After you had waited in line, the moustached, ammunition-draped guard would unlatch the white metal door and let you into the little cell. Up above you now, there is a man sitting on a chair who smells like booze and has money stuck into his shirt and his shoes. Proffered candles surround him. He sits like a statue and wears dark sunglasses. Near your feet, there are pink roses waiting in water, to be used as offerings. You give the flower to the priest figure standing next to the statue, who passes them to the man, telling him quietly, “Take it in your right hand.”
The statue man took my flower, and then I handed over my bottle of Medoc. The priest holds the bottle up to statue man’s mouth, and some of the French wine goes in his mouth, but mostly it pours all down his front, onto the floor, and splashes my white skirt. He takes a puff from my boyfriend’s cigarette. There are a lot of offerings to be absorbed. It is a fabulous party.
I love being invited to fabulous parties and attending them, although I am often quiet and retiring. I am, after all, a reader nerd girl first and foremost. I loved everything about this fabulous party, which included not only a statue man, but crazy costumes in the appointed color, live jazz and DJs and dancing girls and a taco stand and altars and lots more of those faux Mexican vigilantes. People trading bottles with me, all friendly: a sip of my wine for a sip of your Haitian rum, and there sure isn’t any flu, 1918 or 2009, that could scare us off this exchange.
I didn’t really believe in any of it, though. That is: I didn’t believe in indulgence, pleasure, or celebration. Not that night. I wasn’t in the mood.
The night before I went out to have dinner with my grandmother. When they seated us, our waiter left a bottle of hand sanitizer on the table. We had some pleasant conversation, ate enchiladas, and carefully steered the conversation to avoid freaking her out, because her brain doesn’t work the same way it used to. About five times, she was told she had a Thursday doctor’s appointment. You can throw info like that at her brain. It just won’t stick.
We also took a look at her feet. They are painful. They look awful. I’m not squeamish at all about bodily injury. It’s that her toes are twisted, and they look less and less like feet all the time. When you look at them, they overlap less and less with your Platonic image of “foot,” and thus they function less and less well for walking. Feet are wonderously designed, when they are healthy.
I wasn’t thinking at all about my grandma at the fabulous party. I was drinking Medoc and I danced some, and I grabbed onto my boyfriend’s sleeve and snuggled up against his blazer’s shoulder. We had argued earlier in the evening. He makes things and I make things, and if you’ve ever seen a movie about artsy types in love, I don’t need to explain anything about why we would argue.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a famous, talented, or interesting arsty type to have the same kinds of argument they have in “Pollock” or “Frieda.” People who make things have a core of selfishness, which results in an unusually fruitful profusion of selfishness contests.
The stuff the artists make, though, is healing to me, and always has been. More than anything else. Like a fabulous party, which is one huge art installation, really, in which everyone is making the thing happen, even the quiet girls who don’t talk very much, and only dance a little.