from a blow that never came, his eyes rolling to one side, his head following,
swiveling only a second after, pulled by the eyes, a corner of his mouth
turning but stopping short; couldn’t—no, don’t want to show this much, but
it’s too late now, I’ve already shown everything. She’s seen it;
it’s obvious, she’s shifting in her seat, her eyes moving down. Yes, there’s
the floor. “Should I go?”
No, he says, it’s just… it’s… Don’t go. But already she’s pulling things to her. He can see the muscles in one leg tensing, preparing and then followed by the other and she stands. And so he stands and without ceremony walks to the door and holds it open for her; she’s right behind him, she slips out, muttering a goodbye without looking back. That wasn’t how I wanted it… The door, closed now, presents bland uniformity—he can’t remember why he’s standing there. He must be going somewhere, yes that’s it; his hand on the knob, the latch slightly disengaged… he opens the door and deposits himself outside. He locks the door and sees her in a car, driving past him. Hello, he calls out, waving. She slows a moment, then drives away. His hand still in the air—he pulls it back and it folds against his chest; his heart’s still beating.
There’s chrome everywhere, stars on the asphalt, constellations reorganizing themselves every minute or so—so they’re satellites. Here the constellation Ford, there the almost extinguished Plymouth; he knows their mythology. Nazis and Indians. But no, not constellations, if satellites, then not constellations; but it’s the asphalt that fixes it, solid and immobile—so not satellites at all. Space is void, so the stars are the fixed points; the asphalt is solid, so the stars must move. His sign is Nissan; he was born under Datsun, but things change.
Over by Harley Major he looks for the tree. He feels for his glasses—I don’t wear glasses—he thinks that maybe if he wore glasses, then he would have dropped them by the tree, but the tree isn’t there today, though it should be. Oh, he says, Harley Major moved, the tree’s now just south of Nissan. He wonders if it’s a fortuitous convergence, having the tree in Nissan; walking toward the tree he thinks again: I don’t wear glasses. And then: Maybe I should. He walks past the tree, around Nissan, surreptitiously brushing Harley Major with the hand not folded against his chest. Still beating. Harley Major is burning especially bright today, it must be the hour, bright Harley is always a good omen. His hand drops, finds his pocket and he walks on.
According to the Bible, only the artists go to Heaven. Not all of them, only the good ones. It’s not that God’s all that fond of art, but he definitely dislikes bad art. God hates commercial art, social commentary, mass-produced regional art-products. God likes Matisse, He probably owns a couple of Picassos—or at least has them on loan. Only good artists go to Heaven. And a few scientists. That’s what it says in the Bible anyway.
Pasquale, Hobbes, Voltaire… he’s reading the comics. At a café now, forever in cafés; he ran into someone from the hospital on the street. She said hello, he said hello and waited for her to say more. She asked about medication and he told her that he left it with his glasses. He said, How are you, are you still insane? and she got mad and so he told her, You’re still not twenty years younger, I thought you would be by now. She kept saying that in the hospital, that if she were twenty years younger… He thought she would do it when she got out. He wished her luck and walked on. But now at the café he doesn’t remember her and he puts the comics back in the pile of papers, No news today…He asks for tea. Transient stars shine on the wall, rushing over the bad paintings, unwilling to light them; the sun and the lamps do it enough already, too much he thinks. Figures and colors, backgrounds and signatures: a nude, a portrait, a still life; one of them is still wet. A star paused a moment and caught his attention, the painting glimmered and almost glowed; he had to touch it. The paint came away on his fingers. He’s looking at them now, blue and yellow, oils that won’t come off easily. His tea arrives.
“What was up with that earlier?” It’s Michelle, she’s back, maybe she didn’t leave after all. Hello, Mick, he says. She hates it when he calls her that. “Don’t go, ok?” he says to her, “just stay a little.” He smiles and touches her hip. Michelle asks again and he tells her that he hadn’t meant what she’d thought, he just didn’t finish the expression; it was going the wrong way, he says, so I stopped it. I meant something else.
What was that? she asks.
“Your sign is Honda,” he answers the wrong question, “isn’t that strange that we should both be born under signs of Japan?” She’s familiar with his cosmogony, she knows that she’s a Honda. She doesn’t know what it means, but she knows at least that much. “I’m a Nissan-once-Datsun, and you’re a Honda… that’s why we don’t get along with the Domestics.”
She laughs, needing it to be a joke. She’s actually a Virgo, or Scorpio, depending on who you talk to, no one’s too certain on the matter, so she’s O.K. with being a Honda—it’s only one; one is enough.
Yellow hair, blue eyes. She’s on his fingers. His hand reaches under his shirt, he paints her over his heart. “I’ve been thinking…” she’s saying.