Sketches – 80

{Looking up from a book she’s picked up off the shelf}
So… how much longer?

We should be out of the condo
And back here in six weeks

Wasn’t it originally supposed to be —

Eight weeks, yes.
That was in March.
Then Covid

I’ve missed this place

Yeah, it’s been weird.
It’s just been sitting empty all this time with
A little bit of the floor torn up

I’ve really missed my studio

I know, baby.
That’s why I thought we’d maybe just come by for a little.

Did I tell you I had a dream about this place?

Our house?
No.
What was it?

It was really strange. Disturbing.
You had a mistress, and you
Were using this place to meet her every day

What?!

Yeah.
It was that brunette medical receptionist
You used to date.
Only, she was still the same age

When did you have this dream?

Oh, about a week ago.
I was so hurt. I was pissed at you

But it didn’t really happen!

Yeah… I suppose that would be
A mitigating circumstance.
The two of you were coming here.
Only the furniture was all different.
It looked like a massage parlor

Where do you think she, of all people, came from?

Heaven knows.
Have you ever had dreams like that?

I actually have.
I never understood why anyone
As beautiful as you are would
Be with someone like me.
I’ve watched women’s movies —
Nobody’s dream is to
End up with me

Yeah, well.
Men don’t really understand women,
Or their movies.
She’s married now and has three kids, right?
Kyra, the receptionist?

Last I heard.
It’s been a few years.
Look, you dated fabulous guys.
Why are you worried about someone
I dated for two months, years ago?

I’m not sure.
I don’t think it’s coming from being worried,
Or jealous, or anything.
In a weird way, the dream seems like
It was more about this house

How so?

You say often that you know I miss being here.
But I think you might, even more.
It’s been hard for either of us to have any privacy
In the condo

True.
But I don’t see how that translates into
Me having an affair

Dreams are weird.
You were so casual about it, too.
You were like, “You need to leave,
Kyra is going to be here in a few minutes”

That doesn’t sound like an affair

Then you said,
“I’ve been meeting her every day. For sex.”

Maybe I was kidding

Then she showed up, and she was
Barely wearing anything

I could see where you could misinterpret that

Men don’t understand anything

Sketches – 79

I turned out to be a beautiful day

It finally feels like Fall!
About time

Yeah, the Summer, like most of 2020,
Has kinda outstayed its welcome

No lie…
I just got a text. Hmmm.
Did you know there was going to be
A presidential election this year?

Seems like I’d heard
Something about it, yes

Well, this person says
I still have time to
Make a difference in the election

For what candidate?

One I’ve never heard of.

That takes some doing.
You are like a political
Fountain of obscure facts

Now I have to look this person up.

You really don’t.
It’s probably like the Merovingian Party

Close.
It’s called the “Bread and Roses” Party

Two things worth having

If you had to name a political party
Using only two everyday material items,
What would you pick?

So I can’t use words like ‘truth’?

Nope

How about…
Apples and bananas?

{Laughs} Why do I even ask you questions?

What two words would you use?

How about “earth and stars”?
People are in favor of those

I don’t know.
The earth gets walked all over,
And the only star we care about
Lives in the neighborhood

How far have we walked?

So far?
One point eight miles

Let’s go back

You going to research this party?

In the car, maybe.
I know you hate politics, but,
I find it fascinating

To me, government is like salt.
You put it on everything,
You end up unhealthy

I actually sort of agree.
It’s finding the right amounts
To put in things, though

Does anybody ever?

Maybe not.
With politics, you have hear the music
Underneath all the noise.
It can be beautiful

You almost convince me

You know I’m right.

Let me know how the research goes.

I will in… one point seven miles

Sketches – 78

[The following conversation took place a few years ago. – Owen]


So why did you decide to come out here to work?

I don’t know.
Being home was getting to me

You’ve been seeming kind of depressed

I am.
I’m a little lost, professionally

Explain

Being in the arts is… very precarious.
No matter how you slice it, it actually is
A popularity contest.
Do people want to see my work?
To buy it?
Or do they prefer someone else’s?

… and…?

… and, it feels like
I don’t have any friends anymore.

How so?

I text people, but
They don’t text back…
Unless they need something.
I miss having girl friends to do things with.
I’d love a game night, a trivia night,
You know, someplace where I can just let go.

I don’t know, I just
Feel wrong.
Unimportant.
Like what I do doesn’t matter,
Like I don’t matter, and
Like.. garbage, really

Does sitting outside help?

Yes.
It’s peaceful out here

Good

So…
What do you think about what I just said?

That, that’s got to be really hard,
Feeling all of that.
Depression is really… hard

Yes.
Do you have any suggestions?

Your work is amazing, and it (and you) will find your audience.
Friends are hard. I don’t have a great answer there other than to say
Not to give up trying. If I wasn’t your husband, I’d want to be your friend,
Because you’re pretty cool

Thank you.
Why don’t you and I do something this weekend?

Like what?

Why don’t we go up to Bugg’s Mill Farm tomorrow?

I don’t think so. I’m not really a farmer

It’s not farming. It’s horseback riding

I don’t know… oh, okay.
I’ll go.
But I hear it’s supposed to rain.

Thank you.
Please don’t think when I’m depressed it’s because
I don’t appreciate you

That thought has crossed my mind.
But — I hear — everything is not about me

Hard to fathom isn’t it?

Sketches – 77

That’s an old photo.
We were up at Buggs Mill Farm, right?

Yes, we were.
That was such a fun day

And you didn’t originally
Want go.
Remember?

I do remember that.
I learned something about myself that day

Which was?

Going places with you
Is always a good idea, because
You are going to be there

Oh… that’s so sweet!
But never mind that right now.
Tell me what you remember about that day

We were worried about rain.
And I had never been horseback riding.
But it didn’t rain. And I rode two different horses,
While you rode all… five?

Six

We ate at the cafe there, and
The food was amazing.
And we met that couple visiting from Malawi.
They were really interesting.

And their names were…?

Tamanda and… Enock?

Wow.
Score one for the man who claims
He can’t remember names.

They were a such a cool couple.
I wonder where they are these days?

They live in D.C. – she and I are Instagram friends.
They recently had a baby

Oh wow! Why haven’t I heard this?

Because, usually, when I come in here,
You are working, not looking at an old photo of me.
So we don’t talk.
And if I don’t tell you things when I remember them,
I might not ever.

We should go back up to the farm.
It just reopened.

When?

Saturday?

It’s a date.
But… I don’t look like this photo anymore

You are beautiful as ever, my love.
And even if what you say is true,
The horses won’t mind.
And you do love horses

Yeah I really do.
They have one of my paintings there, remember?

I do.
Even though I wanted that painting.

The we should go visit periodically.
We have visitation rights

This is really a good photo of you.
But honestly, I’ve never seen a bad one

Well, you’re biased.
Still I’m glad it’s still my photo you look at

As opposed to?…

I don’t know.
Pictures of Batgirl.

We’re back on that, are we?

Barbara Gordon had the sexy librarian thing going.
We all know how guys are about that

And girls love horses.
Nothing wrong with any of it

I guess you’re right

Sketches – 76

Hey there

Hello

So…
Whatcha doin?

Just sitting here…
Thinking

About?

People

Ugh.
I wouldn’t be sitting here smiling
If I was doing that

I don’t know.
People are fascinating.
We feel so strongly about things

Yes.
I often think
The intensity of our emotion about any subject
Is in inverse proportion to how much
We really know about it

Yeah, but better to care and try to do some good,
Than to be more analytical and end up useless

Ouch.
But I can’t argue with you. You’re right

What’s the first thing you remember
Being really emotional about but
That you couldn’t explain to others?

Batgirl.
I loved that character.
Not like “adolescent fantasy” love, but
“I wish I knew her in real life” love

How old were you?

Thirteen

Ah. So that’s it.
I always wondered about you and my
Red hair

Yeah well.
You do have a kind of Batgirl vibe.
What about you?
What was the first thing you remember
Being really emotional about but
That you couldn’t explain to others?

Grace Hartigan.
I absolutely loved her paintings.
These were the early days of the Internet, so
I only saw her work in books and on
A once-a-year trip to New York

I’ve never heard of her, honestly.
What is her work like?

Abstract, but the colors and composition
Are unmistakeable.
No one else painted like her.

Why was that hard to explain?

No one I knew was that into painting.
A few of my friends took photos, like
I still do.

Ah, so that’s it.
I always wondered why you were attracted to me.
It’s because you like abstract expressionism

Don’t make me go all Batgirl on you

Sketches – 75

Hmmm… let me think…
Yep, there it is.
These calculations prove it

Prove what?

You work too hard.
It’s all right here in writing

I work too hard?
I’ve never worked twenty hours a day
For 18 days straight on
One mural

No, you just work thirteen hours a day
358 days per year.
You can’t escape, it’s right here
In my calculations

What have you written down?
… “Drinks twenty Red Bulls per week…
Eats four bags of potato chips…
Donuts…”
You’ve been keeping track?

All kidding aside,
I worry about you.
I really do

And I worry about you

Me? Why?

Because… while, this year
Has turned everyone’s world upside down,
You have seen virtually everything you love
Go away.
You haven’t seen your niece or nephew…
The gallery has been closed…
The university job fell through…
And, worst of all…

Yes?

You’ve been stuck here with me.
Every day.

True.
Just you, me, and
A whole bunch of
Red Bull, potato chips, and donuts.

It is weird how much of our lives and energy
Go into our jobs. At least
You are an artist, all your work is, you know…
Yours

You are, too, after a fashion.
As much as the corporate world will allow

It is catching up with me, though.
I can feel it.

And I understand.
I just want you to take
Better care of yourself

Sigh.
Donuts are like my friends.
I hate losing friends

I’ll find ways to make you feel better

I never really liked donuts anyway

Sketches – 74

Do you have any idea how much I love you?

And I love you
But I’m still taking this picture

It was worth a shot
I thought I might divert you

Why do you hate getting your picture taken so much?
You are very handsome in an… actuarial sort of way

Exactly

Why do you interpret that as bad?
I obviously think you’re handsome
Since we.. you know…

Since we… I know… what?

Since we’re… intimate.

Oh, sure, drag that up.
Just because we’re married and sleep together
You think you can just barge in here and
Tell me I’m handsome

“Barge in here”? We are outside!

That’s W-A-A-A-Y-Y beside the point

Perfect.
I got you with your mouth wide open saying, “WAY”

Do you any idea how irritating you are?

That’s why you love me

It actually sort of is

Of Course She Settled…

Of course she settled,
That’s what women do —
If they’re not with
One of the five guys
They all want.

Or maybe I’m one of those guys

You can’t be:
It’s all about status.
That’s why we men are wired
To kill and die —
There are so few of us
That are really needed.

That’s crazy talk

Is it?
Think about it.
She had kids with the other guy.
You’re just there to keep her company now.
Women despise most men
For not being one of the five.

I see you’ve given this a lot of thought

Oh yeah.
Bars are dark and women get drunk,
Or 98% of guys would have no shot.
Women would volunteer for harems if they still could.

Or, you’re insanely misogynistic,
Lonely, bitter, and
Think you’re some kind of scientist

And I’m telling you,
Your wife only settled for you

And if she’d ‘settled’ for you?

Lord, I’d be happy.

As I suspected

unveilings (5)

dressing up, she spoke to me and said,
“what did you do the whole time you were sick?”

“I didn’t do much,” I said.
“I was pretty depressed, and
saw little value in going forward as
a damaged sort of man.”

“damaged?”

“yeah, i had lost significant
brain capacity from seizures, and
everything had slowed down for me,
mentally. being quick was always
kind of who i was, and it felt like,
i wasn’t… anyone anymore.”

she looked at me, through the
darkened room,
so lovely in her black dress, just…
waiting

“i’ve never really talked about
that time. it’s very hard to
relive, hard to come to grips with.
but, it’s what happened.”

“how did you get out of it?
the depression?”

“medicine. therapy. friends.
family. faith. activity.
one minute at a time.”

we gazed at each other for
about forty silent seconds

“this seems like a strange
topic to be getting into before
a date…”

“not really. it’s a big deal to a girl
when the guy she’s falling for is…
real with her.”

“my reality, huh.
i never saw it as having..
value, i guess”