Portraits & Passages

Chapter 7

Portrait of Jake and Esther Schwartz (details), 1971

Don’t grieve for what doesn’t come. Some things that don’t happen keep disasters from happening. - Rumi

Bill Jensen      Autumn of 1972

I could not quite understand why I got an invitation to Barbara Schwartz's and Bill Jensen's wedding celebration held in the vast loft on Broome Street shared by  Aladar and Larry DeCarlo. All I now remember is feeling foolish for having accepted and wondering all the way downtown why I was going.

It was already crowded when I arrived. Aladar greeted me, and Larry as always gave me a look of condescending complicity. Jake Schwartz, Barbara's father was  close by, and I could see in his eyes the same question. "Why is Richard here?" We exchanged a few words about the portrait I had done of him and Barbara's mother.

I realize that out of some obliging pretense of magnanimity woven into the gleeful parade of one up-man ship, Barbara had invited the losing candidate to pay court  to her investiture. I was not sad about a romance both parties were happy to end, but I didn't like being somewhere I wasn't wanted.

So I was very tense when all of a sudden I was face to face with Bill Jensen. A number of conflicting thoughts scrambled themselves as I tried to say something  that I regretted immediately. Out of my mouth came the confused expression of a truth: "Congratulations, Bill. Better you than me!" You can imagine his smile  dropping from his face. But what was worse than the offense of my bungled wish forever making us enemies was seeing a wave of instant recognition cross his face.  I brought up unwittingly something that he could not acknowledge. My clumsiness caused him pain. I regretted that. We backed off from each other, and waves of people separated us immediately. Thank God!

Untitled (large detail), 1974

I left the party within minutes. I was shocked and ashamed of myself; I should have been in more control. But the deed was done. There was no going back.

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