Arachne

by editorialmonster

Penelope wove her husband back to life in nineteen years. Arachne wove greater than this, until the gods in their jealousy left her with nothing but the application of her art.

1

If it bends, it can be woven. Hair braids, rivers braid, and fingers fold together in prayer. Cars crash into each other; the metals bend around the engines. With a strong enough machine, cars could be woven into each other – crumple zone to crumple zone, gas lines snaking like Hermes’ staff between two twisted engine blocks. I’m too disciplined to stop what I’m doing to doodle the weaving of cars on the naked particleboard walls of this café. In a few weeks, I don’t know if I will still have that discipline. I may lose my mind if I keep this up.

I sit in a corner of an abandoned café, and weave endlessly, endlessly, with all the threads and yarns and found things from the empty café. The weave of my own life bent me here. My back is hunched over. My fingers are long and nimble. I never abandon my weave.

Dr. Paris, Karen if we’re being friendly, brings me food. She used to be my professor. I haven’t been to class in a long time. She brings me new threads, new yarns. She lingers long enough to ask if I’ve heard Nicole’s ghostly voice falling into my weave, yet. I don’t answer her. Nicole is gone, and I’m trying to save her. I’m trying to catch her in my weave. Until I’m done, I have nothing to say.

We were art students – Nicole and me – who studied with Dr. Karen Paris. Every Tuesday she encouraged us to go to a café for a public act of art. The café was run by an alumni and friend of the art program. She allowed students to take the stage on Tuesdays and try to perform their art. Anything made on stage that night would be left there for auction. People wrote in their bids on a little ticket beside the art. The highest bidder got the art and the student artist got paid for it. Unless no one wanted the art, and then the artist had to come pick it up in three days or it would be thrown out with the trash. Most of the pieces didn’t sell.

That’s the café where I’m weaving and weaving, and it’s all empty now, and if you saw it you wouldn’t even know it was a beautiful place to fall in love, because it’s so ugly now and all anyone can see is my work spiraling out from my corner, all over the floor, and along the walls, and into the restroom. Karen has to be so careful where she steps when she comes to see me. My weave consumes the space.

I performed once, when it was still bustling , before Nicole transcended . I knitted skeletons out of white yarn. I managed to chain five together before my time ran out on stage. I hung them up, all deformed and strange and chained together. They sold for ten dollars at auction. It was the most I had ever made for a piece.

Dr. Paris, I think, was the one who bought the piece. She had listed herself under her first name, though, so it was just Karen on the little sheet. When I came by to collect the money, I saw the ticket and thought it might be her handwriting. Maybe she had someone else write it in to hide that she had just bought her own student’s art. Maybe it wasn’t her. I don’t know.

This was the café where Nicole would transubstantiate, or transcend, or become a ghost on her night of making art, but it hadn’t happened yet. There were a few dozen tables, a fireplace that was never lit, and art all over the walls. Dr. Paris was here all the time, flirting with the staff.  When she saw me there, she bought me an espresso and chatted with me about how I was doing.

-Fine.

-How is your work going?

-Fine. Yours?

-Do try to act excited about your work. Smile, or something, Arachne.

-I don’t even know what I’m doing.

-You’re missing the point, Arachne. Relax. Enjoy your life when you aren’t working. Work is hard enough.

-I guess so. Makes sense.

A long pause, and she stood over me and neither one of us said anything to each other. It was long enough that it was awkward. She looked down at me, and I up at her, and neither one of us had anything to say. We each sipped our drinks, waiting for the silence to stop.

Karen spoke, and it stopped.

-What are you working on, anyway?

-A series of photographs.

-Exciting! What’s it called?

Remember Your Grandmother.

-I love generational pieces. I hope you get your family involved.

2

Everyone would be better off if we always remembered our grandmothers. That’s what I was thinking when I made the piece. I crocheted a rainbow of threads into a sweater – remember the myth of Grandma’s infamous sweaters – but that’s not all I wove into the yarn. I included cinnamon sticks, and whole nutmeg and dried apples because autumnal smells remind us all of home for the holidays, and I wrapped ancient spatulas and pages of cookbooks and bits of silvery wig hair doused in Ben-Gay, and nylons and the costume jewelry of brooches and broaches and bangles and fake pearls and earrings like Christmas ornaments, and sleeves that are too long, a neck that’s too small, and bits of dried-up, sugar-free candy woven in like artificial jewels and doesn’t everyone just think of their grandmother? Don’t we just smell her in the air, and remember her? I think the world would be a better place if we all just remembered our grandmothers.

Nicole thought it was a mess, like a mink coat attacked by vegans.

-You seriously want me to wear this?

-Yes!

-Seriously?

-Please?

-In public?

In a bank, I took her picture as she leaned over the counter and made a withdrawal from her checking account – five dollars, because she only had ten dollars in her account total. Then, to the L-train, where we rode all over the city. She stood holding the ropes while I photographed her. She sat down in a crowd while I photographed her.

-Look like you’re remembering your grandmother.

-Did you have to include Ben-Gay if this is for a photograph series?

-Doesn’t it smell like her?

-Maybe yours. Mine always smelled like lemon cleaner, and cigars. My grandfather was heavy into cigars.

-I could spray you down with lemon cleaner.

-No

Nicole was a painter, and like all painters, she believed in the purity of her form. She traced the strokes of her brush all the way back to Caravaggio, and had little real respect for the madcap, rogue art of people like me, with my weavings and my photographs, made and found things.

The photos were all taken with a crazy old camera I had gotten off e-Bay. The photos came out distressed, over-lit, and full of character. I watched Nicole emerging from chemistry beneath the red light. I considered telling her that I was in love with her, but I thought better of it, because maybe she was straight. It’s hard to know these things when you want something to be true. She wasn’t around when I came out of the dark room, so I didn’t say anything.

I guess the pictures came out all right. I got a B on the assignment. The sweater is still in my closet. I hung it up next to a sweater my own grandmother made for me when she was still alive. She was a master of knitting needles. She had sewn me a black sweater with a human skull on the chest, big as a giant’s head. I wore that sweater all the time. I learned how to weave and sew and knit because I needed to learn how to repair my grandmother’s sweater. I wore it every chance I had.

She had given it to me to keep me warm when I was out late at night with my friends. I was a stoner, and I listened to death metal because the people around me listened to death metal. That sweater was like a calling card, and every complement I got for it from all the strange people I met late at night, or in someone’s basement, or at a club that ignored my fake ID, was like a complement for my grandmother. They reminded me of her, even when I was out late.

My grandmother was a single mom, in Ohio. She worked at a library and lived with her unmarried sister. My mother told stories of what it was like to have two Jewish mothers. When I knew my grandmother, she was an imp in an electric wheel chair. She joked about chasing down her philandering boyfriends. She knitted strange and obscure relics of yarn – golden teddy bears with menorahs on their chest, mittens with eyes and teeth she called closet monsters, and a sweater my mother wore with an actual, honest-to-god, optical illusion on the chest made out of circles and squares all mixed up. My grandmother had been a librarian. She was funny and sweet and kind. She let me drink coffee with cream and sugar when my mother wasn’t looking. When I came out of the closet she patted my hands and said, Oh? Are you sure? I know a nice boy at Temple with very small hands. Feminine hands. Put him in a dress, you might never know. Nice legs, too. What else could I say about my grandmother except this: I want to remember her. I want to remember her forever.

And, I want to remember Nicole, remembering her grandmother in my art.

I kept the pictures in my purse. I wandered around the campus, carrying the photographs. I imagined running into Nicole and gracefully showing her the photographs and she’d be so impressed. She’d say something like Wow, that’s me? Heh, looks good. All right. Or maybe she’d say, Fuckin’ A! I bet you’re going to rub them in BenGay and pumpkin pie spice, right?

Anyway, I walked around and imagined what she’d say. I didn’t run into her that day. I guess she was in the studio. I ran into her when I didn’t have anything in my purse to show her. I had to turn in the assignment. She was in a flowing skirt, with a tight tank top and she looked so fucking hot I could have jumped her bones right there, on the sidewalk. Was it love? Was it lust?

-Hey! Where are you going right now?

-Class. Hey, you know those pictures we took?

-What? Oh, show me later. Where are you going right now?

-Class.

-Well, skip it. Come on, I want to show you something fucking eternal.

She took me by the arm, and took me to this office building, downtown. In the lobby, the company had made art purchases of Jacques de Gheyn II. These were all still lives: flower paintings with tiny, detailed lizards running over the table, with butterflies and fresh fruit and a Portuguese pomegranate cracked in half, red as pulp and so wet you’d think you could reach out and pluck the little, juicy seeds from the canvas. It smelled like fruit and flowers. The artist had captured the veins of the pomegranate and flowers so well that they gave off the beautiful scent.

Businessmen walked past us on their way to work. I think a security guard was eyeing us idly. But, they put it out in their lobby, supposedly for people to see.

It took four bus transfers to get there. We weren’t going to leave so soon after only seeing a moment’s glance of the paintings. Outside we ridiculed the corporate-art sculpture of cold, disposable modernism that graced the grounds outside the beautiful Renaissance flower paintings frozen in time for a thousand years. We walked around to a lunch cart and blew our budget on hot dogs the size of our heads that would make us sick later.

I considered how I could weave such hot dogs in fatty braids of meat, and wrap them in even larger braids of meat, until I could shape a pregnant woman out of them, lay the form out flat on an abattoir floor in meat, to take its picture.

-Don’t just stare at it; eat it.

-I don’t really like hot dogs.

-Well, it’s not like it’s going to get any better with age.

I bit into the meat. It tasted like early death, and stomach pains, and every summer I had ever known in my life where I was at a friend’s birthday party and I could eat pork, free from parental supervision, imagining what I’d say to my grandmother if she ever knew. Somewhere up there, she’s plotting a Tabasco-powered punishment for her granddaughter’s treyf afternoon.

-How does it taste?

-You know I’m Jewish, right?

-Are you?

-Yeah.

-Shit, really?

-This is the best fucking hot dog I’ve ever had.

-Want mine? It’s disgusting.

-No. No, I think I’ve had enough.

Sick for days and nights together. Crashing in her dorm room, on the couch she smuggled against a wall where there was supposed to be a desk, but she liked the couch better than desks and did more work there. Her roommate had dropped out at the beginning of the semester, and we could spend the night in peace, me in her roommates’ bed staring at the way moonlight falls over her face, and then sunlight. I don’t know what happened to the desk she was supposed to have, but she never had it and it seemed so natural to lounge with her on a couch, watching sitcoms in between the hours of our real lives of school and part-time work.

I modeled, sometimes, for quick cash. It was easy work, and I usually didn’t mind the nudity. I sat around, posing naked for classrooms full of artists, and I wondered what Nicole was doing right that second. She was a cocktail waitress, so she was usually asleep when I was working.

I could imagine us drifting off together, falling into each other’s beds until one of us decided it was time to bear a child, and raising that child, and living a long, wasted life of normal, unexciting bliss and love and happiness. Maybe she’d dump me and break my heart, or I’d do it to her, and then we’d get that same substantial state of heavy, pregnant living – debted up, bound to a household, a budget, a child or two, a mild civic activism, and all the boring shit that is what happens when people are happy — really, really fucking amazingly indescribably happy. Normal shit. Boring shit. Life. The stuff you get when you remember your grandmother. I was naked on a stage, posed classically as if for Donatello. I imagined the normal life that had been so wonderful since the dawn of civilization.

Alas, this is not our love story. We never fell in love. She slept naked and shameless, but we never made love. I don’t know if she knew I was gay, or if she was gay, herself. It’s not like I carried a fucking sign, you know?

We talked about sex, but both of us had been with men before, and we had better things to talk about than sex, which was pornography to us, not art. We were interested in immortality, she and me, and transcending life.

I told you she was a painter, and her work traced a straight, beautiful brush stroke all the way  from Caravaggio.

3

 I was modeling in Karen’s office, in my grandmother’s sweater and a skirt I had made myself from strips of old leather skirts. She was Dr. Paris, to me, right then, and a tenured instructor of undergraduate artists. She had her pad out and carefully angled the blinds to favor me with just the right amount of sunlight. I was on her couch, lounging back gracefully and staring up at the ceiling.

-Hold still.

-I am.

-You’re moving your foot. Are you uncomfortable?

-Sorry. I’m fine.

And the charcoal swooped across the page in loops and whorls and lines. I couldn’t see it. I didn’t know what I looked like.

-I’ve had a lot of my students pose for me. I have ten years of sketch books. It’s a long term project of mine. Students drawn by their teacher.

-Do you remember their names?

-Only faces. Some of the names, maybe. I remember faces, Arachne. Tell me about your sweater. Did you make it?

I smiled. I shook my head no. I didn’t tell her anything else about my grandmother’s sweater.

When she was done with the finishing touches, she sprayed the paper with hairspray, and covered it with wax paper.

-Can I see it, Dr. Paris?

-Oh… Maybe later. I’m not done.

I unlocked the door.

-That’s it, right?

-Yes, thank you for doing this. I’ll be sure to show you the final painting.

I turned to leave, then paused at the door. I looked back at her. She was watching me. She would not stop watching me.

-What is it, Dr. Paris?

-When an artist sees another person, she only sees the surfaces of the other – lines, shapes, colors of the skin. When an artist sees another artist, the energy in the air is electric, and invisible.

-You’re imagining things, Dr. Paris.

I closed the door and went to the studio to work a while until I had to go to work. I was trying to condense everything Nicole ever said about being a cocktail waitress into a single canvas. She was working at a strip club every Saturday, now. She was surrounded by men who thought they had the right to touch her a little, and it was all right to everyone who worked there because it made for great tips and it was better than being a stripper. She moved glasses among the crowd, a hand brushed her leg, or her arm, or pressed against the small of her back, and sometimes other places. I couldn’t think of anything meaningful because I loved her too much, and wanted something better for her.

All sketches abandoned.

All imagery lost.

I ran out of time. Tonight was Nicole’s night at the café, where she was going to be performance painting.

Nicole had set up a shower curtain in a circle around herself and her canvas, with sultry tango music from an antique record player. She was, supposedly, stripping naked and painting her self-portrait naked from behind the curtain. Every few minutes she’d ring a bell and shove the damp canvas out from behind the curtain to show everyone what she had done so far, along with an article of clothing. We clapped for her emerging artifacts, but we did not know if she was wearing clothes or not.

I assumed she was naked before she started. That was her style. I had woven her long hair into the mesh of a wicker basket while she was asleep, once, and she woke up instantly, angry because I had forced her to wear something when she preferred to be sleeping naked. We had never made love, but did she even know what it did to me when she was nude before me, unmoved and unmoving like a statue? God, she was so beautiful, and so free.

This was her performance. Nicole was painting herself unclothed, standing behind a curtain, sending out clothes that covered whatever region she was painting. Shirt for torso, and pants for legs. Hat for head, and hairband for long, long hair. A bra, and panties. Socks, last of all. Each artifact was joined by the canvas for a moment, with the new paint from the prior piece of clothing gone. The canvas was wet and glistening, as if fresh from a shower. At the end of the painting, she stuck her naked arm out, with the canvas in her hand. She put the canvas on a stand there, and left her arm out. She spun her hand seductively, like a tango dancer. She reached her other hand out, as if she was about to rip the curtain away in a revealing flash.

People clapped and cheered and egged her on.

The curtain opened, and she wasn’t there at all. She was gone. Her painting remained, beside the empty bath tub and the clothes.

Nicole never returned. She had permanently transformed into an emptiness. We could hear her voice, gasping at first, then screaming. Crying without tears and babbling for help, and terrified. People cried out, terrified by this miraculous event of paint and form. It was a spectacular painting.

I don’t think she knows what happened to herself, even now. Did she want to transcend so young? I think she would have preferred to fall into her own eyebrow like Frida had done, deep into old age by then.

5

 So, the next thing was figuring out what happened to Nicole. We could hear her voice wandering the café, rushing in and out of the bathroom, muttering into the mirrors and reflective chrome surfaces of the equipment, but we couldn’t see her or touch her. She didn’t seem to talk back to us, either. Her voice lingered on after the flesh had faded out.

The café owner called Karen immediately after the police. The police thought it was just a trick, took a report and left us to our own devices.

Karen came to the café right away. Everyone thought she might help us figure out what had happened. She might recognize some sign in the painting that had remained in the cafe, or some snippet of historical artists that provided some clue. She told us all about the explosion that had killed Rembrandt’s greatest student – how the art was so intoxicating it had a fume to it, and could not remain in this world without an explosion. She knew all about the way the dwarf had poured his height out of his body into these amazing canvasses and posters all larger than life – huge! How the master Impressionsists had painted with their very eyesight, until they wore it away completely. The Muslims and Protestants had discontinued such things as realism to protect their painters from that which defiled the way God created skins and bones.

In the cafe, Karen circled the bathtub, searching for a trap door. She ran the curtain around, looking for any sign of a trick mirror, or lighting gimmick. She stood in the center, closed the curtain and opened the curtain again. There seemed no sign of what had happened inside the tub.

Karen said there was nothing to be done for Nicole. She had poured so much of her pure form into the canvas that she was doomed to haunt the painting, disembodied. She talked for a while, sometimes, but that faded as she forgot how to speak. Then, she babbled a bit, like an infant. In time, even that would fade. It’s hard to talk when you have no lungs. Not every ghost can manage it. As long as we treated the painting with respect, we wouldn’t have to fear a poltergeist, or anything like that.

We all thought it was awful, except Karen.

-As long as this painting lives, so does she. She has made herself immortal. Look at this fabulous canvas! To make even one masterpiece worthy of the old masters! And, what a story for docents to tell!

I didn’t know what to think. It was awful, but it was also the greatest painting I had ever seen. Nicole’s final painting was genuinely, unequivocally amazing, like a nude Mona Lisa, or a Guernica with a woman’s smooth lines and curves instead of protoplasmic war. The saints must have been artists, communicating their message to the illiterate masses with beautiful art.

Karen carefully framed the painting, free-of-charge, and hung it in a place of honor over the cafe’s fireplace, where the auction commenced. She said we should treat it kindly.

I leaned in close to the canvas, where the individual brush strokes smeared the paint into form. Beneath the paint, holding it and shaping each stroke like the tightened sheet of Nicole’s deathbed was woven thread.

Canvas is a cloth. Paint is lines of stain upon a weave.

With Nicole gone, my obsession with woven things did not diminish.

6

 Alone, in the night, I listened to Nicole’s neighbors having sex and wondered if any sex was really worth all that noise. None of mine had ever been worth it. But, with Nicole, it might have been.

In the morning, I had class. After class, I went to the studio to work on assignments for class. I had done all these portraits of women with thin, narrow faces, and conservative clothes. Their faces were too small for their bodies. The portraits were drawn flat, like German Expressionism. Dignified women, with dignified, cold demeanors. Under the hands of the women, I jabbed sewing needles into the canvas, with malformed knitting projects – crooked scarves in ecstatic colors, pirate skull and bones, and little sweaters too small for anything but dolls, or too large for anything human.

They were awful. I couldn’t stand them. They were jagged. The ideas didn’t meld together, and there was nothing I could do about them. I cleared a space in my studio. I started over.

I sketched protoplasmic shapes, like sea creatures being born in loamy water. I painted precise, whimsical shapes. I didn’t just throw them onto canvasses. I shaped them into classic iconagraphic poses. Madonna and child. Mona Lisa. The Last Supper. Christ Blessing. Francis Assissi with the Animals. All of these bestial, animal, water shapes, but sharp at the edges, and no colors at all – just charcoal and pencil weaving together into form upon a blank canvas.

I liked that fine for the moment I had class again; then I could crawl into bed and sleep until the sounds of other students’ bella nocturnes – drinking and shouting and fucking and snoring.

I got up in the dark, turned my computer on. I angled the light to keep it off Nicole’s couch as if she were sleeping there. I looked over at her empty furniture. She was gone. I had stolen the key to her dorm room from her clothes at the café, and I had been staying there, because it smelled like my lost friend’s body. Her roommate had dropped out at the beginning of the term, and when she transcended, I had quietly, unofficially moved in until her parents could come to claim her things. I wanted to be near her things. They smelled like her.

I pulled the computer up all the way. I turned on the lights. I e-mailed Karen, and asked her if we could get together again, for anything.

I was lonely.

Karen e-mailed me back three days later saying she was not supposed to date students, but she was willing to be my friend.

I went over to her house for a dinner party she was throwing. Other professors were there, and some graduate students, along with their requisite significant others.

The first thing she showed me was a real, honest-to-goodness Van Gogh painting of sunflowers that her grandmother had bought back when the Paris family were wealthy industrialists. The painting was hanging on the wall, in the living room. People crowded around it. I looked at it once, then toured the rest of the house, because she had her portraits of students up all over the walls – some dressed, some half-dressed, some undressed. They were technically proficient, but they did not transcend.

She came up behind me and asked me if I was looking for myself on the walls.

-No. I was just… curious.

-I’m almost done with yours, you know. It’s drying right now. Would you like to see it?

-If you want me to see it. Will the party miss us?

-Them? Of course not.

So, we went to her studio on the top floor of her house, where she had the most natural light. She had the canvas  facing away from the door. We walked over to it. It was covered with a tarp.

-Be honest with me, Rachel. I don’t want you to tell me you like it if you hate it. I want you to tell me the truth.

I shrugged. I saw her hands were shaking.

-You’re nervous?

-Of course.

-Why?

-I’m always nervous about this sort of thing. Why wouldn’t I be nervous? Aren’t you nervous when you show your work to others?

-I guess I am. But, you’re a professor. You do this all the time. Haven’t you done this a hundred-million-billion times?

She smiled, sadly. She looked down at my neck, and the curve where my neck met my collarbone. She spoke softly.

-This is a bad idea…

-Look at you. You’re trembling.

Her knees were shaking, too.

-It’s just… I don’t think it’s good enough. It’s not good enough to show you. I’m not good enough. Not like Nicole. I’m nothing like her. I’m terrible.

She touched my hair. She pushed my hair away from my shoulders. Her lip was trembling. She leaned over to me, to kiss my forehead. Then, we hugged a while.

-I’m so sorry you lost Nicole. Can’t we just be friends and not have to be artists or professors or students or anything?

-No. I’m sorry, Dr. Paris.

-Karen. Please, just call me Karen.

-I’m sorry, Karen. I miss Nicole so much that I can feel it in the bottom of my feet and the top of my head. I’m empty I miss her so much.

-I’ll never transcend the form. I’ll never be immortal.

-Why would you want such a terrible thing?

We held each other close a while, and we both wept a little.

Karen was terrified of my gaze upon my own portrait. If she was scared of me, I was good enough.

I remembered my grandmother. I knew what she would do.

Downstairs, I asked anyone if they had been to the café where Nicole had transubstantiated. They looked at me like I was crazy, because now that Nicole’s ghost was there – her voice, I guess – screaming in people’s ears, and whispering crazy things in the restroom mirror where she had no image looking back at her – well, let’s just say the place wasn’t as popular as it was before.

-Karen, we should do something for Nicole.

-I should buy her painting. It’s fabulous.

-Don’t you care that she’s suffering?

-She’s luckier than all of us. She’s immortal now, a pure being.

I left. Looking back on it, I wish I had broken something priceless, like spilling wine on the Van Gogh. I had this image in my mind of Karen sitting in a chair before her Van Gogh, mentally distraught that nothing she would ever paint or draw or sculpt would ever amount to a single petal of a single sunflower on Van Gogh’s immortal canvas. I wanted to destroy it, for her sake. And, to hurt her, too.

I went to the café. It was mostly empty, now. They were down to just one staff member: the owner covering all shifts.   She sat reading, alone, waiting for anyone to come in to the store. She saw me, and stood up. She straightened her clothes.

-Where is Nicole?

The owner slumped against the counter again, and waved towards the restroom. I walked back to where I could hear something murmuring, wordlessly. I wondered if Nicole had lost her mind, yet.

-Nicole?

The wordless sounds meant nothing. I don’t think she recognized her own name anymore.

-Nicole, listen, I’m going to try to help you, okay? But, you just have to stay here, and hold still. I’m going to get something to help you. I have an idea, okay? Just try to hold your head together. Think of your mother… Mommy… Mama…

Her wordless noise picked up the mantra…

 MamaMamaMamaMamaMama

-Remember your mother, Nicole. Remember your grandmother, too, okay? I’ll be right back.

I ran to my dorm room. The sweater was in the closet.

To weave her back to life, I jammed hairpins and  take-out chopsticks into the matted, stinking yarn. They reminded me of my grandmother. Maybe they’d work for hers. I poured lemon cleaner all over the yarn until it smelled like dirty, wet dishes left to soak too long. The sweater was like a hideous yeti pelt. I held it up for her.

-Nicole, come here. I made you a sweater! It’s your grandmother’s sweater. You have to wear it. She made it special. Don’t you remember?

I heard her voice in the air, fading and fading…

-Nicole!

Did she fade into the air? Did she run away? Did she fall into the smells of grandmothers and memories of masterpieces?

7

 The café’s closed down for good. There’s only a little furniture left that didn’t sell in the classifieds. The landlord hasn’t been by in ages. No one wants the place, with Nicole here.

I haven’t been to school in months. I haven’t even been back to the dorm to help Nicole’s parents arrange the memorial service. I won’t attend any memorial for someone still alive. I’m living here, on the couch that used to be the place to watch young artists perform, to sip lattes from cups as big as pasta bowls.

I’m in the corner, in my grandmother’s sweater. I’m sewing all the yarn bunched up into my sweater and reweaving it and resewing it and unraveling and unraveling to reweave it again. I will capture Nicole. Anything that can bend can be woven and sewn. Voices bend up and down. Screams are like loose threads blowing wildly from the face of a fan. I weave bells into the thread, and lost guitar strings. I weave anything Karen brings me, and I ask her for things to bring me.

Karen comes by, with food, and large water bottles. She places them at my feet, and picks up the trash from her last visit, if it hasn’t been added to the weave. Foil is added most of the time, and plastic silverware. I never add paper plates or styrofoam because they are greasy and ugly.

-Look at this amazing creation! Can I have it when you’re done?

I wish she would shut up. I’m trying so hard to listen for Nicole. I know she’s here, somewhere, fading away.

I remember my grandmother. This is exactly the sort of thing she’d do for me. My amazing creation is an act of love.

We always end up like this, we women in love. We always do. We weave our threads for our lost loves, story after story in the weave – all of the ancient transformations woven into talismen.

Karen said, in class, that Penelope wove her husband back to life in nineteen years. She caught him up in the sewing and unsewing until his lies and misdirections and evasions were no match for her masterful weaving.

I can do this. I will trade my life if I have to. I will transcend if I have to.

I miss Nicole. I still love her.

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