Saturday, December 06, 2008

Post Script Thoughts

I am chewing gum with great ferocity.
I am listening to music louder than necessary.
The lights are buzzing.
I hope to use nauseous hunger to create a new universe.

My Friendship is Like Oral Sex

It all started when I stole someone's cat. Only I hadn't stolen anyone's cat. This misunderstanding, however, would be the reason behind much frantic adventuring and detectiving. The phone call was urgent, accusatory, and bad-mannered in a way that could only be achieved by someone who was very good-mannered. Her name was Beatrice and I knew at once from the sound of her voice that she wore watercolor sweater sets. I had stolen her cat, she explained, and I would get it back for them or she was going to the police. I tried to calmly explain that I had done no such thing but her response was a forceful suggestion that I prove it unless I wanted a lawsuit. Beatrice hung up and I began my road trip across a mirror image of the United States of America.

Amanda was my driver and sidekick (in reality it was sometimes Amanda, sometimes Kate, occasionally a woman that I used to work with at Fire (in Cleveland) but to keep things simple we'll say it was Amanda all the way). Without any good idea of where we were going or what we were looking for (how exactly does one find a missing cat the existence of whom one had, until recently, no inkling?) we headed south and then to the other side of the country. The roads were braids of silver and the sky often went into yellow and soft orange hues. More frequently than not Amanda and I completely forgot what it was we were looking for, preferring to enjoy the classic American open road and sing loudly to Bruce Springsteen.

We arrived in Virginia without any more idea of what, where, or why this cat was than when the trip began. Amanda and I found Beatrice's house (address 420) amid rows of identical lawns with significant difficulty seeing as the numbers were displayed more hypothetically than actually. The entire process consisted of a lot of swearing on my part and a lot of talking me down by Amanda. We finally got to the disgustingly soft pink door and knocked.

The interior was just as I had pictured it when Beatrice first placed that hurtful and accusatory phone call. Lilac carpeting seemed to crawl up the wall where it then disguised itself among disturbingly pleasant landscaped paintings wrapped in gaudy gold frames. The couches and love seats placed with meticulous care around the living room promised drowsy comfort to anyone brave enough to take a seat and I was sure that Beatrice kept a pitcher filled with sunshine for any neighbors who happened to stray from their own plot of suburban perfection. I was expecting cold cruelty from this puppies-and-bluebirds woman but encountered quite the opposite. Her small son opened the door for us and when he told his mother we had arrived, the woman practically dissolved into tears amid a collection of my and Amanda's arms. Her Mr. Rogers husband hovered behind her with cups of hot chocolate for when the hug had finally been achieved.

Beatrice explained that she was so sorry that she had ever accused someone so clearly responsible and innocent. Her husband had told her all along that it had been Alex but she refused to accept it. He was always a trouble maker but, being her only brother, she always tried to see the good in him. Now, her husband added, there is simply no question as to who took that cat and we're simply beside ourselves with worry. Their son nodded with sad, boyish eyes.

Somehow in the fifteen minutes it took to be told this news, Amanda and I went from being completely annoyed and creeped out to being simply overwhelmed with sympathy for the white-washed family. We backed out of the doorway with a thermos of hot chocolate and blueberry muffins promising that we would do what it took to find the cat. Now, at least we had some information to go on. Alex Smith was a disturbed 20-something-year-old who had a habit of dying his hair black. He called himself an artist, a title which the rest of the world had latched onto as well: he was moving to New York to do commissioned work for some rich person or another. He was leaving that very day. We had to stop him.

Like a movie pair of outlaw detectives, Amanda and I peeled out of Nowheresville, VA to head to the gallery in Washington D.C., where Alex worked and from where he was leaving. I was motivated with the driving need to clear my name and Amanda was motivated by the delicious hot chocolate we had been given. We were unstoppable. Except that when we got there, Alex Smith had already left. The old man who worked behind the desk suggested that we take a look at his work that was apart of the current Employee Art Show. Amanda and I wandered from piece to piece with a deflated sense of purpose but trying, desperately to put something together from the paintings of this kitty-stealing madman. Already I could sense that the plot was thicker than Beatrice suggested. Smith's dark, curvy lines implied a trapped loneliness, an egoistical inability to communicate with those around, a self-fulfilling desire to be misunderstood but simultaneously a hidden hope of being discovered.

Two of the paintings had been removed and I knew, the way one knows, that these were the two paintings that could solve the puzzle. Just as I was about to tell Amanda that we were heading to New York, I saw it. A hallway lined with wiry lines and cold whites. At the entrance stood a larger-than-life full-body portrait. The man had dark tousled hair and a shadowed expression. His thin scarf blew in some imagined wind and though he stood apart from the rest of the piece, his body dared you to enter. On the right was a mountain scape; mathematical and precise. On the left, cartooney clouds blew hither and thither in an impossible blue gradation. The end of the hallway, the focal point of the entire painting, was an empty blue and just before it, on the right, a collaged-in canvas stood out, in line with the mountaintop on top of which it sat, but warm in a puddle of sun the source of which could not be seen. The title of the piece was "Alex's First Self-Loathing."

A felt the warm satisfaction of a conclusion begin to waft over me and just as I felt I understood what was going on, my phone sliced through the dream and woke me up.