It all started with Boo, to be honest. The idea that PUNCH and I came up with. After the blow up at Edna’s loft, I began in earnest to plan a sort of — I don’t know — I’m guessing Max and Punch would call it an intervention? A disruption?
Thing is, I’d heard enough, through the grapevine, from PUNCH’s entitled rants, and from the resonance in my own proud noodle — enough, mind you, to know for sure that Max was playing a different game than we were. In his game, art was content and we were content providers. An unsavory prospect for a proud intellectual like myself, an even more detestable concept for these artists I found myself canoodling with.
So then there’s Boo.
Boo, with her tongue in ice cream. She is asking me to tell her “when it’s blue and I look like Kali.” This is clearly her way of putting me off. She senses that I’m trying to get her to gossip.
In fact, she flat out tells me all this with her frozen tongue still poking into the ice cream. It’s my fault, she tells me, if she’s being coy. Because, in her “own analthith”, she “thuffersth fwum impothter thyndwome.”
I stare at her. “It’s turning blue.”
She picks her head up and asks how blue. She stands to look at herself in the mirror on the opposite wall. “Liar.”
When she sits again, she looks thoughtful. She tells me it’s better to be whatever people want you to be. It’s better for you because you are not really ever attached: if people only see your imposter, all the love, all the tributes— all the resentments that come along later —are not really yours. They belong to the imposter. AND, it’s better for everyone, because when they see the imposter, they can learn from the deception. They have a chance, at least, to identify and understand the human foibles and strengths that brought about the imposter/admirer dynamic.
“Who is Boo,” I ask her “when she’s not pretending?”
There is no unpretending Boo, she guesses. She supposes that even Boo in the shower is aware of what she looks like; even Boo on the shitter strikes a pose. She tells me this, knees together, feet out, tongue in cheek.
I’m thinking, I tell PUNCH when we meet later that same evening. I’m thinking that you need to tell Max that the Self Portrait is not only ON, but it’s on autopilot. It’s not in your hands anymore. I’m thinking YOU give it over to ME.
— I? Give you. My. “Self Portrait”? How?
— You simply allow it. I gather it. I determine its contents. Then, when I am done depicting you, I hand over all of it— all the material — and you build the installations. But you leave nothing out unless you ask me. You add nothing unless you ask me.
PUNCH sits down. Head in hands.
— It’s genius. And it completely erases authorship: Max outta like that.
— Yes. Yes he outta!
Perhaps laughter is not quite what happens next. Bitter chuckles, headshakes, and a sense of gloom. We sip our drinks.
Then I catch his eyes. His head is spinning. He’ll want a way out.
I was talking to, Boo, I tell him, when I got the idea.
And suddenly his eyes grow a little. “Panopticon?”
— No. What about the panopticon?
— No, the show. Boo wanted me to force Max to get on Panopticon.
— Ha! Well now. That is not what I—
And then I realized something. Boo did this. Boo got PUNCH all ready to mutiny.
He’s still looking wide-eyed and a bit dazed, “She said we should call him out. Make him admit that he doesn’t respect our work.”
— Well, she’s right. And we can do that too. The Self Portrait will bring his bidding rings and his black lists and his offshore storage and tax evasion schemes — all of it…
PUNCH slams his shot glass down, “She. You slept with Boo?”
— Uh. Yeah. I…
— We all do. Eventually. If she’s so kind. If we behave. It’s how she bonds. It’s a contract.
— Ol’ Max?
— Nah. The only contract Max and Boo have is on paper. He doesn’t go for young ones. He likes feisty ol’ broads. When I first met Max, like 20 years ago now? His wife was dying. She was surgeon you know? Then when she died he sort of rebounded with Molly.
— Oh, THAT explains it.
— Yeah, well, sort of. Anyway.
— He’d be great with Lola.
— Sure would. If only Lola hadn’t been Lewis.
—Did ol’ Maxie have a man crush on Lewis?
— I think they loved with a love that was more than a love.
— And Lola took him away.
On the jukebox, Against All Odds is playing. And I’m thinking now. I’m thinking that PUNCH is Samson, and I’ll cut his hair and chain him to the art machine. Or, I’m thinking I’m gasoline, and Boo flung me a match.