The Mysteries of His System
The Verses in His Life
A Love Story
by Barry Grant
"Prue," Audie gasped as he lunged through the open door to the apartment, almost tripping over the threshold. "Prue," he repeated, eyes thrusting against their sockets, cheeks swelling with air, "Prue" bursting from his lips, "Prue." Audie threw off his bomber jacket, wet from the dank night. He pulled Prudence toward him, embracing her with arms, elbows, shoulders, neck, head and twisting her to the floor in a tumbling laocoon of limbs and torsos.
"Audie," Prudence murmured as she slowly pulled her lips from his, slowly, to feel the gentle pressure of the partial vacuum opening to space.
"God, Im glad youre back. Lets never argue again."
"Audie, we hadnt been arguing."
Audie paused. "No, not exactly. . . Not at all, actually. Its me. Im unhappy. I was unhappy. Now Im happy. When you left for your retreat, I felt. . . . Tonight I went for a walk, and I went to a meeting about allergies and systems, and I dont know what happened. Im so confused. You know everything, and I dont know anything. . . nothing important. Im mixed up about my system, and Im ready to begin getting a new one, only I dont know what to do, and its all so stupid anyhow, not really important, really, and youre so calm and so knowing. I got. . . resentful. And I cant write poems anymore. And I didnt want to talk about any of this."
Prudences features resolved into a look of beatific repose. ("Oh," Audie said to himself, "what luck.") She pulled her head back until Audies face came in focus, his familiar bemused expression seeming almost transcendent in its naiveté.
"Audie, I love you."
"The present tense implies nothing of the future, and for love, in the absence of such implication, the present is void."
"Never mind. I got nervous for a moment. I dont want you to leave me ever, but Im afraid you will. . ."
"Audie, dear, I love you. All manner of things are well and shall be well. Youll see."
"Join me, Prue."
Prudence threw the covers away from her body, bounded to the floor, and caught Audies hand just as he reached his arm around her back
in a dip.
"I feel like my old self again," Audie said, his eyes resting in Prudences eyes. "Well, maybe not, not exactly. Either the self is real, in which case I am one continuous self-same being and such notions as old self and new self have no meaning, or the self is not real, in which case it makes no sense to speak of a self of any sort. In any case. . ."
"Audie," Prudence said. "Hold me closer, and keeeeeeep dancing."
And they spun about the bedroom, their nylon night clothes rubbing with the rhythms of their gentle rumba, setting off scattered sparks and sporadic shocks in the cool morning air.
"Were electric together," Audie said, drawing a sly smile across his face.
"I told you," Prudence replied, burrowing her head in the space between his head and shoulder.
Audie pressed his face full into her hair, drawing its fragrance of night-soaked sebum and sage deep into his nostrils.
"Look, a Barnett Newman," he said, pointing to a bone white throw rug bisected with a band of sunlight.
Audie slid his hands around Prudences soft hips. He pulled her against him into a cobra pose. He wet his lips and kissed her upturned chin.
"Its like in that Western when you have to sit on your horse in just the right place and the right time and the right direction and the sun shows you where the Indians hid their gold."
Audie paused, stretching his eyebrows into gentle parabolas. "I know where my gold is," he said.
Audie and Prudence sat in their soft red chairs in the room with the system. The system, now unplugged, was cloaked in an orchid print damask that Prudence had bought at a crafts fair. Audie peered at the patterns, noting how the petals joined and crossed as the cloth folded around the corners of the component on the top shelf.
"Prue. Tell me about your club retreat," Audie said as he bowed his head to kiss Prudences hand. "What you did and what you said and how things looked and all that you saw and heard. Was Dominique there? And is she still on fire? And Sarah, has she finished her novel? And Emma, did she bring her alien mother again?"
Prudence smiled up at Audie. "They were all there. Emmas mother is not an alien, Audie. She just hasnt learned all the conventions. Dominique is still on fire. She writes ten pages every day. No matter what, ten pages. Two hundred and seventy five words a page for 7,341 days as of the 12th. She read ten pages of making a breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee, and I realized that "and" is the most important word in the language. If there is a god, thats gods word. The world is not one, it is and."
"A multiplicity, not a unity?"
"More like what the Buddhists say, everything is a center. And," Prudence widened her smile, "Sarah has not finished her novel. The novel follows her life. She thinks she will die when she completes it."
"Philosophers call that a category error."
"Deirdre and I tried to explain to her that she wouldnt die unless she willed death, and it came out that she was really afraid of just that."
"Did you change her mind?"
"No. The knot of darkness was too deep within her. She will keep writing until she dies or loosens the knot."
"Thats a life too. I wish I had been there. Will you ever allow men to join?"
Prudence slid her cheek across Audies outstretched palm.
"The subject came up, as it does every year. We decided again that although the differences between the sexes are illusory, we liked things the way they are."
"The logic of affection."
"Yes," Prudence murmured, as she ran her tongue around the scallops of Audies cuticles.
LXVIe GeOrganics. Did you change your mind about the, uh, Absolute?"
Audie, Prudence, and Edith were sipping decaf French Roast in the back of Ediths store, also called Edith. Edith was a little odd, both Audie and Prudence thought so, but she was a good friend, and they always left her store with a new thought, if not a new Harmonically Correct Furnishing for the Home, which is what Edith called the sort of thing she sold in her store.
"What else my friends? Too radical. No one understood it. That is my fate. No matter." Edith pushed a great mass of wiry black and silver hair behind her left ear. She pushed the last knuckle length of her Turkish Special into an Ashower, a one eighth piece of a near perfect Golden Siamese geode that rested atop a white lux velvet, its cliffs and ledges digging at the sky.
Watching the ashes and bits of singed paper and tobacco fall from the crystals to the tender cloth, Audie said to himself, "How do they move like that, symphonically? Are there forces involved that have not yet been named?"
Audie peered into his coffee cup. "Uhm. Did you do something different to the coffee? It tastes more, uh, coherent," he said.
"Ha! You noticed. Its not the coffee. Its the lacquer! Ive been experimenting. Another very light layer of iron oxide glaze on the bottom gives my coffee just a tad more body and sparkle."
"I think it always tastes wonderful!" Prudence exclaimed.
"You two are my most perceptive customers, Edith replied, reaching her arms across the shoulders of her friends and pulling them toward her.
"A kiss for each of you," she said and laid a big mushy bright-red-smudge-leaving kiss on each of their cheeks.
"Edith," Audie asked. "Do you know Dr. Johnson? The allergist? I went to one of his talks under very mysterious circumstances. He said you were friends. Tell us about him, please."
"Ahh, Dr. Johnson. Friends, yes." Edith pointed to the Marcasse settee that abutted the far wall of the store kitchen.
Audie and Prudence bunched themselves between the thin arms of the last of Ediths Sword of Destiny line of domestic furnishings. The settee was the greatest piece of the living room suite that had made her name. Edith would never part with it. She had become herself, had become Edith, in that furniture.
She had showed the set at the annual Festival des Choses held in August at the Centre Beaubourg. The sophisticated money and taste crowd would leave their seaside homes for the ugly Parisian August only for the Festival des Choses. Edith was the Northamerican regional winner. Between winning the regional in February and appearing at the Festival in August, she designed an entirely new line. No one else would have dared this. No one else has.
The Destiny set was so different from her winning Kitchannex designs that at first no one believed they had come from the same person. Slowly, the critics and the customers saw that only the person who had done the Kitchannex could have done the Destiny.
All of Ediths creations furnished a lost world that existed only in her dreams. A time before color was rent from shape, light from texture, space from line, image from reproduction. A holy time when the six senses were one.
The Destiny showed this in its alternating densities of shape and texture twinned with canons crossing against wave tracings. Bold ellipses atop corrugated marbles. Arch sides mottled with stellarblues. And eclipsed ranges pushed hard against the backs of black streaked wallingfords.
Edith sold sixteen pieces of the seventeen piece suite for enough money to open Edith, her store.
Her work since the Destiny has been even more amazing, though sometimes, as with her advanced Fruit and Nut line, she was so beyond popular taste and concepts that the designs did not sell.
Holopokot followed the Sword of Destiny. It inverted the traditional relationship between inner and outer. Armoires of pedestals and racks. Couches with arms and backs as legs. Beds, sandwiches of neoprene slabs in dark amber and bleach. Then, Columbine, Rogets Woods, Gobi Dance, and, of course, the GeOrganics and Fruit and Nut, basic and advanced.
"Edith," said Prudence, signaling to Audie and snaking her hips up the space between Audie and the arm of the settee. "Its nearly four-thirty. Time for a long dinner before the concert begins at eight."
"Oh yes," replied Edith glancing at the Cyclock hanging from the ceiling. "A very promising program. The New Violin: Difference and Metaphor in Gut and Wood, you said. Dr. Johnson will have to wait until we each have a mulled single malt in hand."