Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Drawing

Wally was one of those guys that even now is probably not known as Walter.  I would call Wally’s enthusiasm for things as innocent.  The guy always seemed to be grinning like he was just waiting for the next bit of good news.  He was skinny.  His clothes hung off him.  His battered white tennis shoes were always coming untied.  He was an art student that seemed out of place.  While all the other students in his classes wore lots of black and listened to Bauhaus and Joy Division, Wally was an early Replacements guy.  I remember seeing him thrash around to “You Lose” when I saw the Replacements play it live once.  He was grinning the entire time.

I thought of Wally today for the first time in a decade.  I had parked my car and noticed a woman walking across the parking lot and thought “I know her…”.  Her name was Karen I think.  She had lived in an apartment across the street from me.  She was friends with someone I knew, so she identified me as someone “safe, but not trustworthy” as I recall.  I wouldn’t call us friends, but we knew who each other were.  I think once at a party I had the following conversation with her.  “Hey… Don’t you live across the street from me?”  Yes.  (As you can see, we were very close.)  

It was a late Spring day.  A group of people were sitting around some steps in the sun in a courtyard.  One of those where the sun is struggling to warm everything, so when the wind blows it’s too cold, but you think if you just sit still the wind will stop and it will be warm again.  Wally was sitting in this communal area sketching into a notebook.  He was pretty good.  Not so good that you thought “That guy is going to be a famous artist”, but more like “That guy is better than anyone I know personally”.  He was always furiously sketching, so I didn’t even really notice.  One of Karen’s friends did though.

Karen’s friend, a woman who I could only recall as giving a mutual acquaintance a hand job at a booth in a terrible strip plaza bar called “BC’s Bus Stop”, noticed Wally sketching.  She was always confrontational.  She nudged Karen to get her attention and walked over to Wally.  “Hey!  What are you drawing?”  Wally had been so engrossed in his sketch he hadn’t even see her come over, so he looked up with a surprised facial expression I had never seen before that bordered on panic.  “Oh…  It’s nothing…  Just a stupid assignment..”  Karen’s friend demanded to see it.  “Come on.  Let me see it.  I know what you were drawing.  You were drawing my friend.  If you are drawing my friend, I have a right to see it.”  

I have no idea why this logic was connecting, but in the moment it did.  Wally clearly did not want to show her the drawing but could feel more and more people looking at this blooming incident.  “Let me see it!”  Wally sheepishly turned the pad towards her, and then had it snatched from his hands.  Karen’s friend immediately started shrieking “Oh My God!  You fucking creeper!”  She then turned the drawing to show Karen that Wally had been clandestinely drawing her.  Karen’s friend was laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world.  Wally was looking down at the pavement.  Everyone else was staring at the drawing.

It was really good.  It was probably one of the best things I had ever seen him draw.  What made it so good was you could tell that Wally had all sorts of feelings for Karen.  There was something in the expression he captured, the look of the eyes or maybe the slight curve of her lips.  It was the very definition of unrequited love.  There was a soft familiarity that was also wrapped in sadness.  He had allowed his emotions to move that pencil and I’m sure never considered showing it to anyone.  You didn’t have to be some sort of art critic.  It was like that Girl with the Pearl earring painting where once glance says “Uh oh”.  The problem was that I don’t think Wally had ever spoken to Karen, and I’m sure with his scruffy shoes and sloppy clothes he was essentially invisible to her.  He was out of her normal path-to-success orbit.  At least until now.

You could almost feel the entire group of people turn to see Karen’s expression.  Meanwhile her loudmouth friend just kept going on and on.  “What the fuck man!  That’s a violation!”  Wally just kept looking down.  I could see that Karen was having this internal tug of war.  She didn’t want to be on display like this.  She didn’t even know this guy, and if I saw something in that drawing, I’m sure she saw it too.  That had to register with her.  Meanwhile the peer pressure from her friend is mounting.  Then it came to the fork in the road.  “Karen!  Can you believe this fucking weirdo?” Wally looked over at her.  No grin.  He is mortified at being exposed.  His eyes were so big.  She has his entire soul in her hands.  “Stay away from me you fucking creep!”

Bam.  The girls marched away with her friend laughing.  Humiliation.

What’s funny is I can’t remember ever seeing Wally, Karen, or that loudmouth friend again after that.  I’m sure I must have, but the only thing I remember about them is that.  I’d like to tell you that there was one of those great summer movie endings where Wally kissed Karen at the party after she told him how much she was touched by the drawing.  I don’t think that happened though.  I’d also like to tell you that Karen received a karmic payback and never found happiness, but she was laughing as she walked two almost perfect children to her car yesterday.  All I know is I never saw Karen like Wally did in that drawing.  And I bet he didn’t after that day either.    


At May 26, 2017 at 10:26:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...



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