Remembrance of Silken Blue
It’s a just-before-deep-sleep dream, an image-dream, almost real but not quite as colors dance and whirl in washed-out darkness on the back of movie-screen eyelids. Impressions form, dissolve, only to reform in just the same way. Faded streaks in tint and shade, scattered dabs of creamy white and yellow on blue-black create patterns that, even before opening his eyes, Justin knows is his next painting, his first in New York. Rising at twilight, quiet, careful not to wake Alex, while the coffee brews, he gathers his supplies and by 6am, he’s ready to paint. It’s dusk before he’s even vaguely satisfied with what he’s done. And it’s eight more days before he’s finished. He nonetheless will consider his first New York painting the easiest work he ever does. And why? Because, before he ever puts paint to brush to canvas, the work is already finished, complete and fully-formed, intimately captured in those flash-seconds of his image-dream. And even if it does take just a little longer to actually paint it in real life.
New York_Late Autumn_2010
Time spent, ten months of searching and of not finding, of expectations disappointed, of hopes disillusioned, of desires frustrated, all of that for this. Brian stood transfixed, one of those shock-to-the-system moments stilling him, one of those alright-now-everything-makes-sense moments that he’d come to rely on more and more the older he’d gotten. And that the sense of this moment was strange, almost other-worldly, was undeniable. But it was the kind of strangeness he willing acknowledged, even vaguely understood. Realization coming to him instantly that this was exactly what he’d been looking for, searching unwaveringly for, all this time. And here it had been patiently waiting, quietly expecting him to hurry up and find his way home.
So, while Allen Carter droned on about the Philippe Starck building’s features, the salesman’s pitch moving from matters more subjective like convenience and aesthetics and status to matters more practical like terms and rates and fees, casting his bait into seemingly noncommittal waters, Brian mostly tuned him out, only barely paying attention to those matters that apparently concerned Allen so very very much.
Mostly, he had other concerns. Well, really only one particular and overriding concern. Justin was never going to believe this. He hardly did himself even with the evidence right in front of him. Justin was going to go crazy, which was good. Very good. It was always good to make Justin go crazy. One of the little quirks of his personality that Brian had come to appreciate, to even, every once in a while, take expert advantage of during their ten years together.
“I’ll take it,” Brian said, turning to look directly at the man, interrupting Allen‘s drone mid-sentence. Noting his hastily concealed look of surprise, receiving no immediate response, he repeated, “I said…I’ll take it. How about we go do us up some paperwork. Good?” Receiving Allen’s smile of realization, he responded with his own small, very slight grin of satisfaction. Damn, wasn’t having money just so right? So just…as it should be. One of the many perks of being a great big fucking success.
As they rode down in the elevator, Allen said, “Since this is a late-evening appointment there is only a small portion of the paperwork we can complete right now. A follow-up appointment, eventually more like three to five follow-up appointments, will need to be scheduled before any of the real work can begin…” And so, while Allen went on and on, Brian continued to slightly, very slightly grin. Justin was going to go fucking crazy and how right was that. “I’m glad we’ve been able to find a space that meets your very exacting specifications, Mr. Kinney.”
“So, am I, Allen. So am I.”
Once done with Allen Carter and what paperwork could be finished that evening, while in the cab on his way to his and Justin’s apartment, Brian spent those few cocooned moments gazing at the sparkle of nighttime streetlights, remembering. Remembering how it had always been the only Justin-possession, the only actual Justin-possessed object that he could recall with any consistency, with any clarity, while he’d stayed with him in New York. Whether in his first stamp-sized hovel, a fifth-floor walkup shared with Alex or in his second rat-infested hove, a street-level flat also-shared with Alex or in his third decomposing hovel, a turn-of-the-last-century apartment thankfully not shared with Alex, who lived next door, it was the only thing, the only Justin-possession he’d ever taken any real notice of.
Otherwise, only impressions remained. Nearly five years of fleeting glimpses of things come and gone. Of the walk-up’s narrow, never-ending staircase that Justin (the shit) could always take two stairs at a time. Or of the street-level’s annoyingly constant noise that Justin (the fuck) could sleep through like a baby. Or of the turn-of-the-century’s permeating smell of decay that…well, actually not even Justin had gotten used to that particular annoyance. Some common ground.
Other impressions, the screaming neighbors, the mingled odors of melting-pot cooking, the rain driven through painted-shut window frames, were not specific to any one locale. These impressions flowing one into the other were becoming a blur. A fading…a receding…a blissfully distant blur.
But that one Justin-possession, that one fucking painting, had mattered. He’d come to think of it as his even if Justin hadn’t actually given it to him. And so, it had been remembered. And not just because Justin had always hung it next to the bed. Although, that probably hadn’t hurt. But it had been more than that, much more than just a simply fact of location. The thing itself, the quality of the work itself was what he’d remembered, what had worked its way, not entirely unnoticed, into the very fiber of his being.
So, while a mattress on the floor became a mattress with a frame, while packing crates found on the street became a Goodwill-bought dresser and Goodwill-bought kitchen utensils became Crate & Barrel-bought, while other paintings were completed, then hung for a while, then sold or bartered or just given away, this one had remained. Becoming DNA-etched into his being, the one constant in Justin’s otherwise constantly changing world.
And so Brian had known, had known with certainty that he had finally found what he’d spent nine months looking for. The painting leading him. Forcing him to understanding that in some strange way he was allowing it, a four foot by eight foot nearly black acrylic painting, to guide the next long-term phase of their life together. Interesting how something like that could happen. And that he was not only allowing it, but that he was actually instigating this journey, simply because he could, satisfied him. Bliss favoring the prepared mind.
Shifting his legs, trying to find a comfortable position in the cab’s always too-narrow backseat, feeling just a little mystified, but also ultimately at ease with the secret he carried, Brian continued his patient wait while the cab and its driver took him uptown to their fairly decent apartment where Justin, dinner, and most likely Alex, waited for him.
Bright and early the next morning, brushing aside Justin’s concerns about why the fuck was he leaving their very warm bed at 7 fucking o’clock on a Saturday morning, Brian showered, he dressed and grabbing coffee and a bagel at the deli on the corner, flagging down a cab, he sped back downtown for his 9:00am appointment. Obviously Allen Carter and his immediate supervisor, Mr. Adrian Harris, didn’t want any time to elapse before he further committed himself. That he needed to see Justin go crazy just as soon as possible only added to the sense of urgency. He sped downtown so that he could concern himself with terms and rates, with fees and points that would, by their very nature, allow him to sell his very soul for convenience and aesthetics and status. And so that he could watch Justin go crazy. For a better downtown address in New fucking York and so he could watch Justin go crazy. Very good.
Unfortunately, when he arrived, the receptionist said, “There will be slight delay, Mr. Kinney. Our 8:00am appointment is taking a little longer than expected. Would you care to wait or would you rather reschedule?”
Smiling at the slight roll of her eyes, the vague shrug of her shoulders, Brian said, “It’s fine, I’ll wait.” The receptionist’s area was comfortable, the receptionist attentive and since he was already there…whatthehell. He chose a high back, soft leather chair near one of the office tower’s 12th floor view-capturing windows and he settled in. Within minutes he had a large mug of coffee in hand and with not much else to do, having unthinkingly left his Kinnetik/ Babylon briefcase at their apartment, he was restless. His peripheral vision caught worried glances from…? “I’m sorry, what is your name?”
“Mary,” she said, her quick smile showing her pleasure at his attention.
….from Mary. Mirroring her smile before returning back to the toward-Brooklyn skyline, he first scanned his cell then allowed to his thoughts to take up where he’d left off from last night’s cab ride; walking just awhile longer through memory.
He’d seen the painting shortly after the first time he’d visited Justin soon after he’d left Pittsburgh. At the fifth-floor walk-up he shared with Alex the Musician and bi-boy whose little practice space had been converted into Justin‘s bedroom and his living room partially converted into Justin’s makeshift studio. And, honestly, sporadically visiting Justin after that first time hadn’t been all bad. They’d go out only when necessity dictated. Which wasn’t often given that he’d kept his visits to weekends, and to those days immediately bordered weekends, never staying any longer than three days consecutively.
He’d noticed the painting, maybe not right away because, as he remembered it, during those first couple of visits there had just been so much bitching for him to do. So much in fact that gripping and complaining had basically taken precedent over very nearly everything else including the noticing of paintings.
“Justin, the bed, it’s on the floor…still.” He’d paused at the bed room door before cautiously entering the space. “I thought we agreed that this was just a temporary solu--”
“Think of it as a platform bed just…without the platform.” Justin had strolled through the space, gesturing. “Think of it as even further simplifying the already simple. And see how nicely it covers up over half of the shitty-green carpet, Brian? You have got to admit…very duel-purpose.”
He’d edged closer toward the bed thankfully covered in the one Justin-possession-of-luxury, his Egyptian cotton sheets. “And the packing crates?”
“Very mobile, very multi-use. No, really. They double as an on-the-floor dining table when I have a guest over and…bonus, I can easily see exactly where everything is. No inconvenient drawer fronts blocking my view.” He’d knelt before the six neatly stacked-as-a-dresser crates, smiling with a kind of inner satisfaction.
“I can imagine, really. The whole dresser-with-drawers is a concept whose time has come and gone. I see now the error of my more traditional thinking. Oh and look, bricks with boards keeping your books off the floor, very last-century dorm, very…retro. I‘m really kind of surprised, though, that you didn’t just stack the books in neat little piles all over the--”
“I wanted to neaten the place up a little, since you were visiting and everything.”
“I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble?”
“It wasn’t easy finding bricks of this quality but...you’re worth it.”
“Does your mother know how--?”
“We’ve been over this, Brian; I’m not taking anything from mom.”
“Fine. Alright? And anyway, I am touched you’d go to all this trouble, I am. Now, com’ere, so you can show me just how worth it I really am.”
Understandably, it hadn’t been until the next day of that second visit that, for the first time, he’d really noticed the painting. He could hardly have helped it. It had been right there when he’d opened his eyes that bright morning, hanging on the wall just inches above his head. Listening to Justin‘s still-asleep breathing blending with the city’s early morning hum, he’d laid back and gazed up into its blue-black surface dreaming of the day when he wouldn’t be a visitor, but would instead be a denizen of New York City. He’d focused into the painting, its silken blue only made deeper by shadows of soft black which were broken by seemingly randomly strokes of translucent colors or by dots of soft yellowy-white. A surface that had allowed him to imagine making New York real. And while that had been the first, it wouldn’t the last time he would lose himself in that painting. After that and especially in Justin’s ground-floor flat, the painting had become a kind of touchstone for him, the vessel of all his dreams. It would be the first thing he would find, would confirm was still there, that still existed, when visiting–
“Mr. Kinney. Oh, I am sorry, did I startle you? Mr. Harris wanted me to let you know that it should only be another ten minutes or so. Will that be alright? Can I get you anything else?”
“A refill, thanks.” And handing his mug to Mary, his gaze returning out through the window, he waited. Once she’d returned with the coffee, he returned to his day-dreaming, to Justin’s last apartment with its amazing, yet painfully uncared for architectural details, wainscoting, crown molding, huge windows, wood floors and with every sign of the hundred years of living that had gone on in it visible on all its surfaces .It had been there that he’d realized what the painting really meant to him. Because it had been there, after Justin had first moved in, that he had had what could only be considered a very slight, a just barely noticeable panic-attack when he hadn’t found the painting hanging on the wall right next to the bed. He soon discovered why. Justin had instead hung it in the main living space and had been pretty confused when he’d insisted that it be hung where it just naturally belonged. In the bedroom.
“Brian, you’re kind of freaking me out.”
“Whatever. I want it in the bedroom. Where I can see it. Any questions?”
“Uhm…why? You can see it just--”
“Don’t fight me on this, Justin. Just do as I ask. I’ll even help. Why is this such a problem for you?”
“For me? It’s no problem for me, I just don’t under--”
“What? What don’t you understand? It’s just that it’s always been in the bedroom, see? What I don’t understand is your opposition.”
“I thought it’d be nice in the living room, that’s all. Here! Here’s the hammer. We’ll move it, okay? So, did I ever tell you how I got the idea for it?”
“I don’t believe you did.”
“A dream, Brian. Really. When I first moved here, I had this sort of dream--no wait! You want to hang it there? That just looks stupid, Brian. This great big wall and--”
“Shut up, Justin, and hand me the nail. Done. Right at eye-level when I wake-up. Perfect.”
“Whatever, Brian. Anyway, continuing, it was the easiest canvas I’ve ever painted. It was like I was on auto-pilot, like I could’ve done it with my eyes closed.” He stood back, admiring his work.
“Dream or no dream, it’s mine, you know.”
“I had no idea. Since when?”
“Huh. Live and learn.”
“And as such, it doesn’t get bartered away or sold away or--”
“Mr. Kinney.” At the sound of her voice, he turned to Mary, “Mr. Harris and Mr. Carter are ready for you now.” She gently touched his shoulder, connecting them for a brief moment. “Come with me, please.”
The bulk of the paperwork was dealt with that day, with the handing-over-of-the-big-bucks signaling the meeting‘s conclusion. The third appointment, the one where the fun stuff would take place, was scheduled for the following evening when Justin would finally see, would finally understand and would then finally go crazy. Very…very good.
And so the following evening, standing at the door of the thirty-fifth floor condo, Brain understood what Justin didn’t. He’d been told that waiting for them on the other side of the door was a cocktail party, very upscale, very the-people-to-know, very the-people-to-be-seen-with and Brian also understood that Justin was not pleased. No matter how many of these social evenings they had attended, Justin was never pleased. All the better.
“You’ll do fine, you always do,” Brain said, ringing the buzzer. Mr. Harris answered with Mr. Carter right behind him. They ushered Brian and Justin into the not very large, not very finished open-concept space with near floor-to-ceiling windows and not much more. Well, with nothing more, really. A blank canvas.
“Brian…whatthefuck?” Justin asked, glancing with seriously skeptical eyes at the two men.
Brian noticed and was glad. Then, redirecting his glance from the two men to around the not very large, not very finished space, Justin stood stunned into silence.
“Welcome home,” Mr. Harris and Mr. Carter intoned.
“”Excuse me?” Justin said, turning now with glaring eyes toward them.
“Welcome…home?” they repeated, vaguely unsure, gesturing individually and yet simultaneously, around the space.
“Brain?” Justin said calmly. “Whatthefuck?”
“Come with me, indulge me. There‘s something you need to clearly see.” Leading Justin to THE window, to the large expansive of glass with the New York night just beyond, he waited expectantly, watching as Justin’s expression changed from one of total confusion to one of clear understanding.
“Fuck, Brian. Fuck!”
“My sentiments exactly.”
“My painting. The view. The view! It’s my painting, Brian!”
“That it is and that’s how I knew that this was where we should be, Justin. I just knew.” Brian watched him, still waiting, waiting for him to go crazy, but Justin wasn’t reacting as he’d expected. Instead of going crazy, he simply sat; he sat straight down, cupping his face in his hands. “You okay?” Brian asked, squatting beside him. “Justin, you okay?”
“Yes, yes I’m okay. I doubt I’ve ever been better in my whole life. I’m just…I’m overwhelmed. We live here?”
“Well, we will. In just a few short months. Right, boys?”
“Two to three,” said Mr. Harris. “Work can begin as soon as the plans have been drawn up. As soon as you are ready.”
“Ready?” Justin said, lifting his eyes to him.
Smiling, sitting down next to him, Brian, said, “This time we design the space, Justin, you and me, so it really is ours. The loft was…I don’t know, I may be wrong, but I don’t think you ever fully felt at home there. I’d--”
“Well,” he scowled, “you did have this tendency to, you know, throw me--”
“Anyway, I’d designed the loft to be exactly the way I wanted, the way I needed it to be when I was younger, when I was leading a different kind of life. I want this to be how we want because, as I see it, you actually found this place with your painting-of-a-dream. I just had the good sense to realize what this was when I saw it. Here we’ll make exactly what we want. And, really, this space is in a Phillip Stark Building…in Manhattan…on Wall Street…with a balcony. Although, one thing. I don’t think Alex can swing the monthlys so, no living next door. Sorry.”
“I’m pretty sure Alex will understand. Especially since he knows he’ll be invited to every single party we ever have here, right?”
“And with the painting always right next to the bed, right?” Justin laughed.
”And with the painting always right next to the bed. Where else?” And as he leaned in to kiss Justin, he heard both Mr. Harris and Mr. Carter sigh.
Very very good.