Dead End

Damn.

Another dead end. Erase. Erase. Erase. Screw it.

My pencil left deep impressions on the page as I scratched out the last few factors in my equation, but it did not relieve my frustration.

Instead, I mashed the sheet of paper in my hands. I took great delight in the sound as I crumpled it into a ball. I threw it toward the trash, where it landed, just outside the can, along with two dozen of its brethren.

Head in my hands, I stared at the previous page. That sheet contained the last numbers I knew were correct. The more I stared at them, the more they all started to blur together.

You’re tired and overthinking. Mercury is also in retrograde. Ugh.

My self-imposed deadline for the NASA project loomed around the corner. Feelings of being overwhelmed weighed on me.

With the big move, Athena’s birthday party, the imminent gallery opening, and all of the family drama, I let myself get sidetracked. Too distracted. I needed to make up for it. Maybe not today, but…

I heard a soft rustle. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move.

The balls of paper from the floor rose up, bobbing around in front of my desk. They floated and moved until they were directly in front of me, where they then formed a perfect replica of the solar system…even Pluto.

Zeus stood in the doorway, arms folded across his chest. The uptilted corner of his mouth showed he was proud of his parlor trick.

“Hi, Dad.”

I plucked the makeshift planets out of the air and slid them into a desk drawer. I moved my arm to cover the last page I’d completed. NASA would have to wait.

“What are you working on?” Zeus asked.

I could not believe he cared one way or another, so I did not feel bad when I fed him a little white lie.

“Just going over figures for the gallery. I have a business plan, but it needed some tweaking.”  I slid the remaining pages of my NASA calculations into my drawer as well.

“Hmmm.”

He leaned against the door jam and ran a hand over his full beard. “Glad to see you’re settled. Is the apartment okay?”

This time, I answered honestly.

“It really is. You outdid yourself. That full-roof skylight really is amazing. I created a wonderful setup for my telescopes and other things on the little rooftop garden, and there is a neighbor’s cat who has taken a liking to me.”

He started to pace.

Great. I bored him already.

“The new exhibit is installed, and the gallery is nearly finished. Moxie created quite a nice PR buzz, and the VIP invites were sent out. We’re on track for the opening reception.”

I leaned back in my chair and watched him move through the office. Based on past experience, I knew I didn’t have much time before he’d leave.

“Mom might even make an appearance,” I added.

Zeus raised a bushy eyebrow. With him, I could not read whether that was good or bad.

My mother hooked up with him for only nine consecutive nights, but to hear her talk, their chemistry was the stuff of legends. I doubted that. I mean, obviously he did not stick around.

“If you want to take a look at the gallery, I can take you over,” I offered, irritated with the hopeful note in my tone.

“I’ve got a key,” he said. He walked to the door and then paused as if he wanted to say something. “Get back to it,” then he left.

It felt as if he took all of the room’s air with him.

He was a master at that.

Stunned by the odd visit, I slumped in my chair and analyzed every second of the brief exchange. That was something I usually did when interacting with my father. I could never figure him out.

Another dead end.

Infuriating.

I pushed my chair back, locked my desk and my office (vowing to change all of the locks ASAP), and made my way to the gallery for a little art therapy.

The door to the gallery hung open a few inches. A small part of me wondered if Dad had decided to see it for himself.

As I crossed the threshold, the smell of new paint on the walls made everything feel fresh, in spite of the aging family portraits I’d acquired over the eras. A mix of newness and history curated in one spot.

My complete collection was nowhere near as expansive as Mom’s, but then again, I was also not as prolific in my pursuit of artistic lovers. That’s not my gig. Through the years, I met several up-and-coming artists and made a few key purchases that most of my family didn’t even know about, but I did not sleep with artists to gain pieces for my collection.

That made me think of Basquiat. I missed him. I was one of his earliest and most silent patrons. For a time, we were close friends. I avoided the drugs and his party life, but enjoyed the limited time we spent together.

Then there was that odd little soup-can man who edged his way in and took my place as Jean-Michel’s confidant. What was his name? Harwhal? Warhole?

Bygones.

The sound of footsteps interrupted my trip down memory lane. I stepped toward the new exhibit, half-expecting to see Zeus behind the partial wall, but instead came within millimeters of colliding with Adrian Savas. Not that I would have minded a little bump into Adrian. Being that close to him caused my second breathless moment of the day.

The man is a stunner. I am 100% sure that Hephaestus would love to sculpt this guy’s likeness if he hasn’t already. Who knows what Heph has been up to.

Adrian is an epitome of the perfect male model, and a Greek god in his own right. Chiseled jaw, high cheekbones, dark eyes, and full beautiful lips.I’m sure he also has a body to die for, even though it is hidden under baggy, paint-covered clothes. Physical talents hidden behind a canvas. What a waste.

I can only imagine how the other goddesses will react once they set their eyes on him. It will be a feeding frenzy, with me sitting back to watch the battle. I’m not up to competing with the others. What would I do? Seduce him with my awkwardness?

I giggled in spite of myself.

Adrian looked as surprised as I felt.

“Did I bump your funny bone?” he asked, putting a hand on my elbow to steady me.

“Oh. No,” I replied. “Sorry. I was lost in thought.”

I inhaled the scent of him before stepping back. He smelled like linseed oil, soap, and just a faint hint of cologne. Delicious.

He ran a hand through his hair and looked beyond me to the door, as if he expected someone to walk in at any moment.

“Was my father just in here?” I asked.  “Tall guy. Beard. Expensive suit.”

“No. No one is here but me,” he said.

“Why are you here?” I asked, my forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Did we need to make changes?”

I worried that I’d missed something.

“Uh. No.” He looked beyond me again. “I just wanted to double check my list and make sure I was set.”

“What’s on your list? Is there anything I missed?”

He looked down at his empty hands, as if he hoped a list would magically appear. He raised his broad shoulders in a shrug. We’d only had a few in-person interactions before, but he seemed a bit off.

Maybe nerves.

“No,” he said. “Everything is fine.” He glanced at the door one more time.

“Whew.”

I smiled and waited for him to say something. He didn’t.

“I can walk out with you,” I said.

“Oh. Okay.”

He hesitated. I turned toward the door. Now I was looking at it expectantly.

He gave me a half smile, put his hands in his pockets, and started to leave.

Weird.

“Let me know if you do think of something you need,” I said as we crossed out of the gallery. I pulled the door shut behind us.

“Okay.” He smiled again, although it did not make it to his eyes. Beneath his tan, he seemed to pale.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

He paused before answering. “Sure.”

I leaned past him and pressed the button for the elevator.

He rocked on his heels and exhaled.

We stood in silence as we waited for the elevator. It felt like forever.

The chime alerted us to its arrival and the golden doors slid open with a heavenly whoosh. Each time it opened on my floor, it smelled like cotton candy. Everything in the OA building was magical.

Adrian lingered for a moment and then stepped into the car.

“See you soon,” I said.

“Soon,” he replied, pressing his back against the wall. He crossed his arms and drummed his fingers against his elbows.

The doors closed.

So strange.

No more distractions. I scolded myself.

Back to the dead end. The solvable one.

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Urania (Kimberlee Gerstmann)

Urania (Kimberlee Gerstmann)

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Urania is portrayed by the author, Kimberlee Gerstmann, who is finally working her way out of a serious post-MFA slump. When she’s not writing, taking care of her menagerie (and/or extended family), she’s railing against injustice, and advocating for/teaching art to children. | Original God (OG) - Charter member of All in the Pantheon | #WritingCommunity
Urania (Kimberlee Gerstmann)

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