Socially Unacceptable Post 39: Art Fair

Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.

— Stella Adler

In a rare deviance from our typical hermit habits, Marie and I decided to go to an art fair not far from home. I wore my new crocs that my parents had sent me. Despite having no real connection to most physical objects, I do tend to become obsessed with one thing or another for no apparent reason. Funko pops, for instance. I probably have fifty of those. Though depending on my mood I either feel like their eyes are adorable or soulless. Crocs too, though I don’t have many of them. I wore crocs almost every single day at college. I wore them so much that I often forgot that they were not formal, so I would wear a dress or pretty clothes and my muddy crocs. Don’t tell my mother.

The last time I went to an art fair it was at Jennings, an environmental park in Pennsylvania. I went with my cousin Alice and my grandparents. I admired the knives. I wanted to buy one but I knew that my parents wouldn’t let me. I was over 18 but they didn’t want us to have real weapons. Or even pocketknives. I pushed the desire to buy one down and chatted cheerfully with Alice about martial arts.

I looked at the purses and admired the embroidery. I wanted one. I looked at the price tag. No, no. I wouldn’t be able to justify a purchase like that for myself. I walked away.

I saw journals embossed with dragon scales and touched them gently. Beautiful. $20. I had far more than that in my pocket. The vendor started to approach me and I jerked my hand back and walked away. No, no. Can’t spend money on myself. Selfish.

After about an hour, I found a tiny turtle made of stone. $3. I stared at it, touched it. It was cool. “Do you want that?” my grandmother asked. I couldn’t answer.

“I’ll buy it for you,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I don’t need it.”

“If you like it…”

“I’ll buy it myself,” I decided. I regretted that decision as soon as I handed over the money. I held the tiny turtle in my hand, tracing its shell. Guilt settled into me, pressing into my mind. I’d broken the rules. I’d spent money on myself, for something of no practical value. My mother asked if I bought anything and I mutely showed her the turtle. I didn’t hear what she said over the sound of my voices, which berated me for making a frivolous purchase.

Anyway, I went to the Florida art fair with Marie, holding her hand on the way. When I went into the enclosure I was immediately hit by the emotions of the vendors and the few wandering customers. The lady next to the entrance exuded exhaustion. We stopped there and she chatted with us. I stood in silence while Marie put on her social mask, much more cheerful and energetic than her usual voice. Her smiles were all wrong and her laughter was controlled. It was not that she was not cheerful at all, just that all of her actions and words were regulated for social convention.

I guess my mask wasn’t working. It had been a month since I had spoken to a stranger in person. I let her talk while I admired a pair of earrings. The top part was the inside of a shell, and the bottom part was a three-tiered green tassel. I looked at the price tag, saw $20, and pushed down the want. I didn’t have an income. I didn’t deserve it.

We wandered around the rest of the fair, admiring pottery, earrings, purses, notecards. We finished looking at all the art and Marie turned to me. “Anything you want?”

I looked at the ground and muttered something vague about the shell earrings, forcing the words out. I felt the immediate urge to hide. Marie strode back to the first table and purchased the earrings I had been admiring earlier.

She handed them to me and I stared at them, mumbling thank you. When we got home she helped me put them on. They were pretty. I liked them. I had wanted them.

I waited for the usual guilt to settle in, but a quiet happiness did instead. A gift from my fiancée. Beautiful earrings, from my Marie.

Post 39 in Socially Unacceptable: The Daily Life of a Queer Schizophrenic Wreck (2022)

This is an autobiographical series about my life, something I have wanted to do for a long time. I intend to add new content daily.

For the whole series, follow this link.

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