On the third floor of the Yale University Art Gallery, there is a man sitting alone. He tilts his head, slumps his shoulders, folds his hands. He is sullen.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he says.

ITo my left, “Western Motel,” a 1957 painting: woman on a bed, solitary and stoic, the great expanse of the west rising beyond the window shades.

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“You’ve got an Edward Hopper in here,” I say, pointing at the painting.

The man stands. He wears black-framed glasses, has salt and pepper hair, medium cut, balding in the back. He is of average build, in black slacks and black shoes, and over a blue button down shirt wears a blue vest that says: Security.

“We’ve got four of them.”

“And you get to enjoy them all day long.”

“Yup.”

He smiles. He has soft brown eyes and a soft, quiet voice. He is gentle, a pleasant man in a pleasant place among pleasant things.

“Must be fun then, working here.”

“Oh, I love it here,” he says, walking towards me. “Been working here many years. We had some kids from Harlem yesterday. We don’t always get people who come from that far, but they were here. And that’s good.”

“Ahh, yeah,” I say. “That’s great.

I expect our conversation to press on, but it does not. The man continues walking; his break’s over and it’s back to work.

So instead I sit where he just sat, looking out at what’s in front of me. The Edward Hopper paintings — “Western Motel,” “Room by the Sea” (1951), “Room for Tourists” (1945), and “Sunlight in Cafeteria” (1958).

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Staring out at the Edward Hoppers now, their quiet figures stuck motionless and frozen in the hands of time, I think about this man, this quiet security guard, sitting alone on this leather-cushioned, mahogany bench, hearing nothing but the deafening sounds of an empty gallery and his own innermost thoughts, and I place him at the center of this canvas, with the art surrounding him.

Art is everywhere. You just have to look.

get in touch paulcantor@gmail.com

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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