Route 7 Review - Page 139

I upset you?” he asked. “You told me there’ve been hundreds of models, but only one of you.” “Yes.” “I understand why now.  One’s enough.  Too much.” He sighed and dropped the apron from around his neck.  He looked at the floor and gave a dismissive wave.   Infuriated, she asked, “We’re all interchangeable?” “At times, yes.” “No one special?” Karl poured some thinner into his palm, wrung his hands, and wiped them on his apron.  “I’ll rephrase.  Special enough that when I see a painting, I know the model, remember the model, and remember what I was trying to accomplish.” “So we’re eras.  Movements.” “Part of the era.  Yes.  That’s an excellent way of describing it.” “A tool?  A means?” “Let’s say ‘muse’.” “Quaint.” “I’ve never been accused of that.” “You’d act differently if you had children,” she said, and she knew that whatever bend the conversation took from there, it would change everything. He regarded her, and for the first time since that first day, there was suspicion in the set of his jaw.  “I do.  Many, apparently.  The profiles tend to dwell on that.” “How many?” He began to shrug again, but stopped, dropped his hands into his pockets.  “Why don’t you tell me?”   Nina hugged herself tighter and said nothing. “What’s your game, my dear?  How did I wrong you?”  His emphasis, on the you, made it less an accusation than an expression of weariness.  How did I wrong you? “What do you do when a lover approaches you, or a lover’s child?” she asked. “I assume they’re is telling the truth.  Barbara writes a check.  I don’t fight it.”   “Gallant,” said Nina. “Quaint and gallant.  Someone did a crossword today.”  Karl took a step back and then forward, an impromptu box step.  “There have been more than I care to keep track of.  I accept so little of this life.  I don’t believe in the natural way of things.  But I accept that.” “You accept that?” “I don’t really have a philosophy about it.  I’m not proud of it, nor ashamed.” “You’re a walking stiff-dick.” “I’m almost eighty.  I take that as a compliment.” Her shoulders were at her ears and her arms crossed.  Nina’s nails dug into the palms of her hands.  She forced herself to drop her hands to her sides, crack her neck.  He looked abashed.  It was attractive.  “Aren’t you curious?” she asked. He smiled too quickly.  “What could be the possible value in keeping track, at this point?” Tell him, she thought.  “Don’t you feel incomplete?” she asked. He closed his eyes and dropped his head back.  “Incomplete. Another good word.” “You could do something about that.” “Why would I want to?”  He box stepped again and then used the momentum to carry him a few feet closer to her.  She pulled the belt on her robe into a tighter knot.  “Perhaps it’s something none of us escape.  Perhaps it deserves to be pursued.” “Entropy?” “Mystery.” He w as a foot away.  “Not knowing.” “Sounds like bullshit.”  She had not anticipated the husky scrape in her voice, how difficult it was to talk when he was so near. “I think it’s the most honest thing in the world.  Nothing is as strange as we are to ourselves.” “An excuse for--” she searched for something clever.  Nothing came.  “Bad behavior.” “Whom have I hurt?” “Seriously?”  She barked, astonished. “I’m always serious.” “You can’t know.” “I know!”  She blanched.  He’d never yelled before. “I think—I think you’re selfish,” she said. “Guilty.”   “Self-involved.” He pulled at the knot on her robe, and she let it fall open.  “I am a mess of moving parts,” he said. “Incomplete.”   “A worthless contraption.  Spinning gears and wheels, chugging along to no purpose.” “Sound and fury.”