So, there I was. Standing there, unnaturally dressy clothes, a school uniform sort of thing, had replaced my usual worn jeans and pleasantly comfy tee shirts. I was in Mr. Benson’s fourth
hour painting class. Oh yes.
He decided that we all had a deep appreciation for art work, classics I may add, and upon making this decision, scheduled us for a tour of the Metropolitan Museum.
I was a freshman in high school when I first met Mr. Benson. I stumbled into his studio-esque classroom on the third floor in a flurry of papers and blonde curls and bellbottoms. I was now a
junior as I stood in front of him now, in front of the art museum, and so on.
The easy spring winds which gently implied that summer was on its way blew through our hair, mine seeming most greatly affected, as it was well down to the small of my back, and I had
fruitlessly tamed it this morning since I had to ‘look nice’ for the trip. The breeze tousled his curls and the way he kept reaching up with one hand so naturally and unknowingly to brush them from
his face just, I don’t know, made me melt to the ground and seep away down the street, down into the sewers and out to the sea.
“Samantha,” I heard my name called and snapped to attention. I looked up and saw Mr. Benson with a subdued look in his green eyes, so often found there. “Are you coming inside, or are you
going to do one of your famous cityscapes right here, right now?”
I was always one of his favorite students. “Well, I was sort of contemplating it. I mean, look how pleasant everything looks today.”
He smiled that calm, cool smile and put his hand on my shoulder. “Yes, it really is a very nice day. If I had some pencils or something I’d join you. But, seeing as I don’t, and you’ve
already paid to come here, as have I, I believe we should get going.”
“So true.” I pulled a pencil box from my purse and waved it around slowly. “Are you sure though? Because I’m willing to share.”
He laughed in an untroubled manner. “And that’s why you are one of my favorites. Come on, Sam.”
Inside the prestigious building, I followed the class which followed Mr. Benson around like a flock of sheep. He pointed out the use of color in each painting, texture, etcetera. I could
hardly keep my mind on the pieces as we followed the art teacher around the museum.
A few hours later, we all gathered in the lobby, tired, some bored, some enthralled and inspired, and some of us, in love.
Mr. Benson drew attention to the class. “So, everyone, what, may I ask, was your favorite? Personally, I enjoy Turner…” He smiled. “Kate? What was your favorite?”
“I liked the large sculpture on the third floor…”
Once again, caught in the grasp of a dream my mind floated out to a quiet bench in Central Park, my happy place I would go to in my mind. I walked down the path, pencils jingling in my purse,
quiet padding of my feet against the ground, birds, trees, tranquility. Only this time, the art teacher awaited me on the bench in place of the countless other people I would chat with. As I sat
down next to him, I vaguely heard my name. Louder, louder, louder…
“Samantha?” I snapped to attention. “Dreaming again?”
I nodded and smiled. “What else do you expect me to be doing, Mr. Benson?”
He grinned. “Good point. So, what is your answer?”
“I…I didn’t catch the question. How can I release an answer if the question was never caught?”
“Don’t speak in riddles, Sam.” He smiled, he, the king of riddles and ‘if you can decipher my next trick, you will know’, smiled teasingly. “What was your favorite work of art, Sam?”
Oh how I felt it build up on the edge of my tongue. How it wanted to fly away from my lips like doves. It’s you, Mr. Benson. It’s you.
A few years later, a few excruciatingly painful years later, I still woke up the morning in my rat-hole apartment replaying the scene again and again, only modified to fit my liking as
“What was your favorite work of art, Sam?”
Smiling, “You Mr. Benson. It’s you. You and all of your not so much older than I, talented, dark, curly haired, bespectacled, humorous self. You are my favorite work of art. You, Mr.
Oblivious to the class kissing usually follows.
Not since high school graduation. Not since the first time I stepped into his classroom have I love another man. Never. Not since I handed him my first completed painting and his eyes lit up
with ‘someone who’s not taking this class for an easy A’. Not since he pushed the school to give me that scholarship I needed so badly to end up the prestigious art school I was now making my life
hell to go to. I remembered he liked Turner. Not since high school, I’ve never turned to another man. Not since then.
So, today was like any other day, except the fact that it was a Saturday and I had no classes. I hauled myself from the depths of my empty bed and off to the shower, figuring, I’d stop by the
coffee house and check out the library for any new books I could bribe my friend into letting me borrow before they were put on the shelves.
Forty five minutes later I rushed into the lush scent of coffee and baked goods and veggie breakfasts and out of the industrial scent of mid-December New York.
What’s this? A familiar face peeping out from behind the New York Times? No. It couldn’t be. It can’t be. It just shouldn’t be!
“Samantha?” The papers went down. There, rising from his chair, almost knocking over his coffee to come and hug me just like in my dreams….
“Mr. Benson! I haven’t seen you since graduation!” A strong warm embrace just like I had the night I left high school forever.
“And same to you! I saw your stuff at the college. You just get more talented all the time.” He held me back by the shoulders. “And more beautiful, no doubt.” Caressing my face he just looked
at me, deep into my eyes, and I waited for the romantic comment… “I remember when you were just a scrawny freshman. Now look at you. A full blown artist and beautiful young lady. I’m so proud of
you. You know, I talked to your professor. He thinks you’re the best one of the new crop.”
I blushed. “Thanks, Mr. Benson.”
“Sam, I’m not your teacher anymore. You can call me Sal.” He smiled.
“Sal? That’s cute.” I smiled. “It fits.”
“Well, I can’t exactly go by Sam, now can I?”
I felt puzzled. “Why? What’s your real name?”
“Samuel.” He smiled with only the use of his eyes. “Come sit down with me. I want to hear everything about college.”
We sat there and talked for three and a half hours. I drank coffee after coffee after coffee and absorbed everything he said, and took in all his handsomeness like I had as a student.
We met like that for about two weeks, every Saturday when I was free from art hell.
On the beginning of the third week, as we were parting, he dropped the smallest, most insecure bomb I’ve ever heard dropped.
“Sam, you want to meet me for dinner tonight?”
“Heh?” Confused, I let the first thing that came to my mind slip from my mouth.
“Would you like to join me for dinner tonight? I can pick you up at your apartment if you tell me where you live.” He said it slowly, like nursing off the effects of Valium.
My heart burst into a thousand butterflies that had been trapped there since the first day of freshman year. “Of course!” I quickly scribbled down my address on a pink Post-it and shoved it
into his hands.
Three and a half months later, I slipped my legs into the depths of my bed, (which was below a print of a Turner, which I enjoyed thoroughly), beneath all the fuzzy, furry, quilted blankets I
owned to protect me from the chilled New York winter. Only, this time, as different from all the times leading up to this one and the past three week’s nights, I had something new to protect me
from the bitter cold of the winter: the art teacher flipped back the massive amounts of covers and slid onto the mattress. I turned off the lamp, and I pulled the blankets up to my chin. The minute
amount of light that found its way into the bedroom lit it up enough that I could see Sal doing the same, but working his way closer to myself. Once romantically plastered against me he looked deep
into my eyes, (I could tell. Even as a kid, one could feel Mr. Benson’s gaze like laser beams, intensely wonderful laser beams, but strong none the less. You could tell he was staring at you from
down the hall in the middle of a power outage if you were blind), and smiled. “You always were my favorite student.”
“I know,” I put my arm around his back. “You know, I have a funny story I’ve failed to tell you.”
“Continue,” he said, with a hint of wonder in his voice.
“Remember when you took my class to the Metropolitan Museum?”
“And when we were done, you asked us what our favorite work of art was?”
“Never could I tell you it was you.”
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