a web presence, dear,” she said as a man with the front half of his head
shaved like a Qing Dynasty monk entered the office.
“Paolo, you’re back!” Susan erupted and hugged the man.
Claire took that opportunity to slip out. She slid gracefully through
the gallery again and entered the warm New York summer night. Once
she was outside, the slight anxiety was gone. But relief didn’t take its
place. It was like nothing ever pressed too hard on her, nothing ever settled, nothing was permanent. When she was a child she had always been
moving, blown place to place. It was as though she had never learned
to want. What should she want, after all? The critics to care about her
work? To be invited to Nicola’s parties? She knew he didn’t invite her.
Did she want to date, to be desired It felt odd thinking about wanting
to be desired. Sometimes it felt like she was made of a material to which
nothing could stick. She was never too happy or too unhappy. She was
like the vases of flowers she painted, colored as they were born to be colored. If they were lit in a beautiful way, it was by a sun millions of miles
And when she did feel something, why did it have to be this churning feeling of everything mixed together, a tumbled gray rumble? She
walked the quiet streets of the Village. So many wealthy people lived
here now that the brownstones were often empty while their owners
traveled or enjoyed their other homes. She rode the exceptionally tiny
elevator up to her apartment. She opened her door. The ambient nighttime city light flowed in the window onto her painting supplies, her
stacks of boxes, which rested obediently in the dark where she had left
them. She turned on the buzzing overhead fluorescents. She looked at a
half-completed painting she had set on an easel. Sometimes she felt the
half-completed work was more beautiful than the finished pieces. She
liked how the pencil sketch of the flowers seemed to grow from the fully
painted avocado; she liked the idea of the armature exposed.
She picked up an avocado from the bowl, admiring its dark-green,
puckered skin. She looked at the plain white door on the wall. She
walked toward it slowly, as if she felt it necessary to sneak up on it. This
time, however, she wasn’t scared. She opened the door. It was bright in
the room to nothing, or the room to everything, whatever it was. Just the
mauve color everywhere, no shadows, no wind or sound. She sat down
on the platform cross-legged and looked over the edge. It didn’t feel like
she would fall. She threw the avocado into the void. It floated away from
her, weightless, like it might in space.