Thursday, December 23, 2010

Portrait of a Friend (a short story by D.L. Siluk)

Portrait of a Friend
(Eugene Monna—a book and art lover)

Gene Monna drank a little now and then I heard, never saw him drink, perhaps he did with Tom, he and Tom were better friends, than he and I. Those last few years—before he died (and he just died, the first week of November, 2009), he had diabetes, his leg was to be amputated—or at least it was under consideration; he hadn’t been feeling well, neither.
Sitting so among the book readers at Barnes and Nobel, as he often did, gazing across the café, over at me, and who knows who else, potted smugly with a dozen titles against his heavy forearms, his cold restless near boredom eyes, looking across shelves of books as one would look across the Atlantic in a telescope on a ship, waiting for a twilit and nostalgic moment; to add to that, he looks about in abandoned retrospect, around that bookstore as if life had sent him into a trying tumult, and now with lost ambition, resigned to a few friends, no longer young, near seventy, he is thinking of the tireless detachment he seems to gravitate towards, with the world, just getting himself here and there is cumbersome.
He remarks on a dog with one leg, we laugh, trying to figure out how the dog gets about, we laugh so hard we have to hold our bellies, lose our composure, acting like kids: as Gene awaits his pleasure with dependable attentive politeness with me, with a character of laisser-faire, that rules his selective relationships, he claims the privilege for his friends himself, and for those who are not, he replies.
Here he sits—as he does in his book stacked apartment, in a warm chair of books with words and pictures that mean nothing whatsoever to him, looking at girls in paintings, exciting uniformity in dress and accompanied by men and without men, and he reaches to the next page quietly and lightly and touches the paintings briefly, wondering how the mind of the painter was thinking when he was doing the painting.
Gene, with his extreme tastes, gold chains, and large gold rings, solid gold, continues to form his obliviousness to the art work, lots of passionate and distant moods going through him, there he looks and looks and studies the art—in old helpless dismay, thinking how to understand the crudeness of each picture, and its inexhaustible flow of lines, and brush marks and colors, and figures.
That was all I knew of him—although I did know he had a wife at one time and, an adult offspring, someplace, somewhere, who never seemed to worry of his existence. That was all he’d let me know of him, perhaps that’s why we got along so well, we never asked questions.

No: 564 (1-5-2010)
Dedicated to Gene Monna