The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 2
You were standing beside me, or maybe slightly behind me, to my right. Roger, (standing over an old, non-moving bike), and Jeannine were in front of us, and in front of them was mighty Hooker Oak—later struck by lightning and killed. Jeannine suddenly twirled in a rare display of joy, her butt length sand colored hair flying away from her horizontally as I clicked the shutter and you said:
That’s the wide angle, b&w shot remaining most vividly in memory from those days.
Fast forward almost precisely 20 years to Santa Cruz, CA. Jeannine had (ahem) borrowed 5k from her and Roger’s joint account while he was away in Ireland on business and used it to pay for a facelift. Times had changed.
Or had they?
Jeannine, I discovered the day I arrived—the day of their daughter’s 8th birthday party—was still playing me for the same fool who was going to run off with her way back when, betraying my best friend in the process.
Right after she’d gotten all the kids—7 or 8 giggling girls—into their swimsuits and into the pool, she excused herself, went in the house, then reappeared in a black one piece cut above the hip, carrying a bottle of red wine and two glasses.
Jeannine: Hot tub, Rico?
Oh, shit, I thought to myself. You’re about to experience the pitch of a lifetime. And I did, complete with subtle, perfectly timed moments when her naked hip would mysteriously bump into mine, underwater.
She’d planned it all out. She was for real divorcing Roger this time. He’d never see the inside of the Victorian they were building a mile away from this place, a rental. I watched her walk back into the house for a second bottle, knowing she knew I was watching, knowing it was a mere textural wash on a larger canvas.
Half way through the second bottle her entire left leg seemed magnetically attracted to my right. The volume of the kids splashing and screaming in the pool seemed suddenly turned down as her mouth, now an uncomfortable yet irresistible matter of inches from mine whispered: “I need you. I need your help.”
We turned our heads to see all the kids watching us and the second we did the sliding glass door to the house opened from the inside: Roger.
Roger: Rico! You made it!
It was a scene the gods had edited out of The Graduate, reworked, and given to me.
Always such kidders, the gods.
That night, after Erin’s birthday party had ended and all the kids were picked up; after the three of us had reminisced drunkenly into the night and gone to bed, Jeannine opened my bedroom door, then closed it behind her. Her canvas was coming into focus. All she had left to do was sign it. She insisted I hear a recent piece she’d composed.
Me: (Whispering) We’ll wake up Erin and Roger.
Jeannine: (Not whispering) I don’t care. This is more important. Please?
At least the piano was downstairs, where my room was. I relaxed on an antique fainting couch as she played. Softly, thank god. It was Bill Evans, Miles Davis inspired, only with a sultry Billie Holiday fronting. A time signature I couldn’t identify. Disconnected love. I’d heard many of her pieces before but this was next level stuff, deeply personal, mesmerizing, honest and lyrical and so, so moving.
It ended in a soft, high octave keyboard “tink.” She spun around on the bench in her delicate white negligee and looked at me tearfully: “Now do you get it?”
She rushed off upstairs, canvas signed, framed, ready for hanging.