It’s Syttende Mai, 2017, and we’re near Aker Brygge, with a group of friends, at a bar on the water.
I am ludicrously drunk, as is Ida, with my own personal bottle of vodka, that I refuse to share with anyone else, only partially out of irony.
I’m wearing cheap, pink, imitation wayfarer sunglasses, bordering on a self-aware parody of an American.
Some random guy that Ida knew from high school shows up, and while I really couldn’t care less, I attempt to be polite, and throw my arm around him, as I do with pretty much everyone that falls within one degree of friendship, under the presumption that he was a mutual friend of the group.
The music is blasting, and I’m dancing like an idiot, with this random person that I’ve known for just a few minutes, who is suddenly my best friend in the whole world.
I could see her discomfort, which is unusual for her, and as drunk as I was, it took me a bit out of the moment –
This was another branching point in our relationship, but in reality, I didn’t have any options, because our entire network was there, so a blow up was not a possibility, especially given the absence of any hard evidence of malfeasance.
So ultimately, almost as reflex, I just pretend that I didn’t notice, though suspecting the possibility that she cheated on me with him, before he took off, I made sure to pat him on the ass, and say,
“Nice to meet you, buddy.”
When we got home, I was totally blasted, and she was a bit belligerent towards me, giving me a hard time for being so drunk, which is fine, but in context, it made me even more suspicious –
So I just threw it on the table, and said,
“Look, if you cheated on me with that lesbian, at least promise me that you used some kind of protection, presumably suitable for lesbians.”
“Fuck you, Charles.”
We sleep on opposite corners of the bed.
Our first day back to work afterwards, I come back to the apartment, during work hours, and I tear through everything imaginable –
Email, Facebook, old phones, diaries, receipts, photo albums, her camera, suit cases, whatever –
It’s a complete investigation, and I’m convinced that she’s cheated on me with this idiot.
If it were possible, I would have broken into her childhood bedroom, and rummaged through her socks, looking for some evidence of indiscretion.
As I ruthlessly violate her privacy, potentially ruining our relationship as a consequence, the picture that emerges is not at all what I had expected, but I quickly realize, as a wave of bitterness washes over me, that it’s one that I should have anticipated as a possibility –
The last message she sent to this guy closed with,
“You broke my arm, so don’t you think you should at least apologize to me?”
She was 21 at the time.
My internal response is so complete, that I think that I might have had a stroke, as I see a flash of light in my left eye.
I’m standing over our kitchen counter, staring at a photograph of you, in an old silver frame, waiting for water to boil, so I can make myself some coffee.
I see the silhouette of a tree, projected on the lefthand wall of our living room, lit up by the street lights below, moving in the wind.
It’s 6:00, still completely dark, I’m still completely drunk, and I look straight out of the windows separating me from the outside world, into absolutely nothing –
I can feel my dependency upon you in my stomach, belittling, the fumes of my drunkenness, in the bleakness of your absence, nothing is happening –
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
My Painting for Ida
I make her a painting, and I buy myself a painter’s smock, and hat.
It’s a single, white peddled flower, with a yellow, egg yolk center, green stem, each drawn with a wide, thick, soft brush, and generous layers of paint, that have a sculptural finish, with a thickness that is significantly raised off the surface of the canvas, showing the motions of the brush:
A more contemporary version of Van Gogh’s, Two Cut Sunflowers.
There’s watercolor under it, with blues from the sky, some whites, and some faint floral colors to create contrast, allowing the pedals to be discerned from the white canvas.
The watercolor is almost entirely limited to the area of the flower bud.
The painting is large, nearly the height of our ceilings, and has a long green stem, also drawn with the same brush and style, equally heavy, that reduces to nearly a single point at its base, executed by twisting the brush till perpendicular to the bottom of the painting, at the end of each stroke.
Each component is a single, premixed color, or group of colors, mixed onto the brush before application, creating homogenous blocks of colors –
There are however, some very faint, thin lines of violet and pale blue iridescence in some of the pedals.
There are accents of naturally occurring greens throughout, also drawn with a heavy hand, as if a single flower had been placed upon a flower shop counter, above fine, translucent, colored paper wraps, with their leaves generally naturally falling nearby.
I work on the painting in secret, renting a small space in a local artist’s loft, regularly lying to her, saying that I’m at the gym.
I sign it, “C. Davi”, in black oil ink, with the knob of the brush used as a pen, undated, on the bottom righthand corner of the painting.
I never tell her this, but I also write on the bottom left of the back of the canvas, in the same ink –
“Jeg elsker deg, Ida.”
I also hide a small okiagari doll, fashioned after Bodhidharma, resting on the bottom of the frame behind the canvas.
The frame is a natural, unfinished wood, baroque frame, that I also paint, with small gold and white dot accents, modest in number, significantly distanced from one another, randomly scattered about the frame.
When the painting is finished, before I come home, I hand wash the smock and hat in a small basin at the studio, and leave both there to dry.
I come home to mount the painting myself, before Ida gets home from work, where I saw the silhouette of the tree that morning, alone, so that it never happens again.
She comes home that night, spotting the painting, immediately understanding why I’ve made it for her, begins to cry upon seeing it, and forgives me for knowing why.
My Artwork for Charles
Nihilism is not a belief system for me, but is instead an unfortunate, occasionally physically real experience that I despise, creating a terrible need for her company –
It’s the leveraged depression of a hangover, written everywhere, creating a uniform signal of nothing.
Scandinavians are a bit naive, but they can afford this because they live in an insular, safe, wealthy part of the world.
As a result, basically everything you want to know about someone can be found online, including their address:
I send Andreas a friend request on Facebook the day before my performance, to make sure that he knows what I look like, and that I’m dating Ida.
I follow this up hours later, sending him a single, kissy-face emoji, and a solitary capital, “R”, isolated on a new line.
It turns out that he notices this, and he responds –
“Hey, cool, what does that mean?”
He accepts my request:
So I show up outside of his house the next day to explain, before work, wearing the painter’s smock and hat, because I hate him, and I want the next 5 minutes of his life to make no sense at all:
He’s about to get into his car, and I’ve already opened my car door to avoid making noise, as I quietly get out of my car, which is parked down the street from his driveway, slowly and unremarkably walking towards his house, waiting for him to open his car door.
Before he’s completely seated, with his left leg still sticking out of the driver’s seat, I run towards him as fast I can, and jump into the air, kicking the door shut on his leg, with my left leg, falling to the ground, sliding on my back, and I scramble to kick the door a second time, while still on my back, because I hate him.
I stand up, completely livid, smash the rear passenger window with a wrench that I’ve clung to the entire time, shouting, and as he’s screaming in pain, I calmly walk over to the rear of his car, and carefully draw an upside down human nose on his rear window, using the edge of the wrench, etching deeply into the surface of the glass.
The noise is positively awful, and I can tell that he thinks that the noise is somehow contributing to his physical pain, though it’s obviously not –
Nonetheless, he starts to scream even louder, perhaps realizing that this is shaping up to be an unusual part of his life, full of unfamiliar sounds and experiences.
I wore my painter’s hat to partially obscure my face, but I want him to see my face eventually, so when I’m done with my glasswork, I throw the front door to his shitty car open, and I squat in front of him:
Pushing him with my right hand in the flesh of his shoulder to get his attention, I point to my eyes, making a capital Y with my pointer and middle fingers, directing him to look at me –
Then I spit in his face, stand up, and shout,
“This is what it means.”
I am crying hysterically, shouting these words inches from his face, grabbing the bottom of his chin, and like his ugly mother, I give him a kiss on the mouth, and squeeze his face afterword, hard enough to hurt him, and grab the top of his head to make him think that I might actually rape him –
His face level with my crotch, I grab the buckle on my belt with my lefthand.
I lean in, scream for no reason, again inches from his face, and I can see my spit land in his shitty eyeballs, as he blinks, and shakes his head to get my spit off of his face, in total horror at what’s happening to him, and I eat it all up:
I smush my hat onto his stupid head, rubbing it around to ruin his hair, staring at him the whole time –
I step back from his shitty car, spit on his lawn, and standing perfectly upright, I can feel the wind blow across my back, hearing the trees moving behind me –
My eyes wide open, I look up at the sky, but I don’t see anything, and I know that he sees all of these things happening, because I’m already inside of his head –
I’ve infected him, in return for infecting my life, and infecting my family:
I lean back, again, shouting again, desperate for him to understand –
My nose running all over my face, crying like a baby, I throw my entire bodyweight into kicking him in his head, like a fireman knocking down a door, I connect forwards, flat against his chin, and his entire body lifts and snaps upon contact.
I walk away, leaving him unconscious, his body awkwardly draped over the barrier between the two front seats, and with some distance, I again scream like an animal, this time staring forward, again into nothing, for no one, not saying anything at all, otherwise calmly walking towards to my car.
The birds are chirping, which pisses me off.
I know that he’s going to call the police, because he has to, given the facts, but I’m banking on the assumption that he won’t say it was me, given the facts –
I’ve given him an out, as this was all designed to make it look like some kind of new, poorly understood hate crime, or perhaps ritualistic violence, in either case, the sheer spectacle will deflect any sensible theory, because they’ll be forced to address the giant upside down nose etched into the rear window of his car –
It is a symbol of my total disregard for this maggot, that I won’t waste anything at all on:
Nothing that has even a possibility of carrying meaning –
It is an upside down, nonsense thing, just like him.
Moreover, if caught, I don’t want to be associated with actual racism, so I invent a new symbol of hatred, just for him:
The upside down nose.
The Coffee Shop, Hello
I know where and when this fruit loop turned gimp gets his coffee every day, and apparently his shattered tibia and stupid foam boot don’t hold back his sense of entitlement to overpriced coffee, so I decided to say hello, twice.
I make sure to get behind him in line, and just as he’s about to pay, I start whistling the tune of, “Greensleeves”, with deliberately homoerotic overtones, repeatedly scratching my eyebrows, ostentatiously.
He hears me whistling, turns around, and looks at my eyebrows first, prompting me to scratch them even faster, as I do bit of a dance, leaning in towards him –
I can see that he recognizes me, and I can also see that he’s getting nervous.
I take my credit card out before I’ve ordered, tapping it on the counter, quickly, and aggressively, until he looks at it, and I plant it down, face up, expecting him to make a mental note of my name, while I order.
The barista seems to think I’m an anxious jerk, merely signaling to get the barista’s attention, so I roll with it, completely ignoring Andreas’ presence going forward, completing the remainder of the transaction.
I call her “my baby” during some incredibly desperate, emotionally codependent sex, and she snaps to a positively livid state, stopping everything, sitting upright, as if a high speed train had hit a twisted piece of track –
The whole thing goes airborne, and everyone dies.
I instantly get a free, but incredibly hostile education in feminist theory.
Then, episodically, for months afterwards, I randomly discover baby powder in things:
My loafers – baby powder.
My shampoo – baby powder;
My food – baby powder.
This, continuous for months, with no forewarning –
All things are subject to baby powder.
I press the steam button on the iron, and then wet baby powder explodes all over my pants, leaving permanent stains.
So finally, I say something, and Ida explodes into a totally incoherent tirade, but the main takeaway is –
She’s mad about the baby comment, and so now everything is baby powder, constantly:
This is my punishment, which she’s judged to be appropriate.
So I say, “And if you’re right, what should I do?”
She says nothing, and I can see that she instantly hates me, and sleeps on the couch that night.
The next day, I notice that she doesn’t get up for work, I say nothing, for fear of baby powder reprisal, and while I’m gone, she attempts to rip the painting off the wall, but she can’t manage to dismount the frame, which drives her totally insane, reminding her of my constant infantilizing nature, and now she feels trapped in some kind of rubberized playpen –
She’s convinced that I’ve somehow cleverly robbed her of the ability to express her outrage in an unsafe manner in her own home, and that nothing operates as expected, because of premeditation on my part.
When she finally realizes that all I’ve done is instal gliders behind the frame, so that the painting can be easily lifted, and then removed, she completely loses her mind, screaming at the top of her lungs, lifting the painting, above the requisite height, and slamming it down on the floor like an animal –
Hours later, she eventually sees what I wrote on the back of the canvas, and sees the small okiagara doll, which is now standing upright on the back of the canvas, laying on the floor, face down, she can see before her my undisturbed opinions, notwithstanding what I might occasionally say or do –
That within her lives something unreasonably relentless, surrounded by love, that is simply physically incapable of giving up, by design.
She loses it again, this time saying, “no” to herself, repeatedly, sitting near the painting on the floor of our living room, desperately and clumsily turning it back over, collecting the broken shards of the wood from the frame that are now scattered about, calling me repeatedly, though I don’t answer –
I come home to see her seated on the floor near the painting, with a pile of wood shards assembled nearby, and she looks positively awful, with her hair completely frazzled, possibly the worst I’ve ever seen her look, inexplicably wearing something that looks like a wedding dress, and I’m honestly worried about her, for the first time.
So I just say,
“Ida, I’m sorry.”
The painting hangs for a week, as is, as a shitty reminder of the outside world, which both of us are not terribly fond of at times.
She fixes the frame herself, over time.
Ida Goes to Work
She’s drinking coffee by herself, already dressed for work, wearing a black skirt, with a somewhat visible decorative white cotton lining, like a miniature fine tablecloth, with the opening resting just above her knees, one leg crossed over the other, her bare feet moving about a bit under our small kitchen table, with a sharp, white cotton, button down shirt, with thick, smashed pearl buttons, pressed neatly, the pleats running down her long arms, with a bit of thin gold jewelry showing under her cuffs, reading the local newspaper.
She turns a few pages to find a sale on Joike balls that she’s decidedly uninterested in, a bus crash in Bergen, a local politician that’s been spotted cheating on his wife, and then she sees the Andreas story, in the center of some page, featuring a large picture of the upside down nose, with a sensational headline:
“Var Det Hat, Eller Sex?”
There’s a panel below the main photo, with rotated instances of the nose, supplemented with other visual media, ultimately trying to reconstruct the intended final state, as the running conclusion is that it was an incomplete work of vandalism, though one analysis reaches the correct conclusion:
“Er det en nese?”, reads one caption, under an upside down version of my glasswork, with a textbook photo of a human nose to the right, for context, labeled, “nese”.
They interview the neighbors, who uniformly report what they believe to be the shouting of a man in the throws of some kind of sexually charged rage –
Only able to make out the silhouettes of the scene, they saw a man first squatting near the driver’s seat, episodically shouting, kissing the other man, later standing and reaching for his crotch, with bizarre and unexplained actions taking place earlier in the rear of the car, accompanied by truly disturbing screeching noises –
It’s amazing how removing some information can completely change a story, without changing the facts.
One neighbor is confident that it was a consensual encounter gone too far, and that the assailant was having sex with the muffler of the car while carving into the window –
He noted that he had heard of similar things happening in Austria, and that perhaps the assailant was foreign.
Though she feels guilty, she hates him enough to afford herself a bit of laughter, at his admittedly severe expense, and she is in fact laughing quite loud at this point, as the story grows ever more ridiculous.
Recalling the date that I made her the painting, and given the reported date of the incident, she realizes that it was almost certainly me that did all of this, also because it’s completely mental, and seems calculated to produce absurd, and petty consequences.
She doesn’t care at all –
She views it as proportional, with extra points for being funny.
She looks at her watch, puts the paper down, picks up her keys, and goes to work.
The Roman Forum
I see her from some distance below me in the Roman Forum on vacation, in a simple white cotton dress, as I’ve gone off to take pictures –
In flat, tan leather sandals, her naked feet covered only by laces that wrap up high along her shins, prompting me to stare up from her muscular calves to her thighs, tracing their path, upward, as I walk back towards her, like a predator, imagining the soft touch of the skin along her inner thigh, as the cotton of her dress brushes over my wrist and forearm, and her hair touches my face.
Her blond hair, barely moving in the slow heat of the city, she’s sweating, basically everywhere, including her face, and I become so aroused, that I want to kill every man that I see, just so she can understand the magnitude of my desires for her at the moment:
I would deliberately impregnate her on what remains of the grass, shouting like an animal, and raise a family right there, hunting tourists with a hand-fashioned shank for sustenance, for so long as we both shall live.
I settle for the nonetheless inappropriate option of walking towards her, leaning in and kissing her, squeezing her wonderful behind, and I can see her eyes open, because I never close my eyes outside of bed, and she says, with some sincere condemnation,
And I instantly regret it –
I realize in that moment that I value her company so much, that I tolerate the risk of psychological mania, without even questioning it:
In about one minute’s worth of time, I transitioned from towering Roman upon a hill, willing to hunt human beings and a raise a family on a rock, to anxiety over being yet again subjected to constant baby powder terrorism.
Most of this is of course my fault, but she knows at this point how I respond to her presence, and she does nothing to accommodate it, and in fact, I suspect she deliberately antagonizes it –
We walk off together, and she randomly smacks my ass quite hard, squeezing it afterwards, and I yelp out of legitimate surprise, jumping a bit, and though she clearly did this in jest, she also pinches the skin between my thumb and pointer finger, biting her lip as she does this, staring off, suggesting that she was also legitimately excited by the prospect of a bit of spontaneous B.C. sex, as a sort of immersive history:
I imagine myself standing atop the hill above the forum, as she looks up past a sea of fluted columns, and sees this beastly, bearded man, sweating, my mediocre hair flailing, like a modern Gilgamesh, both legitimately aroused, and amused by me.
I come home first, and it’s insanely hot in our apartment, both of us having left the windows closed on a warm, extremely sunny day, giving the apartment the feel of a moist, terrarium.
I desperately have to take a shit, so I quickly lower the temperature in the apartment, blasting the AC, leaving the bathroom door wide open to let the cold air in.
Then suddenly, she opens the door to the apartment, and it’s just too hot –
I leave the bathroom door open.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Charles, close the door, you disgusting freak.”