Susan feels it in her arms, her bones and skin. It creeps up her spine and clutches her neck. What’s the word? Adrenaline? Anticipation? Some other “A” word. Anxiety, maybe. Her hands tremble.
Susan plays back in her mind, as she steps out of the shade of the tree, the day that she first met him – in person, not the previous acquaintances of his story or his reputation, his victims and predators. The real him. The man with the beautiful hands.
She can see it now, that day, clear as the wind on her skin and the sun in her eyes. The vases being tossed out from the window – one, and then the other. They smashed on the asphalt, as though the ground was the sky and the pottery the fireworks. It had been thrown from a second story window, from a squalid brown building with a peculiar chipping purple painted door. There had been a few thuds and yelps following, and out bursted from that door two kids, probably two or three years younger than Susan. They ran, laughing hysterically, as pubescent boys do, tripping over their shoelaces and reckless disrespect.
Susan crosses the road now, onto Main Street. The grocery boy, a few feet away from Susan, stops rearranging the apples by the store and stares at her. (Another victim touched by the dirty paws of the alcoholic artist. The boy is disgusted) She smiles coldly. She thinks, Today is a day for role reversal.
And then, she thinks of the day again, and then after the boys had run away, he emerged. The potter. He made pots, essentially. That’s what the name came from, anyways. But of course he made other things. Vases. Cups. Bowls. Plates. Sometimes – rarely, at least of what she saw – little intricate figurines and large sweepings sculptures, all made out of clay and the similar substances.
So there he had stood, in front of his purple door. He held a broom in his hand, and had no shoes on. He was unshaven, and his glasses rested lopsided on his face, his face full of a drooping mouth and dripping lines – movements that all led downward. He couldn’t be too many years over forty, but he carried himself like an old man, shut and tired. He was… Susan grimaces now that she realizes, that he was enigmatic. Strangely disturbing. That’s the thing. He disturbed people, with his sad, frail, but wild and unmanageable being. And with that sad, frail, and powerful body, he carried himself, limping, back into his brown building, slamming his purple door.
Doors, doors, their whole lives were carved out from doors. Susan furrows her brow. Shutting doors away from strangers and breaking down doors to people’s private lives. Doors that led to mediocre suburban homes with mediocre suburban families eating their mediocre suburban TV dinners, thinking they are safe. Doors that led to dark, unfamiliar places. Doors that led to beauty, to unfathomable beauty. Susan wants to cry.
She is almost there. Something inside her is rattling. She thinks of his peculiar shy way of offering her a gorgeous delicate blue-glazed ceramic mug, after she had taken the time to pick up the larger shards of his smashed pottery on the floor. She had given it to him in a box, and he had grabbed it, slammed his door. Later, that week, when she was walking home, he hobbled out, shoeless again, and thrusted the mug into her hands, and left, without saying anything.
She wonders now, what compelled her to do that, pick up his broken pieces, when she knew fully what the town thought, what everyone thought…She does not want to think about that, the words and the lines people drew to shut themselves further, and the cowardice and spite. She cannot bear to even think of thinking that. She walks on, her legs heavy.
One step, two steps, her feet on the cement, closer still. She took one step, two steps, into his dark, damp pottery studio, not saying much, besides a raspy “Hello.” Funny that he let her stay, given his reputation that he did not like anyone from town. He let her watch him work, slicing a slab of soft, cold clay from a giant block, gliding that wire through the yielding, malleable gray substance. He worked quickly, throwing the clay onto the wheel, and dipping his large beautiful hands into the slip; they came out covered, dripping with artistic gravy.
He had these beautiful fingers, and Susan thinks, no one else has long, slender fingers like that, with the nails neatly cut and the veins and bones showing through his papery skin. No one else could pet clay and have it come out a piece of art; no one else could gently beckon and mold and caress anything and have it turn out the way he or she wanted, not like the potter. He sat next to the spinning ball of clay, and very tenderly, patiently, stroked it, massaged it, until he finished his vase. Susan watched, enthralled. She jumped when he threw a hunk of clay onto the wheel next to her and said, “You make something.” Susan could never make anything as stunning as his works; everyone could just tell by looking at her she didn’t possess what others called talent. But he waited until she started poking around with her stubby fingers and he started on putting details on his vase. They worked silently, comfortably. It was unlike anything Susan ever felt, a sense of freedom that she could perhaps help in the process of beauty. It was many things she couldn’t put words to.
Now she is nearing his studio, his purple door. But she sees something that makes her stop. It makes her lock her feet onto the ground. Outside the potter’s studio are boxes and boxes of smashed pottery. Boxes after boxes, probably ten. Filled to the brim with shards of ceramics, glazed and unglazed. Littering the asphalt are broken amber-coloured glass – his beer bottles. And there, laying in two is the purple door.
She breathes. The door is splintered, like someone had kicked it down. The doorway is nailed shut with plywood. The windows are smashed. Plywood windows. All the clay pots. All the clay cups, vases, bowls, plates. She sees a head of a figurine. She stares at the building. She knows she can’t. Go in. See if he’s still here. But of course he wouldn’t be. He is gone. Forever.
Finally, she moves. She goes home. She thinks about that Charles Bukowski poem. About how people were afraid of strong beautiful men. How things like this would continue all over the world. She breaks every dish in her house.
If you wish to know the poem I was referring to, click here.