“Why don’t you sell some of your antiques?”
“Excuse me, Susan?”
“Sell some of your stuff. You keep telling me about all the valuable antiques you have sitting in storage. Why not sell a chair or two?” She had no idea what his look meant and took the risk. “You know, instead of asking people to help you out. I mean, it’s all about helping Louis right? You need the money, you could sell some pieces and move on.”
He straightened on the sofa, book to his lap. He was wearing a Christmas red sweater and while the reflection from the overhead lighting did make his face a little rosy, it seemed as if Henry was starting to blend in with the v-neck.
“Are you kidding me? Can you hear yourself? Do you know what you’re saying?”
“Yes. I’m saying sell some of your antiques, pay off your ex-wife, get Louis started in the new business and give your son some sense of normalcy.”
“Never, Susan, never. I can’t believe you would even suggest that. Louis is fine. These antiques are for him, I’m saving them for him, in fact, he’s started collecting on his own. I would never dream of selling anything.”
Louis was not fine. Close to everyday, Henry told Susan that he was worried about his son. The family, Henry, teenager Louis and ex-wife Melissa, were living in squalor under one roof. The squalor was Henry’s idea, a plan to drive Melissa out of the house by way of filth, but she wasn’t budging. She was angry, vengeful, and waiting for her payback on their failed business. The environment was so unstable and Henry and Melissa’s confrontations so volatile, that Henry would leave the house during Melissa’s waking hours to avoid an argument, returning when she went to her room for the night. Louis was not fine.
Henry wanted 1: someone rich to come in and partner with Louis to get the hotel up and running again—turning the business over to Louis would somehow settle the financial dispute with Melissa; and 2: someone rich to give him $100,000 to settle some immediate debt and allow for a little spending–a computer and cell phone to start. He was massaging a business partner hopeful for over a year now, and a friend in Australia was going to send the cash, but that was 3 months and a couple of excuses ago.
“Henry. It’s just stuff. I don’t get this attachment to objects. You tell me all the time how worried you are about Louis and now you tell me he’s fine. Which is it? You have the means to end the madness, sell some art.”
Henry was incensed. “2,500 rare books, Hermes silver, German crystal, I should sell this? The rich don’t care that I ask for a handout, they don’t care about the money. You’re saying I should sell these books?”
“No, keep the books, of course, surely there is something… I suspect Louis could care less about the German crystal…”
“I’ve been an antiques dealer. I know antiques. I know what this is, you’re questioning my taste, no one questions my taste.” Dead stop. Taste? What did taste have to do with anything? Don’t question—period. Did he even own these antiques? Is he a liar or insane? Susan moved to the patio for a cigarette. She cringed or shivered or shook or something, as if the cold slapped her, smacked her right in the face and popped her eyes wide open. She smoked slowly and sighed and adjusted to the cold and checked to see if Henry was watching her and discovering that he was not, she smiled—for Susan didn’t feel as badly about this fight with Henry as she typically would. Ha. Imagine that. She went back inside to apologize, a token gesture to try and salvage what was left of their weekend together for there were very few of them. But she woke early the next day and quietly left as Henry lay sleeping—the smell of moldy fabric was just too pervasive to bear.
art: michael carson