Art Janitor Stories (New York): "Savan, The Cake-Thrower"
Painters should never date each other. They're incongruent, like an ice cube on the sun.
During my time at the auction house, I encountered many different types of relationships. Some brought me joy, some enlightenment, and some took me through an Alice Wonderland level of madness. The white rabbit in my story was an artist named Savan, whose love for painting and art drew us together despite the four stories of floors between us. She worked in the prints department and I would find any excuse I could just to visit her. But at some point...that wasn't enough, and so I managed to make my way into the lunch group that she ate in. It was there where I found myself jostling with the other lions trying to vie for her attention.
The broad-shouldered dock workers she had befriended positioned themselves like bodyguards around her, while the well-read-well-schooled hipsters tried to bait their hooks with pro-feminist statements like, "Well I think women shouldn't get paid equally, they should get paid more, to counteract the years of patriarchal domination they've endured - reparations if you will." Luckily she didn't fall for that, and while the rest of them tried to win her over with their wittiness and masculinity, I managed to get her attention with some good ol' fashioned toilet humor. Can you believe that? I think I sad something like, " Imagine if farts lingered like cigarettes, you couldn't go anywhere. If someone said let's go to grandpa's house, I'd say I can't, I just washed my hair". That's not even a good joke, but it worked. And let me tell ya, not even the feeling of summiting Everest could compare to that moment when you say something so juvenile and disgusting, and the person you desire responds with absolute guttural laughter.
Now, to be honest, I can't even remember when Savan and I first kissed, but I do remember laying in the sun at the Main Street Park under the Manhattan Bridge, lost in her eyes, and discussing our love for the artist Richard Diebenkorn and cake. Even though she was a salt of the earth St. Louis gal, she knew her art. She even exposed me to the Bay Area Figurative movement of the 1950's which became one of the most influential periods for me. We spent long nights talking painting, making love, eating ice cream, and discussing our work together; she even had her own crazy stories, like the time she brought Krispy Kreme donuts to her favorite painter Chuck Close's studio because she heard he loved them. He asks her to take off her clothes and she just stood there naked, gave her a once over, and then zoomed away in his wheelchair without a word. That jerk doesn't even paint nudes.
So how could this tale go wrong? Brilliant girl, with gorgeous eyes, who loves art, has a great sense of humor and was a sexual Jacques Cousteau in the bedroom. Well, I'll tell you how. For within all brilliant people lies a madness, a slow boiling demon that eventually percolates with time, explodes, and burns down everything around it. Our romance quickly descended into a back and forth of anger and fighting peppered with intense passion and insane choices. We were never on the same page and it only took us seconds to explode over an innocuous topic or to try and outdo each other. We pushed each other artistically, but the level of resentment took over, and if we weren't intimate, we were enemies. Like two neutron stars colliding, this relationship created a black hole whose gravity was not inhabitable, and so I ended it.
But a few months later, the gravity could not be escaped. She was determined to get me back. Random letters showed up on my desk. Those bright eyes I loved, were now wild, filled with fright, and unfamiliar. She moved into my neighborhood citing, "I just liked it is all, nothing to do with you." Requests to meet up for a physical rendezvous, "Just ride your bike over and we'll meet at Cobble Hill Park." Then, the emails started showing up, from an account created in my own name. I had to tell her to stop, that it was insane to create an email account in my name. She responded with, " You're such an egomaniac that I thought if you saw an email from yourself, maybe you'd respond." She was probably right, but nevertheless, it had to stop, and after that, it did.
Months went by I heard nothing from her. I began dating a new girl (another artist) who was older, more mature, and more European. One evening we were upstairs in my Cobble Hill apartment when she heard a very distinct sound at the window. At first, she ignored it, but then she said, " I think someone is throwing rocks at your window." I was like, " What? No...". I went over to investigate but the rocks had stopped and just when I started to look away, I saw it, the iconic ponytail bun of Savan bobbing up and down. I immediately thought, "Somebody gonna die tonight." Savan, with her farm-forged forearms and jealousy, would snap the neck of this poor polish girl. What to do? I had to stop her from coming up.
I went downstairs and opened the old brownstone door but kept the grated door locked to block her from entering. There Savan stood with a feral look in her eyes like a possum discovered in a kitchen cupboard. She had this potpourri of emotions on her face that I couldn't quite decipher. Anger, rage, happiness, sex, hunger, armegeddon, and sorrow, all fighting for air time on her face. " Hi René, how have you been....I thought...umm maybe..you know...your birthday....I thought.." She was carrying something in her arms that I couldn't quite see. "Please don't let it be a baby, please don't let it be a baby", I thought. As she got closer, the object became clear, it was a cake - my one weakness. "I just thought you know, you like cake, and I missed your birthday 6 months ago, and that maybe we can eat it together?" she said.
Now, I was in quite a quandary. Savan terrified me, like terrified me. Those blue eyes looked almost black now, and my survival instincts were tingling, like when a bear walks into a campsite. But.....I also really love cake. "No, not this time!" I said to myself. I tried to say it with confidence, "Savan, you're going to have to leave, I really can't do this now." She could smell my weakness, she knew something was up and I never ever turn down cake. "Who's up there?",she asked with that Nazi-like rhetorical questioning. I felt like agent Starling and she was Hannibal Lechter, " No one damn it, everything is fine, please just go, get out of my mind!". "You're lying to me," she said. That demon that had been slowly boiling from the moment we met was ready to be unleashed. Without hesitation, she threw a full sheet cake at the door and shook on the grated bars like a caged chimp thirsty for my blood. "I hate you. I hate you. I truuuuusted you!!" she screamed, ponytail falling apart, and her sanity with it. She burnt herself out, and as quickly as it began, it was over. She ran off.
Thank god for that grated door. Not only had it protected me from her, but it also cut up the cake rather nicely after she threw it. The sad caked laid on the floor and I thought how perfectly this encapsulated the experience of dating Savan. After a second or two of pondering, I picked up pieces of the cake from the floor and went upstairs to my polish girl. "Everything ok", she asked. "Yes", I said, "and look, I brought cake!".