American Gothic Romance 

by Edith Thornton

He'd fallen in love with her at the Art Institute of Chicago. She said she flew to Chicago twice a year, because she thought she'd meet her soul mate looking at the American Gothic. She loved that painting. It should have been his first clue, but her independence intoxicated him. She was a successful artist in LA. She painted murals on the walls of high society. People knew her and her art. He wanted to know her too, but he would never really know her. When he told her he lived in LA as well, she said it was fate.

He loved being in love, and before long they moved in together. He was in between jobs, but she made enough money for both of them. Her life was so full that it overflowed—art exhibits, charity events, her gaggle of friends. For a while, that was enough for both of them too. He thought these months would give him time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

She'd set him up with an office in her LA apartment. At first, since he didn't have a career, he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do in it. Then it became his haven from her creative clutter. He played Solitaire and browsed the Internet in his underwear. He started locking himself up when her art friends came over. He hated how they were so consumed by what they did for a living. Except for him, all her friends were artists.

Months passed, and he still didn't have a job. He became depressed. To cheer him up, she painted his office. She said it was too dreary, and if he was going to spend so much time in there, she wanted the color of the walls to inspire him.

She painted it poison frog green. Poison frog green. God, he hated it. He let her know how much. For the first time, he yelled at her. She grabbed the tall paint roller and held it like a pitchfork. Looking at her solemn face and rigid stance, he was momentarily inspired. He picked up the automatic camera and posed them in a parody of the American Gothic. She said since she made the money, she should get to hold the roller. That wasn't the first time she'd pointed out that she was the breadwinner.

Tonight she asked him to marry her. She said she'd take care of him. She was thirty-eight, and he was thirty-two. Her life was so passionate, and his was so stark. He guessed that was what she loved about him. He was stark like American Gothic. More than that, he was a dull canvas waiting for her color. She painted him green.

He couldn't marry her because he hated himself and that painting. So, he told her he'd think about her proposal, knowing he would leave. He took their photo, the parody, with him that night as he snuck out of her bed to find his manhood.

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