“An in-between monster that doesn’t do bad or good, he just watches everything”
|Gays dans le Village, NYC, années 1970|
“Okay, I’m ready to draw now,” he said.
“That’s great,” Milly said, trying not to sound as triumphant as she felt. She reached for her bag. “Do you want to try some colored pencils? They’re more—” Should she use the word sophisticated with a four-year-old? “They’re for bigger-kid artists, so you might like them.”
He lay on his belly with his ankles crossed in the air and started in. Milly was careful to leave him alone, to mind her own drawing and focus on the other boys. Milly felt a tremendous calm overtake her; she didn’t feel any sense of having forgotten some urgent other matter, something that often nagged at her. At a certain point, she glanced at Mateo and he glanced up and bugged his eyes out at her, as if to say, What, lady? which made her laugh, which made him smile faintly as he went back to his work.
“Here,” he said finally, pushing his paper toward her.
A bloblike creature, all shades of blue and green, floated over a streetscape of pitched-roof houses and passersby—sophisticated figures for a four-year-old—walking down the street. The aquamarine creature, which hovered amid some clouds, with a sun nearby, had blank, unyielding eyes and a straight stick of a mouth.
“I like it,” Milly said. “I like all the different shades of blue and green you use. What is it?”
He took a breath, about to declare something serious. “It’s a monster that’s not mean but not friendly, either. It’s an in-between monster.”
“An in-between monster,” Milly echoed, fighting back her delight, trying to keep a straight face.
“An in-between monster that doesn’t do bad or good, he just watches everything.”
That’s what God is, she thought instantly. God just watches us and doesn’t lift a finger. “Ah, I get it,” she said. “An in-between monster. That’s very good.”
They parted ways outside with plans to reunite at dinner. Hector went back to his hotel room, closed the drapes, took a melatonin, stripped down to his underwear, tried to sleep and could not. He thought of what a naysaying bitch he’d been the entire conference, thought of his own anhedonia amid the hope and joy, and, deep down inside, finally admitted it was because of Ricky. He was watching lovers who’d lived in agony the past few years, waiting for one or both of them to die, realize they were getting a second shot, waking up to the reality-of-life shit that wasn’t going to go away—bills, mortgages, disability payments, employment prospects. They were cursed with the divine gift of having a messy life to go on living. They would suffer through that debt, that paperwork, that uncertainty, and at the end of a day with all its trials, they would meet in the same bed, they would grasp reassuredly at each other’s bodies, however thick around the waist or wasted around the limbs or butt; they might even find their way back inside each other again. They would go on, they would have more; they might not even appreciate, amid the stress and fear of putting a life back together and managing dozens of nauseating medications and insurance calls, how lucky they were that they’d won the AIDS lottery, made it to the finish line, run out the clock.
“You should be here, Ricky,” he said aloud, his mouth mashed into his pillow. He wanted Ricky’s stupid things clustered around him in bed. That’s how he’d slept the year after Ricky died, on pills and crying surrounded by Ricky’s shit.
From twenty-five feet away, he can see Millimom smiling toward him already, but he can already feel her strain, her sadness, burning through the smile, so obvious in the eyes. His heart is pounding out of his chest and he frantically starts saying the Serenity Prayer to himself. Please, please, please, he’s praying, just get me through this in a chill way. Just let me do this right. He stands up and takes a few steps forward, forcing on a smile.
“Mr. Mateo,” he says, “how was your day with the ladies?”
Mateo sits down next to him and puts his head in his hands. “Sometimes I fucking hate myself,” he says.
Bobby G. puts a hand on his shoulder. “Welcome to my world, little man!” He laughs. “The Try-Not-to-Hate-Yourself-Too-Much-Today Club! We’re all VIP members here!”
She was at the Armory Show at the Javits Center. She waited until nearly the end of the run to be as certain as possible she wouldn’t run into either of them, and she also stayed about a mile away from their gallerists. Suddenly she was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the art and all the rich jerks browsing it, and she wanted to throw up. She was looking at about the umpteenth stupid neon wall sign. It said in big swoopy pink neon script: MY PUSSY! Like that was some kind of revelation. And Milly thought, That’s it. I don’t need to keep contributing to this pile of junk.
She had probably been to her studio about twice since then, and that had been eighteen months ago. Often, she considered giving it up to no longer have to pay rent on it. The same canvas had been sitting there half-finished since last year. Whenever she thought of picking up the brush, she thought, Here I am, another low- to no-name-recognition New York “artist” adding to the junk heap. We’ll all die and only .00001 percent of this stuff will have any resonance beyond our own lifetimes.
Then, shocked to hear herself, she said: “I’ve really struggled with your having decided to do this in the first place.”
Drew started back. “Do what?” she asked. “You mean have kids?”
“You can’t undo it now,” Milly said.
Drew opened her mouth to speak, but said nothing. She took a step back from Milly and just looked at her, as though something was slowly dawning on her. “Oh my God,” she finally said. “Christian was right.”
This caught Milly off guard. “What do you mean, Christian was right?” she asked. “About what?”
Drew continued to look at Milly, as though she were staring deeper and deeper into her soul. Milly didn’t like what she was feeling. She kept searching Drew’s face for clues to the Drew she had known. But all she could see was a glossy, superior stranger—the kind of woman, the kind of entitled mother, taking up too much space, whom she would resent if she passed on the street.
Tim Murphy - Christodora (Grove/Atlantic-2016)