After the money was gone, a photo shoot for a magazine, I asked him to be my subject so he would still come around. I had an exhibition in the spring and needed material. It was a one-man show—a two-man show. It’d be good publicity for both of us.
He was beautiful if you knew him, and could be a real bastard when he wanted to, and a lot of times when he didn’t. He had a little bit of success early on. He was easy to be around when things were good. In those early days I loved him like a child loves God—taught and expected—fearful of displeasing.
He didn’t call or show up for a few days after the first night together, and when he came back he was distant.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“No,” he said, looking at the red light above the darkroom.
When we were finished for the day, he waited outside, in the hall of my studio.
He was done having sex with me and I knew he was getting it somewhere else. He’d sleep on the couch unless he was really drunk—then, he’d come to my bed, but he was useless. He made a good subject and my heart mourned in secret places while I did the work.
It was sometime after Margaret came into his life, an assistant on a pilot for a TV show, that he stopped staying over altogether. He was cast as the oblivious, good-looking co-worker that said things to canned laughter.
“That’s a step down,” I said to him.
“It’s a job,” he said back. “If it gets picked up, I’ll be set for a few years.”
“It’s hack work.”
I understood, but I couldn’t go both ways.
He stood me up on our final shoots. I had enough material but hoped to see him before he moved to LA. When I pressed him, he sent a text that he was already there.
I went to my darkroom and developed the last of the film. When it was done I stayed up enlarging the negatives. In the morning they were dry and I looked at them. There was only one out of the bunch that was any good. I took it when he was passed out on the couch. He was reclined—a transient hero, silent and heavy, like a ship moored at dawn.
I took a black felt marker and wrote across the bottom, “Dionysus After The Titans.” I sent it to him.
In the spring he was a figure to me and I convinced myself that was all. He showed up to the opening with a girl on his arm. That affected me more than I let on, stinging and burning the private life we shared. I recognized her from the magazines but couldn’t place her name. He introduced me and I smiled and kissed her hand.
The photographers were there and we posed in front of the blown up wall-sized portraits. He smelled the same. We answered questions before being swept away by the insiders, moneymen, and hangers-on.
We passed each other on the way to the bathroom.
“Thanks for coming,” I said.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “They’re good.” He motioned towards the exhibit room.
I put my hand up. “I don’t want to talk about those.”
“I bought them.”
I thought he misspoke. “Which one?” I said.
“All of them,” he said evenly, the corner of his mouth curving up. It was hardly noticeable, but it was enough to know he was anticipating a reaction.
“LA’s been good?” I said.
“What do you want with all of them?” He was never one for narcissism. The truly beautiful don’t need it.
“I don’t know.”
The evening slipped by, a pageant of smiles and handshakes. He anonymously bought them all. Twenty in total. It didn’t matter. The event happened—it was done. The party moved to a shell of a warehouse some miles away from the gallery. I hired taxis to bring the portraits there. I arranged them in a careless teepee, and lit them on fire.
I didn’t have a camera and I didn’t want one. There were enough people standing around. He didn’t come along—there was a club to go to and a flight in the morning.
The pile didn’t take long to burn and people left, talking loudly and laughing at the spectacle of it all. They said I was behind it, that it was a good stunt. I didn’t like that word, and only after realized it was cheap without the secret.
I was invited to a party and introduced to a friend of a friend who was boring but kind, and the night was still young so I went with him.
From the freeway I looked at the wreckage of the forgotten part of the city. The part that was once so important—the part where the warehouse was. Where my rude and silent effigy was torched—now a charred pile of ash for someone to kick through, or for the wind to blow around.