You're looking at Van Gogh's Irises, at the white one on the left, the only white one, and thinking that's her. She is unique in a way that kills you, because it's in exactly the way that you aren't. And since you're not really thinking about the painting, you say something banal to her about how amazing it is to see it up close. Like an idiot.
Fortunately she's not listening. She's spinning a fantasy about all the impressionist and post impressionist painters being here in this gallery at one time, and what they might say to each other. It's so her that you have to work hard not to blurt out how wonderful she is. She says, "And what if Van Gogh kept calling Manet Mo-net, and Manet got all mad and said, 'I told you, it's Ma-net, Ma-net. What are you, deaf in one ear?'"
You laugh. A genuine laugh, not like when a friend makes a joke and you laugh more because you like him than because it's actually funny. She is funny. You mention how Van Gogh painted himself with a bandage after the famous ear incident, and she points out how no one talks about the woman in that story. And that's her too. The unwilling object of obsession.
You know you're on dangerous ground, and still you want to take her home right this second and make love to her. You shove that image out of your mind and say something about taking the painting home instead. Like an idiot.
She says, "I don't think it's right to own them." And neither one of you is talking about old paintings, and you haven't been since the start, and she knows it. You mumble something about appreciating her--whoa, no, it, the painting--more than others could.
Then she says, "You love me."
Your heart doesn't exactly skip a beat, but it does do some kind of funky, no-rhythm dance, like your drunken uncle at a wedding. You try to deny it all, but she says, "Lee told me everything." The asshole apparently read your diary when you lent him your laptop computer. Your great old friend Lee. You haven't actually punched anyone since the third grade, but you feel it might be time to end the dry spell.
You say, "Those are just thoughts in there. You know, just what's on my mind at the time."
She's not buying it. She says, "I thought we were friends." She's got a look on her face like you just shot her dog. She knows what you've been hiding, how you've been faking nonchalance for almost a year now.
You decide to make the most of everything being out in the open. You ask her why you both can't at least give it a try. One more time.
"Why won't you just let me love you," you say, and cringe at your own words. It sounds like a cheap romance novel. And besides, you know why she won't. Because for her it usually ends in disaster. It happened with you. You turned into a drooling, slavering glop of protoplasm that no one in her right mind could have wanted.
She says she has to go. Then she says without pretense of any kind, "You'll get over me." And you don't think you will, but why hang all that on her?
You ask if you can hug her good-bye, and she says, "Sure." But then she nods first at the Van Gogh and tugs her earlobe and says, "Just don't send me anything, okay?" And you can't not smile as you hold her. She's always been funny.
Then you watch her leave. And it seems unfair that you can still smell her hair like this after she's gone. You wish you didn't, but you know that this empty space inside is going to ache for a long, long time. And you look back at Irises, at the heartbreaking beauty there, and the one white flower that Van Gogh thought of as himself.
And you see just a little bit more of it now.