He sucked in his breath. “I thought you put it there. With the mail.”
“Did you follow us?”
I thought about how to explain. “I don’t have a lot of places to go.”
“Do you need somewhere to go?”
“I don’t know. I just—” I looked back toward the house, the brass
cherub raising its trumpet over the door knocker. “I just feel a little stuck
“I’m not your friend, you know.”
“I know you’re not.”
And then he hung up.
I had almost been an artist. I had come very close. Kind of close.
After undergrad in Wisconsin, I won a fellowship in New York. Twoyears of training by six respectable mentors. My own spot of fame. I leftMadison for Manhattan, prompting Pete to propose. He’d followed meto Wisconsin, found a job repairing bikes, and he was looking for a wayto follow me to New York. For three months, I said yes, and then I saidno, after one of the professors invited me back to his loft and his bed.
I had been warned about him, but he was so charming and educational. He introduced me to Scotch, Fellini, escargot. He was well connected. I was thrilled that he had chosen me, the short, frumpy one fromthe flyover state. He seemed to love my plainness, praising my unpretentious features, my domestic face. He would hook a stray brown curlbehind my ear and study my face like he was trying to figure out how topaint it—a plain landscape with nothing spectacular. His ontbijtes, hecalled me. A little bite of breakfast, with an aftertaste of guilt. I wish Ihad been more disgusted.
I was naive, and I secretly hoped this would allow me to outrun Pete,who drank too much and tied me to a town that seemed hopeless, anempty mill with too many ghosts. I hadn’t realized how much I wantedto get away until I found an exit. But I forgot Pete too easily, and perhapsthat was my error.
The relationship with the professor soured the second year, when abatch of new students arrived, among them a willowy blonde who woreonly black, down to the onyx gemstones lining the corner of her lowerlip. There was also the older nude model, but he’d always had her on theside. I stayed with him, still believing his promise that he would displaymy work next to his, that everyone would remember who I was—if I