I am in a room where I can close the door. That’s all I want. A room where I can close the door. This one makes me feel like a princess because attached to it, through a second door, is my own bathroom that I do not share with anyone else. It is tiny, but it sparkles it is so new and white and I keep it that way every second because even though he is invisible Natvar is still with me, watching. “How dirty you are. How sloppy. Look at you. Disgusting.” And so I keep it clean clean clean. You’d think no one ever used that little bathroom. And my clothes are folded on the shelves in the closet like Aliki’s clothes are kept – as if this were the model, this is how it must be done, how it is done best, proof that I am not ill or damaged. My clothes are folded like they are in department stores.
I must stay amongst those who do things correctly. I must work hard, make that effort. If I don’t I will slip and slide and be lost amongst the worthless.
Peach. The cover for the bed I buy is peach. I take delight in the smoothness of the color, of the fabric, bright in the drab simple room that has one window below the sidewalk. It is September and London and the light is always waning, the sky often grey, but grey in a way that makes the colors complicated.
Most days I walk in the park, looking at the shape of black leafless branches against the sky, the water of the pond with the straw-colored rushes, the gravel I walk on. I am eating with my eyes as if I have been starved for a long time. I do the unthinkable and buy watercolors and two brushes, a thick one, a small one and sit at the heavy desk below the window that looks up at people’s legs and I make colors on a white dinner plate and delight when I make a new mysterious blue, a green that has many greens inside of it. I dab the colors on paper. I don’t really paint pictures. I try the branches once – black against the sky – but not in London, a few months later one evening alone in Manhattan. I sit at the dining room table that no one ever eats at, high over Washington Square Park, facing a window that stares downtown at the twin towers and I try to recreate the London time, try to paint those black branches I can still see, and fall so far short that I put the paints away forever.
But in London I don’t try for too much – fields of flowers that are really just streaks of my greens, dots of my reds and blues, all of it so much prettier than I expected.
I have quit my job. That’s what I have done. I have opened my days wide open, left them empty. I don’t want to fill them with anything. They have been so crammed and stuffed and suffocated for so long that they are almost dead. I breathe life back into them. So I just walk every day. Not in the streets, but always in the park to look at colors and plants, the sky – things of nature that do not ask anything of me, that I can just look at -- and sometimes – once – I take the subway half an hour north to a different park, a wilder one.
Mixed with the pleasure of all this is here and there the fear that it will not last, that the sky will close over me again, but I peddle fast to keep it, to keep it open.
Lisa, who also lives in the flat, lends me her yellow plastic Walkman so I can listen to the tape that Jeffrey sends me – Van Morrison’s one called “No guru, no method,” and I listen to every song, every particle of every word and note as I walk and look. I want the new life I am preparing, the one in New York City, to have all of this inside of it, to continue all this delicacy. Jeffrey, I think, will be different this time. He has even told me that he has read some books channeled by someone called Michael, and this is so different from the Jeffrey I knew that I think perhaps his rigid adherence to the concrete, to his preferences of red meat and cold Coke and TV snapped on with a remote, maybe he will set that aside a little so something new can come in.
I read Kahlil Gibran’s The Propphet. I remember it form high school and although I have always dismissed him as lightweight he says what I want to say to Jeffrey, especially the party about how lovers must let each other go so each can live as fully and abundantly – I write down this chapter on love with a calligraphy pen that I buy and black ink on cream-colored parchment paper and I decorate it with my watercolors, and I send it to him and yes, he is very touched by it, he says, and by my painting, so I know something gis very different and I am hopeful. This is the Jeffrey I have always wanted.
I have two books during this time, these three months. One is a big expensive coffee table book of Van Gogh’s paintings, letters and his journal. I read him as if I am reading myself. What is it? His sadness, despair, desperation. His madness. His lostness. But always he paints.
And for Christmas Julian, who also lives in the flat, gives me Leaves of Grass and I want all of that too, I want all of it now.
“Can you help me in the afternoons?” How does it happen? I meet Mark and Natvar at some fucking party. What am I doing at one of these formal London parties where I don’t know anyone? But they are there. I have not seen or spoken to them since I left four months ago, back in September and it is December or January now. And they are friendly to me now. we are strangers now compared to what we were – seven years, living together, eating every meal together, every day ferociously together, our lives so interwoven there was not a drop of air. But now there is a little air. Natvar laughs when I make a joke. He tweaks my ear. Suddenly I am cute again. “Ariadne needs to be picked up from school. Mark and I work all afternoon. Could you?” His warm brown eyes. “My love,” he says. He smiles, catching the tip of his tongue between his teeth, as if he were just a shy little boy.
I am not working. I have no reason to say no. I would be saying no to a ten-year-old little girl, his daughter. How can I do that? I would be cruel if I said no.