‘I could paint you’.
Where from every other mouth these words would step with the spirit of a warm hug from mine they spoil and fall like a rusty blade cloaked between a heavy fist. I could paint you, I could paint all of you, every one of you that is sat here at this table noisily destroying rare beef like dogs eating toffees, snorting laughter between hideously indulgent mouthfuls of Merlot whilst your equally hideous children scuttle around on the floor doing a terrible job of representing your genes. I’d paint this dinner party not upon a canvas but the hides of cattle destined for the slaughter house. But I won’t, I’ll paint her.
‘Would you really? Oh! How simply sweet and fab of you! Everyone is always harping on about how truly wonderful your little paintings are, I’ve always said “I simply must have a portrait done”. One shouldn’t leave such things too long in life for fear of having to trust the artists integrity and one’s own confidence!’
‘Of course, I would be delighted. An artist will always be fair to his subject matter when it is so divinely flawless, such as yourself’. I know what you’re thinking, but the words come easy, it’s a rare occurrence these days that the words are even processed through any kind of acceptability filter. I just don’t need it, I’m happy for irony, insults, lies, bullshit and cruelty to float around in the same word soup as everyone else’s, no one notices, especially at these sort of gatherings. As long as you’re talking about one of them anything you say will be misconstrued as a compliment, I used to think it was down to the cocaine but I’m now convinced that these people, most people, are leeches curled in an infinite circle suckling their own life blood from their backsides. I could, I should imagine, be able to rise from my seat whilst loosening my tie and in turn fire down every single leech at the table with blistering truth and an aim like a NASA laser, crosshair flicking from one dimly lit bulb to the next; ‘Allan, never in my life have I chanced upon such a bloated victim of self satisfaction, iridescent in your own smug sweat’, then Allan would no doubt spread his idiotic grin across his cold porridge like face and perspire into a serviette whist mouthing the words “thank you” to everyone around the table like an asthmatic hippo. ‘Victoria, your string of failed marriages is second only in inspiration to your heavy prescription drug use, your frailty has such a neglected greyhound-in-the-snow quality to it’, to which she would no doubt feebly flick her hair to one side and gaze lovingly at her own pride through fogged and doped eyes. ‘Lassiter, your name alone triggers a gag reflex. Libby and Mike, never before has an affair been made to seem so insipidly dull and pointless, there has to be a huge sense of macabre humour in the two of you to let a secret love be more dreary than your actual marriages. David, congratulations on finding a girlfriend that is barely the equal age of your daughter and no, you’re right, the resemblance doesn’t stop there’, after each loving compliment they’d rise to their feet and let loose a ‘HOORAY!’ and chink glasses noticing no one but room full of their own faces. I could do this, say all these things, but I won’t. It’s a pointless exercise and one which I would be forced to include myself in, the ugliest truths of all, truths of cruelty, hatred, narcissism, confusion, murder, obsession, perfection, miracle worker, creator.
Painting these imbecilic insects would be a pleasure, but painting her, painting Lottie, would be a sublime barbarity. How in hell I ever managed to become entangled with this society mess I’ve no idea, I suppose fucking an artist is the new trend. The contemporary and lustrous are what these insects live for regardless of whether the contemporary and lustrous are in fact the regressive and muted; dependent simply on the whims of the more wealthy, of which there were few. If only Olivia would be more responsive, more like me, entering into the realms of my love then I wouldn’t be here. That’s why it has to be Lottie that I paint, she reminds me too much of Olivia, from her shimmering bobbed tresses framing the perfectly angelic jaw to her bee-stung lips that would burst open and weep blood from the lightest of embraces, staining the alabaster of her skin. But that’s where the similarities cease to occur: for Lottie is plainly a shell of beauty unlike Olivia who’s soul sparkles like a thousand diamond oceans polished to flawless crystalline. No one should hide under a mask of perfection that serves to protect only the grimness and selfishness of an ugly psyche. No one but me. Things will get out of hand here, tonight. Then again there is out of hand and there is out of hand.
‘So, Alex, you know everyone from the gallery, or are there any old flames here tonight?’
Lottie followed me from the boorishness of the masticating many who were seated around the dining table and into the kitchen where I intended to be alone for a while.
‘No, no old flames here tonight, just colleagues. If there were any of my old flames here it would be the the most under lit dinner party in history’. Even at my most godly I can never resist a smattering of self depreciating humour to whip some sweetness into the sour mix.
‘Oh I see, well, that is fortunate isn’t it?’ followed by a heavy lidded wink and rip-snorting, chin retracting laugh. ‘You’ll paint me then, Alex? Maybe we could do a nude piece?’ Her hand slid up my arm as her intoxicated breath warmly smothered my nostrils like a drunken, murderous pillow that made me recall Christmases with distant, boozed-up, lascivious relatives.
I wanted to crack this case of hers open and rummage through her inky life force until I found something whole, something selfless and wondrous that I could nurture and tend to like St Francis and his wounded hare. I wanted to make her kindred with Olivia on the inside as well as the outside.
‘You could do some sketches now if you wanted, upstairs, to get your inner palette flowing’.
But she wouldn’t be Olivia she’d be a fraud and a fraud to perfection is an un-Godly sin. Whatever one’s God may be.
‘I’m going up to the guest room right now to prepare for the artiste and his talent’.
I wanted to empty her and remove every last detail and corpuscle until she truly was a beautiful shell that I could fill with my own knowledge of Olivia.
‘See you in five, Picasso’
To empty her of her own knowledge would be the matter of minutes.
Watching her sway languidly into the hallway and up the stairs, attempting to sensually slink her body that has been monkeyed by alcohol in a ‘follow-me-kitten’ fashion, was as hilariously embarrassing as it was pitiful. I’ll follow her though: I’ll be her Picasso.
Lassiter’s guest room is not the shrine to tastelessness that one would expect from a chiselled millionaire with a flowing ponytail, the gaudiness of the 1980’s hangover that permeates the rest of the house seems to have evaporated from this room leaving it almost sterile and neutral. There is a muted din vibrating from downstairs that can only be emanating from Lassiter’s brand new CD Hi-Fi system that he so regularly shoe horned into the evening’s conversation at any given chance. It’s no bother to me though, one art feeds into another like a free-roaming cloud of creativity, his music acts simply as a soundtrack for my cruel mise en scene´.
‘Ah, so you made it then I see. That was a startlingly fast five minutes, I do hope the rest of your time keeping is less swift!’, then that repulsive laugh and staggered movement of the erotic drunk.
‘I apologise, I was too consumed by the thought of transferring your essence to my vellum. My sketchbook and pencils were just at the bottom of the stairs’.
‘Ecstasy and Valium! You do know how to treat someone like myself!’
I no longer feel any kind of guilt or remorse for painting and drawing, but I still check through the window that night is upon us simply to avoid any embarrassment. For all I’m aware right now we could have been talking and drinking through the night to sunrise, but the pounding intensity of the moon suggests we are still deep in oddness. Lottie’s fingers are walking the bed and her shoes are dangling from her toes like melting icicles, the straps of her top too seem deliquescent as they slip from her shoulders to her elbows and my tumescence angers me.
‘Shall I begin, Lottie?’
‘Draw away, Picasso’ she replies with a huskiness bordering on the insanely cancerous.
My breathing always changes at moments such as these, I become calm in a way that I can never replicate without having a paintbrush or pencil in my hand. Of course a paintbrush calms me to the point of insensateness due to it’s power, but the pencil delivers a beautiful stroke also. I begin sketching whilst the music from downstairs pulses the floor like my my heartbeat.
Back downstairs and Lassiter is thumbing through his CD collection for all to see, the children are asleep together on a sofa and covered with a blanket whilst Libby and Mike drunkenly eye each other before casting their gaze also to the staircase in what is a not so subtle mime to infidelity. I can see Allan’s pig sweat clinging to his shirt, he’s grinning at me in a knowing fashion letting me in on the fact he is about to speak, or should I say bellow, something along the lines of ‘Alex, my boy! I take it you’ve left her upstairs languidly pulling her drawers back on eh, you old hound’. In fact this is exactly what he says. Carefully folding my series of sketches into my back pocket I take a mouthful of wine and sit back at the dining table.
‘Something like that old fella’
‘You’ve always been a coy one with details, I’ll just trust you left the bed in a not so tidy state for Lassiter to sort out!’ choked out Allan before wheezing a laugh and running his plump fingers across his scalp.
I can hear her in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs, no one else can notice over the racket reverberating from the Hi-Fi system but then no one else is really listening, I mean really listening.
I’m really listening because I really care. I’m listening to Lottie fumble around in her coat pocket that is hanging from the coat rack by the front door, I’m listening to Lottie not putting her coat on. I’m listening to the front door opening and now I’m seeing the security light spill it’s yellow tinged luminescence over a gravel driveway, Lottie and several expensive cars. I’m listening to Lottie mechanically walk away from the front door and to her car. They aren’t listening to anything, well, nothing important at least, not yet. The second I listen to Lottie turning the key in the ignition is the second I hear everyone else asking who it may be that is attempting to drive a car in such a state. I’ve stopped listening to the important things now, now I’m listening to Lassiter’s pop music and letting the rest of the room listen to the car chewing up the gravel as it speeds away from the house and towards the tight country roads. I’m no longer listening but I can hear the faint dancing of glass in the night and the reshaping of metal. I’m not listening anymore but I can hear screams and sobbing, I can hear several feet running down that gravel driveway towards that tight country road. I could probably hear sirens too if I cared to listen.
Now I’m alone for a while.