I’m invited for dinner on my birthday and arrive late to find a film crew with flood lights directed toward a man and his wife who appear perpetually on the verge of articulating some consequence. On the table Lana has lit two candles and ringed cloth napkins with green-painted grasshoppers just bought from Target. The trout lays uncooked and breaded on the counter by the stove. Lana takes the clothes from the dryer dropping one sock twice. In the bedroom, across from the bed above which the wall is stained from the removal of a painting is a pad of paper where, with no concern for the lines, three words are scrawled in black ink: sledgehammer, mirror, rope. She says she’s on the second story and in the event of a fire she will, she squares her hips to the picture window that takes up one ninth of one wall, sledgehammer her way through the glass. Then what, I ask, reading down the list, you’ll use the mirror to signal a helicopter? But the mirror will replace the painting and the rope she admits may be impractical because what she really needs is a rope ladder though those are more difficult to come by.
When the aesthetician sends a dead bird through the mail Lana says well was it stuffed or was it dead and does it matter, I say, because really it’s the silhouette of a dead bird and dead fly like the bird had been dead so long one fly had fed until full for some days then died and lay opposite acquainted forever by this otherwise arbitrary existence. Maybe this is his calling card maybe this is a way one comes next on a list. It’s certainly odd behavior, says Lana, who’d rather be curled up with a book in a blanket to get away from everyone whose ever been rude to her claiming she cannot have her rehearsal dinner at the Salt Lick because the Salt Lick is too expensive and perhaps she’s not good enough for the Salt Lick and anyway she’s not having it in the suburbs just because no one wants to bus half an hour into the hills. That’s terrible, I say, it’s your wedding, it’s your day, and you should have them to the Salt Lick where the barbecue is so much better than Carleton’s barbecue. Ditto the atmosphere. Forget it, she says, she’ll have it at the Belmont because the Belmont is downtown and people will walk downtown or take a taxi.
We are on our way to the annual wedding dress sale. Lana says maybe I’d like this guy she knows then maybe he’s married and maybe he’s Johnny come lately which means maybe he comes around he comes around and then he’s gone. Gone where? I ask.
Since the doors do not open until ten we do not get to the mall before ten which turns out to be a terrible mistake because many brides-to-be arrived around eight and all have lined the outlet’s inner walls to wait and cheer and gasp as those who’ve found a dress before them beam back down the aisle with silk and lace and detailed bead work lifted high above to keep each prize from trawling. All the good ones are gone, there will be no more dresses, says Lana, who is shifting on tiptoe to peer past the guard with the earpiece mashed in his ear in order to regulate the number of brides then relay the rules to the crowd. We are allowed four dresses so I say Lana should we split up and meet back at the fitting room or will she want to charge the fitting room before she finds a dress. Let’s just wait and see what we’re dealing with, she says, nervous and preferring nothing complicated but to keep in mind a respectable bust-line, off-white, elegant. The man in the fitting room seems the only one who knows anything about Herrera which Lana is wearing when he gushes and offers to pinch back the bodice as she stands before the mirror: everyone says she looks drop dead.
After carrying the dress up the stairs to her apartment and wrapping it with a white sheet so her fiancé won’t see it, she has the sense the room is making her feel claustrophobic. Or there is something about claustrophobia that causes her to feel unable to resolve the gulf between attention one must pay the setting of a ring and that of a chandelier which is really quite ornate. Crystals send a light round in angles the eye sees only in straight lines while scent and sound go round corners, says Lana, over the phone, doing her best to disregard it, then adds that, in a cyclorama, if every angle could be embodied we’d be surrounded by voices claiming to make the form of one visible and locate every need before the feeling of need. She is looking at engagement photos and must pick three to print.
They are sitting on a rock turned toward each other and there’s something about her hair, she says, it’s Hollywoodesque, blown back, and isn’t that cheesy. She wants to know about number forty-six, the one in black and white with light coming through the trees, light in the grass, light off the lake beyond them, light severs the top of his head toward which she seems to be climbing. In number thirty-three he stands just behind her and she is turned toward the camera in a close up and she is turning her head slightly to the right but not enough to see his hand out of focus reach claw-like toward her shoulder. It looks like he, gleeful, has some agreement with the camera or photographer, I say, and Lana says, “Yea, I’ll kill her now.”
The following week I find the aesthetician in the museum where he makes many gestures with his hands before the art and is most interested in the building, claiming all art should be hung in a building that is a circle. As we pass, the Warhols on moveable walls draw our eyes from a distance by repetition and the accumulation of color across compositions arranged in a line about the square room and I notice him looking at a boy looking up at the sky and says he saw me looking earlier at the Annunciation pictures with the Mary and the child depicted as an old man. Let me tell you about the problem with “and,” he says, “No! No, I won’t!”
At a restaurant that night I order eggs Florentine which comes with collard greens and when it arrives the aesthetician says the poached egg looks beautiful and tastes like vinegar because that’s how you poach an egg and did I know the perfect egg is not placed in a pot of cold water and brought to a boil but is cooked (65 degrees) in the oven for an hour or two. He says when he was young occasionally the older boys would beat him in the bathroom for not addressing them in the formal after his father (a pastor) died (bladder cancer).