Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Unsigned Painting - Part One

You've not been writing.

I've been busy. And occasionally performing at Caplansky's Storytelling on Sundays.

What's your material?
Stories. Some from the blog.

But you're not writing.
Nothing has come together in a full stream. Nothing that isn't ancient history at least.

So publish it anyhow. It's still a story.

"Holding hands
That's a gift of our landscapes
For the heart is always
That one summer night
You stretch it from face to face like chewing gum..."

- Rickie Lee Jones, from The Magazine

 When I was 21 years old, I was uninvited from a going-away party that I had not been invited to in the first place. This type of thing occurs so rarely to anyone on God’s Green Earth that attention must be paid to the few times when it has actually occurred.

Hettie was an actor, a singer, a flamenco dancer, and all around dilettante. She had been inseparable with Amanda since the 11th grade or so and had been witness to the on-again, off-again dating that Amanda and I had played with from the last years of high school into the first year of university. 

Talented, Hettie was. Tactful, she was not. When this fact was pointed out to her, she blamed it on syntax (her mother tongue was Spanish) and the ever-popular I’m European, we don’t have the same hang-ups as North Americans. Hettie had actually been born and raised in Newmarket, but her parents had inevitably expressed the same sentiment and la tuerca did not fall far from el ├írbol.
I liked Hettie. During an off-again period between Amanda and I, Hettie had once suggested (without malice) that Maybe she’s just sick of you, Michael. You’re a nice guy, but she might still get sick of you. I love her, but even I get sick of her sometimes. Then it changes. People just get sick of each other. It’s nothing against you.

I was also used to Hettie. So I accepted her un-invitation to Amanda’s party with a certain distance. It also helped that I had no idea what she was talking about. The conversation went like this:

 Michael! Baby! It’s me! I’m here for a few days, how’s things?

Entirely adequate, and how could they not be more bueno after hearing from you?

Sycophancy. I like that in a man. Listen, I just wanted to say hi and to let you know about Amanda’s party, you really shouldn’t be offended, it isn’t about you.

Which ‘it’ are you referring to? 

Ha-ha. It’s just scheduling, more than anything else. I know Amanda would love to chat with you and you can probably call her in Boston after the move, it’s just that the pub is already overbooked and she’s got a lot of people who she’s worked with really closely over the...

Hettie, I’m lost. What are you talking about?

The party?

Which I know nothing about.

You’re weren’t coming to The Poet’s Rest for Amanda’s going away party?

I didn’t know about it.

(a pause) Oh.

I wasn’t even invited. Even before I was uninvited, apparently.

(longer pause) Oh.

So, considering that I didn’t know about this, and wouldn’t have shown up unless asked anyhow, and without trying to be unfriendly, is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Um…how’s things?

You’d already asked. They're still entirely adequate. I haven’t been to many parties recently, so the status quo seems to be maintained. How are things with you?

Great! But Michael, you shouldn’t…

Hettie, you’ve just thrown me out of a party that I didn’t know about. And if I had been invited, it would have surprised me since Amanda’s been indifferent to me for months. And that’s cool, no offense taken, we’ve all got a life.  But what made you think that I was coming?

Somebody told me you were coming.

And that person was…?

I don’t remember. I heard it on the phone or something. Don’t get pissed off just because…

Patronized. Not pissed off. I’m being patronized, not getting pissed.

(longest pause yet) I’m sorry. Seriously. I’m sorry.

Everything else Hettie had said had the distinct flavour of Hettie. But her apology sounded suspiciously like both sincerity and common courtesy, dialects she was largely unfamiliar with. The effort had been made. And Amanda and I bounced off each other badly so often that her anticipation for friction wasn’t entirely unfounded.

I mean…I want to see you. Amanda probably does too, but like I said the place is already overbooked and…

Okay. Well…thanks. No problem. Say bon voyage to Amanda for me if it doesn’t upset any well-made plans. Or just skip it if that’s easier and less intrusive. Call me for coffee sometime if you still drink it.

Michael...are we cool?


Seriously? Okay. I'll call next week when its over and tell you it was boring, alright?

With that, I was not attending the party. 

Within 48hrs, Amanda’s sister Carla called me to invite me to the party.  

It’s been, like, so crazy getting her packed up, Carla said. Did you know she’s taking all of those books and tapes that we got at the St. Lawrence Market that time? All of them? Anyhow, she’d asked me to see if you’re available, it’s at The Poet’s Rest on Friday night, do you know where it is…?

I actually wasn’t quite available. I explained that I was in a Fringe show and had a rehearsal on Friday evening. I also wasn’t quite up to Amanda, Carla or Hettie, especially not in close quarters. I knew that Amanda was moving to Boston (for an internship at a well-respected gallery) and since our last meeting had involved a screaming match over whether or not to meet for a cup of coffee, I didn’t think I was on her list for much of anything. 

Well, come early, leave soon. She wants to see you.

She told you this?

Of course she does!

Listen, just send my best. I don’t want to…

Michael! She wants to see you! I’ll tell her to call you if you don’t believe me!

You don’t have to tell…

Michael, don’t be weird. Come and have a drink and give her a hug. Please.

The ‘please’ was unexpected.This isn’t to say I didn’t want to see, talk to, or be in Amanda’s company. It’s just that the Amanda who seemed to enjoy being around me was supplanted frequently by the Amanda who was biding time between installations or in a bad mood and barely tolerant of company or really just wanted to be alone (until she didn’t, usually tearfully) and I’d ridden that particular roller coaster a few times too often. I simply didn’t want to go, and not for the sake of sulking. The on-again, off-again dating had been off for a few years at that point and I just didn’t think two minutes in a crowded pub would make any difference in either of our lives.

Come and have a drink and give her a hug. Please.

Why ‘please’?

I told her I’d try to make it, and tried not to think about it or to think that I might be needed. It would contradict large hunks of what came before.


Patti said...

I'm emotionally exhausted by reading this. Even I don't want to go to the party!!!

Was this continued?? Did you go???

I'm caught in this story. Well-done.

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