Sometimes, it seems as if Charles and I speak different languages. I mean, clearly we both speak English, but sometimes we seem to take different things from our conversations, even when we think we are being completely clear with each other.

A few years ago, I showed Charles a picture of a painting and asked him what he thought of it. He said it was nice. A few weeks after that, it showed up on our doorstep. For some reason, he was surprised to see it.

Lovers #3, Deron Cohen


You see, when I asked “What do you think of this painting?”, I was asking “How would you feel if this painting was hanging on a wall in our house?”. When he said “It is nice”, I heard “Go ahead and buy it”. In hindsight, it was clearly a mistranslation on my part.

About two years ago, I went to an art auction, which Charles could not attend. We had discussed getting a painting for above our couch, and he said “If you see something you like, buy it”, which is actually kind of a dangerous thing to say to me when talking about art. I like art. I like auctions. I used to regularly attend art auctions, just to look at the art (okay, and occasionally to buy, it’s true). At one of the previous art auctions, I had greatly coveted a $10,000 painting. I did not buy said painting (despite the encouragement of my friends) but I pined for it for a few days after we left.

Anyway, I went to this particular art auction with Charles’ words in mind. And I found a piece that I liked. Really liked. But that was kind of … expensive. Not $10,000 expensive (or even close) but not exactly pocket change.

(Side note: At one of the art auctions, not this one, but one by the same art house, the auctioneer was talking about how you should only buy art that you really like and not just art that you think is a good investment. Very good advice. Unfortunately, he followed that up about ten minutes later by wondering why no-one was bidding on some of the art since it was such a good investment. )

But, I did like this peice. And it would fit perfectly above our couch. A good investment, sure, but a goodly investment too.

So, when I brought it home (yes, I bought it), I hid it behind the couch until I could tell Charles about it. You may think this sounds sneaky, but really it’s just that I got home at midnight, so I clearly wasn’t going to wake him up to tell him. And I figured that a piece like that needed a personal reveal. I also figured that would give me time to think about how I would tell him. Unfortunately, the next morning Charles woke up before me and happened to see that the couch, which normally is tight against the wall, was out a few inches. What seemed to me (in the dark, at midnight) like a small shift was a bit more obvious in the light of day. At least he liked the piece too.

Haifa by Sea Israel, Itzchak Tarkay


But when he had said “If you see something you like, buy it”, he hadn’t specified a price limit. So the price tag was a bit more than he expected. In my defense, it is a large piece, and those don’t come cheap. In his defense, he had never been to an art auction and was perhaps not as aware of pricing as I was, given my fairly regular attendance. I’m going to go with an even split for the miscommunication on this one.

Sadly, the art house who hosted these auctions no longer does auctions in Canada so it’s been quite a while since I attended an art auction. Or any auction, really.

This week, when I found out that the first artist above was holding an online art auction and happened to be auctioning one of his pieces that I had been drawn to for a while, I put the lessons of the past to use and said to Charles “I would like to buy this, this is how much the bidding starts at, would you be okay if I bid on this?”

And his response was “Yup, have fun”.

No ambiguity, right?

I wish I could say that it was going to show up on our doorstep in a few weeks, but ultimately the three hour time difference and an almost seven-month old baby meant that I had to go to bed before the end of the auction and I lost the final bid for the painting. But I feel like a won something too, you know?

Art could be our personal Rosetta stone.