Johnny, our Southwest correspondent reports.
Looking at these pictures makes me shake my head in disbelief that I am still alive. I used to say when I was young that the heart could break a thousand times, that you just got up and got back in the ring. But nothing bad had happened to me then. The worst heartbreak I’d had to face was if some punk rock girl wouldn’t have sex with me.
In the death throes of my first marriage, we moved into a broken down old house in Arlington, a grimy second-rate suburb of Cambridge, a dry town where you couldn’t even buy a bottle of beer to drown your sorrows. The house was creaky and sagging and an ominous wind blew across the loose clapboards from the cemetery directly behind it.
I would come home from work and walk Tano, then I’d take a six of beer upstairs, which was my territory. I’d drink and kill the time until dinner, staring out the window at the forsaken headstones, wishing one of them said my name. I dreaded my wife’s hateful stare so powerfully that I wouldn’t even go downstairs to the bathroom. I pissed in empty gallon jugs and lined them up in the back of the closet.
Eventually it would be time for the dinner ordeal. We’d glower at each other with barely concealed hostility until it was over. Then I’d take another six upstairs to help me kill the rest of the evening. It made me so desperately sad to walk past her sleeping on the couch that sometimes, rather than go down to the horrible little room in the corner where I slept, I’d lie down on the floor in my little office and spend the night there. Then I’d get up in the morning, stiff-necked and hung over, have a couple of beers, and go to work.
I remember the night I told her that I would be moving out in the morning. I’d gotten a lot of nasty surprises when I married her, and, to be fair, she’d gotten just as many from me, but she said something that night that I couldn’t even believe I was hearing. She said ‘Are you seeing someone?’ Like the torture of surviving another hour of our miserable existence together wasn’t enough to drive me out of that haunted house.
I blamed my first wife for a long time. Then I got over it. People will tell you that things happen for a reason. I think that’s shite. I don’t believe that some malevolent all-knowing entity crucified me and broke my spirit just so I could appreciate the marriage I have now. But that’s the way it shook out. So who am I to complain?
It doesn’t all fit in the scanner, but you get the idea. I smeared a bunch of medium and extender on a piece of window screen, then stuck in an outline of the Captain cut from tarp canvas. I’ll take a picture of it the way it really works, stuck to a window, with the sun behind it. The medium turns opalescent and the Arabic turns luminous and unearthly. I have about nine paintings going and am in love with all of them and want to ask them to marry me. The glee, the glee, the glee of paint. Did I forget to mention the glee of paint? I don’t care what I had to crawl through to get here. God damn. Life is good.
P.S. I don’t know much about history. Don’t know much biology. But I do know. Mandinka.