Jim Tretick and Lisa Ventrella


I received the inspirational piece from Lisa Ventrella. I interpreted the story as someone getting lost in artwork. I found this house and this church, and found one implanted in the other.

Shooting Star
By Lisa Ventrella
Inspiration Piece

Last week, Adrienne agreed to have coffee with Pete Stockton, a virtual stranger, after meeting him for the first time the day before at Barnes and Noble at 34th and Sixth Avenue. He’d asked; she’d accepted. She hadn’t intended to forget about Sam, her husband of seven years, but nonetheless, he was absent from her mind on that afternoon. She later rationalized that because Pete had connections in real estate, he could help her, maybe introduce her to people. Besides, Pete was unattractive — portly and balding with that wisp-over-the-top hair patch and had yellowish teeth.

They set the time and place: coffee at Café Irreal, a funky hot spot that Pete said served divine cappuccinos and tasty cakes. Pete had been persuasive and, in a way, charming when he’d suggested they “hang” at the cafe.

“You’ll love it,” he said as he handed her the address, written on the back of his business card. On the front it said, Peter Stockton, Entrepreneur, Real Estate Broker, A Man to Meet Your Needs, which she found to be haughty, but admired his confidence.

She debated whether or not she should tell Sam about her plans. He’d probably say it was stupid. Why should she meet a guy for coffee who probably had ulterior motives? He could be a murderer or a rapist, for God’s sake, he’d probably say. Sam can get caught up sometimes.

She arrived at Café Irreal, fifteen minutes early, without telling a soul of her plans. The warm glow of the place inspired her. The paintings and sculptures were shocking, but unlike anything she’d seen before. Kind of like when you happen upon a gory car crash that you can’t take your eyes off of, but in a good way. A gigantic mural covered one wall, each panel covered by variations on the styles of Van Gogh, Michelangelo, or Salvador Dali.

Adrienne nested in at a table for two near the mural. She’d heard about this place, but hadn’t had the courage to venture in. She ordered a cappuccino and told the goateed waiter, arms sheathed in tattoos that she’d order something else later.

Most of the patrons had that New York eclectic look. The ultra-hip girl with the mismatched clothing that was obviously bought second hand, the geeky sheik dude with black-rimmed glasses, the Gumby-thin guy with dark circles under his eyes reading Nietzsche. This was the place for the seriously cool it appeared.

Adrienne felt out of place in her pink blouse and Capri jeans. She could have at least worn something black. Transplanted from Wisconsin, she excused her fashion faux pas and promised herself not to beat herself up over it. The waiter clumsily set the coffee down as if offering a New York cup of kindness; the coffee spilling over onto the saucer and the waiter hurried off; back to his copy of The Village Voice.

The mural mesmerized Adrienne and continued to pull her back to it like she’d become a magnet passing by a steel mill. She leaned back to expand her perspective, trying to get the entire thing in her view. The vivid hues of the foliage seemed to bring the painting to life. Intrigued, she leaned closer. Blowing rapidly down the cobblestone road, the artist’s yellow leaves were a dazzling gold; the red leaves burned a deep, unnatural maroon, more surreally beautiful than real, and the dark orange leaves faded around their edges, as if they couldn’t decide which color they wanted to be. She peered closer still, wishing to be there, in that place so exotic and strange. She breathed in the scent of wood smoke, felt a cold wind stirring her hair, and realized she needed to pee.

Inside the tiny bathroom, many small paintings and photographs cloaked the wall.

Face to face with a large painting that had one of those creatures that was half man-half goat — a Satyr, Adrienne took a seat. He smirked at her and was surrounded by abundant forest. On his hoof he balanced a small plate with what looked like a cake with a candle in it, as if he was saying “Happy Birthday! Come and celebrate with us, you boring person!”

This suddenly reminded her of the one and only time she and Sam had camped. They’d gotten into a tiff because Adrienne refused to pee in the woods. She’d made Sam walk her up to the public bathrooms. She’d never claimed to be a good camper and couldn’t understand why Sam wanted to sleep in a tent the size of a dollhouse anyway.
In the café’s bathroom, she had the sudden epiphany that she was out of place, out of time and decided to slip away before Pete’s arrival. She thought of Sam and flushed with guilt. What was she thinking? Really, it was no big deal. It was just coffee after all. But still.

Near the bottom of the painting was a small turquoise lake where fish leapt, gleaming like silver knives. Adrienne glanced down at the toilet and saw that the water had become the same color as the lake in the painting. How strange, she thought, and flushed.

As she turned again to the painting, she blinked several times unable to believe her eyes, noticing that the people had come to life, popping up with dark blue eyes and smallish bodies. One of them resembled her husband Sam. He looked melancholic, staring at something off into the distance.

She washed her hands and closer her eyes, running streaks of cool water over her forehead and cheeks, hoping to find the truth once she opened her eyes. Maybe she’d eaten something spicy last night. Or perhaps she’d inherited some mental illness from her mother’s side of the family. She squeezed her eyes shut for a few more moments.
Adrienne opened her eyes and realized the painting was unchanged, but now it seemed familiar somehow, like a triggered memory of a time she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It reminded her of the one acid trip she’d taken in college where everything sparkled and flowed around her in slow motion. It was like a dream, except she knew she was fully awake. Adrienne felt a wave of dizziness and disorientation. About to pass out, she slid to the floor.

Suddenly, she discovered herself inside the painting with Sam. She knew this wasn’t right and that she’d probably lost her mind, but she decided to play along. Insanity be damned!

She could see now that Sam was looking off in the distance at her in the bathroom of Care Irreal. Had she somehow become the star of this week’s episode of The Twilight Zone?

Sam smiled broadly when he saw her and she felt safe knowing he was there in this surreal moment. They ran together like children toward the lake that seemed so much farther away than it had when she was standing outside the painting. As they jumped into the turquoise pond, the entire forest with the Satyr, the lake, the fish, and the people all jumped off the canvas like an explosion of light and color, thousands of tiny pieces flying in all directions. And then just as suddenly as it had all started, it was over. No explanation, just done. What did they put in their cappuccinos?

A week has passed since the day of the painting. Sam says the interpretation of art can be dangerous and that she’d probably just eaten some curry or chilies the night before. Maybe exhaustion was to blame; she had been working nonstop. Adrienne wished for easier times without worries and silly dreams. But she knew that the easy way wasn’t always the best way. A little struggle can be good for a soul. She knows this is the truth.

In lieu of camping, Adrienne and Sam sometimes get supine in their backyard, staring up into the night sky. Fifty miles from New York City, you can almost touch Orion, the Seven Sisters and the Big Dipper. Adrienne feels tiny underneath the thousands of stars glittering away in the black sky. The sky moves with the occasional shooting star and the man in the moon gazes down at them like a father watching over his young.

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