Write a story based off this panting by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, titled Group X, No. 1, Altarpiece (1915):
This was the writing prompt I was given at my recent writers Meetup group. I’ve never been given a visual prompt before so I had to really think outside the box to create a story from this. But once I decided that an art show should be the main setting, then my imagination really took off! I really need to thank this prompt, though, and especially Hilma af Klint for being alive, otherwise none of this would’ve been possible. Without further ado, I present to you a unique and original story about a different type of love…
Synopsis: A young woman receives a text from an unknown number about an art show happening in Brooklyn. She attends and meets her ‘twin flame’ who shares his experiences and beliefs about love and the universe.
by Kendall Beaver
My back pocket vibrated as I carried a tray of empty cocktail glasses towards the bar, which was getting busy for a Wednesday night. After setting my tray on the counter, I whipped out my cracked iPhone and saw a text message from a number I didn’t recognize. The first message said something about an art show happening tonight then additional messages with the address. Unlocking my phone—
I texted back, “Who is this?” Did one of my friends get a new phone or something?—not that I have many friends to begin with, but still; I was curious to know who was this.
I tapped on the address, my iMessage app was shuffled aside and replaced by Google Maps, which showed me the location of Sage Gallery. I placed my index finger and thumb on the spider cracked screen, pinching them together to zoom out…seeing that Sage wasn’t far by train, in a part of Brooklyn I’d never been to before. Hmm, I could definitely use an adventure. Okay, I nodded to myself, I’d go once my shift was over in an hour.
I slid my phone in my pocket pocket and glanced down at my outfit, glad to have worn this for today: my cropped white tee, leather shorts with galaxy-printed leggings, my favorite black boots. I was dressed for the occasion, I felt, and hope I’d get to meet somebody there who was like me…somebody weird…somebody pretty.
Over the next hour, as I served many horribly dressed and yapping hipsters, I kept checking my phone but the mysterious texter never responded. I even sent a “HELLOOO???” at one point but that didn’t elicit a response. It was driving me crazy, and to keep myself from going insane, I assumed it was either a wrong number or the person knew me but were too busy schmoozing or their battery sucks and they were conserving power. And if they saw me there they’d say hi, I hoped, otherwise it’d still drive me crazy.
When I told Anton I was leaving, he asked me to stay. “Nope!” I whipped back, then lied: “Got a paper due for my gender epistemology class.” I thought he wouldn’t argue against the grad school card but he did. “Uhn-uhn. Today was supposed to be my day off,” I reminded him as I reached under the bar and grabbed my mini Kånken backpack. He pleaded some more but I slung my Kånken on, yelled “Sorry!” above the crowd then took off.
Racing through a dark tunnel, I stared out the subway window to see my semitransparent reflection staring back at me: my bangs touched my eyebrows with the rest of my wavy hair brushing against my shoulders, and there was my long oval face that I wish sometimes I could change. Shorten it just a bit—or change my face altogether.
An old woman was sitting perpendicular across from me, her back to the wall, staring out at nothing. She looked like an Italian Betty White with a purple track suit on and large tinted glasses. I wish I had my ability to see people’s auras right now because I bet she’d be radiating purple or blue which are colors that indicate you’re evolving towards higher consciousness. Or maybe she was radiating yellow or white—‘newbie’ colors, colors of lower consciousness. A lot of old people radiate these colors more than you’d expect.
It’s been a few days since I’ve thought about the incident, when I was raped and had to take those anti-depressants. That’s what killed my abilities. Even after quitting those meds my abilities never came back. I haven’t felt normal since then, and I don’t know if I ever will. How long can I go on pretending to be like everyone else before my soul begins to die?…
My rubber soles thudded against the concrete steps as I descended below ground towards the basement entrance for Sage Gallery—a red metal door that had paint chipping on the sides. Someone was stepping out as I reached for the door, a young Black couple, and the man quickly threw his arm up to hold the door open for me. I smiled and said thanks as I went under his arm then found myself inside a dark corridor that extended some ways before opening up into the swarming venue.
As I continued walking, the chorus of chattering quickly amplified as well as the electronic music underneath, which reminded me of a KYGO song—upbeat and tropical sounding. Then I emerged into the gallery which was U-shaped and awash with so many people that everyone was standing shoulder to shoulder. Spotting the bar on the left, I moved towards and snaked between congregated groups of people, sometimes swimming against the flow of traffic.
Finally I arrived at the back where there were three lines: two going to two male bartenders who looked like models-slash-actors and one going to a Hispanic looking woman who had an easy smile and her hair loosely tied into a side bun. Even though her line was the longest—of course, I still went and stood in it.
I folded my arms and looked around while waiting, hoping my mysterious texter would see me if they knew me, then a stunning piece of work caught my eye: a watercolor on a large canvas of the universe painted in various shades of purple; the stars were arranged in such a way that they formed the silhouette of a man and a woman embracing each other; there was a supermassive galaxy spiraling around their hearts, painted in various shades of red, indicating just how powerful their love was. I imagined myself on the canvas, feeling this magic with someone else.
Then, about two minutes later, it was my turn to order. I stepped up, replacing the guy in front of me who ordered two beers, and said hey a little too enthusiastically.
“What can I get ya?” she said throwing her chin up.
I glanced at the drink menu. “Um…lemme get a Heineken—no, wait; Chardonnay.”
She grabbed a clear plastic cup and began pouring Chardonnay. I leaned in and raised my voice: “So how’s your night going?”
“Cray-zee,” she said with widening eyes.
Nodding with those widening eyes.
I pulled out my night’s tips from my pocket and peeled away four dollars. “Well, I’m a waitress so I totally get it,” I said as I folded the money and slid them into her tip jar, a tall glass vase that was already full of money.
She smiled, noticing out of the corner of her eyes, and said, “Thanks.”
“Erica, nice to meet you. And just so you know, you’re really pretty.”
She chuckled at that which told me she was straight, but I think she really enjoyed the complement. Then she handed me my drink and said, “It’s twelve.”
I gave her exact change, grabbed my drink, then flashed a smile. “Well, try to have SOME fun tonight.” I turned around and streamed back towards the crowd, wondering if I should slip her my number when I return, tell her I’m just looking for friends. Maybe she’s looking for friends, too.
Unsure what to do or where to go, I found myself gravitating towards the back of the gallery where the deejay was playing and a small group of people were dancing. I joined from the back and began swaying my body, shifting from side to side, bobbing my head along. I eventually got into it and held my drink up and closed my eyes, surrendering myself to the music and losing sense of time and who I was…
Then whoosh! A euphoric wave of energy suddenly hit my body—my eyes snapped opened. Face frozen, my eyeballs darted around, unsure what was happening…It was like I was feeling love, but not anything romantic, more like love from a parent, a sort of unconditional love…And this energy flowed into my body where it coalesced around my heart and began vibrating on a unique frequency, as if turning it into a radio, and then I felt a faint yet similar frequency vibrating from behind me.
I slowly turned around, still baffled by what was happening, and my eyes widened to see over people’s heads an aura that was faint and multicolored like a prism radiating from somebody who had just entered the gallery. Unable to see who it belonged to, I stepped up on my tippy toes and craned my head up to see the aura coming from the top of a Black man’s head: dreadlocks pulled up a top knot, barely able to see his forehead, his skin was as dark as the night.
I began pushing through the crowd to get a better look, his aura remained near the entrance, and as I drew closer, the crowd dispersed in a way where I could finally see him and I froze—because he was staring right back at me. Tall and fit, he was wearing a beige wool poncho that looked like it came from South America, and he was grinning at me, like he could see my aura or something. And as I stared back into his bright white eyes, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d met him somewhere before, like I’d known him for a really long time…
Then someone called his name from behind. He turned around to find a bald Asian girl wearing a red dress and brown ankle boots approaching and they gave each other a quick side hug which told me they were either friends or a new couple. He talked to her for a moment, animated and excited about something, then pointed at me and she lit up when she saw me. I grimaced, wondering what the hell he was saying. He spoke for a few more moments, she nodded along, then they parted ways—she going for the bar while he was coming right towards me. Oh, shit! I didn’t know what to do or say, so I started moving towards him.
Coming within a few feet of each other he opened his arms, embraced me tightly and lifted me off my feet. “Whoa-ho!” I said, holding out my cup of wine, trying to keep it from spilling over. He set me down, briefly touched my cheeks then squeezed and shook my shoulders. “God, I’m so glad I found you! My psychic said we’d meet tonight and I said, ‘Girl, if you’re wrong—!'” He laughed joyously, then quickly held out his hand. “I’m sorry, I’m Jamal.”
“Hi…” I shook his warm, calloused hand. “Lexi.”
“I know who you are, Alexis, and I just love the name you were given in this lifetime!”
“This lifetime?” I said with a twisted face, then I began pointing between us. “What exactly is going on here, why can I see your aura and feel your energy?”
“It’s amazing, right!”
“Why’s it happening—with you?”
“Oh, you know.”
“Lexi?!” Jamal said with an open gesture, an ‘are you kidding me?’ I just stared at him blank. He grunted and shook his head, then placed a hand on my chest. “Listen to your heart, this is truth. What’s it telling you?”
My heart released a sudden burst of energy, it was trying to communicate with me—not through a spoken language, though, but through frequency. “Holy shit!” I said as my chest expanded and contracted, my eyes darting from side to side, trying to process all the emotional frequencies that were running across my body. “It’s like,” I swallowed, “—it’s like we’re close or something, like we’re soulmates.”
“Boom!” he shot a finger pistol at me. “Twin flames.”
Embarrassed to ask: “What’s a twin flame?”
“It’s like soulmates, but not romantic, at least not for us because, you see, Lexi, you and I were brother and sister in a past life—that’s what you’re feeling right now; our connection is starting to unlock this knowledge.”
“And how do I unlock the rest of it?” I asked immediately, peering my eyes.
“Nowww you’re talking,” he said pointing and smiling at me. “You need to unlearn everything you think you know about this world, set your mind free…set your soul free…Here—” Jamal reached into his front hoody pocket and pulled out a stainless steel cigarette case and popped it opened, revealing four pills made of clear plastic capsules filled with blue powder. Then he snapped it close, taking a paranoid look around, and slid it back into his pocket.
“What is it?”
“It’s called Neptune, discovered it while biking across South America; gets smuggled up here from Bolivia, mostly. This’ll help free your mind and soul, it can even help you to glimpse into your past life. Maybe we’ll try one later.”
“Kay,” I said with a shrug.
“Ha ha, great. Now, c’mon, I want you to meet my friend Vi. She’s excited ’bout meeting you.”
Before I could respond, Jamal took my hand, pulled me in close and dragged me through the crowd with him. I couldn’t help but smile because I was thrilled by everything that was happening; for the first time in my life I actually felt normal!—not “weird” or “crazy” or “alien,” but that somebody could appreciate the real me.
The deejay started playing a remixed version of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. Bopping his head along, Jamal lifted his free hand and swung it around like a lasso rope, pretending to be a cowboy. I playfully moved my head around…Then we arrived behind Vi, who happened to be standing in Erica’s line; Jamal released my hand, tapped her on the shoulder, she turned around and lit up. “Oh, hey!”
“‘Ay! Yo, this is Lexi. Lexi—Vi.”
“Nice to meet you!” she said, and I went to go shake her hand but she hugged me, taking me by surprise. “Oh!”
“Sorry, I’m a hugger.”
“No,” I said laughing, “that’s fine.”
She released me, then clapped her hands. “Kay, I’m buying us shots! Whaddaya’ll want?”
Jamal shrugged. “Whatever you want.”
“Yeah,” I nodded along.
“Fireballs, it is!”
We moved up in line and I pointed a finger between them. “So how do you two know each other?”
“Uh…through mutual friends,” Jamal replied, which caused Vi to snort a laugh. “He’s also my dealer,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Really?” I asked Jamal, but he just grinned and shrugged. “Oh…Cool. I thought y’all were dating or something.”
“God no,” they both spat out, laughing. Then Vi cleared her throat. “No no, I’m in a serious relationship with Chris—my ‘couch potato soulmate’ as I call him. He’s a video editor, working on some film right now.”
We shuffled forward in line.
“So what do you, Lexi?” Vi asked me.
“Uh, I’m a waitress and grad student. I go to NYU online, studying gender studies.”
“Oh, cool. They have a great program.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “What ’bout you?”
“Well, I’m an aspiring novelist, but I get paid to be an assistant for Jenny Tran.”
“Wait—you mean Jenny Tran, the author?”
“Whoa, that’s so cool.”
“Meh. She’s not as fun as she used to be. That’s okay, though, because I’m going to murder her in her sleep and steal all her ideas and contacts and become the next big author, you’ll see,” she double-clacked her tongue while winking.
Jamal raised his hand above Vi’s head and casually pointed up and down at her. “The next Asian J.K. Rowling right here.”
Vi roared into a deep laughter. “Ha ha, oh my god. ‘Hung Lee Potter.'” We burst out laughing as soon as we heard that.
As we waited in line, they asked me about my love life. I admitted that I identify as “queer,” a term I prefer and feel more comfortable using than “lesbian.” I dug into my past, revealing that I dated guys up till high school, and when I moved here I was curious to know what it’d be like to have a girl go down on me. When I first kissed Ilana, I knew—but that really sealed the deal.
We arrived at the front and Erica immediately recognized me, saying “hey” with a bright smile. Vi ordered a round of Fireballs, I put three dollars in Erica’s tip jar, and we threw our shots back—blugh—my throat burned as I swallowed the whiskey; but that cinnamon kick, though.
We stepped aside and continued our conversation about relationships, delving into the topic of monogamy and whether or not it’s natural for humans to be in long-term relationships. Jamal believes long-term relationships can work only if people are highly consciousness, which most people aren’t, or if you’re conditioned to believe so or if your survival depends on it, like how our parents and grandparents survival depended on it. “What about soulmates?” I asked. Jamal shook his head and said that’s not a guarantee because, technically, love is infinite, therefore it’s possible to have more than one partner in your lifetime. “Again,” he emphasized, “it’s about being highly conscious or being conditioned to choose one person, otherwise we revert back to our monkey brain.”
Vi agreed, adding how Korean Americans, and Asians, in general, stress the important of choosing a long-term partner for the family’s sake, not the individual’s; it’s all about stability, and if it doesn’t work out then not only do you make your parents look like failures but you bring shame to the entire family. She said that while her parents have accepted her white boyfriend, their idea of marriage will always be nagging in the back of her head, specifically in her mom’s voice.
We did another round of shots, then Vi recognized two of her friends, a gay couple who recently started their own social media consulting company, having started in the publishing world where they first met. So these guys, Alonzo and Chad, were partners in business and in real life, which I found sweet, but I was curious to know how often they bleached their teeth, and if I turned off the lights would it glow in the dark?
Chad complemented Jamal’s hoody and asked where he got it, and that’s when Jamal opened up about his life-changing trip biking from Seattle to Santiago, Chile. They were some of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard: being held at gunpoint outside Bogota by three men who stole his bike and wallet; hitchhiking to Ecuador and randomly being given a free place to stay at by a kind man and his family; meeting a beautiful woman on a beach in Peru and having a weeklong fling with her; hiking in the Andes and having a spiritual enlightenment, helping him find his soul and true self. We all wanted his life! Chad and Alonzo were so impressed they bought us two rounds of shots, celebrating to life and its many adventures! I felt lightheaded after that last shot…
The next thing I knew I was on the dance floor grinding with Jamal, our chests pressed together, my hands holding onto his neck. I threw my head back—god!—it felt like my heart was on fire. It was like, together, we were vibrating at a high frequency and entering a state of pure love—wait a second, that’s exactly what was happening! Because we all come from a source of pure love and life; we’re all pulled away from this at birth and spend the rest of our lives trying to get back to this place of love, that’s why we’re so desperate to connect with as many people as possible! And we’ve created conditions for isolation to exist, so we’re all that’s stopping ourselves from experiencing pure love while we’re alive!
Jamal leaned into my ear and shouted, “‘Ay!”
“What?” I yelled back.
“Wanna go back to my place and do some Neptune?”
“Yes! Hell yes!”
Taking my hand, I followed him through the crowd…I suddenly remembered Vi and her friends. I looked around but didn’t see them anywhere…We entered the hallway leading outside, and Jamal glanced over his shoulder and said, “I sooo can’t wait for you to see your past life.”
Me neither, I thought. Me fuckin’ neither…
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