When I wake up the next morning my head hurts like hell.
Ugh. I used to be able to guzzle a whole bottle back in high school, but those days are long gone.
I roll over to look at the clock and see that it’s almost ten. Rose is still sprawled out next to me. When you’ve been dating as long as we have, sleeping together is more about comfort than wrapping your bodies around each other.
I untangle myself from the comforter and swing my legs over the bed, pulling my socks that I back on before shuffling downstairs. In the living room, I find Cameron draped over the couch, covered in a few blankets that he must have pulled from the hall closet.
I walk over and give his foot a little pat. “Hey, Cam,” I say quietly.
“Mmm,” he stirs, opening one eye and then the other. “What’s up?”
“Wake up. Let’s eat breakfast,” I tell him. “It’s getting late.”
“Is Rose awake?” he asks, sitting up.
“Nah,” I shake my head. “I’ll bring some food up to her, though.”
“Breakfast in bed? How cute,” he coos, still sounding half asleep.
He stands up and stretches, following me into the kitchen and I decide that today, I’m going all out.
Cameron sits at the kitchen table while I start gathering ingredients. I give him a tall glass of orange juice since he looks like he’s about to keel over. He mumbles thanks and starts sipping.
When the eggs are nearly done, I put toast in the oven. “You’d better be able to eat this,” I say, getting plates ready.
“I will,” he huffs.
Yeah. We’ll see.
Once the food’s all dished up, I hand Cameron two more glasses of orange juice and we head for the stairs. On the way up, we run into my roommate Megan who looks tired and disheveled.
“Mornin’!” she says quickly, breezing past us.
Megan isn’t super talkative, but that’s okay because I’m not home very often. She can be pretty uptight, though. Still,I will credit her with the fact that I know how to clean up after myself now. When I first moved in here she annoyed me with her nagging, but over the years I’ve adjusted. Rose always does say she’s thankful I learned how to do the dishes.
Upstairs, we turn into my room. By now, Rose is sitting up. She looks like she’s barely awake. She’s not a morning person, even with her nine to five job.
“Good morning!” I sing-song.
“G’morning,” she echoes with a lot less enthusiasm.
She looks at the food in my hands. “You look like a little waiter. What’s all this?”
“I made breakfast. Hopefully some food will help wake you up.”
“Aw,” she says sweetly, perking up. “Thank you. It smells so good.”
I hand her a plate and Cameron hands her a glass of orange juice. He sits at my desk and I set another plate down in front of him before grabbing one of the glasses. Then I plop down on the edge of my bed with Rose.
"What do you have to do today?" she asks me, mouth half-full of eggs. "We can hang out if you're free."
Rose is always free on weekends. One of the perks of having an office job. When she's done for the day, she’s actually done. She gets to stop thinking about work.
"There are some projects I have to finish," I admit. "Flores keeps assigning all these crappy, little paintings for that abstraction class. You know, that one I told you about before? I swear, I can't fucking wait until I graduate."
"Aw," she coos. "Almost there. Only a few more months."
"Not soon enough.”
It feels like forever.
"I can get out of your hair in a bit," Rose says.
"You can stick around if you wanna watch me paint, but it probably won't be too exciting,” I offer.
She looks thoughtful. "Hm, maybe! I’m not busy..."
"I'm probably going to use the studio at school," Cameron pipes in. "Let’s go together."
"Yeah that might be a good idea," I say. "We'll see."
It depends on if I feel like leaving the house today. I’m pretty messed up from last night. I know Cameron is too, though he's trying to play it cool.
When we finish eating, I gather up plates. Cameron really only managed to pick his apart, which kind of bugs me, but whatever. I stack the dishes and carry them downstairs, rinsing them in the sink before loading the dishwasher. I head back to my room and Rose tells me that she’s going to shower, but that afterward she’ll drive us all to campus and hang out for a while.
I try to look around for something to wear that’s clean, rifling through the pile of clothes on my closet floor. I fish out a black turtleneck and slip it on without bothering to find a bra, followed by a flannel that I button all the way up. After pulling on two pairs of leggings and jeans, I complete my winter look with a beanie that I use to pull all the loose curls out of my face.
When I plop down on my bed to stuff my feet into my boots, Cameron looks me up and down and says, “Wow. Cute.”
“Shut up! I don’t want to be cold.”
He narrows his eyes at me. “All right, fair.”
“You gonna bother changing?” I ask, tying up my laces.
“Can I keep these on?” he gestures at the pants I let him sleep in.
I nod. “Yeah, they’re probably warmer than your jeans. Just give them back to me whenever.”
“Will do,” he says, tucking the pants into his socks.
He’s lucky we’re the same size. He’s also lucky I shop in the guy’s section.
Soon enough, Rose reappears. Her hair is damp and she’s towel drying it. She’s changed into the clothes she was wearing when she came to pick me and Cameron up last night.
“Everyone set?” she asks.
“Pretty much,” I say.
We all head downstairs and grab our jackets, trekking out to Rose’s car. We pile in, waiting a few minutes for the ice to thaw off of the windshield before backing out onto the street.
“I’ll probably only stick around for a few hours,” Rose says as we roll to a stop at a red light near campus. “I still have a couple of errands I have to run today. I hope that’s okay.”
“No problem,” I say. “It’s nice of you to hang out at all. It’ll probably be pretty boring.”
“Nah,” she disagrees. “I like seeing what you’re working on!”
“Avery’s work for this class is so wonky looking,” Cameron cuts in with a laugh. “It doesn’t look like her usual shit at all. It’s weird as hell.”
“Cool. Thanks,” I roll my eyes, trying not to get offended.
“Cameron…” Rose says hesitantly.
“It’s fine,” I interrupt her. “I mean, he’s right. It’s terrible.”
“I doubt it’s terrible,” Rose reasons, sounding all soft and sweet.
She always gets this tone when I trash-talk myself.
“Shows what you know,” Cameron teases.
“Cam, shut the fuck up,” I say bluntly.
He laughs to himself but doesn’t say anything else.
Rose is so encouraging. Sometimes I wonder if she’d even be honest about hating my art. I feel like she just likes it because it’s mine.
After a few tense minutes, we pull into the parking lot that’s closest to the building with all the painting studios and classrooms.
“I have to grab some of my crap from the metal shop,” Cameron says as Rose locks the car behind us. “I’ll meet you guys over there in a few minutes though, yeah?”
“Yeah, cool,” I nod, and he goes trudging off in the opposite direction.
Rose and I enter the building and head for my locker. I usually keep all my stuff in here or take it home with me. I just don’t trust that people won’t steal my paints out of the classroom and that shit is expensive. I undo the padlock and pull out my brush case along with a few tubes of oil paint.
With that, we head down to the studio, and as soon as we enter the room I spot a familiar mess of black hair.
I guess he has some homework, too, or maybe he's just working on a personal project. He seems like a procrastinator. He also seems kind of lazy. Mood.
“Hey, there,” I say, approaching him. “Workin’ hard?”
He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, looking to me and then Rose.
“Oh, hi… Yeah.”
“This is my girlfriend, Rose,” I say, gesturing to her. “Rose, this is one of my classmates, Rudolf.”
“Hey, nice to meet you!” Rose says sweetly.
“Likewise,” Rudolf responds in monotone.
“Are you doin’ homework?”
What a shock.
“Is this just for fun?” Rose asks, moving behind him and around his canvas.
He nods, taking the paintbrush he’s holding and resting it over one of his bottles of acrylic. He seems like the type of person who doesn’t like to work with people looking over his shoulder.
“That’s cool. Avery always says it’s hard to make time for personal stuff because the teachers are so demanding here.”
“They are,” I grumble defensively. “I have to find ways to double-dip with assignments and the shit I actually want to make because I’d never get anything done if I only focused on one.”
Rose gives me a critical look, but Rudolf agrees with me.
“I mean, she’s right,” he says, which kind of surprises me. "I hardly ever turn things in on time.”
Rose laughs. “Uh-oh. Hopefully your grades don’t suffer too much.”
He gives her a one-shoulder shrug. “I do all right.”
Okay. Time to get to work.
I turn away from the conversation and head for an empty easel. I lay out my shit and plunk down on a stool, pouring paints onto my pallet while Rose chats with Rudolf.
“So, are you from Minneapolis?”
“No,” he tells her. “I moved here from Los Angeles.”
“Oh, wow!” she says. “Do you miss it?”
“Not really. Some things...but mostly I’m glad I got away.”
“Mmm,” she nods knowingly. “I’ve never been there before, but I’ve heard people aren’t very friendly! I don’t think I could get used to that.”
“Yeah, they aren’t,” Rudolf confirms. “Are you from here then?”
“I moved here when I was little.”
“Cool,” he replies, sounding kind of lackluster. “Do you go to school here too?”
“Oh no,” she laughs. “I suck at art. I graduated from U of M two years ago. One of my friends who I went to high school with introduced Avery and I when he started here his freshman year.”
“Cameron,” I clarify, peering at Rudolf over my canvas.
“Oh, you know Cam too?” Rose asks.
“Sort of,” he shrugs. “I’ve met him like, once.”
“Oh, right on! Cameron’s pretty talented, huh? He’s always been into sculpting, for as long as I’ve known him at least.”
Rudolf nods but doesn’t say anything. Rose isn’t dissuaded though. She just keeps asking him questions.
“Do you have family here?” she asks.
“Is your family back in LA, then?”
“Don’t you miss them? It'd be so hard to move away from my family.”
“I wanted to leave,” he says. “My dad is a jerk and my mom is an idiot.”
Rose halts like she doesn’t know what to say, which must be a shock for her. She always knows what to say.
“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that,” she finally manages. “It’s good you got away then. Minnesota’s pretty welcoming, so hopefully you’re enjoying it here.”
There we go.
“Yeah,” Rudolf says. “I like it.”
Rose nods, and the door to the hall flies open, making us all jump. Cameron’s standing there, struggling with the pieces of a deconstructed metal sculpture. He must have kicked the door open.
“Uh, a little help please?” he demands.
Rose flies to his side and offers to take the part he’s balancing between his left arm and the crook of his neck. He hands them off to her indignantly, not even bothering to thank her.
“Why’d you drag all that over here?” I ask as he trudges across the room and gingerly sets down the various pieces.
“I wanted to paint the parts individually before I put it all together,” Cameron explains like I just asked the dumbest question in the world.
“Ah,” I mouth, trying not to let it bother me.
Rose struggles her way over to Cameron and sets the shit he made her carry next to the rest of his pile. As she does, Cameron spots Rudolf and gives him a little nod.
“How’s it going, Rudy?” he asks nonchalantly.
“All right,” Rudolf shrugs.
Since everybody’s done hovering, he turns back to his painting. Cameron keeps bugging him though. When he’s done setting up his sculpture crap, he heads back to Rudolf and starts examining his work. Rudolf puts his brush away again and looks like he’s waiting for Cameron to either stop and leave or say something.
“Is this for a class?” Cameron asks.
“No,” Rudolf answers. “It’s personal.”
“What’s it called?”
“I don’t know,” Rudolf says. “It doesn’t have a title. I’ve never titled anything before.”
That seems to fascinate Cameron for some unknown fucking reason.
“Why not?” he asks. “You wouldn’t just not name your kids! Besides, titles are telling and people are always looking for some sort of connection to your art. You can change how someone sees your art too based on what you name it.”
Rudolf nods slowly. “So… maybe that’s why I choose not to.”
“You’re a little secretive, huh?” Cameron says with a chuckle. “Keeping me guessing.”
“I just don’t know what to call them,” Rudolf answers, sounding like he’s being pretty honest about the whole thing, “I don’t want to force it and end up with something that sounds dumb.”
Cameron gives him a curious look. “Try it with this one,” he suggests, pointing at Rudolf’s canvas. “What does this piece mean?”
“I don’t know…”
Rudolf seems uncomfortable.
“Come on,” Cameron presses. “I won’t make fun of you.”
Ha. Sure. I can’t wait to hear Cameron break that promise later. He’s the biggest shit-talker I know.
“I really don’t know,” Rudolf insists. “I can’t explain it.”
Damn, this kid is sticking to his guns. If I were him I would have just made some shit up by now.
“Of course you do. All good art has meaning. You probably have some idea in your head, right? Something that inspired you.”
Wow, was that actually a compliment?
Rudolf looks flustered and it’s obvious as hell. It’s also awkward to watch.
So, Rose decides to insert herself into the situation. I shoot her a nervous look as she says, “Come on, Cam, he doesn’t want to talk to you about it.”
“I’m trying to help him,” Cameron says pointedly.
“Maybe he doesn’t want you to,” I chime in, smiling at Cameron and waiting for him to react. He looks annoyed, like the fact that someone could not want his ‘expertise’ would be totally impossible.
He’s so full of himself.
Cameron puts his hands up in defeat.
“Fine, whatever,” he snaps, backing away from Rudolf’s canvas.
That just makes Rudolf look even more uncomfortable, and his eyes dart back and forth between Cameron and his painting.
“It’s okay,” he blurts out. “I don’t mind having help. I mean, I don’t really know what I’m doing anyway. I just kind of make whatever crap comes to mind.”
The confession seems forced as hell, but Cameron doesn’t care. He sneers at me and cranes his neck from where he’s standing so that he can get another look at Rudolf’s work.
“You obviously have good design skills,” he comments, “but people who buy art love to hear the story behind it. That’s what makes them want to invest in you. They want something to hang in their house or gallery that they can tell a story about that makes them feel like they’re smarter than other people.”
Ugh. I hate that he thinks about art that way. It’s so fucking commercial.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rudolf says, but something tells me he probably won’t.
He shouldn’t have to. If he doesn’t want to name his work, then I support him. I see untitled pieces in galleries all the time. It’s not the end of the world. Not like Cameron seems to think.
“You should. Seriously."
“Okay,” Rudolf says. “I will. Thanks.”