“Jesus, we could barely see.”
“And that friend of Steve’s, the mechanic, or whatever he was, he was sweet on you. Thought he was smooth”
“He was so greasy. Richard Gerehead.”
“The four of us drove to that all night rib place on the south side. They had that bulletproof glass with the turnstile thing to give you your food. Pretty scary stuff. There wasn’t another white person within miles.”
“Was that the night? I didn’t think the..”
“Sure it was. One of you dilletantes were pandering shots
of Wild Turkey. I got sick in the parking lot, remember, I threw up.”
“Oh god yes, but Maggie honey, you didn’t throw up, you spewed. On the side of the car, on the building, all over the parking lot. You regurgitated a substantial volume.”
“In retrospect it was rather disgusting.”
“It was none too pleasant at the time.”
“You could always drink like one of the boys. I used to be jealous.”
“I can burp really loud, too. Wanna hear?”
” Mm… I think not. But you can really drink a lot. I thought you might be out of practice. But the members of the friday afternoon liquor clatch were fairly impressed.”
“They seem like a good bunch. They’re pretty funny. At least a few lesbians. Mary, Dale.”
“That doesn’t bother you, does it?”
“Not really. Not at all. It’s not like anything was revealed throught the course of the afternoon. It was pretty evident right from the beginning. I didn’t have a lot in common with your gang, though. Two rather different lifestyles. And the conversation was rather esoteric. I couldn’t seem to recall much of the modern art I studied. You have to remember I wasn’t an art major.”
“You probably should have been, Margaret.”
“No. Possibly art history. You know I’m not creative. My mother went through a phase where she used to drag me all over the globe wrenching culture into me. I was in high school so I wasn’t all that hostile to it, but she was fairly conservative. I’m lost after, say, Matisse. Cubism maybe. I could never tell the difference between Braque and Picasso.”
“Don’t worry, neither could Mrs. Picasso. Have you gone back to school recently?”
“No, have you?”
“A few months ago. Oh, do you know who I saw? Shaw.”
“Seminar in Renaissance Art. That was the first class we had together.”
“That’s right. That’s where we first started hanging out.”
“So Shaw is still doddering through the shallowed halls.”
“Yep. Said hello, smiled. I could’ve been the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt, judging by the amount recogntion in his eyes.”
“That was the easiest ‘A’ I ever got.”
“Well I got one, too, but I think there may have been some confusion when he was doing the grades. Which of us was which.”
“I hated it when he called us The Margarets.”
“By the end of the semester we were kind of inseperable, but he should have been able to distinguish us. You knew a hell of a lot more than I did.”
‑God, I was so intimidated by you then. Half the art department was as well. You were intelligent and sophisticated and mature and of course funny and god damned pretty, too.
“What did you tell friends about me?”
“The women today? Not much really. That my friend from college was going to join us. Why?”
“Oh nothing. You have quite a little sorority there. How are they to work with?”
“Really great. They’ve all worked hard to make this thing work. The idea of starting a workshop and studio from scratch sounded rather incredulous when we first talked about it but things have progressed nicely. I’m learning how to write applications for grants, and I actually have an honest to god budget to manage now and that makes the whole thing real for me. This thing is so important to them. Especially the gay women. They really are the backbone of the group, tremendously dependable and considerate. A great need and sense for community, I imagine because they belong to two opressed groups.”
“Artists and alcoholics?”
“Women and homosexuals.”
“I know. I was being facetious.”
“Don’t be. I’m not equipped for that right now. Remember I’m the lightweight”
“It reminded me, remember when we went and saw that dinner table thing exhibit with the group from school and we couldn’t stop laughing?”
“Judy Chicago. Do you remember why?”
“Something somebody said.”
“Something you said. You never take credit for anything. You looked around the room and then down at the table, shook your head sadly and said something like ‘not a penis in the place.'”
“Well, I didn’t think it was that funny but you wouldn’t stop and the more you laughed, the harder it was not to.”
“When we left the room you told the instructor we going in search of some more diverse genitalia.”
“That’s when you were doing the stuff like Barbara Kruger.”
“I prefer to say I was influenced by her. Although I do admit some of the ideas were lifted rather shamelessly”
“Are you still doing it?”
“All that raising of social consciousness junk.”
“No, not really. I’ve settled on sculpture in my old age and I don’t do any painting now. The women at the center can be very political but what little work I do these days, work on art rather than for art, is about space. I do sort of a cross between Henry Moore and Judy Pfaff. That’s a joke.”
“Didn’t get it. Sorry.”
“It’s quite all right. I’m working on some things that are emotional, maybe even a little visceral. I’m using lines and shapes that are gradual, eroded, smoothed and earthy, materials like burlap and stone, and putting them in relation to a small focal point, a collision, a small spot of brightness and artifice and synthetics. I want to describe abruptness. I’ve been using painted metals but maybe I’ll try to incorporate something more tangibly artificial. Maybe mixed media. Small works, in fact they seem to get smaller all the time. Sometimes I’m afraid I’m going to converge with Stella, but I think they come across as very sincere. I’m proud of them. I’ll show them to you some time.”
‑I should have known you’d turn quiet if I started talking more than two seconds about I was working on. I guess it bores you now. Although the all that raising of social consciousness junk remark was kind of derogatory. And I know you won’t come over and see the works unless I kidnap you.
“Visceral. You sound like Joe Sculptomatic.”
“Yeah, that was one of his faves.”
“Al keeps some beer in the fridge. Do you want one?”
“Only if you’re having one. Thanks. How’s he doing?”
“Is he still with the phone company?”
“I’m really glad I came out with you guys. It was fun.”
“You know I’m still short help. I can’t pay you much, but for a couple of days a week you might find it interesting.”
“I don’t think so. Al doesn’t like me going over to that neighborhood. In fact, he said something to me this morning.”
“Are you kidding? It’s gentrifying like mad.”
‑He really is aware of nothing. The shortness of your reponses about Al makes me uncomfortable. Of course that’s the way he answers questions. He’s not a bad guy. I’m sure he treats you well. But would you still come to me if you were having problems? Probably not, but who else is there?
“What did you think of the bar?
“It was great. It’s going to be beautiful when he’s done restoring it. What was his name?”
“Mark. Uh, I like him. He’s interesting.”
“He may or may not be interesting but he is certainly adorable. He reminds me a little of Sculptomatic. Better looking, of course.”
‑He doesn’t look anything like Steve, Margaret. What’s the point of talking about him? Boys remain one of your favorite topics. Al is almost stupefyingly handsome. As opposed to being merely stupefying, I guess.
“He seemed to pay a lot of attention to you.”
“We talk a lot, but it’s platonic at present. That’s more sophisticated than the truth, but it sounds good. I think he may be a little shy.”
“Well I’m not surprised he’s a little hesitant, seeing how you travel with a roving pack of dykes.”
“Jesus Christ, Margaret, what is wrong with you? Do you say things like that to get a rise out of me? Those are my friends.”
“You would have laughed if Joe Sculptomatic had said it.”
“No, I wouldn’t have.”
‑Although I probably would have. Perhaps I’m overreacting.
You’ve always been irreverent and I guess sexual tolerance is a kind of sacred cow with the people I know. But I’m not convinced that’s what you were aiming for. How you and Steve terrorized that school. But you know he would have said it just to be funny. There was a haughtiness to your humor, superiority. He just liked to make us laugh. He wouldn’t say it to be mean. God, you said that with such disdain.
“I’m sorry then. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“So do you still work for your Father?”
“Three days a week.”
“What exactly does his company make again?”
“Custom tools and machinery. Pretty fascinating stuff, huh?”
“Oh yeah. What’s up with… Are they still fight… uh, seperated?”
‑I hope I’m not being insensitive. I’m more tired than drunk right now, but screw it, I blurted it out. Friends get to do that.
“Their divorce is almost final. It really has been a while.”
‑Not from my lack of trying.
“It’s not a problem. They’ve been unhappy for a while. Other than to play Catholic, there’s really no reason to stay together”
“Are they speaking?”
“Yeah. They get along pretty well these days. She’s only condescending part of the time and he doesn’t have to go to the opera, so they’re doing alright.”
“I always liked your dad a lot. He’s down to earth. He’s hilariously low key.”
“But for all the success he’s still a joe and that always frustrated my mother. Beer and ballgames. She’s in Europe now.” “But she can travel to Europe because he’s made a bunch
“She doesn’t look at it that way. She got married instead of college or a career and, even though I can’t tell you why that’s his fault, she manages to resent him for it anyway. So now she’s going to be happy. Of that she’s convinced.”
“Has she adjusted to the concept of Al any better?”
“Resignation. Maybe better than that.”
‑What a joke the wedding was. How could you go through that whole traditional Italian wedding craziness? I can’t believe you let Al talk you into that. I get a pain in my kidneys every time I think about it, up and down, calisthenics on the altar for two hours after drinking all that beer.
“She asked about you last time we talked.”
“Really? I never thought your mother cared for me.”
“Apparently you made a lasting impression. She said, ‘Whatever happened to that friend of yours, the painter from college? What was her name?'”
“That’s particularly charming.”
“Don’t be hurt. She probably remembered it was the same name. I sure she had just forgotten mine at the time. That’s not true, at least I don’t think it is. She never paid much attention to my friends. She really liked Sculptomatic though.”
‑Oh, for Christ sakes, fine, I’ll tell you about him.
“Steve has been living in Alphabet city, in New York for almost two years, although he has sold a couple of larger pieces recently and hopes to move to a safer neighborhood soon. He gets a steady if meager income from bartending, which he dedicates faithfully to rent, food and beer, although not in any consistent ranking. He is still working in metals, but now paints signs and symbols or writes poetry on the harder forms. He is making sporadic appearances in Soho, as well as having work shown regularly by friends in the East Village. He may get a fellowship, in which case he’ll go to grad school, but isn’t sure it’s that important. He sent me a picture and he looks healthy and pretty thin…”
‑There’s really no expression on your face. It must take a lot of effort to look that indifferent. Are you jealous of him, or even me, for that matter?
“…his hair is very short, for reasons of efficiency he said. He loves it there and wants me to fly out and visit him, but I can’t afford it right now, but he says if I send some work out he’ll get it shown. He had a girl friend for a while but doesn’t anymore. He says he doesn’t care so much for the women he meets and he’s lonely sometimes because he doesn’t have many friends, which works out nicely, according to him as the loneliness can be sublimated into the work…”
‑After he said that he brought you up. He worked so hard for
your approval. He laughs about it, but he was fairly bound to you. It wasn’t enough to throw him over, you had to sleep with his friends, too.
“…He asked if I still saw you and how married life was working out.” ‑And still I was blind and thought that was some kind of sophistication.
“What was that all about?” ‑Your laughter is disengenuous.
“Just filling you in on Steve.”
“I really don’t care what he’s doing.”
“That’s bullshit, Margaret. You’ve brought his name up five times just since we’ve been sitting here and you were talking about him in the bar as well.”
‑We were so close and then I don’t see you for a year. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. You treated me poorly on occasions, depending on who was present, if it suited you. I’ve always suspected you of shifting loyalties to suit your purposes. And of ranking people.
“He’s just someone we have in common.”
“We have lots of things in common. We’ve been friends for more than five years.”
‑I’m too drunk or tired or something to conclude the thought, but I’ll just leave it hang there. For ambiguity, for interpretation. A lesson for life learned from art? No, a lesson learned from you. You could always play the silence, you had the strength to let words dissipate slowly.
“I’m not in love with him anymore.”
‑No, I don’t want to hear about it even if it’s true. I don’t care that much about that now and neither would Sculptomatic. But I seem to need some kind of admission.
“I didn’t say that you were…”
‑Am I hurt because you really aren’t a friend anymore? Yes,
“…but he does retain some kind of significance for you. You’re all but fixating on him.”
‑I don’t want revenge or torture. I’m sorry if your rankings no longer apply. But you’re the one who gave up. You did! I know you’re mumbling another disclaimer. At least you’re smiling. I have to get out of your lovely home soon. I have so many important things to do. Laundry, for instance. It may be a little mean to be silent right now, but I feel warm and languid. Yes, I’m disappointed and a little betrayed, but why dwell on it?
It’s so much nothing.
“What did you tell your friends about me?”
‑Your voice sounds like a dry wind. The sunlight coming through the curtain, strafing, sets on my shoulder. If I lean over slightly and let the beam fall on my face, I won’t be able to see you. The sun burns giant crescents in my retina.
‑It’s still in here, very quiet when we’re not speaking. I suppose I will go over to workshop tomorrow morning. No one will be there and I can work on the books.
“Because I overheard one of them say, something like, ‘Of course she can drink…'” I hear your voice but I really am blind here, the sun is so bright and I can almost imagine the coolness outside and I can almost imagine your eyes looking at me from across the table, those beautiful eyes, a blue that I envied, where I sought approval and I can imagine that that is the color of sadness.
“‘…she’s a housewife.'”