I like letting you keep secrets. It works both ways, you see, because you get the excitement of secret-keeping and I get the excitement of guessing what it is and how you will tell me. I wonder if you do it on purpose? If you meticulously drop hints and control your body language because you know that I’ll try and crack the code? We’re both so farcical that it wouldn’t be out of character.
This particular endeavour of yours began in the National Gallery. I saw your eyes flicker in that oh-so-cunning way of yours when I mentioned that I liked Van Gogh. In your defence, “mention” could arguably have been prefaced with “perennially” and “liked” could have been replaced with “adored”; but I could see that you got the hint that I may or may not have been dropping. I suppose it was because of this that I did notice your unusual behaviour in the giftshop: Your weary glance? Your gradual separation? How you shuffled over to the print section when I pretended to be engrossed in the magnetic Monet jigsaw? I’m sorry to say that they would have been fairly obvious clues even if I hadn’t noticed the increase in silence and your subtle change in posture.
I kept quiet because I like how happy you are when you think I don’t know; how you practically bounce on your toes with the suppressed joy of secrecy even as I mock artsy tourist merchandise. It’s beautiful, really. So I let you buy me Van Gogh and I pretend that I don’t see where you’ve hidden it through your transparent carrier bag. However, I can never resist pushing the boundaries and so I asked if you were going to buy anything. Your response, “I’m done here,” surprised me because you never purposefully avoid my questions and yet that was my level of truth-bending. I wanted to kiss you because it was so utterly me and then berate you for picking up such an awful trait.
The thing is that it really didn’t matter what you had bought me. It didn’t matter if I was wrong about Van Gogh and you’d bought me Monet (bloody Monet) or a Renaissance artist I’d never even heard of – I wouldn’t care. I just liked to think about how you’d give it to me – would you wait until Christmas? Or leave it until I’d had a bad day? Dinner that night perhaps? Or maybe you’d be as impatient as myself and give it to me as soon as we’d left the gallery? I can never tell with you. I have this constant curiosity to find out what you will do next because in an unusually high percentage of situations, I honestly have no idea. When you have a secret, a surprise for me, however will you disclose it?
I stayed with you for two more days and I knew you still had the secret tucked away. That was fine, I can be patient for things, but time meant that I started to doubt myself. Maybe it wasn’t a present for me after all? Was I wrong? It was possible. Or maybe you had forgotten about it? But you are not a forgetful person unless forgetfulness is also contagious, and you’d picked it up with your sudden ability to avoid questions? It was a ridiculous thought. Character traits are not contagious like a winter’s cold; long exposure is needed so surely they travel similarly to osmosis, slowly and with purpose. So have I infected you already? Ridiculous.
So, I went home. And I determined that you had forgotten, or more a likely explanation, after my paranoia had deceased, that you must have been waiting for something. In fact, I was so sure of this fact that I had pushed Van Gogh to the back of my mind in the chaos of small things. It was only when I was unpacking that I noticed a stiff piece of paper sticking out of my poetry book.
It was a postcard of my favourite painting: predictable. But on the other side?
“Because I made a blunder, my dear Watson – which is, I’m afraid, a more common occurrence than anyone would think who only knew me through your memoirs.”
A Sherlock Holmes quote in your loopy handwriting across the back of A Wheatfield, with Cypresses.
If I had made a hundred guesses, I would never have predicted that. It was simple, and so in character (for both of us), and yet…? It seems that I had made a “blunder” and I can’t help but wonder if you knew that I would.