This isn't my office, but it's the spot I stake out when I'm tired and need to slump into something, prop myself up and keep going: Black Ikea Poang chair, tall enough to rest my head on, set in front of the large wooden coffee table I bought on a shopping trip to Conrans with Judy in the '80s. I've got nothing against prefab furniture that arrives in pieces we screw together. I'm surrounded by it. The view from this seat is usually constricted, just the window on my laptop screen (greetings, Document13), but if I gaze up to think, I fall it into a painting I particularly love, one of David's, that's sitting on the floor, the top of it just below my eye level, propped against a folding wooden screen. Live with a painter and you run out of wall space all too soon. It's a large, horizontal piece, an outdoor scene, imagined, a young Russian woman in the foreground, with a naked Japanese toddler in her lap. They're sitting on a blanket outside the dim opening of a house, in a space that's probably supposed to be a patio, with a creek flowing to their left, and beyond that some sort of deciduous dream tree, with a small dream dog named Rolny sitting under it. Rolny's got pointed ears, a head the shape of a German shepherd, and he's gazing into the distance, maybe keeping watch.
I mostly look at the child, cradled against the mother's chest, the side of her head tucked into the space between the mother's neck and chest, a small hand placed gently against the bright pink of the mother's shirt, resting on a breast. It relaxes me to see the child there, listening to the mother's heart. The mother looks straight at me, extending her left arm to offer a sprig of mint. Her other arm wraps the baby, loosely but secure. The child's gaze is on the mint.
Sometimes I only see what's there, the child's legs draped over the mother's, feet dangling, the blue water flowing, the round green hills on the horizon. Sometimes I see the model in our living room, holding out her cell phone to distract her own small child, who's a half-Cuban boy, not the one in the painting. Sometimes I'm lying in bed listening to David tell me about the dream he just had, of a talking dog with pointy ears named Rolny.
I thought I knew how imagination works, how we construct worlds from splinters and impressions, but this is a language I don't fully speak, so I just look. I stop telling stories and rest with the baby. I don't have to understand or remember a thing. I can feel my hand against the pink. It's quick, or it's slow, my dance with this painting. And then sometimes I get back to work.