Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Unsigned Painting - Part Two

Continued from The Unsigned Painting - Part One

Things to consider;

1. Why did Hettie think I'd elbowed my way into Amanda's party, and who erroneously told her that I had?

Amanda's parties were notoriously informal, just an excuse to smoke, drink and eat whatever party food could be acquired on short notice (most often tapas, Danish open faced sandwiches, dumplings and kimchi in a weird cross-cultural smorgasbord). They worked on an open-invitation model - somebody told somebody else it was happening, all were welcome (with one noted exception in this case). Hettie might simply have thought I'd heard about it and was going to show up as usual.

2. Who was the original person who was supposed to tell me not to show up?

No idea. Hettie seemed to be acting on third-party information or didn't want to take the rap for ratting somebody out.

3. Why was I re-invited (or invited for the first time, having never heard about the initial invite to which I was scrubbed) by Amanda's sister Carla?

Again, no idea. Carla always liked me, or liked the idea of Amanda and I together, and might simply have done it for old-time's sake. I don't know if she talked to Hettie, or Amanda, or whoever was supposed to have reported Your Presence Is No Longer Required to me in the first place, leading to...

4. Why, four years after the initial Michael and Amanda cuddly couple-time, was I a factor at all?

I didn't want to be a factor. I honestly had nothing against Amanda and wished her nothing but well, but our last few meetings had been tense and I felt firmly in her remember-when file rather than an active friend. I had meant something to her at one point, to whatever extent her consciousness allowed. That point seemed impossibly far away - the changes between 17 years old to 21 years old carried a great deal of weight, at that age at least. Time gets lighter (or faster) as those numbers increase, writes the guy with a greying beard in 2012.

There was nothing particularly special about Amanda. She wasn't particularly nice to me. But she had lovely soft brown eyes and a goofy grin when she wanted to share it, and our bodies fit together with jigsaw-puzzle piece precision in a casual (or deeply involved) hug, from day one. If she meant more to me than I did to her, so be it. These things happen. And I wasn't exactly a loner - I'd dated several of her friends through high school, before and after our relationship. Or friendship. Or simply when we were dating. Call it what you will. I was 17. These things happened.

All of this leads to the simple fact that I didn't want to remember the darker moments, so missing Amanda's party was fine by me. But I couldn't roll my eyes and be indifferent without remembering the sweeter sides.  It all (rather melodramatically) reminded me of Meryl Streep with a strange Danish/Kenyan accent from the opening of Out of Africa when the film was new, around the time of Amanda. She mutters "I've written about the others not because I loved them less, but because they were clearer, easier."

To understand Amanda, I have to start with a poem and too much wine.


Blame my sister. I was 17 years old. I had a small role in a Canadian Stage production of Spring Awakening, a good show and a scary experience and all my friends came to see it and that night it was Amanda. My sister was there as well and bought us bottles of wine (which we were too young for) and Amanda had, until that evening, simply been the friend of a former girlfriend. None of this is the greatest story ever told, it's just what happened.

We finally staggered onto the subway for a long ride to Yonge and Sheppard. I don't remember what we were talking about, I only remember saying that I'd lost my book at some point. It was Scott Spencer's Endless Love, a good book, a horrible, horrible film. It was also weird and obsessive (which dovetailed perfectly with Spring Awakening) and that it started with a beautiful poem by Delmore Schwartz, which I had memorized. She asked me about the book, I told her I thought it was cool and, being an artsy kid, I'd memorized the Schwartz piece. I didn't look at her eyes when I recited it, trying to concentrate on the words and speak just loud enough to be heard over the clacking of the subway rails;

"I no more wrote than read the book which is
The self I am, half-hidden as it is
From one and all who see within a kiss
The lounging formless blackness of an abyss

How could I think the brief years were enough
to prove an eternity of endless love?"

I finished it, amazed that I could remember so much after almost a full bottle of wine. I looked at Amanda whose eyes were incredibly deep and brown and surrounded by long, soft lashes. We kissed. And I mean we kissed. Making out on the subway at any age is, at best, bad form. But I offer a certain degree of lattitude to anyone 17 years old or so who appears to be doing it because they can't help but to kiss their partner. I was surprised that we were kissing, but I would not have stopped or traded that moment for anything.

When we finally said goodbye she looked sheepish and I was smiling and nothing else happened between us for months (save for the occasional cow-eyed glance). We had a secret. I'd kissed Amanda and she wanted to kiss me. I felt needed. For awhile, at least.

To be continued.


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