“You’re a what?”
“Old Master.” Rembrandt said.
“Oh.” I sigh and put my tea cup back down.
“There is really no coffee?” I ask him again, I am not even making eye contact. The café, if you would call it that, and you wouldn’t and neither would I, has only two old people in it and it smells terrible. “Everything sucks here.” But I muffle it so as not to wreck the future. I would hate to shame spiral the great mood lighter of the teen hundreds.
“I’m sorry?” he leans in, pipe, non chalance (french?) straight back and all.
“Dude, you don’t speak English.”
“I see.” he says getting ready to leave. Consummate politeness, who the fuck does this guy think he is kidding. He is the king of non-committal. I thought I was the king of non-committal, but this guy really is, guess that makes me a duke or something, maybe the Rajah or President then.
“Where is your fantasy stuff?”
“Yeah, fantasy, it’s a word, it means Not Real, you got any, and all the shit we’ve seen doesn’t count though technically it’s all fantasy.”
“I don’t believe I have any.” He said looking back at a newspaper. There are no real newspapers back then either, not ones to be read in this smelly renaissance version of a coffee shop with no coffee.
“That’s right you don’t, why don’t you? That’s what I want to know Remy, Why? You could paint all this great shit right but your imagination is like a forgotten radish in a country cellar. You think you are all creative, all painters do but show me. You are painting dogs and guys who look nicer in your paintings then they ever did in real life. Your painting them lit in a way you never saw in your life with the shit windows and rain and that non-stop fucking wind you had to work with and the uber brightness that just murders any indoor mood and turns it into some kind of sport.” I am standing now. You might say I am ranting and I might agree but if you said that right now I would jump the table and Rembrant and start kicking your ass even if you were a girl.
He is not hurt. He looks at me like it is the first time he heard me speak. I do not blame him for being self-involved. It’s like the rant was blond criticism. I feel his shell come off, his shoulders loosen but mostly it’s in the skin around the eyes, some shape or tightness I have come to define rigidly as genuine interest when, it’s really just the tightening of a few hundred tiny muscles, he could be shitting for all I know.
We don’t say anything. I catch my breath, I sit, I take off my jacket then the shirt. “You guys have shorts? Fuck no you don’t. Of course you don’t. No wonder, you’re painting in pants. Christ Jesus it is all falling into place.”
“I can’t stand that fucking wind.” He says and the fucking comes out like cancer. The paper is folded on the table, its queer and four sheets when doubled, maybe it is real.
“And your music? There is no way you play music, what are you doing when your painting, repeating the last thing you said from like that morning when your maid/butler/servant was witty outside the yoush and you just kept saying what you said that made them depart from courtesy and place and proper fucking English? What can you possibly be doing in your head!!”
“Talk, I talk and, I think of the colors and I talk in my head.” We are standing now facing still, at somepoint we have grabbed hold of eachother, our arms, embraced like achievement. I am red faced though I cannot see it. He is slack, his glasses and the two week stash make him look like a salon dealer. The fact that he too has removed his jacket helps.
“And what is all of this shit you have? You have a cane? You have more shit on you right now, for tea or breakfast or whatever it is that we are Having in this shit hole, than I have when I come out of walmart. You can’t possibly be a painter, you spend too much time being a human fucking gimic!”
There is the pang. It is a sharp turn missed. It’s the emotional moment where you have realized you are being steered. Streered because you missed the turn, or steered because the person you are coalescing with has realized through the bizzare verbal ritual of triangulation, that you are not indeed where he thought you were, that you are indeed much further away.
Do something. That’s what you can do, that’s what is done, that’s always what is done. What does he do?
Different muscles now, in his face. He’s hurt or has deeply understood something fundamental about a behavior he has not realized with enough conviction to identify with either regard or the opposite.
“You should be hurt. You shouldn’t listen to me either.” I look for anything edible in sight. There is nothing. “Who cares right? Your fine, you’ll get it Remy.”
Out side there is no miserable rain. The wind justifies better clothing that will not exist in a form other than bear hides for another hundred or four years.
“I can’t walk in your shoes.” I say bending to remove them only because someones bullshit has made them so they can’t be pulled off by my other foot. He is beside me now garbed, cane paper jacket/coat what is that fucking thing he is wearing over his shirts? All of it tucked and held just so beneath his arms, each. He is practiced at living.
There is shit for streets. The sun is bigger. How is the sun bigger? Even in this “city” I feel like a neanderthal. Like a hide draped mud hutter, no joop just shitty pipe smoke, farts and filthy.
“I don’t want to see where you paint.”
“It’s just here.” He gestures west but I am sure in his mind he is gesturing to a specific number of steps, turns and alterations in scale.
“You see it’s just, I called you a painter and you didn’t flinch. Can’t you see how wrong that makes you? You paint. That’s what you do, you paint. I thought you were an artist. I thought you created, I hoped you created.” The toes are cold, the going is slow. I don’t know where I am going.
“Street signs.” He looks at me and nods. “You need street signs Remy, where the fuck am I going?” He shakes his head no at me like he is asking a question. I smile. “listen, I know you can’t be my sycophant. I am not yours, I am less so more now that I have met you. You don’t need a sycophant Remy. You have to stop the madness. If you do not make a fucking change, that is all you are gonna get, dusty cunted sycophants comad by your hand, tweeting coattail jargon, stealing everything, venue changes, everything for the 2015 showings calendar. And no, I am not from the future, JESUS!”
I am standing on some earlier version of hay. Somehow the smell of horse shit smells cleaner than the smell of mold and ten years of spilled bear and piss. It does not smell healthier, the horse shit doesn’t, it just smells more familiar. I swear to god that tea house place smelled like a fucking homeless man.
We are both hopping in place. I think the guy doin stuff to the horse, like rubbing it and stuff, I think he would have his kids kick my ass if Remy was not with me. There is no cobble stone anything. “This place really sucks.” I manage after a good ten minutes. He is thinking of something to say but I have been bouncing off him for long enough now that he won’t say it. I hope he is wondering why he feels he needs to answer me at all. I hope he knows I am the leader and he has given in to it. “Seriously, thanks for not trying to make me happy, if you have been trying hard not to. I may need a place to stay tonight.” He is nodding rapidly, still no eye contact, none for a while now. I think he believes he is sharing some revelation I am having by standing close to me, by showing me around the city. “Not the studio.” I add.
“Not original. Very not original, that’s like Persian anyway, demons. Fuck, really?” he is looking around the studio for his “real” answer.
“Mermaids?” he manages from under the eyes and the downward face, the hiding like a kid, like the answer question game he will not stop playing with me can be retracted like a balsa arrow on a string fired from a plastic bow. Plastic bows do not exist yet, but still he plays the game.
“Again with the questions? I am gonna give you a hint. If you can think of it, it is probably not original, you’re probably not creating it. See I can give you a bunch of original ideas but, unless you grew up with me, you would not know that they were just stolen too.”
He is turning his head to his left while looking me in the eyes. I fear for a moment and off and on for a while, that saying it has jerked some huge rug out from under the future and all the shit on it, like the grand father clock, the heavy ass old table that needs oiled every week, and all the shit stacked on that, and all these things like houses and stuff come crashing down. I hunch for the crash and feel, or at least think that I feel it not hit cuz it falls into non existence. I should not have said Slapchop© in either case.
“If I am gonna be here a while Remy, we are gonna have to figure out fucking.”