Paul placed a plate of orange slices on the table in the middle of the room. The slightly grey light shone through the translucent curtains, bringing out the white and red bedclothes and the paleness of Diane’s skin as she lay on them.
Paul looked admiringly down at her, and already felt his hands caressing that skin. He saw her eyes half-closing, gazing back into his; he recollected the scent he had long since memorized. Sometimes, Paul couldn’t believe she smelled the same even when they were miles apart.
Diane reached forward from the pillow and took an orange slice between two fingers. Oranges were a favorite of hers for mornings like this, but the sight of Paul in the grey morning light was another favorite. She leaned back onto the pillow and ate the sweet semi-circle. Paul relished the sounds her mouth made; he had told her as much.
“Are you rested?” Paul asked, and Diane nodded.
“But I want to stay inside all day,” she said. “Is that all right with you?”
“Yes,” said Paul, “even thought that means I’ll have to leave you alone all day.”
“Not all day,” she said. “All people who paint take breaks.”
“Why not just say ‘painter’?” Paul replied. “Or ‘artist’. Don’t you know you are one by now?”
“It’s better not to be sure,” Diane said, placing her peel on the plate and helping herself to another slice. They looked so good, Paul took one too.
“I suppose you’re right,” Paul said. “Keeps the curiosity flowing.”
“Yeah,” Diane said. But whether I’m an ‘artist’ is not what I’m curious about, she thought.
“What will you paint today?” Paul asked her.
“I found a photograph of one of my mother’s friends,” Diane said. “Lots of color in her face.”
“Your real mother?” Paul said. Diane nodded. “I thought so,” he added. “Who is she?”
“Who?” Diane asked.
“The friend,” Paul said.
“She’s someone I saw at the first ten or twelve major events of my life,” Diane replied, “and then never saw again.”
“I don’t know what she looks like,” said Paul, “But I can already see the painting.”
“Are you going to write?” Diane asked, getting the cigarettes and matches from the bedside table. She lit one and ignited the tobacco before putting the flame to the candle next to the ashtray, lighting it also. Shaking out the match and dropping it into the ashtray, Diane glanced back up at Paul, who was taking his time to reply.
“If you’re working, I’m going to try, at least,” he said. “Got a few ideas.”
“Don’t share them,” Diane said, “or I might figure out the ending.” She exhaled some smoke across the flame of the candle, and Paul saw her smile.
“As much as I want to tell you,” Paul said, “you know I never do, about these imaginary people and places in my head. You have it easy, you know.”
“What do I have easy?” Diane asked. Her hand sunk under the bedclothes, and again Paul paused before he answered.
“Well, you have photographs of the people you paint,” he said. “I have to invent everything about mine.”
“But at least you can’t be wrong,” Diane replied. “The person I paint has to look like the person in the picture.”
“If you say so, I’ll give you that,” Paul said, and he relented as well to the sight of her smoking, taking a cigarette from the same pack on the bedside table.
“Are you going to use the Olivetti?” asked Diane.
“Yes, at the desk,” replied Paul, “which means I’ll need some artificial light.”
“I don’t mind,” Diane said. “I can sit by the window. And then, you can pretend I’m not even here.”
“And you can pretend I’m not there either, on the other side of the room,” Paul said, pointing at the desk in the now-dark corner of the room. “We’ll both be delusional.”
“But it will be the most productive kind of delusion,” Diane said, and smiled again. Paul smiled, too, and then they looked away from each other, and both felt a little bad.
“Let’s be sane right now,” Paul said, “for a little while, until the day really begins.”
“The day has begun, though,” Diane said. “See the light outside?” The hand with the cigarette pointed at the glowing curtains. She was right.
“But not for us if we choose,” Paul said. “We can make our own rules.”
“All right,” Diane said. “You see those last two orange slices on the plate?”
“Yes,” said Paul.
“Well, I’m going to eat one right now,” Diane said, and she leaned forward rapidly and grabbed the slice of orange that was closest to her. She ate the fruit, and placed the peel back on the plate without agitation. “Now, when that last one has been eaten, then our day will begin. All right?”
Her initiative, her strength and decisiveness pleased Paul, and yet something about it emptied him as well. He had no choice.
“All right,” he said.
“Is that fair?” she asked.
“Of course it is, sweetie,” Paul replied. “I better not forget and eat that slice.”
“You better not,” Diane said. “And you should probably keep me from wanting it, too. It is my favorite for mornings like this.”
“I know,” Paul said. “It might be hard for me to compete with it.”
“But you will try, won’t you, Paul?” said Diane.
Without answering her in words, he joined her in the bed, and before their cigarette-ends had stopped smoldering in the ashtray, she was certain that this delay of daytime could not possibly improve her painting.
* * * * *
“Do you feel like getting up now?” Paul asked. Diane seemed restless.
“Less than ever,” she replied. Paul took it as a compliment. “What time is it?”
“About three-thirty,” Paul said.
“That clock is slow,” Diane reminded him.
“I know. It’s three-thirty, sweetie, trust me,” Paul said.
“So is it time to eat that orange?” Paul asked, pulling her slightly tighter against him.
“I think it is,” Diane said. “I am getting a little hungry, actually.”
“Me too, I think,” Paul said. “What are you going to have?”
“Bread, cheese, and wine,” Diane replied. She left him lying there and walked behind the counter in the kitchen.
Paul heard her light a match and watched the light of two candles expand in his field of vision. The sound of her taking a plate from the shelf, sharpening the knife, and uncorking the bottle of wine matched the shadows thrown against the wall in the dim candlelight. The sounds and sights made Paul hungry. As she sliced the bread, he got up from the bed and clothed himself.
“I’m going to start as soon as I’m done,” Diane said.
“Well then, so am I,” Paul said. “Wouldn’t it be something if we finished together?”
“Yes,” said Diane, “but I never finish anything in one day, anymore.”
“Me neither.” He sat down at the desk and turned on the light, which illuminated the debris hiding the desk’s surface like a puzzle that produced no image.
Paul began to clear it away, placing it on the floor near the wall in little stacks, and afterward, he blew the dust off of the typewriter. It settled there whether or not he used it.
Diane placed the plate on the table. Then, she gathered all of the bedclothes and pillows up off of the bed, dropping them onto the floor, before closing the bed back up into the couch and replacing the six cushions. Then, she sat down and started to eat, and drink.
“Aren’t you hungry?” she asked. Paul looked hesitant, or indecisive.
“Should I eat now, or should I create now?” he said.
“Rhetorical question?” Diane asked. Paul shook his head no. “You should eat now,” she said. “You’ll only have to stop and do it later if you don’t do it now. Besides, this plate has enough for both of us.”
“You’re right,” Paul said, and he got up and sat back down next to her, giving her knee a squeeze through her nightgown. She stood up, then.
“I’m going to put some clothes on, and then I’ll come back and join you,” Diane said.
“Okay,” Paul said back. He took a large bite of bread and stared at the still-glowing window. It had only been a moment when Diane came back.
“Okay, I’m back,” she said, and sat close to him.
“I’m glad,” he said. He felt her knee again, this time through corduroy.
After a little while of only polite eating sounds, Diane jumped to her feet once more. “I’m done,” she said. “And now, to cleanse my palate…” She took the orange slice, which had remained undisturbed, and bit the fruit from the peel in one deft bite. “Now, we have no way out,” she said.
“You are right,” Paul replied. “Time to write.”
“Time to paint,” Diane said.
“Time at all,” Paul replied, standing up slowly.
“Time at all,” Diane repeated, and she drew open one of the curtains, the one farthest away from the desk, with a flourish that made Paul wish she had not eaten the orange slice.
* * * * *
It had not been very long when Paul stopped typing. He glanced at Diane, who was gently bringing the point of a pencil down onto her canvas, to outline the person’s face. Looking back down at the desk, he got out a cigarette and lighted it.
He would not betray her trust by saying something to her, yet he was welling up with things to say. At least, he thought they were things to say. Maybe he just wanted to think some of the things, and not say them. Maybe he just wanted to touch her in a certain way, or look at her. Maybe he really wanted to do what he was doing now: see her, without Diane seeing him, and think about what she thought about what he saw.
Diane remembered one of those ten or twelve events in her life, and vividly remembered the friend. Without thinking, she began to alter the outline of the face, so that it matched her memory more than the photograph. And then, she thought about what she had said to Paul: “I have to make the person I paint look like the person in the picture.”
The idea of altering the outline back so that it would match the photograph occurred to her. Then, she wavered. The photograph and my memory refer to the same thing, and neither one is fictional. And neither one is true. Although she knew this would make it more difficult, Diane continued on, without having to use an eraser.
* * * * *
It was nearing nine at night. Paul had amassed six pages of narrative and dialogue; Diane’s canvas was two-thirds filled. His fingertips ached, hers had started to tremble, and neither of them could focus their eyes after looking away from the page.
“Sweetie?” said Paul, without looking away.
“Mm?” she replied.
“Are you hungry again?”
“Only if you are,” Diane said. She looked in Paul’s direction, but when she saw his eyes were absent she turned back to her canvas. It was the second time Diane had looked at Paul since three-thirty.
“I think I am,” Paul said.
“Well, don’t think,” Diane said. “Know. Your decision affects us both now.” She smiled, and Paul understood it was a joke.
“Yes, but you made it that way,” he said, standing up and walking over to stand next to her.
That’s because I thought you would know if you were hungry, Diane thought. “Don’t look,” she said when the canvas entered his line of sight. He averted his eyes politely, and asked “Why not?”
“No reason. Just a personal preference,” she said.
“Well, that’s a perfectly valid reason, if you ask me,” Paul replied. “But how about this: you show me yours, and I’ll read you mine.”
“You’ll read me yours?” Diane said, considering it. She stood up, turning the canvas farther away from him, and sat down on the couch. “I’ll have to think about it.”
“Fair enough,” Paul said.
“In the meantime,” Diane said, “I’ll cook us up some eggs to eat.”
“That would also be fair,” Paul said.
“What would? Eggs for making you wait?”
“Why not?” Paul answered. As she jumped up and went to the kitchen, leaving Paul by himself, he stared blankly across the room. He thought he had said something wrong to Diane, but since she had just gotten up to make him some eggs he assumed that whatever it was didn’t matter too greatly.
Soon, he heard the sound of butter in a pan, and the wooden heels of Diane’s clogs against the kitchen floor. It was a pleasant mix of sounds, but the suspicion of his own wrongdoing refused to fade entirely, so Paul got up to put on some music.
A woman’s voice sang the word “guilty” over a background of soft trumpets and barely-present drums. Somehow, this music, this atmosphere, allowed Paul a holiday for his own guilty feeling, whose reason for existing at all he couldn’t determine.
Diane’s eggs were almost ready. Paul’s would take a little more time. She glanced up at him as he focused on the record player, her line of sight perpendicular to his. It was inevitable that she would be contemplating her future with him; for whatever reason, she could never be as playful with Paul at the end of the day as she was at its beginning. The act of creating, which freed her from so many other realities, could not free her from this one. Again and again and this was no exception, when she tried to open her mind to him, she was met with nothing.
“Diane?” said Paul.
“Yes?” she replied.
“Can you bring the salt when you come over with the eggs?” He was still watching the turntable.
“Sure,” said Diane, and with one plate of eggs, two forks, a glass of wine, and a salt-shaker, she came around from behind the counter and placed the items on the table. Then, she sat down next to Paul, with the width of a fist between them.
Diane said, “Paul, I have to tell you something,” then took her first bite.
“What it is, Diane?” he said. He used her name reflexively, without thinking, and then waited for her to chew and swallow.
“It’s a prognostication, actually,” she said.
“Good or bad?” Paul asked, and started on a large bite.
“Not good,” Diane said back.
“What is it?” Paul said again.
“Just that,” Diane began, “I don’t think this relationship is going to last much longer. I don’t think it can.”
Paul swallowed with the eggs still in his mouth. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean that I don’t think it’s going to last,” Diane said, and took a sip of wine.
“You mean, you know it isn’t going to last,” Paul said, “because you’re breaking up with me?”
“No, Paul, no,” Diane said. “I’m looking at the signs.”
“Signs?” said Paul.
“Yes,” Diane said.
“The signs that you don’t really know me, and you never have known me, and you have no intention of ever knowing me.”
Paul couldn’t respond immediately, so he and Diane just ate for a few moments. He took the wineglass and drank from it, accidentally drawing a huge gulp. His face looked nauseated while his mouth tingled in distress.
“Well, this is a hell of a thing to lay on somebody during dinner,” Paul said. He put down his fork and scratched the back of his head.
“I know,” Diane replied, “but it is only a prognostication.”
“What am I supposed to do with it?” Paul said.
“You can try to prove it wrong,” Diane suggested.
“But you are in control,” said Paul. “Despite all my efforts, you can still prove yourself correct.”
“That would be very bad science.”
“I don’t believe in science.”
“Do you believe in me?”
“Why should I?”
“Because you purport to know me, don’t you? Answer no, and you prove me correct, and justified in my prognostication.”
“I can’t argue.”
Very calmly, Diane ate a piece of egg that she had been holding on the end of her fork. Her mouth made the quiet eating sounds, which caught Paul’s ear. Then, she said “But you can fight, can’t you? To disprove my proof?”
“Is there any point?”
“You tell me.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Prove that you know me, and that we know each other.”
“How do I do that?”
“Be creative,” Diane said.
* * * * *
Diane lay in the bathtub, her head and kneecaps just barely poking through the layer of bubbles. They looked pink because of the red light that shone from overhead, and from red Christmas lights that Paul had strung across the ceiling. Candlelight flickered on the edge of the sink, its thin smoke visible as it cut through the steam in the air.
Paul sat on a chair behind and to the left of the tub, and was reading aloud from a book. His voice was met by the sounds of wordless music, played on violins and cellos, and issuing from a small pair of speakers near the door.
As Paul read to her, the words like drops of pleasure in her veins, she extended her hand from the bathtub and took one of the tiny chocolates from the plate on the nearby stool. Placing it in her mouth, she held her hand aloft, and Paul passed her the wineglass, taking it back from her when she was done with it.
A few minutes later, after Paul had switched books once or twice, and the music’s instrument had become a piano, Paul said “Hold on for a second; I’ll be right back.” He left, and the music got slightly louder.
The warmth of the water held her well, as did the music, the wine, the chocolate—as did her own skin; Diane felt within herself, and collected, and whole. She felt as though she were on the brink of being known. Paul’s efforts might yield confidence in her, as well as pleasure: a confidence that because he did know her so well, he knew how to give her the greatest amount of pleasure, but that there was no limit to how much he should know her. This, she felt, would be love: knowledge of her beyond the physical realm, and hence, pleasure that is as boundless and profound as art itself.
Paul returned, shining a light into the room. On a tripod, he had attached a slide projector, and instantly the works of art started to appear and be replaced against the tiled wall of the bathroom. Diane looked up, and her hand fell to her chest.
Paul returned to his chair and resumed the words, undistracted by the swirls of green and blue and the red lines, and then the orange women playing bocce in a field of cypresses, and then the nude man, reclining, half-under a green blanket in front of a mirror while a small cat basks under the sunlight that makes its way through the window at the nude man’s feet. All of these and more paraded on, and Paul was only halted by Diane’s hand, which he doubled forward to kiss before giving her the wineglass.
The light, the color, the music, the voice, the wine, the warm water, the intention; Diane was impressed. She tried to forget, for now, the prognostication, and focus only on the feelings at hand.
When Diane stood up to get out of the bathtub, Paul looked away as he had when she had been painting not long ago. His glance went up and to the side, and he felt proud that he could be polite and not opportunistic.
“No,” Diane said. “Look at me.”
“Yes?” Paul said, and in turning towards her, he saw Diane’s slow nod. She stood with bubbles on her shoulders, and across her body, appearing in patches that were faintly visible in the shadow she threw against the bathroom’s tiled wall.
“How well do you feel you know what you see?” she said.
“Very well,” he replied. Every curve was familiar to him, like the colors of the skin and of the hair, and like the sound of Diane’s voice. He had seen the expression on her face many times, and while he didn’t know what she was thinking, he knew of the situations in which she would use it. He made a face back to her, one with which he most often responded to this face that she was making. He did what felt appropriate to what he knew.
Diane rested her hands on her hips. She had a feeling as to what Paul was thinking, but she tried to assume that the feeling was wrong. She stepped over the edge of the bathtub, onto the bathroom floor, and extended her hand.
Paul only looked at her at first, and thought about taking the hand or passing her the wineglass, until he realized that she was asking for the towel that hung on the rack on the back of the door behind him. He took it and stepped towards her, and wrapped the towel around her body, rubbing it to absorb the wetness, and warm her at the same time. Now, her body was covered, so he looked at it with his hands instead.
“What shall we do now?” he said. “To the bedroom?”
“To the living room, you mean,” Diane said.
“They are the same thing,” Paul said back.
“Yes, but I want it to be the living room now,” said Diane, and she shook slightly while he held her.
“Okay,” Paul said. He balked. “I just thought you might want me to…”
“No,” Diane said, although not meanly. “Let’s just live together for a while, in the living room.”
Paul laughed. “I find that funny, and perhaps it was intentional, because we do live together.”
“I know,” Diane said. “But let’s live together, actively. You can even see my painting now, if you want, and you’ll see how I live actively.”
“Do you want me to read to you, too?” Paul asked.
“Of course, and I’ll see what your act of living looks like,” Diane said. “That is what art is to me: a recorded act of living.”
“I’ll go first, though,” Paul said. “You’ve been trying to see how much I know you. Now, when I read, you can see how much you know me.”
“All right,” Diane said. “That is fair, and makes sense.”
The two of them separated and Paul turned off all of the lights in the bathroom, picked up the book and the plate and the two speakers, and still had a free hand to touch Diane by as they went into the living room and sat on the couch, Paul in all of his clothes, and Diane wearing only a towel.
After a long period of abstaining, Paul and Diane each smoked a cigarette. The room was lit almost entirely by the light on Paul’s desk. Outside, at midnight, the moonlight was barely visible, tinting the windowpanes the tiniest bit white. Sometimes, a voice would be heard, or the sound of an engine, or footsteps. It was very quiet.
The air smelt of soap and wine, and Diane’s skin, and soon it would smell more of cigarette smoke. Diane’s canvas still stood in the corner of the room by the window, and Paul’s paper, still in his typewriter, was on the desk in the opposite corner. They both thought about getting up to retrieve their art, but both put it off, feeling that there was no real rush. First, they would have their cigarettes, the smoke of each leaking evenly into the air.
“So, I’ll go first, all right?” Paul said, taking one last puff before putting out the cigarette in the ashtray.
“Yes,” Diane said. “That is fine with me.”
“Okay,” Paul replied, getting up almost playfully to get the typewriter and the pages.
“Can you say what the writing is about?” Diane asked.
“Just that it is my raw thoughts,” Paul said. “The things that I am about to read, are my raw thoughts: clean, and uncluttered, and unfancy—and out of the mouth of a fictional character. But they will be all the more alive and real because of that.”
“I believe it,” said Diane, and she smiled with pride and anticipation. “I want to hear them.”
“Good,” said Paul. “I want to see what your canvas has to say.”
“And you will, as soon as you are done testing me,” Diane said. She wanted to take his hand, but resisted for reasons of formality.
“Okay,” Paul said, beginning to read.
“‘She is a sight; my sight. She is a feeling and a sound and a smell; I feel them all. That is plenty, I said. The feeling and the sound and the smell are all very smooth; she provides the smoothness in my life. That’s not enough, Mike told me. Oh, but it is, I said. It’s enough to make life worth living, and innumerable sharpnesses worth suffering. That smoothness, as present and available as one of my two hands, makes me fearless, it makes me free, it makes me able to live. I need it; it is essential and necessary. It is satisfying. It is my element of smoothness, which balances me out as a person. She is the other side of me: the smooth side. Mike looks willing to understand, but unable because he is dubious. But what if she doesn’t want to be that? he asks. We all want to belong, I say. It is her smoothness, her physicality, that can be understood, and that is how we can belong to each other, I to her and she to me: by our understanding.’”
He stopped and took a breath, trying not to smile in pride, as committed writers do after reading something of theirs upon request. Diane looked straight ahead, her eyes and eyebrows in the shape of crying. Paul wondered why, hoping that she had been moved by his words.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” he said. “Did you like it?” Diane didn’t answer. “What’s the matter?”
She turned to him. “I knew you better than I thought, and better than I hoped I knew you.”
Paul swallowed. “What do you mean?” he said. He was going to add ‘by that’ to the end of his sentence, but thought that it might sound aggressive.
“What you just read, I find, was the greatest sign that my prognostication is correct.”
Paul’s stomach churned slightly, and he might have felt a lump in his throat. “Why?” he asked.
“Your love is for my physicality. My physicality is finite. What you write says to me that you seek only to know me physically, and that is why you hardly really know me at all.”
“So my love is finite? Is that what you’re saying?” Paul said.
“I say, yes, your love is finite.”
“Okay, so my love is finite,” Paul said, sliding to the edge of the couch. “So what’s so wrong with that?”
“You have no intention of ever knowing me,” said Diane. “Ever. That is what is so wrong with it. You don’t want to know my depths; you don’t want to see what is inside of me, because then you will have to come to terms with it, which takes time and patience, and you may fail. You want only to understand my outside; your love stretches only that far. And, by definition, finite loves don’t last.”
Paul felt both disbelief and unsurprised. It was just horrible enough to be utterly mesmerizing. He was silent, and thought about what she had said. He was willing to understand, but doubted that he could; coming to grips with such things seemed dangerous to him now. Yet, Paul tried to approach them—to bring them closer—to study them, so that his fear might slowly dwindle.
“Art made me do it,” he said at last, after about sixty seconds. “I just wanted…I just wanted…” He stammered.
“Yes?” Diane said.
“I wanted to have my art and my love at the same time, and it is easier to do that when you are only a physical thing to me. And I love you,” he said, “very much—so much…” Tears came to his eyes.
“I saw that in what you read to me,” Diane said.
“Yes. In that way, I love you so much, and I need you so much too, and my love feel so infinite to me, and then my art feels infinite, too. It feels deep enough; it feels meaningful enough, and productive enough, not to mention.”
“I see, my dear. I see,” said Diane. “But, love that is truly infinite allows for truly infinite art. Imagine what your art could be if your love had infinite sources, like the infinite amount of thoughts that are in my head, or in anyone’s head, for that matter. Love for each innumerable thought, instead of my numerable body parts—just think how much farther art and life can be lead when there is a source of infinite love!”
Her eyes had grown wide, but she had not moved from her position on the couch, except one of her arms, which gently gesticulated. Her physicality demanded that much of her. But she laid the arm back where it had come from, crossed over her chest, and waited to see if Paul had anything to say.
“I see what you mean,” Paul replied.
“I think you do,” Diane replied.
“I would like to have art, and love, and a life that are all infinite,” Paul said, “but I am only myself, and I am what I am. I am not so young. I cannot change with a trend as easily as I once could. I am not as impressionable, and too set in my ways now, even if it would…” He trailed off, looking back at Diane who was eyeing him with a paradoxical look of desperate pleading and of relenting in disappointment.
“I am only human,” Paul said, in summary.
“Why must it be ‘only’?” Diane asked.
“I…” Paul began, but Diane didn’t force him to continue.
“Why don’t you look at my painting?” Diane said. “It’s your turn; that was our original agreement, from long before any prognostication or inquiry.”
Paul had forgotten, and this cheered him up for some reason. “Okay,” he said. He stood up and stretched his back, dawdling as if deeply distracted, before idling over to her easel.
The light that illuminated it was almost all from the moon, as the canvas itself blocked the light from the desk lamp. The face of the mother’s friend looked out at him: a woman wearing a white hat with a red flower on top of brown hair, who had blue eyes and skin with much color in it. Her lips wore red lipstick, and they were turned downwards at the ends, in a look of tender sympathy, made stronger by the eyes that he recognized as the eyes of someone wise and knowledgeable, like a mother’s. Her neck lead down to the collar of a blue dress, and she had one hand pressed against her chest. That was the end of the picture.
Paul sighed sharply, and wanted to cry into this woman’s bosom, and be held by her, and reassured that he would be okay after this bad thing was done happening to him. He could see Diane leaving him in his head, and could almost see himself describing the event to this woman, and her sympathy lifting his spirits, if slightly. The feeling of loneliness, that he had experienced before, he could also see himself commiserating about with this woman, whose other, unpainted hand he could almost feel warmly around his shoulder. Her warmth, her tenderness, her sympathy seemed infinite, all of it to be had by him, if he chose to accept it…
Suddenly, very suddenly, Paul saw the infinite within himself. It was within him already; this woman had brought it out of him. Seeing her physically, and then seeing far beyond that, into her thoughts, had shown him her limitlessness. He needed to see himself that way first, and then he could see Diane that way, his love for her becoming as infinite as this woman’s sympathy.
With this potential, newly found within himself, Paul turned back to Diane, who had been watching him. His eyes were widened, and he slowly rejoined her on the couch, taking her hands in his.
“I’ve seen something,” he said, “and I’m certain that I’ve seen it.”
“What is it?” Diane asked.
“Proof that I can prove your prognostication wrong,” Paul said, breathing heavily.
“I believe you,” Diane said. “I see the confidence in your face.”
“It was the face of your mother’s friend that gave it to me,” Paul replied. “I wanted to value you like I saw you, like I would value gold as gold. But I saw into that face; I saw past it. It seemed to disappear as I saw what was inside. I got inside of it, and forgot that the outside was shiny, what kept my attention in the first place.”
“And you think you can see me this way?” said Diane.
“Yes, I do,” Paul said.
“All right,” Diane said, and she drew away the towel, so that she sat naked in front of Paul. His eyes dipped. “And now?” she said.
His eyes dipped again, but after they were fixed on her eyes once more, they did not move again. “Now, I see the hope you have for me, and your desire for me to be truly free, so that our lives and our love and our art can be truly free together.”
Diane brought the towel back around herself, and took back Paul’s hands. She felt an electricity in them, and in moving her hands along his limbs and shoulders, grazing his back and chest, she felt that it pulsed through his entire body.
Their eyes came back to each other, and in Paul’s, Diane saw what she had not seen in so long, and the thing that could prove her prognostication wrong—the proof that Paul had spoken of: an infinity of possibility.