And We All Fall Down
The beauty, the pain, all of it feels as if it could drown me tonight. It comes in waves, first with Viva, who comes to me at dinner with a plate full of mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, stir-fried bell peppers, and chipotle ranch dressing. She sits so close our knees touch and I am one glass of wine down, another on the way, and I cannot help but fall into those sinkhole eyes of hers: hazelnut, lichen, speckles of gray. We are talking, talking, talking. I tell her I feel lonely and alone and that this is a dangerous feeling to have on the campus of an art school, especially tonight, since it is auction night and free wine at dinner and the money will flow all evening as the artwork comes and goes, along with the students and the instructors, the passing hours, the passing seasons, all of it much too much for a lonely heart on this ridge top, another glass of wine in hand, a beautiful soul next to her.
After dinner, she walks me across campus and we hug while she laughs her infatuated laugh.
“Where will I find him? Where will I ever find that mountain man who wants to be married and make babies?” She laughs at herself, at the absurdity of such sweet and direct desire, and I laugh too, but really I want to cry.
“You’ll find him in time, you will. You deserve the best. Just wait. Be yourself. Focus on your artwork. The rest will sort itself out,” I tell her.
And I say this to her and want to kiss her at the same time. And we do, a quick peck on the lips before a goodbye and she is gone, gone, and I am here, here, almost stuck to the path where she left me.
Viva departs back to her studio and I to the safety of the coffeehouse to take a breather between the wine and the auction but wait, there is Sia, walking across campus and then that quickly there we are, side by side, walking toward the Craft House where she shows me her installation piece on the porch above the coffeehouse. She adds to the daily record of her piece, the comes down the stairs to join me in the quiet of the closed coffeehouse, which I open, hands trembling, and invite her inside. We sit, talk the talk, and she is flustered, overwhelmed, beautiful in her mind-trap state and there it is, finally…that eye contact and eagerness behind the gaze that I’ve been hunting for all week. She is one of that uncatchables and yet, and yet here we are, alone, in the coffeehouse, she with her life story, me with my story of the writing life and yeah, sure, I’d love to see some of your other work and…
We are off, slowly but surely, crossing the campus again towards her studio this time, where she shows me the latest sculpture piece – a study in communities and how they are formed, how they connect person-to-person, year to year. It’s a 3-D piece with little metal trinkets for people, color coded and alphabetical, then thin pieces of steel connecting one person to another in a maze of shiny lines. We study it in the light of the empty studio, the chatter and roar of the auction echoes further up the hill in Northlight, just a tickling of sound in the distance.
I take my leave (she needs to work, only two more days until she returns to Providence, where I wish she didn’t live…so far away!) and head on up to the auction where the heat bowls me over like a tsunami and there they are, 180 odd students and 20 or so craft school staff, plus the auctioneer who comes all the way from Charlotte every other week to help the school raise money during these scholarship benefits. And that’s when it hits me, the beauty, the pain, all those human sending out filament after filament and only a few strands landing here and there, taking hold, trapping one heart to another. I sit. I bid small on a few items and lose on purpose, regretting only the glass and sterling silver necklace that went for $275 (that’ll be the day) and then I am off, off, off, away into the night, away from the artists and their glow, the night and it’s relentless heat, the stars and their ever-peering eyes overhead.
There is no place to hide. The loneliness is whole, a paradox real enough to swallow – the interminable feeling if hollowness and heaviness with each breath. All the beauty, all that pain, trapped under one roof – and this, just one night, during one event, in one place. How many others are out there searching?