‘I kind of want to add a coin,’ says my friend as we stand in the middle of a great paddock in Yorkshire looking at a log peppered with one and two pence coins. It is modern art, the gallery tells me. It looks a lot like logs I used to climb when I was at school, except that instead of a pox of chewing gum it is covered in coins. I like the coins more. I don’t know what it is about art museums, I feel more intelligent, more cultured and at the same time completely uncultured and uneducated. I cannot remember the name of the artist. My friend knows his name. She knows most artists names. She is an architect, and fun to walk around with because she sees the world so completely differently to me. With her, I am assisted to see the lines of the building, the size of the windows, the way space and light and environment has been used. Whenever anybody references artists by name, she knows exactly who they are talking about and can name artworks by them.
I sit there listening mutely.
‘Me too,’ I say, feeling that youthful recklessness, that was behind our meeting. ‘is that wrong?’ I ask, grinning at her. It is this same line of conversation that led to us jumping out of an aeroplane together. Granted there was a significant amount of alcohol that went into that decision. I look around us, but the wooded paddock is empty. There is just us, the artwork, acres of long grass and wildflowers, and a grove of trees hiding us from view. A thrill runs through my belly.
‘It’s not your artwork,’ rants the fun police living inside my head. I grab a coin from my purse and press it into a split in the wood before I can talk myself out of it completely.
‘Big spender!’ she says, when she sees my 50p peeking out. She brushes her blonde hair behind her ear, it’s been years since her hair was long enough to tuck behind her ears like that. She looks more girly than she has in a long time. It’s funny, she seems to be softening as she moves into her thirties, even letting a few colours that are not black or purple into her wardrobe. Whereas, I’m wearing a lot more black, and grey and navy blue, and embracing more structured clothing and contemplating cutting off all of my hair. We seem to have swapped, which entertains us no end. I always suspected she had a softer side, it’s one of the things I love about her. I also admire her sharper, edgier side. Sometimes I think I need a little more edge, a little sharpness. Mostly I feel too soft, too watery, too weak. Too afraid of what other’s might say if I tell them what I really think, of the potential for conflict. Of the conflict.
The coin won’t stay it’s too big. I bend it with my finger, moulding it around the branch. It stays.