For Erin, who's making her own leap.
It started with the coffee shop. Each day, from 2-3pm, Marlene would escape, before the kids got home from school, before she had to start cooking dinner. She knew she was out of place in the hipster hangout, all worn vinyl booths and retro stained glass lamps, but she loved it nonetheless. She liked feeling transported into a more rarefied world, pretending that she was one of its denizens, even as she knew that no one truly belonged to the life she imagined the coffee shop held. Marlene sipped her rich coffee and stared out the picture window. She particularly liked it when it rained.
One day the coffee shop switched its black-and-white photos, hung rakishly across the walls, for some bright oil paintings. Beside each was a cream-colored business card displaying a scrawled price and the artist's name, Y. Peirte. Marlene stared, fascinated at the paintings. They glowed blue and green and yellow, but didn't speak to her at all. In their failure to grab her they intrigued. I could do that, she thought. Maybe even better. Maybe.
For three weeks, she stared at the garish paintings. She wondered about the artist, Y. Peirte, wondering if the paintings sold, if they provided a livelihood, or just satisfaction. After three weeks, her heart pounding, she bought two canvases, twenty paints, and five brushes from an art supply store.
For another week, she continued going to the coffee shop, but now it was only to hide. As she stared out the window onto the sidewalk, all she could see were the colors of her paints and the blank canvas.
One day at 2pm, Marlene inched her way towards the closet where she'd stashed her supplies. She pulled the bag up into the attic, laid everything out on the rough plywood floor. First a dab of blue, then of red. Mixed, made purple. The thoughts, feelings that had been percolating in her mind over the past few weeks slowly trickled onto the canvas. The art lessons from her youth crept up to the surface of her mind and her hands. She painted.
She painted each day, from 2-3pm. Bought another canvas, and painted some more. Sometimes she hated it, sometimes she loved it. But always she painted, always in secret. Her husband suspected, but he caressed her cheek and knew not to ask. She was terrified to reveal herself.
It was a year before she returned to the coffee shop. She didn't recognize the barista anymore, which made her both sad and giggly. Marlene drank her coffee, sipping from the edge of the white porcelain cup. When she finished, she rested it carefully in the saucer and, glancing at the paintings - different - on the walls, approached the clerk.
"May I speak to your manager?" she asked.
"That's me," the young woman replied, wiping her hands on her brown apron.
"I was wondering ..." Marlene mumbled, and lay a battered white envelope on the counter. Out from it she pulled eight photographs. Her paintings.
Gingerly, woman shuffled through the photographs.
"For the shop, you're thinking?"
"Yes," Marlene said, little more than a whisper.
The woman smiled. "Wonderful."