Oct 15 2010 9:55 am

worked to the bone for pennies

Frank was a dark guy and a lot of people had a lot problems with that, but all was fair in love and war and drug addiction.  Sure, there were good times, rare glimmers of hope, late afternoon sunshine piercing the small spaces between closed mini blinds, working on that one spot of beige carpet, making it seem a little lighter every time you notice it, but it never really changes.  That shit’s UV resistant.  And much like the carpet, Frank was UV resistant.  That is if we take UV light to be good in this rather cumbersome metaphor. 

I suppose it would be easier just to come out with it: Frank wasn’t only dark, he was bad.  And he wasn’t just bad in a selfish sort of way, the way that people can fail to empathize with others, the way that your friend might consistently disappoint you because she’s always late or the way she is insensitive when she comments negatively on your opinions, claiming to be “honest.” 

Frank was not bad in this innocent way.  Frank was bad because he liked to hurt people, he derived pleasure from watching people squirm in awkward situations, he took some not insignificant pleasure in breaking up with girlfriends because he could say hurtful things.  When he was six years old he pressed down on one of the rear legs of a playmate’s guinea pig until the animal started to squeal and flail and until he heard the soft popping sound of the femur coming loose of the hip. 

This is unpleasant and even disquieting, but it has to be said.  It has to be said because it has to be reconciled with the Frank that most people knew, the quiet, good looking, talented Frank that Lisa knew. 

Frank grew up fly fishing on the rivers of West Michigan.  Salmon season on the Muskegon with his father was something he enjoyed.  Perhaps because he liked to kick and poke at the dunderheaded spawning fish, the half rotten ones that are no fun to catch but if Frank did catch one, if Frank managed to snag one, it would drift and loaf awkwardly away almost inviting the blunt toe box of his wading boot.

Frank loafed and invited his soul, he leaned and loafed at his ease, observing a rotten autumn salmon. 

But Frank could pretty much kick salmon all he wanted without anyone ever knowing.  If someone saw him doing it, or at least thought they saw him doing it, he felt shame, not because he thought it was wrong, but because other people thought it was wrong and he wanted other people to think he was like them.  But aside from kicking the odd salmon, he fit in pretty well with all the other kids fishing with their dads.  After the weekend trips he’d return home on cold autumn evenings, crunch through the leaves on the driveway and put all his gear and fishing clothes in their place in the basement and go upstairs and lean on the laminate counter top of the kitchen island and watch his mom watch the news for a minute.  Then he’d go to his room and pretend to do homework. 

When Frank lived in Grand Rapids he didn’t have a kitchen island.  Lisa usually put her purse and keys on a chair by the door.

“Frank, it’s time to get up.”  Pause.  “Frank!  You’re going to be late.”

A hoarse, muffled voice came from the bedroom: “I’m not going.  I don’t care.”

“You have to go.  I told you this would happen and you said you knew it would, but then you said that  after refusing for a while, you’d actually go.  So let’s just cut the bullshit.”

“Fuck you cunt.”

“No Frank, fuck you.  I’m leaving.  If you don’t go to this interview we’re done.”

Lisa had said this before on a few occasions, but the threat had lost a lot of its bite because Frank knew she always came back.  The last time she issued this ultimatum she didn’t talk to Frank for two weeks, which was the longest silence between them since they met, but in the end she did come back.  With no effort on Frank’s part at all. 

Frank had a soft charm, a way of speaking and holding himself that was easy and attractive.  He was over six feet tall and thin but with well shaped shoulders and he moved slowly and fluidly using his long fingers to illustrate his sentences sometimes.  He had thick, dark blonde hair which was oily and stood up in three inch waves and appeared to be almost extradimensional.  He never combed it.  He jaw was square and well muscled and his face was tall, columnar, and usually serene. 

He was a very good painter but not in the way that you needed to be to make money or be respected in the art world unless you count ArtPrize as the art world but most people didn’t and it didn’t matter anyway because Frank didn’t win.  Lisa loved his work, particularly the nude he made of her a few weeks after they met.  My fucking refrigerator’s compressor squeaks randomly and it scares me sometimes.  He made her look exceedingly beautiful, subtly more beautiful than she actually was, and it was a powerful painting, a powerful thing to do, and this painting went a long way to bonding her to him.


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