3420 Portfolio example

In a small group, consider this portfolio. Evaluate it with the portfolio criteria. We will discuss it in detail in class.

Rough Draft

I keep all my memories in neat little envelopes.  I keep all my envelopes in a messy little drawer in an old desk where I sit every day.  The envelopes aren’t all white, but many colors, sometimes even postcards from nations miles and miles away.

The desk sits snug against the wall under a Norman Rockwell print.  My studio apartment is big, with huge windows and a giant skylight. The rug is faded and the futon is old but I’m happy here.  No one comes to interrupt me.  They are all in other parts of the world both literally and figuratively. But I do have Genghis Cat, curled up in the window ledge, orange and red.

On the roof above my apartment is a woman. She tans herself, I believe, and I can hear her music and listen to her walk on the gravelly roof.  When she stands I see her.  The next day I see what I think is her when I go to get my mail.

“You get more mail than anyone I know,” she says.

I look at my feet, shrug try to smile, and look like a fun person.

She has said this in passing, on her way out the door, turning and looking over her shoulder.  She is a little older than I am, probably late twenties. Her eyes are round. They watch me for a long time.  She waves and goes.

After watching her leave, I slowly climb the stairs, to my computer.  I lie on my bed under the window and the cat and ponder women’s names instead of doing my work.

One week later I stand in the lobby, in front of the mail boxes, laughing over a card from Sandra who is in Taiwan.  I thought that Sandra hated me, that she was never going to write me again but here it is, a postcard with a giant statue of the Buddha on one side and Sandra’s scratchy pen marks on the other. I was never going to write you again, she writes, but you’re a nice guy and I would touch you with a ten-foot pole anytime, so here is a picture of the Buddha who you should try to look more like, you Gandhiesque, heroin addict look-a-like you.

The woman who was on my roof has snucked up behind me and reads over my shoulder.  I slap the card to my chest.  She backs away and coughs, nodding her head so her black hair falls in front of her eyes.

“I didn’t mean,” she starts.  I think she is turning red, embarrassed, and I rest one ear on my shoulder trying to see her face.  She turns and starts toward the door, her dark heels clapping on the wood floor.

I reach out and touch her elbow. I show her the card. I let her read it. She tries to pinch my stomach before she goes.

“Buddha,” she says, and she is off to work.

Back to my computer.

Three of the four walls of my apartment are covered books.  It looks like wallpaper is what Sandra used to say.  I’m a fact checker.  I help get people through college.  I help newspapers and magazines. Books and facts fill my apartment.  My job is to condense them, reduce them, take specifics and make abstractions, short ones, and then email them away.  Also, on the side, I write Hallmark cards.

I do get lots of letters, and some email, from friends and enemies, old and new.

Handwriting is beautiful.

I work with my computer.  The cat curls up, sometimes, on top of it.  It’s a warm thing. Writing longhand letters is a break from typing. A change in tempo.

At night the woman from the mail box comes home.  I can hear her climb the steps, and later, through the walls, I smell paint thinner.  The good light fades from my room and I click on my father’s lamp and the printer.  It churns noisily.  Paper falls out of it and she knocks at the door.

She said, “Can I borrow some Vaseline?” and wanders in. I go looking, banging through a medicine chest.  She wears old cut-off Levis and a baggy shirt, very colorfully spotted and she smells, somehow, like dandelions.

“I’m Julia,” she says.

I’m out of Vaseline.

“Butter, then.”  Julia’s teeth shine whiter than my button-down shirt.  She is tanner than my tan pants and, once I’m back from the fridge, a stick of butter begins to melt in her hands.

“Thanks,” and she goes.  The cat follows her out, a bright orange spot that weaves itself around her legs.

The next day Doctor Brackman writes me.  I don’t write him back because he thinks he knows me.  He was my therapist, but I have recovered from him faster than he has recovered from me. Doctor Brackman has put me in a box and has decided what I am for me, without asking.  I burn his letter, unread and on the roof, looking down over the edge to the street below. Ash flutters above the Fords and Pontiacs.

None of my apartment is invisible through the skylight.

I miss her for a few days and then she comes knocking.

“Coffee?” She buttons her coat as she talks.

I like herbal tea.

“They have that too,” she says.  The streets are wet, the worms are out and her teeth are bright.  My hands are in my pockets and she reaches through, links our elbows.  We bump against each other and relax.  The wind lifts her long dark hair.

The coffee house is crowded and loud with conversation. Smoke, like a mob of ghosts, hangs from the ceiling, mirroring us below.  We share drinks and her Java is good.

I listen to her talk for a long time about everything. And then she asks me questions about my work, the apartment, Genghis Cat, my family, my clothes, soft ball, politics, religion, secret societies, and the origins of life.  I answer with the facts at my disposal.

We go home and watch each other at the opposite ends of our hall, each unbolting a lock and peeping through the cracks as our doors close.

Saturday she wears a black belt and a white cotton karate uniform.  “I need someone to spar with.”

I look at my finger nails and frown.  I am busy with work to do.  Fighting is not something I like.

“It will be easy,” Julia says.  She leans against the right doorjamb and I lean against the left.  Our legs touch. Julia points toward my aluminum bat.  “Bring that,” she says, then, “I won’t hurt you.”

I shrug and we wander down to her apartment.

In the center of her floor is a canvas and foam mat.  She stands in the middle of it.

“Attack me,” she said.

I lean on my bats and want to be somewhere else.  Our eyes are comfortable together, hers and mine.  Her arms are in front of her, knees bent, feet wide.  I watch her until she relaxes and then I charge, bat high, aiming for her dimples.  I’m not sure what happens but she throws me.  I am above the mat then past it, arching over kitchen tiles; I crack the floor, my head bounces and I slide under her bar stools.  The bat spins toward Genghis Cat who hisses out of its way.  My ears ring and bright white fire-flies float in the room.  Stars.

She has smelling salts and cold water and I count her fingers three or four times.  She tells me not to move and curls next to me on the floor.

“You surprised me,” she says.  “I wasn’t ready.”

The next week Julia says, “Can you watch my apartment for a week? I’m going to Bermuda.”  The bodybuilder in a suit next to her smiles.  They crowd my door way.  She says, “Live in my place for the week if you want.”

“Jeff Klay,” he says.  “You can call me Jeff.”  He does not try to pull my arm from its socket and there are no callouses on his palm when we shake.

She hands me directions for her plants and a key.  I shove my glasses back in place and part of me wishes I were him. Just part.

She doesn’t get much mail.  A health magazine, Art News,  some catalogs.  Lots of junk mail.  Her apartment is interesting, nonetheless.  Twelve glowing green ferns, a weight set and some books: military history, martial and other arts.  Books of photographs.  Endless paints and brushes and watercolors.  She is not a very good painter.  Yet, anyway.  Her desk has just bills and receipts.

A stick of unused butter rests in her fridge. It sits there neatly on the wire rack, almost posed and with mostly Italian food, big purple eggplants, and oranges. No meat.

She has condoms in her night stand.  Mace too.  Not much lingerie, but lots of other clothes.  Dark suit pants and bright blouses, yellows and reds, but few shoes.  Her tub is old, with claws for feet.  It is smooth and white and she has lots of ways to make bubbles. Doesn’t make her bed.

A nice stereo and hundreds of CDs.  Her diary is an MP3 file.  I don’t listen.  I don’t even open her browser.  I’m already as guilty as can be.

Nothing to write with in the entire apartment. Nothing.

While Julia is gone Sandra writes me again.  I slice open the envelope and think of her licking it shut.  She writes I should get a real job, like her, but something in banking, she says.  I hate ties and pin-striped suits.  An accountant, she writes.  I hate numbers.  When is Sandra coming home?  Her students love her, but they’re all chauvinist pigs.  Sandra and I got along much too well.  We should have fought more.  I dream of her for the first time.

More of Doctor Brackman’s ashes float to the sidewalk.

Looking, also, for a postcard from Bermuda.

I buy a nice, white wine and pour two glasses.  I soak in Julia’s tub, in hot, hot water, bubbles high, almost mountains around me and drink, first one glass, then the other.  I fall asleep there eventually and wake up a cold pale prune.  The steam has faded out of the room.  As I dry myself, I watch me in the mirror on the back of her bathroom door.

That night I start writing about softball bats and kung fu, things I’ve never thought worth paper before.

I am getting my mail when she comes home alone, days early. One eye is swollen shut, black and green. She has stitches on her nose, an arm in a sling.  I pocket my letters and take the bags from the taxi driver.  Upstairs, I unpack her stuff.  I know where everything goes.  Julia is quiet.  She doesn’t talk, just watches the floor, the corners.  Her arms are crossed, the fingers of her right hand jutting out of her cast, holding her left elbow.

What’s the grammar here?  The truth and ethics of this situation?  I take a pen from my pocket and write my phone and apartment numbers in large red letters.  She knows these things, I know, but I want to be found, if finding is even what’s right.  When I open the door to go Genghis comes in and rests on her lap.  And this is okay with me.  I look at Julia and wave. She waves back.

Two or three that morning my phone rings, wakes me up. I cross the hall.

“Think I’m bad, you should see him.”  Julia smiles for a second, but that’s all.  Her face falls into tears.  She cries long and slow sobs in my arms. We curl up, clothed, together on her couch and she whispers things I can’t and don’t want to understand.

Finally she sleep, but its full of kicks and twitches, nothing deep or restful about it. I watch her until I nod off too.

Her moving wakes me.  She separates, untangles us quickly. Stands wary, feet wide, eyes dark and flat on the other side of the room.  I swallow and blink and totter toward the door, shirt and pants wrinkled as used aluminum foil.  My room is crowded with sunlight and my bed is cold but somehow I sleep until late in the afternoon.  Then I call my mom and my little sister.  All I can say is hello.

Later, when Julia and I walk to the women’s crisis center, she is quiet and close but not touching me.

Not at all.

Re-seeing Draft

Bart has a wall of insects. Hundreds. They are dead, suspended in jars, on shallow shelves that cover his longest wall, and he has arranged them by color, starting with black beetles in one low corner with glowing blue butterflies in the opposite. Most days, boxes of new ones arrive in the mail. Every day, he sits at his computer and draws them for textbooks and museums. He has done this for years and goes for months traveling no farther from his studio apartment than the mailbox in the lobby. A quiet guy who likes his quiet.

Today, loud music throbs through his skylight. Someone is on the roof. No one is supposed to be up there at all, much less up there for hours. He could call the building’s manager, but instead he works and works, occasionally glancing up and he sees her, the woman on his roof. She’s sunning herself apparently, working on her tan, standing now in a sandstone orange bikini against a bright blue sky. She disappears. The music stops and he hears the crunch of her walk on the gravelly roof.

The next day, Bart sees her, the newest resident in the building, when he collects his mail after his daily run. The lobby of his building is wide and slightly dusty, but there is sunlight and an immortal fern. The staircase is narrow and squeaking and faces the door. Both walls are covered with numbered brass boxes, each with a tiny keyhole. His brass box is the biggest. Today there are five packages of specimens for him to illustrate and annotate.

“You get more mail than anyone I know,” she says.

Bart looks at the new shoes on his feet, shrugs, tries to smile and look like a fun person.

She says this in passing, on her way out the door, turning and looking over one shoulder. He’s older than her, but maybe not too much. Eyes as green as the cotinis nitida in a jar in his room. Far more attractive. Her attention feels good, a cool breeze on a warm day, but she waves and goes.

He stands in lobby for a while, watching where she used to be.

Early one morning a week later there is nothing in his mailbox but a postcard from China, from Sandra. He’d thought that Sandra hated him, was at the most indifferent, that of all the gone people in his life she was the most gone, but here it is, a postcard from her with a giant statue of the Buddha squatting like a golden mountain on one side and her handwriting, each letter sharp as a pincer, on the other. I was never going to write you again, she writes, but I’ve decided you’re a good guy and I would touch you with a ten-foot pole anytime, so here is a picture of the Buddha who you should try to look more like, you Gandhiesque, heroin addict look-a-like you.

The woman from the roof has crept up behind him, reads over his shoulder. Bart slaps the card to his chest. She backs away, coughing, a hand over her face, nodding so her hair drops in front of her eyes.

“I didn’t mean,” she starts. Bart thinks she is turning red, embarrassed, and he rests one ear on his shoulder trying to see her face so he can be sure, but she turns toward the door, her dark heels clapping on the linoleum floor.

He is not the kind of person who does this, he isn’t, the fear almost paralyzes him again, but he reaches for her elbow in its thin tan coat. She turns back. He peels the card off his chest, shows it to her, both sides, his hand warming between her arm and ribs as she reads and slowly smiles.

“Buddha,” she says and tries to pinch his stomach before she goes off to work.

That night he hears some odd knocking. It might, he thinks, be coming from the door of his apartment. When he opens the door, the woman who pinched him in the lobby is standing there.

“Can I borrow some coconut oil,” she says and steps inside. She wears old Levis shorts and a baggy shirt, covered in smudges of every color of paint. Smells like turpentine.

He doesn’t have any coconut oil and he knows it but he goes off looking, banging around in his kitchen cabinet.

“Wow,” she says. “These are beautiful.” He looks over his shoulder at her in front of his wall of insects. She holds a jar in one hand, turns it slowly. “I’m Julia,” she says.

“I have no coconut oil,” he says.

“You collect them?”

“They’re for my work.”

“Insecticide?” she says.

“Illustrations.”

“I love to paint,” she says, and pulls the corners of her shirt low and wide, offering it as evidence. “Come see sometime.”

“I will.”

“Olive oil, maybe?”

He pretends to look in his cabinets again as they talk about the software he uses and her paints. “Well. No luck,” he says finally.

“Butter, then.” Her teeth shine brighter than his button-down shirt, her skin is darker than his kakis and, once he’s back from the fridge, a stick of butter begins to melt in her hands.

“Thank you,” she says and goes.

His bed is under the eaves across from the wall of insects. He makes it every morning, the sheets tight enough a quarter will bounce up off of them. The bouncing fascinated Sandra when she used to come over. She’d bounce quarters, silver dollars, his wallet. Bart lays there, hands behind his head, looking up.

He’s written Sandra back, told her about his new clients, the longer distances he’s running, asked her every question about China. He’s hopeful, but not sure why or for what. On the other hand, the skylight is almost exactly above his desk, to his right. He can see through it from here, can even see a few bright stars in the dark sky.

And then there is a letter from Doctor Brackman. It is hand written, long flowing script, on expensive letterhead in an expensive envelope. Scribed, probably, with an expensive pen. Bart did not know there was a Mona Lisa stamp. Why doesn’t Brackman send email? He could do so with an expensive computer. Bart doesn’t plan to write back. Why would a therapist stalk a former patient? He’d imagined therapy as a conversation. Instead, he’d been classified and talked to like a specimen in a jar. It had been awkward. So, Bart finds the way Julie found, the path through the building to the roof, and burns the letter from his psychiatrist, looking down over the edge of the building to the street below. Ash flutters above Fords and Pontiacs.

None of his apartment is invisible through the skylight.

Her paintings are all this: Huge. Canvases seven or eight feet high and five or six wide. Crowding them, filling them, are big figures, all shoulders and chests with mounds heads and usually big claws for hands. And the figures are the colors of  scarabaeidae gronocarus inornatus or maybe more the Common Stag beetle, with the same hint of dark red and dusty black, but she’s used texture and shine to highlight the hands or claws, to contrast them with the body. The figures seemed male and threatening, faceless, and he noticed, explicitly anatomically incorrect. The backgrounds were all deep greens and behind each figure, peering over one shoulder was always a red or orange face. Clearly sad eyes. He didn’t want to think that the face looked feminine. At least twenty of these, with only the tiniest changes, almost filled the second of her two bedrooms. A twenty-first canvas resting on an easel, was slowing becoming like all the others. Far too many for them to be about him.

“What do you think?” she says.

The light is bright in here, bare bulbs from lamps. His hands are in his pockets and she reaches through, links their elbows there in front of the paintings. They bump against each other and she relaxes. He’s not often called upon to speak and has always been comfortable with silence as a reply to any question, but here and now he needs something to say.

“It’s powerful,” he says, “Standing in front of one of these.”

Julia smiles at him and she lets him listen while she talks about her cat Genghis, her work, family clothes, softball, politics, religion, secret societies, and the origins of life. But her bedroom door stays closed all night. When he goes home they watch each other at the opposite ends of their hall each peeping through the narrowing cracks as their doors close.

The next day, he leans against the right doorjamb and she leans against the left. Their legs touch. Between them, the bodybuilder in a suit smiles.

Julia says, “Can you watch my apartment for a week? I’m going to Los Angles. A show.”

“Your paintings?”

“What else?”

“Is it safe?” he says.

“Jeff Klay,” the bodybuilder says.  “You can call me Jeff.”  He leans in to shake Bart’s hand and does not try to pull his arm from its socket. There are no callouses on this stranger’s palm. “I’m an art agent. I love to work with young artists.”

They crowd Bart’s doorway.  “That’s great,” he says. “That rarely happens.” That happens so rarely, he thinks, it can’t be happening now.

“Jeff saw my work on the internet,” she says. “He might have buyers already.”

She seems so young to Bart suddenly, so prone to danger.

She says, “Live in my place for the week, if you want.”

Wait, he wants to say. Why LA now? Already? Go slow.

She hands him directions for her plants and a key.  Bart shoves his glasses back in place and part of him wishes he could open up Jeff’s skull, look inside, and know what he thought.

She doesn’t get much mail. Health magazines, Art News, catalogues. Most of it, he’d call junk mail, but maybe she likes it. He’d noted the twelve glowing green ferns, the weight set, lots of books of photographs, the endless oil paints and brushes last night. But when he taps the space key on her computer, Jeff Klay’s email comes up from a day ago. She just must have known him longer than that? Done a background check?

Her diary is an MP3 file on her desktop. He doesn’t listen to it. He’s already guilty enough.

A stick of unused butter rests in her fridge. It sits there neatly on the wire rack, almost posed and with mostly Italian food, big purple eggplants, and oranges. No meat.

She has condoms in her night stand.  Mace too.  Not much lingerie, but lots of other clothes.  Dark suit pants and bright blouses, yellows and reds, but few shoes.  Her tub is old, with claws for feet.  It is smooth and white and she has lots of ways to make bubbles. Doesn’t make her bed.

More of Doctor Brackman’s ashes float to the sidewalk.

Another postcard from Sandra. The first sentence of this one says her boyfriend is coming to visit her! He’ll be in China, too! Visiting and teaching English like her. Very, very exciting. She doesn’t mention when she will be coming home or his postcard or any of the questions he asked. The photo on the card is of the Great Wall.

Bart buys himself a nice white wine and pours two glasses. He fills Julia’s tub, slowly, with hot, hot water while he lies in its cold white interior, the bubbles growing, metastasizing maybe or blossoming, he’s never sure. He could get drunker, he supposes, but why? Steam fills the space above him, ghosts hidden in it. Eventually, he falls asleep there and wakes long enough later to have become a cold wrinkled prune. He watches himself in the mirror hanging from the back of her door, gets dry, and gets dressed.

When he writes Sandra back he says the visit from her boyfriend is fine with him. He says he’s not the one she has to explain such things to.

In his apartment, he changes into workout gear, the new expensive shoes, a favorite old, tattered tee-shirt. It’s getting late and dark, but he’ll be safe. Running predates every thing and one in his life. The sure, reliable thing.

He runs.

Julia is quiet when he gets back. She doesn’t talk, just watches the floor, the corners. He wonders for a moment if they are staring into the same corners. They almost meet where they always do. Instead, she is getting out of a cab at the curb, struggling to get her luggage over the wide wet sidewalk. He is getting his mail and comes down the shiny steps to help. The glow is gone from her eyes.

“Can I carry the bags up,” he says.

“I’ve got them,” she says. Something is wrong. She won’t look at him and he isn’t sure why. Was Jeff a problem? Can Bart ask her without making the hurt worse? He turns toward the stairs with her. That is where they are both going, up to their apartments, so close together, just a shared wall away.

But for some reason, still on the sidewalk, he looks back. And there, across the street, for some reason carefully not looking at him, refusing to see him, stands Sandra, back from China.

He stares at her until she, still always looking elsewhere, blushes.

Then Bart strides across the street.

Composition Draft

 

Things first got weird in the back seat of the police car. She had waited under the streetlight while the little rich boy moaned and rolled from side to side, not touching him, just watching, wondering if he would have been hurt less had she thrown him to the flat concrete rather than the fire hydrant.

Jeff was gone, flat out sprinting away in the first moment the boy and his knife appeared. She’d see him later back at the hotel. The awkwardness would let her bully him into changing her flight anyway, into getting out of here days earlier, just hours after she called Jeff names for a while, if possible. Paying to change her ticket was the least he should do.

But she’d done the right thing.

She’d slammed the boy into the hydrant, flopped broken off it and she’d called the police, squinted into the darkness at the street sign, watching for anyone else, even Jeff, body builder and sprinter, apparently.

She kept her hands obvious when the police approached. Watched them load the boy into an ambulance. Then an officer opened his car door, smiled and said, have a seat in my office. She was going to need a ride back to the hotel, so she got in. It smelled like dust and urine until the cop’s cologne added a musky stink. But she told the cop exactly what happened. She’d been walking with Jeff, the man who was supposed to help her art sell, when the boy ran up, knife shaking, and demanded money. The boy’s grin as the clapping of Jeff’s running feet faded frightened her, and when he lunged, her reflexes did the rest.

“Then I waited for you,” she said. “He tried to mug us. Me.”

The cop’s head came up. “I’m going to be able to find this Jeff?” The cop’s hair is grey, high and tight. An old Marine.

“Of course.”

“Okay, because the friend of the guy in the ambulance says you attacked them.”

“What? After he tried to mug me? What friend? And I waited for you, remember? And defending myself? You’ve heard of it?”

“From nowhere you jumped them.”

“What?”

“Wait here.” Pulling up down the block is what must be an undercover police car. Two women get out. Julia watches them talk to the old Marine under the streetlight. Lots of gesturing and looking at watches. One is, well, frumpy, long blond hair in a bun, loose long sweater. Big black purse. The other woman has a tight white button down shirt on, a black tie tucked between buttons between her breasts. Julia is tempted to pop the door open and see if she can slip away. But that would probably make things worse, wouldn’t it? And the women have turned toward her now, both of them, walking toward the car. She’s started to shiver, not because of any cold, but the adrenaline still in her blood has her quaking. Even after sparing, sometimes, it still happens to her.

The two women sit in front. They turn with their backs to the car doors, she imagines so they can see her through the thick metal mesh between the front and back seats. One flips on the interior light.

“Your name is?” The frumpy officer says. She doesn’t’t wear perfume, Dasiy guesses, but she showers often.

“Julia Daily.”

“Julia Daily?” The trim white-shirted one says.

“That is what I said, yes.”

“I’m Officer Gleeford,” the frumpy one says. “This is Officer Decton.”

“Great. Can I go now?”

“We’d like to ask you a few more questions,” Gleeford says. “Just to be sure we understand what’s happened.”

“You’re in town vacationing?” Decton says. Decton works out but she also spends a lot on her scents.

“I thought my friend was going to be able to help me sell my paintings.”

“I see. You do know that most galleries close this time of year—“

“I know that now. Yes.”

They ask where she’s from, how she started painting. Gleeford is far nicer, but also forgetful. Less well organized in her thinking. Not someone she’d trust, though Julia is beginning to relax. Decton, she thinks, is the brain here. Both of them seem to be listening intently, but listening is all. She’s beginning to feel calm, good even.

“So, what do you think about mugging? More jail time, don’t you think?”

“I’ve no idea,” Julia says. “Haven’t thought about it much.”

“You haven’t, huh? Probably should. Or should have.”

“You know we collect evidence, right? Like the knife? Your figure prints won’t be on on it, right?”

Julia’s exasperated and suddenly a bit angry again. “Look, like I told him, the regular cop, the kid mugged me. I’m the victim here, but he picked the wrong woman—“

Decton’s phone is making a loud noise, ringing Julia guesses. She gets out to listen to it.

“Well, you know,” Gleeford says, “there is some debate about that.”

“My boyfriend, my friend, no, this jerk I’m here with weights like 250, a lean muscled 250, and he ran from our mugger, alright? I’ll go find him. Give me your card and I’ll go find him, or he could come back.” She twists around to look out of the car over her shoulder. The streets are too dark now to see much. She hates Jeff, but the idea of him walking up right now and getting the cops to understand makes her want to see him, just for a moment.

Decton is getting back in the car. The blue light of her phone shines for a moment from her teeth and eyes. “Your prints are on the knife. It’s yours.”

“What? Bullshit.”

“There will be no swearing, Mrs. Daily,” Gleeford says. “Got that? Do not swear at police officers.”

“You must have misheard,” Julia says. “No way are my prints on that knife. No way.” She hadn’t come near the thing. Avoiding it, in fact, had been her entire plan. She’d yanked his hand past her and thrown him to the ground, heard it clatter against the sidewalk and that was it. Hadn’t even looked at it. “That’s just not right.”

“Well, they are though.” Decton passed Gleeford the phone, pointed at something on the screen.

“No. You’ve made a mistake.”

“The department, us, we are without a doubt about it. You held the knife. You’re the mugger. The gentleman’s friend confirms this.”

“We just need to find a way to square up the paper work, now,” Gleeford says.

“Call them back. You’ve made a mistake.”

“Not the plan,” Decton says.

“There’s no reason for us to call them back, is there?” Gleeford says.

“There is because you need to double check, right? I never touched it.” She scoots forward on the edge of the hard plastic seat. The phone is a bright rectangle between the three of them. She can’t make out what’s on the screen. Decton reaches for it. Covers it with her hand. “Why don’t you trust me? I could have just left him on the street, but I called you.”

“We do trust you. We do trust you for those very reasons. But the problem is, see, his friend says something different than you do. Your boyfriend isn’t around, is he?”

“And then there’s the prints.”

“Let me see the phone,” Dasiy says. “Hold it up.”

“We can do that latter.”

“No. Now.”

Neither officer moves.

“People are surprised by real violence,” Decton says. “They are surprised by their own violence most of all. That’s why you called.”

What, Julia wonders, is happening here? What is this?

“People learn a little karate as a kid. They find a buck knife at some thrift story. They get a little hungry. Maybe they’ve been hungry for days or a week or longer. Their art doesn’t sell and they see a wealthy looking little guy—“

Julia says, “Not true.“

“And they get desperate. That’s what happened here.”

“We are staying at the—“

“I understand it. You have a dream.”

“Call my hotel. Call it. May be Jeff is there.”

“We know what happened here, Julia.” Gleeford isn’t yelling, but she’s loud. “There isn’t any doubt, so we need to move forward with this.”

“What Officer Gleeford is saying is that a confession does a lot of good with a judge. They like them. Confessions indicate contrition.”

“Let me see the phone, Julia says. Let me see what you showed her.”

“Plenty of time for that.”

“You’ll get sick of that you’ll see it so much. Don’t worry about it.”

“I didn’t do it. He came at us. He came at me.”

“It’s okay, Julia. Your victim had a wallet big as a purse and you were hungry. When’s the last time you ate?”

And Julia’s stomach does growl right then, in that moment. But Jeff had taken her to McDonalds on Times Square for lunch. The biggest in the world he’d said. Not the first white lie he’d told her, apparently. That afternoon his confidence, as gallery owners asked him again and again who he was, wilted. That night it fled him, and he followed it, completely.

“Why don’t you just call the Marriott?”

“Even if they tell us your story, that’s not an eyewitness. That’s not prints on a weapon.”

“But it is the truth. Jeff will tell you.”

“He’s not going to be there. He’s already abandoned you once. If he’s even real.”

“I’ve kids at home,” Gleeford says. “The next step is for us to start writing what happened down.” She rummages through her giant bag. Her sorting sounds like a muffled, rattling cough. She pulls out a yellow legal pad, flips the first page back and starts looking for something else. Pen probably.

“So,” Decton says. “You were hungry. We all get hungry. That’s okay. And this guy, this rich prick—“

Gleeford freezes and stares at Decton.

“Sorry,” Decton says. “This rich guy. He’s, who knows, he’s walking back from Wall Street. Who knows. And you see him. Maybe, I don’t know, is he plump?”

“That’s not what happened.”

Gleeford has found a pen. A black Bic without a cap. She starts writing, moving her lips slightly as she does.

“He’s not plump,” Julia says. “I know because the littlest guy I’ve thrown. Old teenager.“

“Thrown? What about the knife?”

“He had the knife.”

“But they’re your prints, Julia.”

“He had the knife and walked up to us. We were under—“

“Wait,” Gleeford says. “I’m trying to get this. You had the knife under—“

“We were under the streetlight. That one. Right there.” She’s getting tired, she thinks. It’s all so exhausting. Shouldn’t be this way. “White guy. Expensive cap casting a shadow over his face.”

“Let’s get the details about your knife down first,” Decton says. “I hear you. Some guys have pissed me off too. Did he say anything to you? Some of these jerks will do that.”

“He showed us the blade and Jeff was on his way. Maybe before he even said give me your—“

“You said give me your money?” Gleeford says.

Julia inhales slowly through her noses, exhales out her mouth. It’s supposed to help calm nerves. “No,” she says. “He said give me your money.”

“That makes no sense. Remember we know what happened,” Decton says. “The eyewitness said you approached them, displayed the weapon. After he knocked it from your hand you tripped him.”

“No. Show me the bruises if he knocked from my hand.” She pulls her sleeves back, leans her forearms up against the heavy mesh between the seats.

„Well, it’s a bit dim in here.”

“And bruises can take time to really appear.”

“I didn’t trip him,” Julia says. “No. De Ashi Harai. Reflex as he stepped toward me. The hydrant was behind him.”

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“Those words you said.”

“It’s a martial arts move.” She’s wants this to end now. She wants to sleep away the events of the day, the discovering that Jeff couldn’t do what he said he could, not even close, the expression on the boy’s face as his feet went high out from under him and as his body, all the momentum she could add to it, and gravity became his vicious enemies. She wants out of this day and into the forgetting sleep can help give. “You’re lying to me, aren’t you.”

“Why would we do that,” the frumpy one turns toward her and says.

“That’s what you’re doing,” Julia says. “You’re believing him or this friend you says exists because he’s rich or connected or something—“

“Don’t be silly,” Decton says. “You watch too much cable. That’s the only place cops can lie.” She twists slightly in her seat. “Screenwriters make that up.”

“We’ve got to get this written down. That’s the only way out of this now.”

Julia takes out her phone. “What is the zip code here?”

“Zip code?”

“I’m googling lawyers,” she says.

“Have we told you you’re a suspect?”

“Are you kidding me?” she says. “Are you joking?”

They don’t say anything for a moment and in the silence, Julia can hear another distant siren.

“Are you arresting me?” she says, “because this firm looks good. Close by. I can text them the same cross streets I used when I called 911 can’t I? Just tell them I’m being held in the back of the car.”

Decton and Gleeford are looking at each other. “No one there this late. That’s for sure.”

“Twenty-four hours a day the site says. Please let me out of the car, officers.”

“We could arrest you for lots of things,” Gleeford says. “Not necessarily mugging him. We can hold you without charging you, too.”

“Well, until you arrest me and unless you’re officially holding me, I’d like to go to my hotel. The regular officer has the address.”

To her left and right, she hears a loud pop from within each rear door. The lock releasing, she guesses.

“May I leave then,” she says.

“Sure. Of course,” Decton says. She opens her door, climbs out and opens the door by Julia, who cautiously steps out of the car. She looks over her shoulder, watches them talking. Anger and relief swirl through her. She wants to slap Jeff and never see him again. She wants to have never known him. Running from the mugger makes sense, but leaving her, not even thinking about her, or if she’d be safe. He never looked back or called for her or hesitated. Worse than neglectful, that’s evil.

Traffic is thick enough she quickly has a cab back to her hotel.

###

She can’t think in the lobby or the elevator. All she wants is Jeff to scream at. But he doesn’t’t even have the courage for that. The room has been emptied. His stuff and her stuff. Everything not in her purse or on her phone is gone. Her clothes, her luggage. He took her blow dryer and shampoo. What’s he going to do with her shampoo? The half empty stick of deodorant? And there’s no note or anything. He’s just gone. The portable projector they’d been using to show her work was missing. She’d bought it herself for the trip. He’d have taken her paintings, called them his own probably, had they been small enough to bring.

Julia thinks about calling the police. She doesn’t. She sits on the bed and puts her head in her hands, covers her face, each pinkie parallel with her nose. She could cry. it might feel good. He’d been nice, or so she’d thought. Now thinking of him was revolting. Months of dating and this? How? Not like him or the him she thought she’d known. Not him at all. Just one big lie, was all he was. One big lie. She’ll find him when she gets back home. Egg his apartment. Mess with his car. He can’t be like this to people. It’s wrong and it ought to be painful.

Julia looks up. She’ll call Megan. Megan never really liked him. Or text Lindsey. But her battery is running low and the charging cord is gone. But there’s a phone right in her room. But wait. They checked in and planned to split the bill. Had each given the clerk a card number. She called down to the front desk. He’d left and without paying his half. Took her stuff and bolted. That’s the crazy part. Why steal from her? The whole thing made no sense. She’s that disposable because he’s ashamed? Running from a knife is probably smart, smarter that staying to fight, but not looking back for her and then everything is gone. Unbelievable. Just unreal.

But now she needed a distraction. A serious distraction. She’d have plenty of hate for him later. She won’t sit here sobbing and she won’t let thoughts of him infest her. Megan watches TV in moments like this, the trashier the better. Lindsay has her books. Julia would paint, give her self a problem to solve on canvas, but she has no stuff here, nothing to really paint with. So there’s what she did is high school.

Down in the lobby she buys a swimming suit and goggles. She’ll have to buy all new clothes. And she brought some of her favorites. The dress her mom gave her.

The new swimsuit doesn’t fit her right. Well enough, but not right.

The clock means she can time her laps; she can make them each less than the next. The water is cold, snug against her, unpleasant, and hotel pools are always sharp with the smell of chlorine. It’s a requirement.

But this predates Jeff. He’s never seen her do it. They’ve never gone together. It is pure and without him.

Swimming feels right.

Utterly exhausted, hours later, her sleep that night is deep and pure.

###

The next morning she buys a charging cord and stares at her phone, Nothing from Jeff.

The appointment with the art dealer was coming up. She could figure out how to get there. Reclaim this from him. Downstairs in the hotel lobby, she knows she pays too much for another tiny portable projector, another adaptor.

The gallery is all bright white walls, with ankle high scuffmarks. The painting don’t grab her, most are very modern, abstract, not as obviously personal as what she does. The woman who owns the shop has grey in her afro, a flash drive hanging from her necklace, and the softest hands. Linda is her name.

“Jeff is not here?” she says.

“Not today, no. How do you know him?

“I don’t really. He does get under your skin, doesn’t he?” Linda says.

“Absolutely.” Julia finished setting up her new projector, wishing she’d had a chance to practice and test and wishing she had more in common with Linda that this man she was beginning to hate. She was working most of all not to be nervous, reminding herself that Linda was nice, that she was among friends, that in a month or six months, it was not something that would matter. She had people who liked her back home, no matter what Jeff did or thought or felt or anything else.

Her first painting has a looming figure, a green, almost slate silhouette, with rounded shoulders and a stubby head. No facial features or anything else identifiable. It fills the canvas almost completely. The hands are formed with thin white lines carved in the paint so fingers end in claws.  Hidden behind one shoulder, like a sunrise, is an orange face, mostly blank. Grey fills every other space on the canvas, almost.

Julia doesn’t know what to say, so she stays quiet. She picks silence. After a few moments, Linda hummed and gestured for the next image.

It’s similar and Julia thinks too much the same. The looming massive figure eclipsing another small face, but now the face, thought the rest of the canvas is deep and dark, has bright orange flowers for hair. Viewers eyes, she hopes, are drawn toward it and the almost smile the face wears. The thinnest golden threads, webs almost, radiate from it.

Doubt seizes Julia and she feels they are all too similar, even when the figure in the foreground becomes a giant oak tree that looks as much like a keyhole as itself, when the face peering over the shoulder becomes a wide open mouth, shiny red lips, every tooth a fang, tonsils surrounded by tiny lightning bolts.

“The size on these,” Linda asked.

Julia told her and, when it seemed right, moved on to the next. The two women are quiet together.

They sat and talked through the rest of the paintings, about paint and color and brushes and palette knives and Julia hoped she was being given extra time, more time that Linda had intended. They were interrupted with messages and phone calls none of which she took. This had not happened at the other places.

“I’m going to give you the most valuable thing I’ve got,” Linda said. Julia’s nervousness disappeared. She knew Linda would say “advice” and then “paint more” or develop your platform, your network, or something else.

“I’m going to give you space to hang your work,” she said instead, “not too much, in a group show at the end of the month.” Linda said she could think of some people who might be interested in some of her art. Maybe.

She’d gone from nervous to a guarded numbness, and now she let herself slowly smile, happy, wanting to hug Linda and knowing that’s far from professional.

“Do you have time talk about details now,” Linda says.

Of course she does.

###

A month after she’s home, after she replaced all her clothes and her luggage, after she was thinking about Jeff probably just every third or fourth day and they’re more flashes of anger or fondness than thoughts; after all this she gets an email from Decton, the police officer. She doesn’t remember giving them an email address. The email contains the word “Sorry!” and a link to YouTube. The YouTube link shows Jeff running from her while the rich kid approaches. She can hear someone muffling their own giggles until she drops the boy, boom, on the hydrant. Deep and wild shadows sprint over their bodies when she throws him. Then there is silence and the camera gets shaky for a moment. She watches herself looking for Jeff for a minute maybe two, then reaching into her pocket for her phone, calling the police.

Julia deletes the email.

 

 

 

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