Sunday, March 22, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
I didn’t always love Keith Aldridge. Well, at least not how I loved him now. Not this all-powerful, all-consuming, all-I-can-think-about kind of love. Oh no. Up until that moment at L’Elefante, I didn’t even think I was capable of feeling those kinds of emotions for another human. I never understood why I felt this way because I have been surrounded by people who had experienced love my whole life. Even if it did take a while for them to get there.
Take my mother, Nadine, for example. Before I came along, she was a photographer for the magazine Global Artists, a job that gave her the opportunity to be in a different country every week. My mom was, and still is, ravishingly beautiful: pale skin, full lips, grey eyes and long dark-brown hair. Her beauty mixed with her frequently used passport equaled numerous love affairs with various artists. With every stamp in her passport came a new handsome man who fell for my mother the second she walked into the room with her camera around her slender neck. There was Diego, the abstract artist from Seville; Alain, the photographer from Paris who took black-and-white pictures of people throwing trash into the Seine; Okito, the Japanese performance artist from Tokyo who once lit his hair on fire; and Axel, an English painter who was working on a series of interpretations of Las Meninas that rivaled Picasso’s. There are more, of course, and some I imagine my mother will never tell me about. Keith and I usually were able to get some stories out of her after she’d had a few glasses of white wine. I told her that one of these days she should write a book on her escapades. She had looked at me from the floor pillow where she was sitting, barefoot and balancing her practically empty wine glass on her knee, and said simply, “Why would I want to give anyone the opportunity to rival my brilliance?”
But that was just my mother.
I was conceived somewhere between Dublin and Siena. Most people who grow up without knowing who their biological father is complain about feeling incomplete or out of touch with their true selves. They spend years on a therapist’s couch wondering who this man was and whether or not they were like him. It never bothered me. My mother had enough love to go around.
I traveled with my mother around the world, taking pictures of art and visiting far away lands. Even though most of those memories are fuzzy, they evoke an intense sense of happiness and freedom. I can still remember the spicy smell of India and how my first pink macaron in France tasted. I believe I was meant to be an artist since birth. I mean, come on, I was bread from two of them.
A few weeks after my 6th birthday, which we spent in Luxembourg, my mother decided I needed stability. I also needed to begin "real" school. So she took a job as a senior curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and we settled into Massachusetts. It was only 6 months later that she met Stuart Roderick, a professor of the history of art and architecture at Harvard. A tall, white haired, ruggedly handsome academic, Stuart was immediately infatuated with my mother. They were married a year later. My mother became Nadine Roderick and I got my father figure.
It was around this time that I met my Keithy.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
And at this moment in time the entire universe was at a standstill.
I dropped my gaze and picked up my pack of cigarettes from the table. “I need to tell you something.” “What is it Clara? Tell me. I thought there were no secrets between us.” That was like taking a bullet. Because it was true. The man sitting across from me had been my confidant, my ally, for the past two decades of my life. And now I was about to throw that away, just toss it aside like a ripped out chapter of a paperback novel. All because of a silly thing called love.
I gently tapped on the bottom of my cigarette box and watched the thin white tube shimmy its way out the other side. “Keith, I don’t really know how to say this…” I twirled the cigarette between my black-varnished fingers. “Clara, I thought you’d quit smoking.” I thought I had, too. I ignored his statement and forced myself to continue. “As childish as this sounds… I don’t think we can be friends anymore.”
Silence consumed us. Because in truth the idea was virtually impossible. I don’t think a day had gone by in which I hadn’t at least had a telephone conversation with Keith. Even when I was in Florence for two months studying art, we always worked out the time differences so we were able to speak on the phone. And now, the man who had somehow wound himself so tightly into my life that I couldn’t distinguish his from mine, sat across from me with a look worse than pain in his eyes. Betrayal, confusion, was that tenderness? More emotions than a human has words for were flashing across his face. I thought for a second about how the Inuit have an unusually large number of words for snow. How many do they have for love?
I placed the cigarette between my lips as he began to speak: “Clara, I don’t underst-“ I finally raised my glance, but I couldn’t look at him. The words came out just above a whisper. “I’m in love with you.” I caught my reflection in the mirror behind him and noted the tragically poetic way my cigarette bobbed between my red painted lips when I uttered the five words that would forever change our friendship: I’m. In. Love. With. You.
I forced myself to look him in the eyes. They were blank.
And then came the tears.