So what! It is just a few 21st century tears on a Saturday afternoon…
I went to the High Park, near my new apartment, today and read a book on 16th century Italian painter Caravaggio*. The day was perfect – both cool and sunny. I lied on the mowed lawn under a tree with a group of anonymous strangers who were all doing the same thing. An unlikely-looking group of Chinese (nationality I guessed based on clothing and body language) and Canadians of varying ages were all lying very close – too close together – their bodies formed an uninterrupted blanket. One Chinese guy in a suit without a jacket kept standing up and walking around. I tried to piece it together – a church group – a work group – an internet chat group reunion- no, no, no – wonder what it was?
Intervals of runners went by with varying degrees of skill, tans and good looks. A guy with a vest and a very nice camera took some pictures of the ducks. Couples wandered slowly holding hands having private conversations. Meanwhile Caravaggio grew up in a small town, lost his dad then his mom, moved to Rome, painted masterpieces, murdered, ran, changed his name then died in disgrace on an abandoned beach.
Seligman said that the lives of all generations up to ours were a veil of tears comparatively; war, disease, childbirth complications, epidemics meant that the lives of our ancestors were more frequently touched with death and tragedy. Today we have an unusual level of health and safety. Maybe the easy life and lack of pain make us weak – like muscles that never got exercised.
What is my life compared to Caravaggio’s? Perhaps people today will live longer than people back then – but is it truly living? If the great artist lived today, where would he be? In an acrylic-lined prison cell? In a cloth-lined cubicle designing brochures? In a van filled with rollers and brushes visiting lonely housewives? On a street-grate curled up with a bottle of wine? It all seems so watered-down. Would he have painted the blazing, violent, passionate works if he had today’s comforts?
My eyes filled with tears today when my engine lights went on – I thought I would have to cancel my summer vacation to pay the bill. It was not worth tears. I called my mechanically-inclined friend and he said that that particular light was no big deal. I decided to just push it like Kramer and the gas light.
My heart jumped when I got a sweet late-night poem from my old unforgettable American lover “for one second don’t think I have ever forgot you…” I have since been dreaming about him again. I sent him a poem back “here are bright colors, here are no limits, here are smiles all around” but there was no reply. Sometimes he just does not reply for a long time. But... I think that he is worth it because that one summer with him made me, the near-alcoholic-dating-many-men girl, think that I actually had a chance for more than just casual sex or false affection. It was love, it was real, it was sexy - and I want it back! I want to see him again so I can tell him some things in person but it is hard to make plans to meet when he can't or won't talk to me.
I cried a little when I told the professor that I still have a “realistic world-view when it comes to our relationship”. We have decided to just be friends… good friends who support each other… good friends who sometimes have sex… but that is it! He said that he does not have a realistic view but his situation is complicated. But we share something special - he is remarkable and he is kind. He really believes in me (more than I do sometimes) and he is helping me turn my career around. But everything is held back and restrained - waiting for him to think. I am trying to be patient but I don't know what I am waiting for.
An e-mail lover distance problem. A phone lover marriage problem. An indicator light problem. My watered down problems get more diluted with my tears. My life, like most others today, pales beside Caravaggio’s. My paintings are usually acrylic, pastel, asymmetrical, solitary nudes with a lot of white space – but they have their moments.
*M - The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Peter Robb, Picador, 1999