I’m not sure if Auburn believes in God, but something about this painting got to her. A tear rolls down her cheek and slides slowly toward her jaw.

She hears me, or maybe she sees me stand beside her, because she brushes her cheek with the back of her hand and takes a breath. She seems embarrassed to have connected with this piece. Or maybe she’s just embarrassed that I saw her connect with it.

Instead of asking her what she thinks of the painting, or why she’s crying, I just stare at the painting with her. I’ve had this one for over a year and just yesterday decided to put it in today’s showing. I don’t usually keep them for this long, but for reasons I don’t understand, this one was harder to give up than the rest. They’re all hard to give up, but some more so than others.

Maybe I’m afraid that once they leave my hands, the paintings will be misunderstood. Unappreciated.

“That was a fast shower,” she says.

She’s trying to change the subject, even though we weren’t speaking out loud. We both know that even though we’ve been quiet, the subject for the last few minutes has been her tears and what prompted them and why do you love this piece so much, Auburn?

“I take fast showers,” I say, and realize my response is unimpressive and why am I even trying to be impressive? I turn and face her and she does the same, but not before looking down at her feet first, because she’s still embarrassed that I saw her connect with my art. I love that she looked at her feet first, because I love that she’s embarrassed. In order to be embarrassed, a person has to care about the opinions of others first.

That means she cares about my opinion, even if only a fraction. And I like that, because I obviously care about her opinion of me, or I wouldn’t be secretly hoping she doesn’t do or say anything that reminds me of Palindrome Hannah.

She spins around, slowly, and I try to think of something more impressive to say to her. It’s not enough time, though, because her eyes are back on mine and it looks like she’s hoping I’m the confident one and will be the first to speak.

I’ll speak first, although I don’t think confidence has anything to do with it.

I look down at my wrist to check the time—I’m not even wearing a watch—and I quickly scratch at a nonexistent itch so that I don’t look like I’m not confident. “We open in fifteen minutes, so I should explain how things work.”

She exhales, seeming more relieved and relaxed than she did before that sentence left my mouth. “Sounds good,” she says.

I walk to You Don’t Exist, God and I point to the confession taped to the wall. “The confessions are also the titles of the pieces. The prices are written on the back. All you do is ring up the purchase, have them fill out an information card for delivery of the painting, and attach the confession to the delivery card so I’ll know where to send it.”

She nods and stares at the confession. She wants to see it, so I take it off the wall and hand it to her. I watch as she reads the confession again before flipping the card over.

“Do you think people ever buy their own confessions?”

I know they do. I’ve had people admit to me that they’re the ones who wrote the confession. “Yes, but I prefer not to know.”

She looks at me like I’m insane, but also with fascination, so I accept it.

“Why wouldn’t you want to know?” she asks.

I shrug and her eyes drop to my shoulder and maybe linger on my neck. It makes me wonder what she’s thinking when she looks at me like this.

“You know when you hear a band on the radio and you have this vision of them in your head?” I ask her. “But then you see a picture or a video of them and it’s nothing like you assumed? Not necessarily better or worse than you imagined, just different?”

She nods in understanding.

“That’s what it’s like when I’ve finished a painting and someone tells me their confession inspired it. When I’m painting, I create a story in my head of what inspired the confession and who it came from. But when I find out that the image I had while painting doesn’t fit the actual image standing in front of me, it somehow invalidates the art for me.”

She smiles and looks at her feet again. “There’s a song called ‘Hold On’ by the band Alabama Shakes,” she says, explaining the reason behind her flushed cheeks. “I listened to that song for more than a month before I saw the video and realized the singer was a woman. Talk about a mind-f*ck.”

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