(c) Robert F. Gross, 2016
On the desk, there’s the photo of his husband, building the front porch of their house in the mountains. Framed in black.
On the wall, above the desk, there’s the picture by the man who didn’t make it. The man who died of AIDS. Framed in black.
The husband’s name is Les; he has a family in Nebraska; there are many stories about him.
The man who didn’t make it hasn’t got a name; he hasn’t got a family or a story, it seems.
The picture consists of two painted strips; together they make a seascape.
There’s a blue-green, black-green rough strip beneath that looks like it was scraped with his fingernails.
There’s a blue-violet, pink-violet smooth strip above that looks like it was smoothed with his fingertips, with a brass farthing to the right. It could be the sun or the moon.
Between the two strips there’s nothing. You imagine the horizon where the two are forced together. But that’s an illusion.
There’s nothing between them.
It was decades ago that he chose between the husband and the man who didn’t make it.
Between the man in Baltimore and the man in New York. The engineer and the artist.
It was decades ago that the man who didn’t make it began to vanish. Then he died.
Two strips of paper are two different realms. Different elements. Together they make the seascape.
He had to make a choice. He chose.
He has forgotten a lot. Whether the brass farthing was meant to be the sun or a moon. Whether he was given the picture before he chose or not.
He had to make a choice. He chose. But he’s kept both pictures. Both are framed in black.
You might think both men were dead, if he hadn’t told you.
You might think he was single if you looked around his apartment; there isn’t room for much and it’s all his interests, his taste.
There isn’t a picture in the apartment of him with either man, the husband or the man who didn’t make it.
He can only see one picture at a time.
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Robert F. Gross is a theatrical director, writer, performance artist and queer, who’s published in Wilde Oats, among other places.
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