At Ian's Place - Part VIII, in which There is Melon and also f*bombing (you've been warned.)
I returned from the market one day and found Ian had come home – he was on hands and knees, carpet pushed aside, examining the octopus I’d painted on his floor a few months ago. I set my paper bag of groceries next to the door and let the latch click audibly. I hate people sneaking up on me, so I didn’t want to be that guy.
“Hey,” he muttered without looking up. I got down on the floor beside him. He was running his fingers over the octopode’s eye, feeling the texture of brush strokes. “When did you do this?”
“Well, the eye was problematic…I did it over a few times, but most recently a couple weeks ago. How do you know it was me?” He looked up at me with a mom-expression, then softened.
“Why?” His eyes asked the question, too.
“I don’t know…quirky artist mood? I didn’t think I’d be around when you found it. How did you find it?”
“Tripped on the carpet. I’m fucking tired, man.” We were both still on hands and knees; he leaned forward just slightly and kissed me on the cheek. “This is fantastic.”
And then he kissed me on the mouth.
And then he kissed me on the mouth.
For possibly the seventh time in my life, I was speechless. I did what was sensible and rolled over on my back across the octopus. Ian took off his glasses. He kept kissing, I kept receiving, but at some point everything became reciprocal; we just entangled. Like tentacles. I’ll leave your imagination to it; you know what living room floor sex is, and if you don’t you should conduct your own research. I’ve always found the act of creating art to be innately sexual. I was very aware that I was lying on top of my creation, even fucking my art. Maybe Ian was, too.
For probably fewer minutes than seemed real we had a world inside our world: Ian, me, the octopus, the carpet shoved aside to make room. Our inner universe dissipated awkwardly into the every-day: pulling up jeans, bumping into furniture out of place. We lay on the floor a while longer, about the time it would take to smoke a cigarette. Ian spoke first.
“Should I put the carpet back? It’s gonna get chipped. What’s in the bag?”
“Coffee, sandwich stuff…you hungry? It’s designed to get chipped, in a way. Paint on wood looks beautiful with some wear and tear.”
“Right, no, yeah it does,” Ian said, sounding a little like me, but I understood – answering each question or comment in turn. He grunted a little hefting to his feet. “I got the coffee.”
“You sure? Why don’t you take a nap or something?” I rolled over onto my stomach, congratulating my artwork on its impressiveness, trying to decide whether to cover it up again. I realized now that the secret was out, it wasn’t my call to make.
“I can take a nap when I drink coffee.” I could hear the bag rattling, cupboard doors opening and closing, Ian smiling when he spoke. I was unreasonably thrilled – I can also sleep after drinking coffee. We had something in common. I swatted at the thought like a gnat and stood up. Something internal was struggling to restore order to my day.
“You want me to put the carpet back?” I put the question out for consideration.
Ian stepped over the carpet and handed me a mug. “Sorry, I don’t know how you like it, but there was milk in the bag, so…”
“That’s it, exactly.” I took a sip. Needs more milk. He makes it strong like I like. Stoppit.
“This is good, hardcore. Phil makes coffee for mortals." Did that just sound like allegory? I looked up quickly - Ian didn't seem ruffled.
“Phil’s been over.” Not a question, but not an accusation. I read the mental math on Ian's face – Phil’s a good guy, longtime friend, just walks in, not the type to shag an artist on his buddy’s living room floor.
“Yeah, he doesn’t really pay attention to your schedule. He hangs out for a few, sometimes brings in his accordion. Kinda cool while I’m working." On the floor? Shut Up, brain.
“You know Phil paints, too. He seen it?” Ian nodded toward the octopus. He had no other questions; I was relieved of my brain’s accusations. He settled into the loveseat and patted the space beside him. “Sit down.”
I sat down. It was nice to have a person invite me to sit, to talk about art. My art. Thrilling. I was really happy with the work on that octopus - it finally had an audience.
“He paints? Not surprising, really,” I answered. “He’s really smart. But no, he never said anything. You’re the first to see it.” My brain insisted on adding those last three words.
“It’s incredible. Yeah, I think I’ll put the carpet back. I don’t know how much protection it’ll offer…” I could not decipher the math I saw on Ian’s face. I stuck with pragmatism, my safe place.
“It’ll scuff anyway under there, but like I said – by design. I can always touch it up again later…” and I trailed off. Is later a thing? We built a world this afternoon, and we were tearing it down. Ian put his arm around me, pulled me close, kissed the top of my head and then loosened his hold in case I wanted to get away. I did, and I didn’t. I readjusted to a comfortable angle, still leaning against him a little.
“Ask Phil to show you his work next time he’s over.” So there was that question answered - business as normal. Our normal was weird, or was it? “I’m just here to get some clothes; I got a flight to Minneapolis tonight.”
I started laughing. Ian laughed, too. He squeezed my arm as he stood up. “I can get in a nap,” he said toward the room, and shuffled down the hall.
And there was that question answered, too – I’d have the place to myself again. I found Ian had not emptied the sack of groceries. I set the melon up on the broad windowsill behind the sink. I peeled and sliced an avocado, arranged it with turkey and broccoli sprouts on a croissant. Before putting everything away, I made a second sandwich and left it on a plate in the refrigerator. I picked up my croissant and my jacket, slipped out the front door, leaving it unlocked in case Phil came over.
to be continued...
to be continued...