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Fun Fiction


Dreaming Jon Stewart Dreams
by Laura Jane

I mention how unusual this occasion is, and he laughs softly. How delightful to hear the laugh of someone so attuned to humor. Still smiling, he looks out the large windows towards the ocean. Wondering what he is so drawn to, I look through the darkness. He tells me that one time he came here with her, on their first date. He looks at me again as he reaches across our seafood pasta to take my hands. This, he says, is what I wanted to do, but I was so scared. His face colors slightly in the candlelight. The first time I came here, I replied, was with my father. We had spent the morning at an art opening and the late afternoon walking around the harbor, much like you and I did. He smiles again, and his hands are warm around mine.

That morning hadn't been too out-of-the-ordinary. I had left the apartment for the gallery, arriving a little earlier than usual. This was our morning for the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit opening, complete with artist lecture, wine and cheese reception, and gallery tours. There were some last-minute security details to check up on, but everything else was in place. The morning proceeded as most art openings do, with the quiet gallery transformed into a near-party atmosphere. The gallery tours were fuller than most days, but were stopped entirely by noon for the artist lecture. Admirers swarmed the lecture hall, some with notebooks ready to jot down every word from this goddess of painting and photography. Surveying the room from the back, near the door, I noticed that there were almost equal camps of scholars and enthusiasts, with many people falling into both categories. O'Keeffe closed her serene, detailed lecture with a question-and-answer session. After several queries and comments about her flower paintings, she nodded to the gallery president, who said that the artist would answer one more question. A voice near the front, far from me, asked a question that I could hardly hear. Judging from O'Keeffe's response, it was regarding her work as a model for Alfred Stieglitz. The question turned to her own work, and I realized it was a question that I might have asked, about how her role as a woman had changed during the course of her life as an artist. She smiled, and looking toward the front thanked everyone for their questions.

The wine and cheese reception that followed was by invitation only, in one of the lesser-known rooms of the gallery. I mingled with my co-workers, shy of the art critics, celebrities, and especially O'Keeffe herself. Slipping quietly out of the room, slightly overwhelmed by the star power, I walked to my favorite part of the gallery, our private Italian piazza styled after de Chirico. I had just stepped out onto the terra cotta tiles when a shadow appeared, and I began to wonder if I really was in "The Melancholy and Mystery of a Street." Hello, I called softly. The shadow emerged and I knew I was in a fantasy painting. He stood there calmly, smoking, despite the discreet gallery sign in a garden corner saying not to. Hello, he replied. Tired of the Snooty Room? Laughing nervously, I asked how he knew the nickname of the formal Reception Room. I've been to plenty of these wine and cheeses, he replied, but this was the only one I wanted to come to. I hoped I could talk to Georgia, but I had my questions answered at the lecture. Still not believing that I was talking to him about O'Keeffe in an Italian piazza, I asked politely if he'd always wondered about the sexuality of her paintings. Not that, he answered, taking another drag. I wanted to know about the changes she'd experienced as an artist. Really, I exclaimed, that was the best question of them all! I'm glad that someone knew more about her than the fact that her flowers look somewhat like female genitalia. I blushed, thinking that I'd just said "female genitalia" to him. Thanks, he replied, I'm just glad they picked my question. He ground out his cigarette with his shoe as I gaped. His question! I asked, somewhat redundantly, if he was very interested in O'Keeffe's work. Sure, he answered, but what about you? You work here, right? Blushing redder, I replied, yes, I'm a curatorial gallery assistant. That must be cool, he grinned. Finally on a topic I was comfortable with, I described what I do around the gallery, and how I was so excited to organize something as big as an O'Keeffe opening. He asked if I had anything else to do that day and I had to say no, the board of directors had the rest of O'Keeffe's visit mapped out. I couldn't help looking at his gold wedding band and wondering if he knew I was engaged, or if he often asked young women out.

Walking around the harbor, we talked about our lives, slowly getting to know each other. I told him that I'd just graduated, and he talked about how he had graduated from William and Mary back in 1984 with a BS in psych. He told me how he'd wanted to go into counseling, but his love for comedy and performing won out. Don't worry, though, he said seriously, I know when to stop joking. As he looked at me, I wondered why all of this was happening. I wasn't that attractive, so he couldn't be after a one-night stand or anything. Was it so lonely at the top that he had taken to hanging around in art galleries, looking for friends? That didn't seem likely, either. And why weren't people staring? Didn't they recognize him? I mentally shook it off and decided to let this bizarre fantasy day play out. We meandered into one of the stores, the one with the electric tongue scraper, and laughed at the vibrating chairs. Walking by the candy shop, I mentioned my Jelly Belly craze. We started an in-depth discussion of the merits of Juicy Pear versus Pink Grapefruit. I bought a handful of each-how strange to buy him jelly beans!-and we sat outside on a bench to eat them, one at a time, watching the water. We talked more, a little intellectual art like Mondrian's color schemes, a little silly stuff like how a longer second toe means the person is domineering. I wiggled mine toes through my dress sandals, and he pulled off his loafers and dress socks to wiggle his back. Above us, a harbor light flickered on. Some distant car radio played Tal Bachman, and I thought how right it was, nothing's gonna happen. I smiled at him for about the hundredth time since that morning, and he smiled back. Would you like dinner? he asked. There's a great restaurant with a funny name on the other side of the harbor. I knew exactly which one he was talking about. Sure, I answered, I'm totally in the mood for seafood. As he put his socks and shoes back on, I stood up and tugged at my dress, suddenly nervous about my appearance. Looking up at me, he told me that I looked beautiful. That didn't calm me at all, and I must have blushed a lot for him to notice in the semi-darkness. He stood up and said, in a low voice, let's go.

For the first time, I began to worry in earnest. Walking around in the dark with someone I'd only known for that day ... I'm not really the adventurous type. He looked worriedly at me. Are you okay? he asked, you seem different. I looked at him, like I'd looked at him all day, and I had to tell him. He listened as I stumbled through my concerns ranging from people not recognizing him, to the fact that we hardly knew each other and here we were going to dinner in the dark, alone ... I trailed off. And how married I am, he added. Ready to cry at how childishly I was acting, I nodded at him. He sighed sadly and I thought about how stupid I must be. Here he was, and what am I doing? Acting all freaky. For heaven's sake, he's funny and famous and beautiful and he picked me. Why not play along? I looked back at him as steadily as I could only to see him smiling again. I'm not Hugh Grant, he said, out to pick up girls. I saw you at the gallery and thought we could have a fun day. I was right, I think ... and I think you'd agree. How good he's being about this, I thought. I practically accuse him of planning to rape me, and cheat on his wife, and he's talking about how great the day has been. I also think, he added, that this could be better discussed over some seafood pasta. Agreed? he asked. Agreed, I smiled with one corner of my mouth. That wasn't so bad, was it? he asked, raising one eyebrow at me. No, I laughed, not at all. We walked on.

He asked for a table near the window, and the waiter led us over. He insisted on pulling the chair out himself, and he immediately ordered a sweet red wine. Only one day of knowing each other, and he remembered that I'd laughed about Manischevitz wine with him in a brief conversation about Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song." After perusing the menu, we ordered and in no time our food arrived. I'd chosen the seafood pasta at his suggestion, and he was eating the clam chowder that I'd recommended. Tell me about her, I said. He smiled. She's wonderful, he admitted. I love her more than I thought I could love anyone. How wonderful, I murmured. He looked out the windows and told me about how they'd come here on their first date, and about how shy and awkward he felt. He reached across the table and gently held my hands in his, describing how he was too shy to even touch her. Both of us blushed, and out of nervousness I began to talk about the time I'd been here with dad, and how much fun it was.

He looks out the window again, and for the first time I really look at him. I ask if something's wrong. He looks back at me. It's silly, he says, but I miss her. She stayed at home while I came down for the opening. I saw her this morning before I left, but I still miss her. She's like you, he admits. She loves art and life, and has a great sense of humor. You're not her, he adds hurriedly, and I'm not using you as a replacement for her. I'm just attracted to that kind of personality. He sits back abruptly, releasing my hands. What about you? he asks. You're engaged? He nods at my ring. Yes, I say, raising my eyebrow at him, and he's a lot like you. He doesn't smoke, though, I add. He laughs, saying how everyone makes such a big deal out of it as his one big vice. He probably wonders where I am now, I say, looking at him. It's about time for me to go back home, too, he replies. Is there anywhere I can take you? Just walk me to the Metro, please, I replied, and I'll be fine from there. We stood up and left, holding hands.

We're still holding hands in the Metro stop, and when my train pulls up I squeeze tighter and look up at him. He smiles, and I smile back. Impulsively, I lean my head on his shoulder and hug him. You're even his height, I grin. You're hers, he replies. I kiss him gently on the cheek and get on my train. He waves at me as the train pulls out, and I wave back like he was someone I'd known forever.

I walk into the apartment and take off my coat. You're just in time for a Daily Show rerun, he calls. Great, I call back. Walking into our tiny living room, I say, you'll never believe who I saw at the art opening today, as I kick off my sandals and snuggle into his arms.


Added September 2, 2002.



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