Anna was pleased to have someone appreciate her collection as something warranting a category more respectable than “pretty flowers” or “unusual plants.”
“Traditional bouquets are fine for funerals,” she explained, but I’ve never understood people’s obsessions with killing things. Cut flowers are beautiful for a few days and then they wither and wilt—terrible symbolism, especially for a marriage don’t you think?”
Hanns smiled his understanding.
“Orchids, with a little care, can last for decades—blooming over and over—returning again and again with exotic colors, ethereal scents and a reminder that nature and beauty are cyclical and changing. Yes, there’s more maintenance involved, but the rewards are far sweeter and as a metaphor you’d want anywhere near a marriage, it’s far more powerful than the bittersweet old roses and thorns thing that was probably contrived as a marketing ploy to sell the prickly little weeds in the first place.
“Beyond this, one of the great, largely unspoken quasi-secrets of humanity is that flowers are erotic—nature’s vaginas on a stem. I think everyone knows this obvious truth on some level, but perhaps we prefer to keep the connection confined to less-conscious psychological and spiritual realms? Society has not evolved to a point where most women could handle or appreciate being given a bunch of vaginas. Women have all been trained to respond to that kind of thing with a slap in the face, and most men can’t handle being given flowers at all—even if I can’t think of a more potent invitation to jump in bed—but the flower is literally the plant’s reproductive organ. The similarity of many of them to the human article is sufficient to suggest the involvement of some form of higher mischief.
“I’m delighted to see I’m not boring you …”
“With all this talk of vaginas?” interrupted Hanns with a grin. “Don’t look at me. I never touch the stuff.”
Anna laughed and moved over to a display case full of assorted chocolates.
“Endorphins,” remarked Hanns.
“Precisely,” continued his host, “but the real secret is olfaction—not molding them into droll little hearts and cupids. Catch the smell of brownies cooking or get a whiff of hot chocolate—that’s what gets people tripping. You may notice my selection seems rather limited as far as visual configuration goes, but try this…” She handed Hanns a tiny burgundy-colored canister with a gold-foil “ANNA” logo on the lid.
Upon popping it open with a thumbnail, a tiny hiss was heard and a breath of warm, dark, chocolate surrounded him. A single mouthful melted instantly on his tongue, clinging delicately and lingering inside his mouth while he inhaled slowly and deeply.
Death of the Guitar
Tino opened his mouth as if to scream, but only a tiny string of soundless saliva emerged. It wrapped around his cheek as he began his glacial rush into the room.
He crouched and launched himself forward, bringing clenched fists downward past his sides, and ascending into the air as if suspended on wires.
A halo of light appeared as his black curls wildly obscured the overhead lamp, his knees coming together into his chest as he glided across the room toward an obscure object on the floor.
As the frozen moment continued, Hanns and Anna realized with simultaneous horror that the object was nothing other than Tino’s precious guitarra. They strained to shout something, grab the guitar or somehow reach out to Tino and make him stop but they too, were frozen in time and could only open their mouths helplessly.
In the tiny instant-within-an-instant before Tino’s feet came down in unison, Hanns noticed something unusual about the guitar. Does it have a hole in it? Tino landed on the instrument with heels together. The top buckled and collapsed. Fractured pieces of cypress and cedar tumbled weightless in space while the neck and fingerboard rotated and separated, suddenly released from the tension of the strings. The bridge bounced off Tino’s boot. An ebony tuning peg towed a thin white spiral of guitar string toward the ceiling before hitting the end of its tether and tumbling crazily back. A thin veil of dust and time-suspended wood particles hovered over the imploding instrument.
The scream of the dying guitar was dramatic— sudden—like the death of a living thing—the liberation of a soul. A visceral crunch and the sound of a single note broke the room—or perhaps the sound of all possible notes at once. No fundamental, nameable pitch was distinguishable—only a percussive ring followed by a clash of overtones. Harmonics bounced off walls like a blind genie frantically escaping a hot brass lamp, echoing interminably, and finally yielding to a hollow, profound and equally overpowering silence.
Nobody said a word…except Tino. He raised a hand to his forehead. “Muerto,” he said. “Dead. I could not allow either of us suffer.”
Time, capsized, righted itself. The hum of the lights became audible. Everyone drew a deep breath. The room came into focus.
When I make a painting, I look for people to love it and I also look for people to hate it.
I don’t like that they hate it, but it’s like dropping an object into the water. If you drop a heavy object, waves spread rapidly to all sides. It doesn’t matter which side you measure. Anybody will tell you they love something just to be polite. When people say they hate my work, I know they are being honest. If I see big, fast-moving waves on the negative side of the pool, I know with certainty I have dropped an object with some weight—with some impact—and the laws of physics dictate that waves must also affect the positive side. If I see only inconsequential ripples, I can infer the work has no real mass. It is a feather—fluff. I am not afraid of people hating my work. I’m afraid of people being unaffected by it one way or the other.
The Human Zoo
Hanns loved this human zoo, never feeling quite like he really belonged to it, but that it was fascinating to observe. It all seemed simplistic to him—this routine of coming and going, working, eating, sleeping, fucking, having children, pissing, shitting, earning money, spending money, getting sick, dying—a not-altogether-unpleasant form of treading water. Sometimes he almost envied an ability he perceived in most people to simply embrace some chosen or prescribed illusory pattern of the orderly cobblestones of life. A lust for something different always nibbled at him—a new place, a new lover, another roll of film, a project, an invention—a new way to see beauty in the patterns of the stones. He half-wondered if all of his tiny revolutions might be more of a bother than a force of liberation to those who no longer perceived or enjoyed the dancing patterns just beneath their feet.
Buddhists equated desire with suffering but Hanns disagreed. Desire was just a prelude—titillating foreplay to pleasurable indulgence in a world full of wonder and plenty.