikael,” another guard called over. “Everything okay?”
“Under control,” he answered without pulling away.
She released her grip and disappeared out the front door of the concert hall and into the street.
She visited one hundred days in a row. He started counting after a week and knew from the water cooler gossip that others had also noticed her routine. The first day she didn’t show up, he worried. He had watched her come from the temporary housing across the street. Was she not staying there anymore? Did something happen? What would she think if he stopped by after shift to check up on her?
An hour after closing she appeared outside and knocked on the glass until he walked over to the door.
He was relieved she was okay. “We’re closed.”
“Got something to show you.” She was holding a long tube.
She pulled out a rolled-up canvas and spread it across the floor revealing a huge mosaic of acrylic harbour images stitched together mimicking the building’s tessellation of windows.
“Come here.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs to the second floor balcony.
They leaned over the railing and looked down at the giant compilation of painted contrasts. Sinuous clouds and summer sails juxtaposed against iridescent aurora and hibernating vessels docked for winter. Distant foliage transitioned from jade to rusty, and gave way to the underlying bronze and pewter bedrock. The scenes showed changing seasons overprinted with faint reflections of the building interior.
“This is what you’ve been doing?”
“It’s called One Hundred Mornings.”
His gaze stalled on a ghost of his likeness she had painted into the mosaic. Bold, uncompromising cheekbones offset by the gentle informality of his five o’clock shadow.
“You painted me?”
“Could we hang it?” she ignored his question. “Would you get into trouble?”
“No one else is here,” he smiled. “We have all night.”
© SF Jones, 2015