On sunny afternoons I never found her home.  Cold days and gray she shuttered her window, lit candles to three or four lifelong regrets, refused visitors unless you brought a buzz.  When you got her high she got talky.  Her spirit animal was a cat named Bent.  He got hit by a car.  He walks funny.  He’s unreliable. I don’t trust him. 

She was unabashedly selfish: Kneeling beside her narrow bed, I learned a dozen ways to aid her joissance.  She’d fall asleep, wake moaning: Fool, did I tell you to stop?

She only painted women deshabille: A waitress from a café on Rue Madelaine who complained of disrobing in the cold, a dancer from McHattie’s who chainsmoked Gauloises, held impossible poses, feral stares.  A quiet mustard girl from Maison sipped vodka, said little, sold best.

She dreaded deadlines, painted in a tearful rage.  When she cursed me, called me colorblind, I knew better than to argue.  But I remember the scent of her shadow, how it lingered when she’d stormed out, stomped down the stairs.

First published in Blue Five Notebook, 2014  

Photo: Julian Mandel, Paris, 1933