THE KISS

Charlotte Cane

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𝕀𝕥 𝕨𝕠𝕦𝕝𝕕 𝕓𝕖 𝕨𝕣𝕠𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕠 𝕣𝕖𝕗𝕦𝕤𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕗𝕒𝕔𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕗𝕒𝕔𝕥 𝕥𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕚𝕤 𝕗𝕦𝕟𝕕𝕒𝕞𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕒𝕝𝕝𝕪 𝕤𝕚𝕔𝕜 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕤𝕒𝕕. – 𝕋𝕙𝕠𝕞𝕒𝕤 𝔹𝕖𝕣𝕟𝕙𝕒𝕣𝕕

“This painting we see here now is called The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.” My teacher, Mr. Dean excitedly said, his smile growing.

I fidgeted at my desk and tapped my pen against my notebook.

“We examined some of the other paintings from the Art nouveau Era, and this painting was known to have been made just around the height of that era at a period known as the Golden Time.” His eyes were sunken into the painting projected on the class board. With every passing second, his smile kept growing and his eyes kept ballooning with joy as he intoxicated himself with the beauty of the painting. I’ve never seen a person so passionate about art the way my art teacher is.

“You all can see here that Gustav used a variety of mixed mediums.” He stood up from his seat to stand next to the board. Using the ruler from his desk, he pointed to the painting of the couple on the school projector. “The background is painted with oil paints while the young couple who are the centerpiece focus of the painting, were made with a mixture of paints and gold foil.”

An array of colors and shapes was brightly reflected on the mashed and tangled couple that were hugging each other closely in a background of muted colors. Everything in the painting focused on the couple in the center of the painting. The dazzling golds and yellows on their abstractly constructed bodies took over the painting, and pulled your eyes to focus on their faces of harmony. They didn’t look happy or sad, rather just… neutral. As if they found some neutral common ground of pure blessed serenity.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.

It’s really an interesting piece. But? The way the man was embracing the woman, and the way he was kissing her, felt unnatural to me. Something about the painting was off-putting. It felt like I was looking at a scene of intimacy, a scene I wasn’t supposed to see.

“Gustav painted this around 1907 to 1908.” He said.

I glanced away from the painting.

It’s unnatural.

I sighed towards my notebook. Gripping my pencil, I forced myself to scribble down the information outburst Mr. Dean was giving.

“It’s a fascinating piece. Many Art scholars believe that this painting symbolizes more than just love——but oh, hold on.” Mr. Dean paused and faced the classroom. “Before we get into anything technical does anybody know what this painting was called originally?”

After only seconds of not hearing an answer and not waiting for one, Mr. Dean continued talking enthralled. “It was called Dur Kuss, because Gustav was actually Austrian. Now the interesting thing about this painting is that modern scholars are squabbling their heads about what this painting symbolizes. Now, before I pop the answer, does anybody want to guess?”

I could feel his eyes probing the room so immediately I hunched downwards.

“No? Anybody?” He watched us. “Let’s see, ” he paused. “Charlotte? You want to guess?”

The moment I registered my name, I felt myself dying inside. Slowly, I glanced up, terror and fear grabbing me by the throat, and for a second I couldn’t breathe. “Um.” I could barely squeak out the words. “I’m sorry…I…not sure.”

“Oh, come on, just guess.” He threw up his hands and shrugged. “You don’t have an A in this class for nothing right, Charlotte?”

Heat swarmed into my face as I could feel all 24 of my classmate’s eyes on me. “Is it—.” I gulped, squeaking in a low whisper with eyes against the ground. “Is it…supposed to symbolize some deep unnerving intimacy?”

“Hmm.” Mr. Dean peered at me. “Deep, unnerving intimacy?” he questioned, puzzled.

I was wrong, and I said that out loud to the entire class.

“So fucking dumb.” I could hear snickering and mumbling voices in the background.

I gripped my hands. I should have just stayed quiet.

“Hey!” Mr. Dean firmly spoke up, glaring at the classroom. “Who’s talking back there?” He quelled the noises with another glare.

I’m so stupid.

“Charlotte.” He stared at me. “I think that’s a really good answer. In fact, if there’s one thing you should all remember from my class, is—.” He turned his sight to the classroom. “Art is subjective. There are no wrong or right answers in art. Just like there are no wrong or right answers to life.” He sat his ruler on his desk. “A lot of people think that this painting symbolizes the esoteric divine beauty of love, but let’s talk about Charlotte’s answer.” He turned his back on the class to stare at the projected painting. “Unnerving intimacy.”

Tap!

Something light hit the back of my head.

Tap!

This time, as I watched it fall to the ground, I could determine what hit me again was a wad of crumbled paper.

Tap!

I’m so stupid.

My frown grew. Stupid.

I shifted in my desk and stared at the crumbled piece of paper on the floor. I looked towards the back of the classroom where Megan was sitting. She gave me a small smile before her eyes focused on the crumbled paper. Turning back around, I leaned down and picked up the paper. Unfolding the paper, my eyes eagerly began to read.

‘Meet us after school.’

I read words over and over.

‘Meet us after school’

‘MEET US AFTERSCHOOL’

I gulped, feeling my throat shrivel and all the moisture dry out like a desert. I cut my eyes behind me. A few seats behind me, Megan sat crossed legged, blonde hair shimmering and makeup flawlessly done. In her ocean blue eyes, she locked sight onto me with a wide picture perfect smile.

Nausea flooded my stomach.

“Unnerving intimacy.” Mr. Dean continued on. “When we look at this painting, and this couple, they are indeed being intimate. I mean, it’s a scene of them kissing and embracing. They’re holding and watching each other. They see no one else but each other. But let me ask you all this.” He turned to face the classroom. “Who’s watching the lovers?”

My mouth fills with bile. I feel as if my breakfast is going to crawl out from my dry, aching throat.

“Or better yet, are we supposed to see this scene of intimacy? What if—-?” The bell rang, slicing into Mr. Dean’s sentence.

I bounced up from my seat and grabbed my backpack. All the contents of my stomach were forcing their way upwards.

“Okay, now don’t forget your homework, everyone! Ugh, high schoolers.” Mr. Dean sighed, muttering the last of his words under his breath as people rushed and crammed out his classroom doors.

Sick, I feel utterly sick.

I speeded towards the exit, ready to run until sharp nails halted me in place, digging into my arm.

“Charlotte?” Megan gripped my arm. “Afterschool, alright?” The ends of her lips curled upward.

“Yes.” I forced a taught smile to the surface.

“Better not forget.” She gave me a soft pat on the arm and a raising of her smirk before she released me.

I nodded, eager to dart down the school halls, but almost immediately, the moment I moved, I tripped over Megan’s foot and went plummeting down.

THUD.

My face smashed into the school’s bone snapping concrete floors. Pain flushed into my face, as I could feel every excruciating pang and sting carve itself into me.

“Miss Cane?” I could hear Mr. Dean’s worried voice travel from his desk to the classroom door. “Are you alright?” His feet scurried over to me and helped me up from the ground.

“Y-Yes.” I wearily nodded, a shooting pain pounding in my face. “I-I’m fine,” I quietly stuttered. “I’m fine. I’m sorry to worry either of you—.” I could feel the words in my throat die out as I glanced at Megan.

She was still smiling. Happily smiling.

“Charlotte?” Mr. Dean spoke to me. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I—.” Megan interrupted me.

“Yeah, she’s fine.” Megan grinned at Mr. Dean. “Don’t worry, Nathan, sometimes Charlotte is a little clumsy. She’ll be fine like she always is, right Char?”

Pain burned inside my rapidly beating chest. “…Sorry, yeah.” I glued my eyes to the floor.

“So?” Megan closed in the distance between her and Mr. Dean. “Nathan,” she sang, “Did you look over my art assignment yet?”

“No, not yet, and it’s Mr. Dean, Ms. Warren now uh—-.” I could feel Mr. Dean’s eyes land on me. “Ms. Cane, are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m—.” I stopped, a gush of fresh blood spilled from my nose. I quickly blocked my bleeding nose. “Sorry, I’m fine.”

Without another word, I ran from them, moving my legs as fast as they would carry among a crowded hallway of taller, larger bodies hurrying to their next destination. I made a direct pathway to the bathroom and ran inside.

I want to throw up.

I pushed my unsteady, desperate feet to the bathroom sink.

I want to stop the banging in my ribcage.

I gripped the edges of the porcelain sink and hunched over.

I want to stop the fire in my face.

My eyes locked on the rusted stains on porcelain white sink before my sight fell into the darkness of the sink drainage tunnel.

I want to stop.

My chest heaved in and out rapidly, while I struggled to find my breath. It felt impossible to calm the tornado of emotions drowning me. I wanted to retch, but nothing came out. I couldn’t even manage to gag. I could only feel my dry mouth tangle and my lungs work to exhaustion while my mind spun. My struggle for oxygen and peace seemed so futile that to any bystander I must’ve looked like a dying fish gasping for water. Even if I didn’t look like that, I sure felt like it.

I don’t understand why Megan does these things to me. I don’t want to believe she wants to hurt me, but I can’t help it. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel, or what I’m supposed to do.

I don’t like these feelings. I don’t need these feelings. I. Don’t. Want. These. Feelings.

Tears swelled in my eyes.

I shouldn’t cry here, and I shouldn’t be so emotional. Mother used to always say powerful feelings of anything aren’t good because they lead to sins.

With a sniffle, I raised my head slightly to brush back curls of hair from my face. I stared into the bathroom mirror with a tight frown; disgusting.

Quickly, I pulled my eyes away from the mirror, catching sight of something in the mirror’s periphery.

“Huh?” I felt gripped to my core. “W-why are you here?”

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