Dispatch 7 (Monday, Sept. 21, 1998)
The cars pass by hurriedly as the afternoon
escape begins, but shes facing the sun and her face seems to absorb it uniquely.
Its as if the skins surface, with its color of earth and herbs root,
could be facing that same sun anywhere desert, sea, icecap and it would look
the same as it does here, amid the traffic of the Congress Street bridge to downtown: sunny
I came because there was really no choice, and besides
that, it does me no good to deny intrigue.
So we met halfway on the east sidewalk of the bridge,
facing the Town Lake stretch where the bats
come out at dusk, gliding away from their upside-down nests when the sun has set just
We faced the sun for a while, not caring that it baked us
after more than a week of rain and clouds. We turned toward the lake where two row teams swam their slender craft from one side to
the other, barely disrupting the tranquil water.
"Im sorry about Saturday,"
Gina said. And that was all.
A few minutes passed as the silence stretched itself
She began to walk south. I followed. We reached her car
near the intersection of Congress and Barton Springs and I got in. We circled back around,
coming back north through the bridge. The sun continued its watch, although it cooked the
air less and less as each evening minute passed.
* * *
Gina was rummaging inside the closet and she came out
with a large vinyl portfolio, the kind some artists carry around campus, or that freshman
engineers use for plans and prints.
She unzipped the case and began pulling off-white
canvases, some painted, some hand drawn, others a mix of charcoal and pen.
They were simple, but staggeringly realistic. Portraits of
Gina, nude, in a sure, obsessive hand. The lines were clean and unhesitating: but through
the artists talent for illusion, the simple strokes were marvels of clarity and
detail. I knew that they were of Gina with a few seconds glance.
Here was a profile. Here, a study of her arm, told in
reverent studiousness as Biblical as it was biological. And several of her face, the
angles just so, the same shadows and tricks of bone and flesh Id seen as the sun lit
her on the bridge.
"He did these. Juan," Gina said. "But he
cant keep them at home because of his parents. He gave them to me."
It didnt occur to me to be uncomfortable, though the
art laid her flesh out bare, maybe more bare than if I were seeing her naked with my own
eyes, instead of through Juans.
My life has been about words their play and meaning
and shapes as they come from the mouth or onto a page. I dont transfix before visual
art as easily, but these portraits of Gina were as revealing in nuance as the volumes I
may write here. I was touched and a little alarmed that this person might be exactly who
Gina said he was: an artist who knew her soul.
The art was spread out on areas of the floors and the two
beds. We both looked, our eyes shifting from one exploration to the next, Gina looking
maybe within while I learned about her expressions, her colors, her geometry.
* * *
I know few details about Juan beyond his name and his
gift. As Gina silently put away the portraits, I felt the awkwardness of having walked in
on lovers in the act of congress.
Later, we walked down The Drag, after dark.
There was a moment on the way back when we stopped for
coffee at Mojos, a coffee house. The
view there of the sky is terrible phone lines, trees, a bright Blockbuster Video
across the street to obscure the darkness of stars within the night blanket.
But over coffee, she stared up there anyway. She was still
quiet as shed been the entire time I was with her. Absently, with her eyes never
leaving the sky, she kissed her hand and put it against her chest.
Gina reached for Juan through the sky as I reached right
behind for words and understanding to translate, to describe that gap of distance and
circumstance between them.