They both stared into the eyes of the Mona Lisa, silenced by her famous, dull sepia visage, as if both of them were trying to preserve the moment. They exchanged looks with one another, a smirk on his face and a solitary frown on hers, him pointing out the ridiculous as usual, her attempting to remember it forever; the first time she saw the painting. And now she could be an authority on it. “It’s not that great,” she could say, and mean it. It was small and dull and it looked exactly like posters, the backs of cereal boxes, television commercials, cartoon renderings, postcards and prints of itself. Too familiar to be attractive.
What would be great in retrospect however, was his priceless smirk which by now, she knew so well. And the smell of perspire so faint in the air from sweaty, dirty tourists who were huddled around together, breathing in the mastery of The Louvre in what would become a sort of collective memory. Everyone would remember the smell, or experience it, not just the two of them. And the person beside her would recall pressing against someone while leaning in to see it, peering over their glasses to see the portrait’s straight-faced expression, her long hair, the bored look in her flat eyes. And that someone would be her.
He put his hand in hers. He was wearing gloves and she could feel how soft and woolly and fleece-lined they were, plush in her own bare, stubby hand. He had a smell – it was not from cologne or body odor, it was just his smell. Everything he owned or wore smelled like him. She could smell it now, on his glove, on his jacket, above all the other smells surrounding them from all the other people crowded around the painting. “What a masterpiece,” she heard a British man say. The woman with him nodded.
“What a masterpiece,” he said in a mock-British accept.