When Mineko asked his opinion of a work, he would answer only vaguely. When she asked if a work was interesting, he would echo back that it seemed so. He appeared to be not the least bit engaged. Either he was too uninformed to express an opinion, or he was too conceited to converse on her level. If he were uninformed, then there was a charm in his lack of pretension. If he were conceited, then his reluctance to engage was quite odious.
There were numerous works from a brother and sister who'd traveled extensively in foreign lands. They shared the same surname, and their works were arranged in the same gallery. Mineko stopped in front of one.
"This must be Venice."
Sanshirō thought so too. It looked somehow like Venice. He wished he could float through it in a gondola. Sanshirō had learned the word gondola at his high school, and it had become one of his favorites. When he imagined riding in one, it was always with a woman. He gazed silently at the blue water, the tall houses on either side, the inverted houses reflected in the water, and the speckles of red that dotted those reflections.
"The brother's a much better painter," Mineko commented. Her meaning was entirely lost on Sanshirō.
"This one's by the brother, isn't it?"
Mineko gave him a puzzled look. "Those are by the sister, and these are by the brother, right?"
Sanshirō took a step back and re-examined the works they'd been viewing. They were all of a similar style, depicting scenes of foreign lands.
"There are two artists?"
"You thought there was only one?"
"Yes," he replied blankly.
Finally, the two of them looked at each other. They both laughed. Mineko widened her eyes in feigned surprise. Then she dropped her voice and whispered, "Really now."
She hurried a few steps ahead. Sanshirō remained in place and gazed again at the Venetian canal. From further on, Mineko glanced back. Sanshirō wasn't looking her way. She stopped where she was and studied his profile.
Someone called to her, unexpectedly, in a loud voice.