Have you shut your eyes to a coffee shop and heard the clack of ceramic to glass top or the shy giggling glass – holding a honeyed iced-tea perhaps? – walking on stilettos between conversations which serve little entertainment when compared to the rather delightfully brusque tones of crockery and glassware on the archipelago of table tops? I wouldn’t do that often – but enough to speak at length about it – as I might miss the looks I came here to collect. I am, as people are unaware unless I let them know, a collector of gazes, stares and shots flung askance when I suddenly, but intentionally, twist my wetted lips into a rather would-they-ever-find-out smile. Is it strange that given my quaint predilection towards garnering frozen images of strange faces hanging over contained liquids, in the singular vault of memory, unable to paste them in rows sorted by countries as in a philatelist’s scrapbook, makes me more of a painter than any other occupation that I can decently claim on a 3″x2″ piece of card? I am also a keeper of mistresses.
Would they ever know that about me? I let my fingers grip the rim where the waitress presses her mound to lean over and refill my glass. Would she then suspect that I try mistresses in the hope that one of them will leave a mark on me – not the sadly misleading mark of a nibble which leaves the onlooker smiling warm in the consolation that there is at least one man blessed with a tigress or at least a kitten for a wife – a real mark of a man with a secret life, a life filled with elaborate plans in order to throw his wife off guard, a life of bathing once again at the studio – the bath being constructed there under the pretext of ensuring clean models – before returning home in order to discourage any suspicion in the wife, sometimes walking through fish markets in order to drown the scent of her vigorous voluptuous rub against my torso and pelvic girdle – such marks, too, are indecently counter-indicative – the life where I plan gallery shows (and now I lift a finger to ensure that it does force the waitress to take conscious note) in distant towns with well laid beds in shadowy recesses of streets unknown or frowned upon by the native who swears by everything that is of that city, a life filled with mood swings which disallow anyone to allot precious seconds to the intention to know about my life outside of the house, spending nearly all of it in ensuring that nothing stokes the stoves of volatile spirits and temperaments, a life spent creating a secret and more effort spent in the hope that someone will notice the craftily assembled impossibility to detect the secret, a life spent hoping whether odd waitresses and insouciant barmaids would ever know like this one here… would she? Several years into this exercise gleefully spent in the warm caresses of success now gnaw at my sensibilities and personal pride. Have I wasted my cleverness in matters which wouldn’t excite a soul? Would a confession of adultery evoke nothing more than a sigh or a quick shift to sealing matters about the pending commission for a painting? I feel cheated that my cunning hasn’t warranted a stern glance or a couple of clicks of moral tongues. Restless nights have been spent in the hope that some stray conversation in my sleep might wake me to my wife’s quivering back sobbing in the absolute dejection of having her husband of few decades stoop to the level of a common man-animal, but it has always the quivering rear under the throes of frothy toothbrush strokes. Such futile excursions into sin have taxed me as vain claims to deviltry shunned with a hurtful wave of an opisthenar casting such frivolous possibilities to the roster of more infamous gents whose single aberrations spawns a million rumours of ever-increasing proportions – and often, on matters of exaggerated physicality – aching my heart with failed imploring into their innocence. Why do they get blessed with blasted-ness without any effort?
Today, I search the bevelled sea of faces for that one glance which shall absolve me of all wasted sin. One glance which is stitched closely to a muted moral cavil of how old men lose their sanity first to the tender flesh of young female groin. One glance that would hurtle me down the chaste towers of senior propriety. One glance to help me breathe in unbroken joy of having raised the Devil in my ways. One glance that would paint invisible shades of gossip on my paintings and raise their value three-fold – is this brown patch amidst glowing red an indication of the painter’s affair with a brunette? One glance to pay salary to all my sweaty clandestine effort of years. One glance. That is all I ask. One glance.
The cafe slowly purges itself of customers and coffee bean stock. The possibility of reprieve abates with the growing prominence of incandescent artificiality, lights which have been the only other witness to my segue into sin. Pointless sin. Wasted sin. Isn’t it the most painfully detestable act of man to indulge in invisible sin? Why sin at all if there is no one to grab your fleeing collar and pillory you?
“Like my grandfather, you know… Trembling hands, forgetting where he is and finally remembering enough to take him back home to his equally wrinkled wife.”
I turned around and hissed, “Mistress! Mistress!”
“Yes sir, may I take your order. My name is Tess and Miss Tess is fine too. Do you want me to help you with something? Hail a cab, perhaps?”