He heard the expected oohs and ahhs, the impressed reactions of passers-by to his use of 3-d techniques mixed with more standard 2-d chalk drawings.
“I love the way the wings look like they were drawn with charcoal,” an old woman in orthopedic shoes murmured to her bald companion, who held a cane.
“I chose to make the central figure female to represent the way we tell women they can be anything, do anything, and then once they try, we clip their wings with the shears of toxic masculinity.”
“How powerful!” The comment came from a young woman – likely a student from the nearby university – wearing a ‘Women in the Sequel’ t-shirt.
“Yes, I think so,” the artist answered.
“Dude, she’s like breathing!” A teenaged boy stuck his foot out, as if to nudge the human form in the center of the piece.
The artist glanced at the boy in alarm. “Don’t touch!”
The kid backed off, grinning sheepishly. “Sorry, man, it’s just so real.”
The light changed. The 3-d illusion weakened. A gentle rain began to fall.
By morning the drawing would be gone.
Across town, in a room in an old apartment, the kind with wood floors and tall arched windows, a young woman woke from an afternoon nap, just in time for her partner to come through the door bearing containers of hot soup and a loaf of fresh bread.
“How’s your flu?” he asked.
“I don’t feel as feverish. But I had the oddest dream. I was a bird, but my wings didn’t work. I felt like I was pinned to the ground.” She ate a few bites of bread, dipping it in the hot broth while the soup cooled to a tolerable temperature. “Hey! How’d your new drawing turn out? I’m sorry I missed it.”
Her partner, the artist, smiled. “It got the reaction I was hoping for,” he said. “But it’s raining now. I’m afraid you won’t get to see it in person.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. Any pictures?”
“Oh… my phone ran out of juice,” he lied.
Weeks later, she’d see the image on some stranger’s Instagram, and assume he’d simply used her as a model.
Because the dream had been just that, right?