Ares and Aphrodite Go to a Party
by Daniela Kankova & Godric Rochlen
The space reminded me of home. The Stolen Gallery. Art. House. Drinks. Party. Free and happy people. I knew my brother was one of them, but I wasn’t. I was an artist, but I was a dancer. As any woman before leaving her place for a night out, I didn’t know what to wear. But I had these lovely bohemian shoes. Worn-out leather. Good for the occasion. Long, skinny dress with a V-neck at the back. Any time. And as I walked in, I knew I had chosen wisely. Because everyone was wearing these bohemian shoes. Except that guy. You could tell he tried, but he just stood out.
I had a glass of red, and my brother read. His poems were astonishing, of great meaning, but calm, bucolic. I stood in absolute amazement. Since then, every time I’m with him, I can't but clap my hands. Then, I went to fix that glass of red, and I bumped into the guy. He smelled of tuberose, jasmine, patchouli and black currants. He filled my glass and asked me who I had come to see. ‘My brother, Jason,’ I said. ‘Oh, I liked Jason’s poems, he’s great,’ he expressed himself. And then we got into this deep talk. He told me he was a painter. Apparently, he liked architecture. We were sitting in the patio, reflecting on the show, smoking. The tunes from inside the party were a nice, subtle background. I put my hand on his thigh. He turned around. He kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear: ‘Do you want me to fill your glass?’ We both knew what we wanted. I stood up, took his hand and we walked up to my studio.
I woke up in the middle of the night, and he was gone. The window was half open. It looked like he had escaped through it. The laced curtains remained swinging in the chilly breeze, as if they had been watching my brassiere in the rhythm of our intercourse. I knew it was nothing serious. How could it be, if he already knew everything about me? But I somehow felt down. As every woman feels left alone in the middle of the night.
Since that night, every single man with thick glasses and a cigarette I saw on the street reminded me of him. Reminded me of home. I knew the heat of the night would soon pass, as every other affair I ever had passed. And then Jason asked me to come to see him read again. So I went, and I had nearly forgotten..
I didn’t know what to wear. Same? No, I couldn’t. But wait, that’s what bohemians do. So I put the exact pair of shoes on, and matched it with a coral tutu dress, long V-neck at the front. I was waiting for a taxi, already clapping my hands. ‘Brixton, driver!’ ‘Thank you, driver!’ I tipped him well and suddenly, I see myself waiting for the show by the bar in the venue. Déjà vu. Someone takes my hand. Patchouli. ‘Would you like me to fill your glass?’
There was this thing that I was going to go to and I was like, “All right.” And Helena was busy talking with some of the other writers, so I thought I would have two drinks, one in each hand (this is no big deal, I’ve done this before). And it was like whatever with her anyway, half the time she didn’t even seem to care. So there was wine and beer, wine on the left and beer on the right. Through a door and into another part of the place, because everybody was in the main room and only one other person was on the patio. That was Hayley. But I didn’t know that yet. If there was ever anybody who knew about the balance between the light and dark sides, it would be her. I didn’t know a thing about that, but I knew how to recognize it when I saw it. Her hair was really long and black, long like her limbs, and her skin was really white and pale. Since she’s like a ballerina, I always remember her wearing a pink tutu, but I don’t think that’s what she was wearing at all. This was the empty patio, her brother was in the other place talking to the readers and writers. Really, I thought she was nice. And I wanted to get out of that place because nobody was anybody I knew. Except Helena and Hayley, but Helena wasn’t even there now, it didn’t seem like it. So we left and we went to her place, which had a little, white piano.
When I woke up, I didn’t quite remember where I had been and everything was either white or black or pink. The British beer was too warm for me and the wine was too rare, and back on the eastern seaboard, these things weren’t so. And even though there was far more snow there, I had to go back, because writing wasn’t what filled my coffers. I thought of how I had told Hayley what I did for a living. This was one of the only things I remember saying between the time we left the empty room and the time I woke up. “I paint houses.” “What, outside?” “Yes,” I said, “I mean, no. I paint paintings of houses. Like, landscapes, but with houses. But when I can’t sell enough, I have to work painting houses.” I was pretty embarrassed to tell her that, but she didn’t care. Sometimes they really do care, but they don’t tell you. It’s hard to know the truth, but in the end, I think she really did believe me, and really didn’t care.
I hadn’t heard from Helena in a long time, but I had started writing and I went back to London because they were having another one of those shindigs that the British are so good at. They had finally decided to put me in their magazine, and I think it was because they liked my name. “Written by Tex Turnbull,” it said, and when I passed through the door, the editor came up to me saying, “Tex Turnbull! How the hell are ya?” Lots of British people associate California with the US, but the rest of them associate Texas with the US. I think this is because it’s easier for a lot of Brits to imitate a Texan accent than a Californian one. But still, I didn’t know anyone, and even Helena was no longer associated with the group. But Hayley was still in London. And when I crossed the threshold onto the empty patio to see if anything else was there this time around, I saw her, and she was wearing a pink tutu and walking around the room, but it was a walk that feigned dancing. It was like an empty dance floor of her own creation and she was the art that needed no publishing. And I set both of my drinks down so that I could see her better and I could tell that some invisible DJ was putting on music nearby.
The flags of all of our countries are the same colors because the flags of nations are in black and white so that color won’t inflame temperaments. This is one of the precautions for world peace. So that in this world, I could find something normal and correct for myself to be doing again. Because if it wasn’t painting houses or painting paintings of houses, I could put the houses, and the paintings, and the dances, and the dancer and everything in my words. And a little, white piano.