Fred and Me
I fell in love with a guy from New England before I knew anything about him, except his art. This is a dangerous practice, as anyone who has spent time with an artist of any sort can surely tell you.
I should know better. I do know better. But I swear this time it’s different.
I found out everything I could about him through the usual channels — not obsessively, mind you, nothing creepy. I made certain inquiries. I’m like that when I’m interested in somebody, as a friend or otherwise. I want to know where they came from so I can understand how they became the person I adore. Maybe it’s more about me than them. That’s an ugly thing that is also probably true.
But I do love origin stories, like Genesis and Ghostbusters. So I learned more about him because that’s what I do.
I learned he was from Connecticut, America’s most blandly pretty and aggressively dull state. I learned he loved long walks, alone or with friends. I learned that he missed his brother. Eventually, I learned about the moment he walked into a bedroom and saw his mother’s dead body, how that flash of pain was seared into his young brain in excruciating detail. She’d overdosed on opiates and died in the house. He was not yet four years old.
I always hope something like that happens when they’re smaller, so maybe it isn’t burned into their soul with a branding iron. But perhaps part of you always understands, and always remembers.
Unsurprisingly, I learned that he plunged into terrible dark moods and intensely productive manias. That is so my type. It is fun until it isn’t, and then it’s terrible, and then it’s fun again. Oh, and he was as fond of coffee as I am. We both got advice from others that we really ought to take it easy with that stuff, among other substances. We both ignored the advice.
But before I knew any of that, all those random facts that don’t even really give you the flavor of a person, I just knew his art — his spectacular, world-altering, verdant, living art. Now that had a distinct and beautiful taste to it unlike any other. I loved it, so I thought I knew and loved his full authentic self, too. I didn’t, of course. Art is always a performance. It can be true, but…