My husband left me last night not for another woman but because he just found out I loved his best friend but that shouldn’t have mattered much since that guy’d dumped me a couple of weeks earlier. I sure was feeling bad this afternoon and told my boss I had a fever and needed to lie down. I didn’t want to go home to an empty bed. I needed to be around people in a happy place and decided to drive down 101 from San Mateo to Stanford and visit the beautiful campus where since my teens I’ve often walked with my two husbands, one at a time, and quite a few boyfriends. It’s pretty cold this afternoon, though, and starting to rain so I slide my credit card into a machine and park near the big stone building housing Cantor Art Center I’d often wanted to visit but never had.
After walking up stairs and passing four huge columns I enter the museum and arrive at the museum desk to try to hand the lady my credit card but she smiles and says, “It’s free.”
“Oh,” I say, and stroll straight back and enter galleries on each side and see large portraits of Leland Stanford and his wife and son and learn Leland, Jr. died young of typhoid and his bereaved parents built this great university in his honor and that’s a story I don’t want to think about today. Searching for beauty without pain I take the elevator to the next floor and rush through a dim gallery containing darkened drawings and step into a large, bright gallery showing harsh modern works either abstract or distorted and unpleasant. I need lush landscapes and flowers and portraits of gorgeous people.
“Excuse me, sir,” I say to a man bracing himself with his left hand on the wall.
He doesn’t respond.
“Sir, do you work here? Are you doing some renovating?”
He still ignores me, and I wonder if he’d met me before I got clean.
“I need to talk to someone.”
He still pretends I’m not there. I try to be patient. He’s a good looking guy and I like his wavy brown hair, mussed from working, and I’d like to muss it more. He’s a physical man, carrying two work gloves in his right pants pocket and a trowel hangs from that side and his pants are stuffed into rubber work boots and his beige short sleeve shirt is dirty and flecked with paint, and he’s looking down, thinking about something.
“Sir, you seem as preoccupied as I am. Can we please talk a moment?”
The lout doesn’t twitch.
“Look, you uncouth laborer, didn’t you learn to look at people when they talk to you? Goddamn you…”
I grab his right arm and jerk him toward me so I can knee him in the groin, and then a pound him with a left hook that almost knocks his head off. A security guard envelopes me from behind and says, “You’re going to jail for destroying Slab Man.”
“He’s no man,” I say.
“He’s as much a man as you’ll see made from vinyl resin and fiberglass.”