Sketches – 94

Hey there, love. How’s your day going?

Oh. Terribly busy. I’m lying on the floor with a pillow watching a cheesy Hallmark movie on my laptop. How’s your day in Corporate America going?

It’s like opening a series of doors, but none of them have what you want behind them.

So, it’s like “Mystery Date”?

I’m surprised you’ve heard of that game.

My older cousin had a copy. We use to play all the time.

How did you do?

Not great. I always ended up with “Poindexter”.

I’ve got news for you sweetheart — you did in real life, too. So what’s the movie you are watching about? Does Hallmark do movies that aren’t about Christmas?

Oh, yes — and I’m not quite sure what it is about just yet. The heroine is very plucky, though.

So she’s full of pluck?

Tons of it. I feel pluckier just watching her.

Am I ready for that? When I get home, will you, against all odds, have become CEO?

Probably. Which won’t really require pluck, since I’m self-employed.

Would you like to go on an actual “Mystery Date” tomorrow? Like, where I surprise you with where we are going?

Ooh, that sounds like fun. Women like it when men make an effort.

I know, that’s why I try to do it every few years.

Just don’t show up dressed like Poindexter.

No, this is going to be a dressy thing. I’m going to have on a coat and tie.

Anything else?

Yes, I’ll be wearing pants and shoes and a belt

LOL, no. I mean, “Is there anything else I should know so I’m dressed properly?”

It will involve eating dinner out, and then, possibly, something physical like dancing.

Dang, boy, does me talking about Hallmark movies always make you go all romantic?

Well, it will be our anniversary.

Wait, it… what?!

Yep. Apparently, I remembered, and you forgot.

Maybe I’m the Poindexter in this relationship. What would be the female version of that name?


No, that doesn’t work. How about “Quincelle”?

You sound like a Batman villain. “Trillian”?

That’ll work. It will be Trillian and Poindexter’s first official date.

So we are going as characters?

Don’t we always?

Sketches – 93

I used to wonder how ugly guys ended up with beautiful women — now I are one

You are not ugly. I would not have married you if you were. Your grammar, on the other hand…

Ugliness is more than appearance. Or maybe less, I can never remember

Well, that’s just nonsense

How about, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way down?”

That makes a little more sense, but it is not you. You do a lot for other people, so don’t give me that hogwash


Yes, as in “the bilgy water used for the cleaning of hogs”

Oh. And speaking of hogwash, I have to give a talk out of town next weekend

About what?

The title of the talk is “Statistical effects on morbidity and mortality: How the pandemic has impacted health conditions unrelated to COVID

Well, that actually does sound kind of ugly. Is this a bunch of you actuarial types?

Yes. I’ll only be gone Friday night, because it’s only about a six hour drive, and I’ll be done by 1:00 Saturday. You could come, if you want, but I figured you’d be working

Actually, I think I will come. You’re going up to Columbia, right?

No, Charlotte.

Even better. I don’t have to attend the actual speech, right?

No, of course not. I’m trying to figure out a way I can avoid going to my own talk. What do you have in mind?

I want to go down to the river and do some sketching. That would really help.

Cool. It will be a fairly late night Friday; we will probably get in around midnight. The company has got me at the Westin.

Double cool. I get to turn into the mysterious midnight hotel version of me.

I seem to remember liking that version of you A LOT

You remember correctly

Just don’t knock all the numbers out of my head, I’m going to need them

I am making no promises. You knew the risks when you married me

she’d rather face the storm

I'd surround you, and protect you;
You would never need to fear --
You'd be safe, within my keeping,
And would know, I'm always near --
You'd be there, I know it, truly;
Closer than my every breath --
Which would only serve to choke me,
Hound me to an early death
Is that truly how you see me?
Just some wretched narcissist?
Someone selfish, and controlling?
Is there something here I've missed?
Yes, perhaps, I fear unfairly,
Yet, I must do as I feel:
Love does not demand in power,
But, your love, I fear's, not real

Sketches – 92

You look excited. Did you just buy something?

Why, yes I did

And what, praytell, was that?

Your birthday present.


No. Actually, not at all

Well, then

Just boring supplies related to work. Excited because it is possibly a tax writeoff

I’m not falling for it again. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine

Can’t a person have some secrets?

You can have as many as you like. As forgetful as I am, you probably have more than you’d like

Good, boundaries. You know, some of our friends are in relationships where there don’t seem to be any of those. That would be stifling for me.

I’ve been in one of those relationships. It’s horrendous. Togetherness is about trust, and that also means trusting people with your privacy. I don’t need to know why or where you spend your money; that’s why we have joint accounts for our mutual expenses and separate accounts for our whatever. You shouldn’t have to feel like I’m looking over your shoulder

Well, and you’d die of excitement if you knew what I just bought. I wouldn’t want that for you

When you first started going out on dates, like back in school, did you believe that “there are no secrets with real love”?

Sadly, yes. You?

Sadly, also yes. But I’m the jealous type and you are not

You don’t seem to be nearly as jealous any more

Well, that’s another trust thing. Either I trust you or I don’t. And I do. Besides, jealousy often feels like it’s really about something other than its ostensible object. If I was jealous of one of those ripped, wealthy young rich dudes who buy your paintings, it wouldn’t really be about them, or you.

“Ripped, wealthy, young rich dudes”?… my last two buyers have been octogenarians!

Yeah, but that last guy was pretty ripped. For 83. That wasn’t really my point…

No, I understand, you know I do. I wonder why so many of our young ideas about love are so… wrong? Toxic, actually? Do you think maybe it is symbolic of how we view the process of intimacy, given that we haven’t gone through it yet? That it must be some kind of surrendering of self?

Hmm. That feels like part of it, yeah

My first real boyfriend was in eighth grade. His name was Scott

What was he like?

He was very sweet. He was also an artist, he was in my painting class

Huh. What happened?

He used way too much sepia in his paintings. And we both liked other people

So it was complicated.

For that age, yes. But he was a good guy.

In spite of the overuse of ochre?

Sepia. Have I taught you nothing? So what else do you think contributes to our youthful wrongheadedness about love?

I think there is something about transitioning from childhood to adulthood that makes us seek trials as a way of displaying our worthiness

What kind of trials?

You know.. we need to show how tough we are. How much we can drink, or smoke, or how many tattoos we can get without whimpering. We drive fast, take chances, live loud, make huge mistakes, and I think some of that is a de facto rite of passage

There may be something to that

So between surrendering self because it’s what we think intimacy is, and surrendering self because we are passage-seeking masochists, we have most of the bases covered

And that’s what I bought. Some new base paints for an acrylic I want to experiment with



Sketches – 91

I got new glasses. What do you think?

I like them.

Do they make me look smarter?

You’re already the smartest person I know. They make you look sexier, if anything.

Really? Oh, that’s right, you have the librarian/Batgirl thing.

That’s probably both fair and true. What is your ‘thing’?

Thing? I always had a thing for outsider guys

Bad boys?

Not necessarily, just the social rejects.

Like me?

Well.. yeah. I mean, you’re an actuary.

I’m stunned after all these years to realize you don’t think I’m cool.

No, no, I just think being uncool, *is* cool. That’s my thing.

So did your prescription change?

Yes. Apparently I’m just a few years away from needing a guide dog.

So you’ve got that to look forward to.

Except, it’s blurry.

Not with new glasses, I hope.

How long have you had the librarian thing?

I always liked the smart girls. Because we could talk about stuff.

Most guys don’t have that particular hangup. Or are even threatened by it.

Well, that’s weird. Why would any sane person want to be with someone they cannot have meaningful conversations with?

Some guys are okay with skipping the conversations. Even you can be, occasionally.

That’s fine if you are a teenage boy. Because you don’t know better. But at some point, we put away childish things.

Not everyone does. And few people do so entirely successfully, even when they do. I liked to draw and color as a kid, now I’m a painter. I haven’t really changed what I do.

And I liked to jump off backyard barbecues, pretending I was Superman. So I haven’t really changed, either.

No, my dear, you have not. At least, through these glasses

Sketches – 90

You joining the selfie generation? 

Reference photos for a painting. 

You are painting the most 
Objectively beautiful woman ever?

Nice. Still got the words, I see. 
No, it’s a historical work about 
The impact gangs have had over 
The last century.

Impact on… ? 

Women. Children. Families. Society. 
I’m thinking a four painting series. 
I’ve been researching this for over a month. 

And I’m just now noticing. 

Well, I wasn’t sure I was going to do it. 
But it’s coming together in my mind. 
I find the whole subject strangely compelling. 
It’s like taking all the best things —- 
Love, family, loyalty, belonging — 
And placing them in the service of 
Cruelty and control.

That’s… kind of mind blowing. 

I want to ask questions, though. 
Isn’t a country just a kind of gang?

Love, family, loyalty, belonging…

All in the service of what?

Fair question. 
Should I leave you to get back to it?

Yeah, probably.
I’ll come get you in an hour or so,
We can go eat.

Sounds good.
Maybe I'll join you in
The questioning generation

That’s more like it

Sketches – 89

You don’t look happy

I’m not

What’s going on?

I keep trying to pretend that I’m still thirty, but it’s not working

Why would you want to do that? You are pretty much perfect as you are

Yeah, well, you would think that. Does the thought ever occur to you that maybe your best days are behind you? That the best thing you will ever do, you have already done?

All the time, frankly, yes

Don’t you find that thought depressing?

Honestly, I find thinking itself can be kind of depressing. But I never imagined I would amount to much, so realizing that I’m not can’t really bother me, can it

That is just about the “you-est” thing I think I’ve ever heard you say

What in particular has occasioned this line of thought, you think?

Closing the gallery. And not having any commissions. And 2020. And 2021.

That would do it

And all the diet and exercise in the world doesn’t hide aging. Eventually, you just look like a skinny old woman

Well, I hope I won’t, but I get your point

And I’m in a popularity business. If no one is asking for my work, is it really any good?

Hmm. That’s a lot. Lets take each of those one at a time, shall we?


You don’t want to pretend to be thirty, or any age younger than you are. It’s like taking a turn that doesn’t belong to you – it’s someone else’s turn to be that age. And, contrary to popular belief, we aren’t as old as we feel, or look, or whatever — we are each as old as we are. And that’s okay

I find that scant comfort. What else have you got for me?

As far as your best days being behind you: the only thing we have to work with is to make the best of however many days we have left, since none of us know. If we can laugh, sing, dance, hear a story, tell a story — these are wonderful things

I like that better

Closing the gallery was sad. But you took a risk. None of us could know about COVID. And it doesn’t mean you won’t open another one someday


As far as diet and exercise go, they suck. But they are also wonderful. Like life. And you are more beautiful than you could ever dream of knowing, and doing it without the benefit of being … quite as young is a real accomplishment


And you should never question your work, because you do not and cannot ever know the real effect it has had on people. In the arts, earning money was always going to be choppy. We just have to wait for the next wave

You think?

I do. Look, I’m boring for a living, being an actuary. But the tradeoff with “boring” is “steady” — being in an exciting, glamorous profession like you are means tradeoffs

“Glamorous”, he says, to a woman covered in paint

My mom used to say that the reason she never took up drinking is that “it might have interfered with her suffering”. You are an artist, if you didn’t have all the emotions, you would be at a severe disadvantage

Well, I certainly have them all

Maybe we could get away from here for awhile after New Year’s. Would that help?

It might. What do you have in mind?

I was going to surprise you for Christmas, but I was thinking we might go out west. Like, Colorado.

I’m down for that

Good. Just, try and act surprised on Christmas

I love you, you know. Have I told you that lately?

I’m glad. Loving me will never interfere with your suffering

It can even enhance it, at times

Sketches – 88

Have you seen my jacket? It’s gotten cold out there

Yes, December has that feature

My, aren’t you in a sunny mood?

I just can’t believe this year is almost over. And that we have to go shopping

It’ll be fun!

Doing anything with you is fun. But crowds, not so much

Yeah, well. You hated crowds before Covid. You kind of pioneered social distancing

You say that like it’s a bad thing. Where are we starting?

Kohl’s. My mom is looking for a zip-front fleece

I get fleeced every time at Kohl’s, so that seems logical

Hey, look, Kohl’s has very reasonable prices. And I have coupons!

Are those still a thing?

Yes, my husband-who-majored-in-unawareness. They are just virtual now

I know about some stuff. I have a thirty-four foot receipt I got at CVS yesterday

Meaning, you don’t realize you could actually cash some of that stuff in?

You can?

Oh, boy. Anyway, we can shop for your brother and sister while we’re out.

What about your sister?

Already handled. We got her a very prestigious set of placemats.

And those are also still a thing?

This is why we have to get you out of the house every so often. Yes, people still eat meals at tables

Well, I’ve already learned enough popular anthropology to last a month. Can we just call it a day?

Um, no. We also have to drive up to Warm Springs.

Okay, now I’m actually interested. Who do we know who needs like real craftsmanship?

We have a niece and a nephew

We do, indeed. Okay, I’m down

Do you remember when we were dating and we —

— went on that impromptu trip to Warm Springs? I don’t think that’s a thing I would likely ever forget

No, I imagine not. I think of it often

Yeah, well. It’s hard to believe the stuff we used to do

And still occasionally do

True. While we’re up there, do you want to eat at the Bulloch House?

Sure. It should be lunch time by then. I’m glad you are warming to the day

Well it is called Warm Springs

Sketches – 87

I finished "Adam Bede"

Wasn't it amazing?

It was, but... wow.
That story was sad on
Any number of levels.

I think the author 
Referred to it as 'realism'

I can see that.
It was beautiful, though.
I'm surprised that book
Isn't more famous than it is

I don't think most
Modern tastes care
For Eliot's writing style

Yeah, I know, she both
Shows AND tells.
But I find her interjection
Of her own voice to be
Surprisingly honest.
I mean,
Authors have opinions, and
We can almost always
Tell what they are.
Why not just say them?

That's a great point

So... what was it
About this book for you?

I'm twenty-one years old,
Going into my last year
In college.
It's summer semester, so --

-- there were fewer people
On campus?

-- exactly.
The copy of the book I had
From our school library
Was an old bound book,
Much like the one you have.
I'd read it outside, everyday,
In the afternoons, after class.

You still remember
The setting, eh?

I do.
Any time a book
Totally transports you,
It's a memorable experience.
And I was fascinated
By how different
The world of the novel was,
Even though --

-- it was relatable.

And, at that age,
I could really relate to Seth.

Sweetheart --

I know, it's silly

No, it's...
You really saw yourself as
A loser, didn't you?

I was a loser.
Not at all like I am now.
At any rate,
I thought his was the life
I was destined to live.

But then I came along

Yeah, well.
That's my favorite part
Of every story.
So the book was beautiful,
The setting was memorable,
And I saw myself in it,
Albeit in small supporting role.

That book was very disturbing,
In parts.
I don't think our modern world
Is nearly as forgiving
As she or her characters were

We could stand to be more forgiving

People still believe in forgiveness,
But often, only when it involves 
They themselves being forgiven.

That is a very unsymmetrical

Which is why
It always fails