Saturday, August 25, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (Installment thirty-five)


At the giant annual art splash there was a spot in the corner, away from other things, for Cortez. I hadn’t seen him for a while. His paintings were still great and completely unsaleable.

He’d been in Peru, he said. His recent iconography of mass murderers was beyond the pale, beyond the domain of proper visual discourse– meriting approval in closed hearings only. The killing of a chicken in a film short snapped the community’s back and the state came and shut his loft for numerous health and safety violations.

He reported from the front to me: “If they stop you, they’ll find a law you’re breaking. And they have a lot of them.”

In need of assistance yet another bourgeois acquaintance from his happy school days, invited him to Lima and threw in a show to boot.

Cortez said he was having a great time until he got a call that some Mexicans had hot-wired his car and driven it through the fence in a desperate search from some joy. They came up empty-handed and joyless, but the car didn’t come up at all.

“I hated to do it, but everything came apart and I had to tell those guys I couldn’t stay anymore,” he informed.

“Your Peruvian friends?”

“No, Elendele and Saturn,” he clubbed me.

“You went with Elendele and Saturn? You bastard,” I double-pumped him, “you went to Peru with them?”

“No, I went with Cassius and Elendele.”

I suggested he start laying some track and so he explained that when Elendele went to get Cassius at the airport, after the famous phone call, she found a yellow ghost of the fancyman that had left her behind. He had caught hepatitis surfing a river mouth in El Salvador. Elendele accused him of sleeping with dirty guerilla girls that flourish on the volcanoes there and then told him that was alright. A good thing.

It took Cassius a long time to get well.

“The worst thing for Elendele,” Cortez distilled, “was that Cassius took the doctor at his word and gave up drinking cold turkey.

“So Elendele talked me into letting them come down with me,” he recounted. “She devised a plan to do a story on the kooky Indian revolt the people in the mountains there are all blind on. That or the coca leaf. It’s hard to tell. I wasn’t sure I wanted them to come. You know, we never really got over that disagreement about my plan to colorize, ‘Ballet Mechanìque’.”

“Yeah, I remember. She said you sold out. Saturn defended you.”

“She said I sold out every time I made money...anyway she really wants to go. She says she has no hope for the future and doesn’t think she’s going to outlive the ravages of global warming. She wants to travel before the world shrinks any further. Her answer to every question of where she’s going is, ‘far’.

“You know what that’s like when she has a philosophy reason for doing something. So Cassius couldn’t hold her back, and off we all went.

“As soon as we got there Cassius got sick from the water and it reminded him off El Salvador and hepatitis and he got really scared and wanted to go home. He said he was going to move to Tennessee when he got back He told me he no longer needed to seek out the thrill. That it was in the air, in surviving, in drinking too much tequila.

“So after Cassius left, Saturnina came down for a visit.”

I got down to the important stuff.

“How does she look?”

“She’s a mom now.”

“Oh, right, I forgot.”

“She only stayed for a week. She finished her running. She’s perfectly happy being maternal and glows when she walks around in the dark. Cassius sends a check when he can, but her new boyfriend does the heavy lifting.”

I was falling of mountains of inner motion.

He rendered on that Saturnina’s aspiration man, one of the Direct Actionists, had been arrested for blowing children up in airports. She convinced the French Radical Party to run him as a candidate for European parliament, as middle-fingering to society as a whole. But he won and got himself some immunity from prosecution.

“Now they live in Nicosia.”

After Saturnina left, he stormed on, Elendele was picked up by the Federales when she was taking a mountain trip and she got thrown in jail. Something, of course, to do with cocoa leaves. Cassius came back to bail her out and he got sick again. The only people he could get to work for her release were the missionaries and Catholics working in that country who gave him cards with her picture and a note to the government requesting her release. He returned home, distributed the cards in the local churches. In two-week’s time the government quietly released her.

“The help of the cleric class, from what I can figure, only served to further mess up her inner framework for dealing with the world,” the painter opined.

“Cassius tried to coddle her, but always ran into her iron fist and the day before they left for home Elendele insisted on a walk in the park. There she fell into a fountain and dislocated her knee, in pursuit of some unobtainable black swan.”

To fix it cost Elendele everything she was worth and something more. The actors union health plan paid for a good portion of it, but even the little part left was more than she could conjure up through her system of schemes and fly-by-night projects. At least according to what Cortez was saying. It was a difficult thing to overcome. Gina Night’s father wasn’t around anymore. Whitey McEntee had styled out, retired, and taken to wearing gangster hats at a place called “Jass” he learned about from Elendele.

She called him, but he couldn’t do for her. He told Elendele, “I’m sorry doll. Retirement is kind of a mellow backwater.”

“Somehow it paid off,” Cortez continued retelling her torrid story. “Somehow she managed to keep a credit rating. She protected it like her little cub because she still wants to blow it on making a film when the moment or the script are right.”

But in the end, what she was, was out of money and out of luck. And there is nothing more dangerous for a woman like Elendele. Her future had already arrived. Earlier than anticipated. And long before the flooding lowlands by the newly melted seas.

“She said she was going to stay and ride the apocalypse out in the city,” Cortez brushed his final stroke.

But that was because she didn’t have any kids.

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