Image: (above) Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu (1919) and (below) Melancholy (1892), by Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Both paintings are at the Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo.
Short story by Grayson Elorreaga.
One quiet Monday night, right after eight o’clock, I came home from work to discover that my wife was fucking visionary Chilean surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowski.
Initially, I was surprised at his vitality– and, I’m not ashamed to say– I was impressed with his vigor. He was an octogenarian at this point in history, after all. But then I got to thinking: “What on Earth is Maestro doing on this side of the Atlantic? Surely he has better places to be than small-town Canada.” As far as I know, he barely spoke English. Then the uncomfortable reality of what was happening struck me.
At that moment, he noticed me. He turned around, and as soon as our eyes met, he disappeared in a great plume of blue smoke and angry muttering, which might have been magic. It was acrid, and it made my lungs and throat hurt. As the smoke cleared, only my wife remained, spread eagle, and as naked as the day she was born. She was motionless, and completely inexpressive except for the look of acute dissatisfaction, which twisted her features out of calm. She laid there, as still as a statue, for what must have been a full minute before I spoke.
“Well, what the fuck is this supposed to be?” I was prompted to ask. As I did, she burst into life, gasping for air as if she had been holding her breath. I’m not a T-rex, I wanted to say, I can see you if you sit still. But I thought it would be better to let her explain herself.
“What the fuck does it look like it is?” She screeched, yanking the sheets over to cover herself. “So I decided to take advantage of a night to myself, is that so wrong? You’re the one who’s so late every night. I have needs. Someone has to satisfy them. Is that a crime?”
“Yes,” I said. “I would say it is wrong, that is if you satisfy your needs with the aged body of one of our times greatest artistic minds.” My tone felt unnecessarily measured, but I couldn’t change it. She made a confused face.
“What on Earth are you talking about, Juan?”
“What on Earth are you talking about, Maria? You were fucking Alejandro Jodorowski, right there, just now in front of me. The old man was giving it to you like it was his last day alive, and you were taking it. For an uncomfortably long period of time, as I watched, I might add.” And it was true. I had stood there for a good two minutes before the old rascal noticed me and made good on his escape. I wasn’t about to tell her why I had been so distracted. It was easier to just make it about her.
“You must be working too hard,” She said, “Or hallucinating. Because that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. What, are you on drugs? Have you been smoking pot with that washout painter friend of yours again?” I hadn’t been to see Ramon in a week at least. I got the sense that she was trying to distract me from the issue at hand. I was not about to let the wool get pulled over my eyes.
“Don’t distract from the issue here.” I reaffirmed. “Which is infidelity.”
“Don’t be so hyperbolic.” She said. “Masturbation is not infidelity. If I had known to be so Catholic about this, I never would have married you.”
“Masturbation?” I asked, in a voice so loud that the neighbours might have been able to hear. “You were fucking another man, and as soon as he noticed me, he disappeared into a plume of blue smoke, chanting some obscure Vedic language that I’ve never heard before!” The fact that he was my artistic idol remained too much to state. “Look!” I said, “Some of the blue smoke is even still in the air.” I pointed to a corner of the room, where, true to my word, there was a small and persistent cloud of blue smoke, sitting there like a naughty child.
“Nonsense.” She replied, as every-day in tone as if she’d spent the day baking bread. “Steam, from the bath. I made your dinner at six o’clock after a busy day of cleaning, and then I took a bath. I felt warm and soft afterwards, so I decided to have some time to myself.” She said, and gestured to her naked body beneath the sheet. “What is this, a police interrogation?”
She was right about the dinner, I had passed it on the way in. And the house was absolutely immaculate. I began to believe her. How would she be able to do all of this work and still have time to entertain Jodo? And besides, something about her tone and expression told me she believed what she was saying. So we had reached an impasse.
As I sat in the kitchen alone, eating my cold soup, I though. Could I have imagined it all? I resolved to ask my therapist about it. She seemed so convinced of the explanation she had given. It didn’t seem worth pushing, at least not at that point in time. If it happened again, maybe I would redouble my attack. But as it stood, I preferred to eat my soup in a harmonious home environment.
A few nights later, we actually watched El Topo, which was the underground hit that put Jodorowsky on the map. To be honest, by that point, I had put the whole thing to the back of my mind, so it was something of a shock to see Maestro‘s face in my bedroom once more.
Maria must have been able to sense my fear, because she was very gentle and sweet with me that night, sexually speaking. And beyond that, her enthusiasm was immediate and overpowering, which was a very welcome change.