We attempted to create a support system to fill the blank space. Meals were cooked, dishes washed, beds made. We smoked low-tar cigarettes and watched television together. We became fluent in cardboard empathy, piecing together our own lexicon from rehab contests and game show psychiatry. Our thoughts were carefully annunciated, delivered with camera ready sincerity. “You can tell me anything,” became our mission statement.
This new glasnost resembled a trip to the elementary school guidance counselor. We used “feeling words” and became limp, anatomically correct dolls. He’d point to where he hurt. I’d respond with an appropriately bland adjective. We thought we’d opened a pressure valve and found it to be a disconnected spigot. But, we kept it open and huddled beneath in plastic raincoats, hoping for a torrent. We’d run our fingers through the mud and leave prints on the walls. In the meantime, we dusted the furniture and shopped for groceries.
We thrived on our unnatural disasters. Like gods, we recreated ourselves in other images. Broken cell phones and changed locks only led us to new methods of communication and alternative modes of entry. After presenting him as a bastard to the world, I’d patch together a fire blanket of sentiment and praise to throw over the conflagration of angry secrets I’d revealed the week before. I’d kill him in whispered, semi-hysterical phone calls and reintroduce him the next week as a newly erected saint. I imagine that he performed similar alchemy on my behalf. This was our creative outlet. We were our art.
We were meant to create. Mourning, supporting, motivating, these are methods of repair. We were not interested. Art restoration is for the dull and the passionless. We jumped up and down on life, kicking it and beating it with our fists until it ceased to function and fell motionless at our feet. Life was meant to be broken. We never pounded on the side to see if it would start up again. Instead, we chucked it in the dumpster and sought out new materials. We’d weld together previously unused emotions and forgotten talents, creating aesthetically interesting bonds. Afterwards, we would open the gallery doors to curious friends and amusing enemies. Newly united, we’d always end up nailing someone to our wall, but never each other. We were art in motion.
The girl was not meant for our gallery. Instinctively, we had always screened out the fragile. Like I said, we didn’t believe in restoration. We should have paid more attention to the careful geometry of her tattoos. The straight lines should have made us aware of her control issues. The perfect circles around her wrists signifying her attachment disorder. But this was before the fall. We didn’t have cable.
Tattoos and hair dye compensated for her soft voice and loaned her strength that she could never really own. I know now that this was a defense mechanism. She quickly became a regular at our openings. Little by little, she entered into the behind the scenes practice of our craft. We’d deconstruct and discard together. When we were uninspired, she would graciously offer her soft novelty. She became a memory we forgot we never had. The three of us would create late into the night. In the morning, she’d tuck away her tattoos and walk about the gallery.
Our last creation was an act of brutal realism. In hindsight, it seems more like automatic writing. We didn’t understand the significance of what we were creating. We thought it was just another cleansing deconstruction. He raised his voice. I put my fist through the mirror. He burned my clothing with sugared gasoline siphoned from his car. I was searching for something important to break when she walked into the gallery for the last time.
Understanding the nature of art, she knew that she could not shuffle dejectedly back through the entrance. She was no restorationist. The residue of burning fabric slid down her cheeks in perfect vertical lines, complimenting her tattoos. She exited through a closed window that had never been broken. If we understood repair, we would have replaced it with stained glass. Instead, the landlord installed another clear square and we embraced emotional minimalism.