Artist in Wine, with Galoshes Kelli Fitzpatrick
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said. “Are you waiting?”
The woman was blocking the door, playing Pictionary on the family restroom plaque with a red Expo marker. She faced away from me, just a mop of maroon hair and black slacks. This studio held forty guests for my exhibition but only had one bathroom? Unbelievable.
“Ma’am.” My ballet flats squished pink bubbles as I shifted. A matching ruby stain streaked the hem of my gown. What possesses anyone to serve red wine in public? Guests can’t be trusted not to, say, trip on the corner of an art installment while talking to its creator. My feet were soaked in merlot. I needed to get cleaned up and back mingling as soon as possible.
I stepped up beside Bathroom Banksy and finally saw her face—she was focused, lost in a creative moment. I knew that look well.
“Why are you drawing on it?” I asked. She had to respond. I was now close enough to smell the ink.
“I’m fixing it,” she said.
“You’re defacing it.”
“You’re DeShondra Tachiavetti, right?” She scribbled some red streaks. “I’m Kat. You turn glass shards into kick-ass sculpture, I enhance bathroom signs. To each their own.” She clicked the marker cap closed and glanced at me, at what I held in my hand, and guffawed. “What are those?”
Galoshes. Chartreuse glitter-coated rubber rainboots. I was lucky my assistant had some kind of footwear in her car that fit me. “Curse of the klutzy patron, I’m afraid,” I said. “Studio won’t let me go barefoot. So…” I held up the boots and conjured a less-than-thrilled expression.
She laughed. “You are all kinds of extra. I’ve always admired your art, but this, I mean…” She gestured at me like I was some undiscovered Warhol masterpiece: Artist in Wine, with Galoshes.
I pointed at the sign. “I could say the same for whatever this is supposed to be.”
Breasts. She’d drawn breasts on the male figure, along with a familiar-looking red spray of hair. Beside the triangle-dress female she had penned a small masked person.
“What’s with the mini-superhero?” I asked.
She crossed her arms. “It’s a kid, genius.”
“… With a cape?”
“Why not? If I ever have a kid, she’s bound to be hella weird. But, you know, good weird. BatKid weird.”
“You do this often? Fix signs, I mean?”
“Shit, yeah. All over.” She tucked the marker away. “They come off, but at least one person sees them.”
I smiled. “Lucky me. I get to be the one.”
She blushed. “You want me to tell them you’ll be right back or something?”
I suddenly realized cleaning my own feet in this dress would be a nightmare. “Actually… would you mind helping me for a second? Nice dress, bathroom floor—”
“I got you, sister.” She pushed the door open for me.
Before I could do anything, Kat grabbed a wad of paper towel and wet it. “Hike your dress a smidge.” She knelt on the floor, ignoring the grime, and removed my shoes, then wiped the wine-stains off my feet.
“I feel bad,” I said. “You’re doing all the work.”
“True. What’s my reward for foot washing, your excellence?” She crinkled her nose.
I half-smiled. “I don’t negotiate with vandals.”
“How about stopping by my coffeehouse after your gig? I run Graffiti Joe’s on Seventh.”
I stiffened a bit. Famous people can’t be too cautious.
Kat noticed. “I’m sorry—you probably get propositioned by idiots constantly. No pressure. If you want to talk more later, that’s where I’ll be.” She helped me into the boots, then stood and rinsed my flats.
She was no idiot, and talking sounded nice. Exciting even. Except… “They may turn me away looking like this.” It was so unorthodox—my formal gown and these blingy galoshes. Together.
“Yeah, ‘cause my staff definitely cares about shit like that.” She rolled her eyes. “Besides, those boots are totally you. Awkward, but brilliant.”
The room was small and damp and Kat’s words echoed over the tile walls like skipped stones, like exhibit lights all pointing inward. At me. I felt like Paddington Bear, standing in that bathroom with her, yet somehow it was awesome. Weird… but wonderful.
I had to ask. “Your doodles… you consider them art?”
She shrugged. “Anything can be art. There’s a pile of metal trash cans welded together in Valley Square that the city paid a shit-ton of money for. My stuff isn’t any stranger than that.”
I watched her eyes. She wasn’t finished.
“It’s fun, something unique to me. And it’s also—you know—” She ran her fingers through her hair. “It’s frustrating to never see yourself represented. Even in something as stupid as toilet signs. So, I fix it. I make each one different. Not all families look alike.”
I nodded. What do you say to that? It was deeper than any conversation I would have tonight, and I knew it.
“People are waiting for you, hot stuff.” She held the door.
I stepped out. “Hopefully not with more wine.”
She grinned. “Want me to bounce for you?”
“As in keep people away? Kat, talking to me is why they came—”
“And the lucky bastards can do that. I’ll just keep them from ruining more of your wardrobe. Or your evening.”
I smiled and nodded. I felt like dumping a whole bottle of wine over my head. It no longer mattered. “You fixed it.”
She winked. “It’s what I do.” Kat raised her voice, marching toward the showroom. “Clear the way, folks, artist en route. Secure your beverages!”
Guests tilted their heads, puzzled. One gentleman clutched his champagne glass to his chest.
I took a squeaky step to follow, then hesitated. Why not? I pulled my autographing Sharpie from my purse.
As I strode toward my audience, boots already making my feet sweat, I imagined the janitor’s reaction when they discovered the stick-figure woman in a triangle dress sporting hand-drawn galoshes.
Those things may never come off.
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