Miles Snyder clicks on the email and frowns. “Sorry, Milo, but we need you in town over Christmas. Business is booming!” Miles sighs and closes the email. Shit.Being in town over the holidays means being in town for the company party.
Miles hates parties, hates having to blah blah blah his way through the buffet line, trying to recall the names of spouses, picking up a little of this and a little of that with dainty silver tongs, hoping to God he doesn’t spill something or that his entire plate doesn’t tip over with the weight of the pretty little hors d’oeuvres balanced thereon: Greasy olives. Cubes of cheese impaled upon frilled toothpicks. Pigs in a blanket. Stale croissants wrapped around thick slices of ham, a disgrace, he thinks, to the simple elegance of the croissant.
His mouth waters, as he recalls the trip he made to Paris, right after college. The hostels. The melamine bowls full of tepid cocoa. Crusty bread and marmalade. Apricots and coffee. Croissants that melted in his mouth.
Paris. Three months of good food, good wine and good painting.
He turns his attention to the spreadsheet on the monitor. But he can’t deny that it’s there: While he lines up numbers in a column, arranging them just so, getting them to agree to work together and paint a flattering, if not entirely accurate, picture of the company, it is there, in the background, thrumming: The blues and the oranges. The pinks and those lovely, lovely yellows. Miles loves color. Miles loves paint.
He gets along moderately well with numbers. But he’s never actually tasted one.
When Miles was a child, he ate a yellow crayon.
His mother had slapped him before taking him to the local vet, the hospital being too far a trip. Besides, his mother was out of gas.
“Leave us,” Dr. Jones said, tacking on a gentle but undeserved, “please,” as an afterthought. His mother sighed and glared and, finally, stomped from the room, leaving the door open a crack.
The doctor sat Miles upon the examination table. Miles studied a ball of cat fur. “Am I going to die?”
Doctor Jones laughed gently. “I think you’ll make it. But tell me, Miles. Why did you eat a crayon?”
“I wanted to taste the sun.” To this day, Miles cannot look at the rays of the sun without recalling the waxy taste of crayon between his teeth.
The doctor’s eyes crinkled. “You are a poet, Miles.”
“I’m an artist.”
“That too.” The doctor smiled. “Don’t ever let them take that from you.”
But he had, hadn’t he?
The teachers said he wasn’t talented enough. Miles believed them.
He re-opens his email and hits reply. “I quit,” he types quickly before his mind realizes what his fingers are up to. Then he adds, “Merry Christmas.” He hits sends and searches for the cheapest flight to Paris.
He loves the intimacy of Paris.
He looks out the window and tastes the sun.