el cerrito

There was a time in my life when I embraced strange men and the experiences that came with them.

Lunch or dinner lead to me being wrapped in duct tape and modeling for photography sessions. Overweight gold chained characters, heavy on the gray chest hair, fed me fried ice cream. Lovers two and a half times my age stained motel carpets with red candle wax. Store owners closed shop early for backroom boogy.

And today I guess I’m not too different. I meet guys with theatrical accents on bart and go home with them to check out their seventy plus pieces of artwork.

I let them read stories that scare the shit out of me and act cool and uncaring. I refuse to sit because I’m about to be late for a dinner date when I actually think I might be forced to stay. I stay near the door because I REALLY love this piece when I’m looking for an easy escape.

The walk to his house was quick. He said he was only a block away, which he was. “You’re very trusting,” as he lead me down a dark, winding back path, both sides lined with mature trees, a disco scattering of light coming from the  street lamp light managing to break through the dense leaves.

“I can only hope my gut is right in that you’ll have amazing work to see. I’m typically not this trusting.”

My brain went all sorts of places in that short walk: routing escapes, searching for people and cars and movement. Could someone see and hear me if needed? Should I be on the other side of him. There were loads of people on the other sides of the tree walls. Why was it so quiet?

My head was thick with thoughts. He relapsed tonight. He used to drink a fifth of whisky every evening. Is that a lot? Robert used to love whisky. I never kept track of how much would disappear in a sitting.

“Why did you relapse?”

“I’m very impressionable. I’m very impressionable.”

What does that mean?

We cross a road divider covered in brown leaves and we’re there. He tells me this house always has an alarm going off.

There are several cars in the carport. Good. A lot of people should be able to hear me scream.

His place is a mess, though not as messy as it could be. It’s actually very clean for someone who paints non stop. There’s stuff all over, but none of it processes. I can only see art. Art all around. He wasn’t kidding. There are seventy pieces. He names almost every one after a city in Japan where he traveled for two months longer than anticipated when he ended up in jail. Each piece was terrifying. They remind me of Robert’s old work and I know Robert. I know right away that I have to continue to play it cool and leave as soon as possible.

Some pieces I LOVE, though. They suck me in and I ask to see them in the light.

He’s quick to take down pieces and move them near the only lamp in the room.

“I’m sorry, I know you can see my butt crack right now.”

He’s right for apologizing.

His work is hard to look at. One piece he hangs back up I have such a hard time with.

There’s anger and betrayal and death in each one…for me.

“How long have you lived here?”
“One year. I’m hiding from my stalker.”

Geez. “I’ll need to be going soon; your work is amazing. I can’t believe how much you’ve produced in one year.”

“Would you like to go half and half on a model with me to do figure drawings? You can say ‘no.’”

I do say no and give him some bullshit response about having done too many figure drawings in high school. I start to tell him about all the free figure drawings resources available…”and this one’s called ‘Schizophrenia.’”

Geez. “I’m going to be late for my dinner date. I have your e-mail. Let’s exchange some pictures of our work.”

“Would you like to hear my story?”

I know he’s talking about his life story. “I know it’s going to be intense and amazing and I don’t want you to start only for me to leave soon. I rather listen to it in it’s entirety.”

“Can I read you a short story, then? It’s only a page.”

“Yeah, yeah, that sounds fine, then I’ll get going.”

“You might not want to talk to me again after I read it, or see me.”

“That’s ok. That’s happened before.”

He’s right. It’s too much – though I want to hear it again. I want to read it on my own and treasure it and over think it and dissect it.

He said it was fiction.

“Something that good has to have a lot of truth in it if you’ve never written before,” I tell him.

“Well, it’s a mix of fiction and…”

“And other stuff. I understand.”

I ask him to send it to me and he declines.

I really do want to leave now. He has a lot going on in his brain and I have sometimes been the material of stalkers. He says he has one. I will not stay long enough for him to become mine.

He’s sits on his futon smoking a cigarette and says, “Thank you.”

I show myself out.

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