She sits in a small, Venetian plaza outside of a small, easily passed-by cathedral snuggled in amongst the many larger, unmissable ones. The stool is hard on her bottom, the sun hot on her head. Worse, she is hungry. Not just now hungry, but days hungry. Weeks hungry even, so that her clothes hang loosely over skin drawn tight. It is all, really, that is left of her, hunger; hunger for success, hunger for a companionship which wouldn’t destroy any chance for that success, and the constantly gnawing hunger for food.
Hers in not the busiest plaza, but as with most any other via in Venetia there is a somewhat steady stream of tourists along this one.
And one has stopped. He is looking at her favorite, “The Bridge.” It is so much her favorite that she has only recently begun to bring it with her to show, hoping she might keep it while “living” on the lesser ones, but what she is doing could hardly be called living. If she doesn’t sell something soon then there will be no apartment to return to at the end of the day, and so nowhere to leave it behind, so common sense finally told her that she must offer someone else the opportunity to enjoy it.
It has been a minute, and he is still looking. She is growing uncomfortably anxious, though she tries her best to hide the signs. It is never easy to have a stranger critique your canvassed passions, even silently… especially silently. He does not appear to have the money for such a painting, but he is obviously American. She is told this by his clothes, which are nice enough, but have an odd, frumpy style which is definitely not European. With Americans it is impossible to tell about money. She once dated an American while at university, and one would have never guessed that Kenneth had money, nor where it came from, but he always did. She should have stayed with him, but he had demanded time that she could not give him, just like the others. It wasn’t that she hadn’t loved him, it was just that she loved her art more. Why is it that two loves must always collide?
Despite her reservations she steps from her stool, wandering closer while trying to appear disinterested in his interest, straightening “Il Leone” on it’s easel as she goes, the gnawing in her stomach ever present. Closer, she sees that he is handsome, but his eyes are only for the painting. She thinks to herself that she could take a lover… for a while… one who would feed her. A “patron” might be nice. Some handsome, rich, older friend to make love to her, and to offer her endowments, and to endorse her work to his or her friends?
“It is not the Bridge of Sighs?”
“No.” She answers quickly. Too quickly? Too desperately?
“Every painting of a bridge elsewhere that I see is The Bridge of Sighs.”
”Si. That one sells to tourists.” Her Italian accent is heavy. He is forced to lean towards her to better understand. “I do not paint for tourists." She is not meaning to sound condescending as she says this, but it still sounds a bit so. "I create art.”
”Ah. I see.”
His surety is offensive to her, though she could not have explained why. He is just another stupid-fucking American. What did he know of her? Or of art?
”It has no price," he wonders aloud. "The others are all priced?”
In her anger she had nearly forgotten her hunger… nearly. “It is new. I have not set a price.”
He smiles. "There is a date beneath the artist’s signature. It is not new.”
Fucking Americans, believing they know everything. “It is newly offered for sale.”
”It is a favorite then? Possibly even sentimental? What price would you put on it, were you to price it?”
She did not want him to have it. It was too good for him. “You could not afford it.”
”I paid €26,000 for The Spanish Steps yesterday.”
The heart in her chest stopped its beating. €26’000! What she could do with €26,000!
She did not want to undersell, but too high could be deadly, he might just walk away. Bianca could not afford to let this one walk.
”Well then, you are in luck! This one is only €20,000.” Her conscious screamed at her even as the words flooded out of her mouth, “NO! That is too much!“ But it was done.
He did not run away, as she half expected him to, but pushed his hands down deeper into the pockets of his khaki slacks as he contemplated her price.
”I don’t think so,” he finally replied. “I am looking for The Bridge of Sighs.”
The hungry voice in her head screams at her, "stupid, stupid, stupid!"
Panicking, she counter-offers, her voice weak with desperation, “I might let it go for €17,500?”
He shakes his head. “No. I want The Bridge of Sighs.”
“It is a stupid tourist site.” It was her way of calling him a stupid tourist.
”It is historic, and famous, and besides, an artist should give people what they want.”
”Then she is no longer an artist.” There was venom in her voice. “Then she is a sell-out!”
The stupid American actually smiled at her anger, pissing her off even more. “So now I am a capitalist pig, huh? Well, none of your other paintings has more than €3,000, and you are trying to gouge me for €20,000, so maybe I am a capitalist pig, but I am also the one with the money, and I know what it is I want.”
With that he turns. As he walks away the gnawing in her stomach spreads to her throat, and her cheeks, and her ears. He knows what he wants, and what he wants is not her. “Fuck you!” She roars as he fades into the tourist throng.
The stool remains hard on her bottom, the sun remains hot on her head, the gnawing in her belly remains unchanged. From where she sits The Bridge looks back at her from its easel, shaming her. It is pretty, but certainly no masterpiece.
Perhaps tomorrow she should paint that other bridge...