Keith is that you?
My eyelids heavy, I am engulfed by an unstoppable inward slide. I do what I can to hold my thoughts against their imminent dissolution. It is the end of my first day in Montreal. From amid a thousand unraveling streams of experience – the mental detritus of the day – I select key images, insights, emotions and fix them, as if in amber, for examination longer than their spontaneous decay might allow.
Under bed covers at the airport hotel, I peer into the shards of today – five-hundred miles of autumn, big stands of birch, border guards in black garb inspecting my belongings, the concrete maze of Montreal, Victor’s voice, and Sultana’s eyes – I’m drifting now. The two-headed image propped on the top shelf appears in a red and white blaze within me. I see the men as Victor and I engaged in a mysterious intercourse of mind with “K. Haring” snaking below.
The sharp lines of Keith’s signature and imagery incised like brainwaves pulse forward and fill my inner gaze. The men are joined by a third. His boyish features and brilliant eyes appear. He is here in the room – before me.
Five-hundred miles from home – a nation north of the town of our birth – Keith and I meet in a dream. What is truly strange is that this is not strange to me at all. This is where I have lived since he died – perhaps since the first day we met. Or perhaps it is the only place – a shifting dreamscape of chance and coincidence where there is no difference at all between what is art and what is life.
“I’m glad you’re here, Art,” he says.
“Where, Keith – in this world of dreams where I’ve been lost for almost 20 years since your death?”
He says, “20 what? Since my…what did you say? We are right here now. You know this.”
I’ll tell you what, man” I say to him. “I know less today than I did back then. And now I’m faced with work that looks like yours. It looks like the stuff in your studio that first day we traded work. Remember that day, Keith? It looks like work I sorted through when you said, ‘Take whatever you want.’ ”
“Art. Just listen to me. I’m here for one reason. Because…you know…you are the one who knows…”
“Knows what, Keith? I just said I have no idea about this stuff. It’s not even my business if that work is or isn’t yours.”
As I speak to him this way my feelings change. I am overcome by sadness.
“You’re telling the story, Art.” He says. “I knew you would. But that’s not why I’m here.”
He ages rapidly – right before me. In an instant his hair grays, nearly vanishes. Years of wrinkles course like fine veins through his angelic countenance. He stands, weaker now, less sure of himself. He speaks slowly – his voice thick with emotion…
First image: Kaith Haring: drawing on the inside cover of Tullio’s copy of the catalog from Keith’s exhibition at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York, 1982; collection of Tullio Francesco DeSantis
Second and third images from the collection of Victor and Sultana Lallouz