The city plaza was dense with tourists as the warm smells of cocoa and charred sweet corn filled the autumn twilight. On weekends like this, all the buskers emerged early to stake claims on their corners.
On weekends like this, Galatea made her best tips.
She was a human statue whose real name no one knew. She never spoke--rarely moved her lips, even--and slipped away quietly at the end of every night in her powder makeup and stiff ivory clothes, back to who-knows-where.
She kept so still, up on her makeshift pedestal, with the patience and stamina of a wild cat in position to pounce. Only when a spare dollar found its way into the vase at her feet did she stir, extending her arm to blow one sweet, graceful kiss to her latest donor.
She was beautiful. Very beautiful. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, according to PJ.
Another reclusive local, PJ would sometimes watch her for hours, fixing his gaze from cafe windows, distant balconies, and the backs of undulating crowds. Wherever he could get the best view, without himself being seen. Maybe he imagined it, but she looked most electric when he stopped to watch her, as if his infatuated energy flew like a cupid’s arrow to her core.
“I’m doing her a favor,” he thought, “She’s better when I’m here.”
“She’s better because of me.”
One night, PJ decided to show himself, confess his adoration, and collect his thanks. He carried a dozen snow-white roses through the plaza to place before her, his heart beating heavily in his chest as he walked.
The world appeared to play in slow motion around him. The crowd appeared to part like the seas did for Moses, showing him to his love without obstacle. Then, ah! There she was. Close enough for PJ to see the cracks in her glistening ivory paint.
Her back was to PJ as he dropped the roses in front of her tip vase and cleared his throat.
“I adore you, Galatea!” he said, “Kiss me!”
A few tourists in the crowd swooned at the gesture. “How sweet!” one of them said.
Galatea turned her head slowly, cautiously, and met his gaze.
There was a pregnant pause.
“I know you’ve been watching me,” her eyes appeared to say.
She turned her whole body, awkwardly, apprehensively. “I see you every damn night,” her chest seemed to scream.
She did not speak, but her tense, deliberate gestures spoke volumes. She touched her right hand to her quivering, pursed lips. Her eyes stayed on PJ, with a decade of rage and bittersweet memory pouring like lasers from each one.
She removed her hand from her lips and extended her arm to the smugly smiling man. Then she held her pose. PJ, still expectant, did not move.
Caught in a game of chicken, PJ waited hopefully while Galatea stared disdainfully, possibly waiting for something herself. They stood for so long that they may have both become real statues if they had waited any longer.
Eventually, though, she’d had enough. She silently began to mouth a message, using the same sweet lips she had used for so many kisses, both true and forced.
“YOU.” PJ’s heart rose!
“KNOW ME.” Higher!
Galatea’s lips quivered harder and a single tear began to fall from her right eye.
Then she whipped her body around to sweetly greet a child dropping nickles at her feet.