It was the day of the big reveal. Tiffany locked the door as she walked into the gallery. It’s a different feeling having the whole place to yourself , just you and your work. She saw her soul here , a portion of it at least, laid out for the world to see. It was weird to her how one’s soul can live outside of their conscience.
The first picture was when she was 17 and had her first kiss. She was gleaming, her smile spread cheek to cheek. The summer camp they were at could be seen in the background, and the low quality of the photo taken on her friend’s phone was obvious through the noise all over. She remembered the thrill of the kiss, and then the immediate confusion that followed. What was going on, she had asked herself. I never knew he liked me… but he is kinda cute. They had stopped once she realized her friends were giggling by the side. They simply walked away and went somewhere else to continue the snog. Whatever happened to him, she thought. They never saw each other past that summer camp.
It didn’t really matter all that much. Her mom had told her before “Your first kiss will be the most magical thing in the world.” She didn’t think so. Every subsequent kiss with Rick had only gotten more magical, and he was definitely not her first kiss. She looked back at the picture again, and smiled at the innocence of her youth.
She walked a couple of pictures down and stopped at a small one. It was a postcard she had written to her best friend that got bounced back. He had decided to travel to Europe and had invited her along. She remembered the day at the airport, giving him his farewell hug. “You sure you don’t want to do this? This small town isn’t big enough for our dreams” he had said. I’m not sure if that life’s for me, she had replied. That was the last she saw of him. They had exchanged postcards for a year, his stories of adventures in the Greek Isles and Swiss Alps and her stories of getting her first job and learning to cook. Her adventures were no less worthwhile, but he was right. Her first job taught her that she was too full of ideas to be locked behind a desk. She sent him the final postcard, asking to join him, if only for a month or so. It never reached him, and she never found out why. Where are you Buzz, she muttered to the postcard. Come back soon, I miss you. Bring the adventure here. She imagined him sitting in a villa in the Croatian countryside , with a beautiful wife and a backyard of opportunity . He’s probably happy wherever he is, she thought.
It was 15 minutes to opening time. She took another lap around the gallery, making sure everything was in place. She smiled at some of her photos, laughed at others. As she neared the middle of the route, she stopped at a portrait that had been drawn of her. Her face was long, her brows furious and her lips curt. This happened 10 years ago and yet so much has changed , she saw. She had been dating Rick for a year, and things were starting to get serious. ‘I’m going to break up with him’ she told Amy, her sister. ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready to be this serious’ she had insisted.
‘Let’s hit the pause button’ she said. ‘We decide our lives, and it’s seems like at this point, you need to know more about yourself before you make any more decisions’
‘Alright’ she said, thinking of Morty and his Croatian villa. They took a year to travel around Asia. From fighting pythons in the jungles to waking up in the middle of the Mekong, her world was changed. It was after the first month, on the streets of Bombay that she had made her first call to give up. Amy had looked at her straight in the eye and said ‘We can go back right now, but let me ask you something first. Have you answered your question?’
She had known the answer wasn’t true. That was when Amy drew the first portrait of her. Every month since, Amy would sit her down and sketch her look. The gallery had them laid out in sequence. As Tiffany continued walking down, she found the one that excited her the most. For the first time, on the last portrait, she had smiled profusely. It looked better than her smile of innocence at the beginning of the gallery. This was confident, proud in fact. You could see a sparkle in her eye, she was happy regardless of the situation. She had just traversed the Three Gorges in China and was overlooking the Bund in Shanghai. She looked back at Amy and smiled. “Hold that” she had said, and took a picture of her that she proceeded to copy into sketch.
“I know the answer now” Tiffany said. I know what this life means for me.
The last picture in they gallery showed Tiffany finally sitting on a bench in Central Park, New York. She was reading a book and smiling to herself again. Rick had taken that picture when she wasn’t looking. Below the picture was a quote she had placed. “When you decide happiness is completely in your hands, you’re probably ready to grow up”
She smiled again. It was time to open up.