Sell Out Man, Chapter One

Zev Bauhaus maneuvered his way through traffic. He was impatient and wanted to get home. He was playing a New Zealand experimental band called The Dead C. As much as he loved the sounds this band made, the music playing through the Bluetooth sound system wasn’t enough to keep his mind focused on being present right where he was. He was hungry and wanted to smoke a cigarette. He wouldn’t let himself smoke in his car or in his home because once he did he knew it would be impossible to quit smoking if he ever wanted to. He wondered if the Bluetooth was bad for human health.

There always seemed to be traffic on the stretch of highway from his art studio in Westwood to his home in Silverlake. This was one of many things Zev hated about living in LA. He wished that he could just work out of his home and never leave his house but the art market was demanding large scale paintings from him so he needed a large space to work in.

Zev noticed an attractive young girl driving a black BMW in the lane next to him. He kept turning his head to stare at her. She had long brown hair and skin that was yet to suggest growing old. He desperately wanted to see her naked and on top of him. For a moment his mind was distracted from the frustrations of Los Angeles traffic. A few times she turned her head and smiled at him. Zev was not an unattractive man. He had often been told that he looked like a younger Jeff Goldblum. At 41 he still had a full head of long brown hair and his face was angular and long. Women seemed to like looking at him, especially when they found out that he was a successful contemporary painter.

Eventually the black BMW exited the freeway and Zev was back to his slow crawl home. He looked around him at all the cars filled with people. On the side of the freeway were rows of apartments which filled its inhabitant’s lungs with all the toxic freeway smoke. The sky was blue and a few isolated and sick palm trees sprouted in the distance. Zev thought about what an ugly place this was as he listened to the distorted and droning sounds of The Dead C.

Zev pulled his black Audi into the small driveway of his home. After the almost two hours that it took to drive 35 miles, Zev was happy to be home. He noticed that it was the first time he had felt relatively good all day. He was always unhappy now when he worked. He needed to be stoned and jacked up on nicotine and caffeine most of the time just to make working tolerable. As Zev walked to the front door of his Mid Century Modern home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, he noticed that the entryway looked unkempt and things were not as clean and nicely kept as he wanted them to be. The house wasn’t owned by Zev. It belonged to his wife Amy whose father gave it to her when she married Zev. Amy’s father was a famous writer of popular mystery novels and he and Amy’s mother moved to Eastern Europe many decades earlier. They lived part of the year in Silverlake but once George Bush was elected to the presidency they decided to live full-time in Prague. The house was a moderately sized home nestled between two other nicely kept Silverlake homes. They were surrounded by a community of actors, filmmakers, set designers and daytime talk showed hosts. Zev hated living there because he felt like it was a community for sell outs.

Zev opened the large orange front door and walked into the house. Amy was sitting at the teak kitchen table working on her MacBook Air. Amy was an editor for WORD, a popular literary magazine. The good thing about being an editor was that she could do a lot of her work from her kitchen table. She preferred the kitchen table over the confinement of a desk. This bothered Zev because he felt like a serious literary editor should have a desk that they work at. Zev felt that working at the kitchen table was disorganized and not taking the work of an editor serious enough. He was frustrated when he saw Amy sitting there and Amy knew this when she looked at him. But she set aside feeling criticized by him and faked a large smile and stood up to give him a hug. Zev hugged her and she gave him a kiss on the cheek. Zev asked her how her day was and she didn’t tell him about the younger man she had had sex with in their bedroom earlier that day. Instead she asked him what he wanted for dinner.

At the age of 36 Amy Bauhaus still looked beautiful and youthful. She usually dyed her hair different colors but currently her hair was long, black and curly. She had a very attractive body even though she didn’t exercise. Her style was always impeccable. Zev often told her that she dressed like a New York intellectual. She had even recently started wearing thick black eye glasses when she worked and read. Her breasts had yet to give into the pressures of gravity and Zev always enjoyed looking at them when Amy would walk around nude.

Amy told Zev that she was going to make a trip down to the market to pick up food to make for dinner and he told her to pick up a few bottles of red wine. He then went into the backyard, sat in a white mid-century modern deck chair and lit one of his American Spirit cigarettes. He wondered how many cigarettes he had smoked that day. Half a pack? Maybe more? He had lost count. A calm gradually came over him as he inhaled the warm smoke into his lungs and felt the heat burning the back of his throat. Zev loved smoking and couldn’t understand why people gave it such a bad rap. Everyone had to die of something so do the things you enjoy, he thought. No hesitation was his philosophy.

Zev looked around the garden. He looked at the lawn which he thought looked neglected. The plants needed to be trimmed back and the leaves blown aside. Once again things did not look perfect enough and Zev felt mad. It could be such a beautiful backyard if Amy just put more effort into it, he thought. Amy had been home all day and he was frustrated that she didn’t take time to make the garden look nice. He felt like she was always wasting time. Spending too much time on her phone or watching Netflix shows during the day. He was mad that she didn’t take better care of their house while he was out slaving away. As he inhaled the smoke deep into his lungs he crossed his legs. He felt his dick rub against the side of his leg and this caused him to think about the young girl in the black BMW. He desperately wanted to see her naked and for a moment imagined himself fucking her. Sex was always on Zev’s mind. Degenerate and deviant sex. It was the only thing that gave him any respite from the struggles of his life. Zev thought about going to meet an escort he often visited at a motel in Echo Park after dinner but he mistakenly assumed that Amy would be upset if he left. He didn’t tell her about the whores he would sometimes visit and she didn’t tell him about the younger man she was gradually falling in love with.

Zev listened to Amy talk about a few of the essays she was editing as they ate the meatloaf covered in a rich marinara sauce that Amy had prepared. Zev was always impressed by Amy’s cooking abilities and wished that she would cook more. Breakfast, lunch and dinner along with baking pies and banana bread. They drank red wine and after the second glass Zev became less inhibited about his frustrations. He told Amy that she should really be doing her work at a proper desk. He also told her that he didn’t understand how she was home all day and didn’t spend any time tidying up the front and backyard of their house. Amy felt her chest tighten and her warm red wine buzz fade as anger over took her. She always felt criticized by Zev. She could never do good enough. She defended herself by telling him that she had a full-time job as well and that she had gone to the market and made them a nice dinner. She also told him that she paid many of their bills that day and had to talk with their accountant on the phone. She felt like she did much more than Zev to keep their domestic life as happy as could be. Zev didn’t agree and felt like she could do more even though it was true that he didn’t do enough. He was too caught up in the misery of his own life to be much use around the house and he relied on Amy to do most of the practical things for him. She even had to arrange to have paintings packaged up and shipped out to galleries and museums when he was finished with them. The truth was the Zev was useless without her. All his continual criticism of her were really just projected frustrations with himself. Amy knew this but over time the continual criticisms wore her down and she deeply resented him.

Amy cleared the dinner table and Zev did the dishes. Once the dishes were finished Zev and Amy took their glasses of wine out to the fire pit out back and smoked a cigarette and sat around the fire. It was a cold November evening so the warmth of the flames felt good as they both inhaled after dinner smoke into their lungs. Zev was good and buzzed now and told Amy that he was sorry for being a dick at dinner. He was just very frustrated with his life. Painting all day was a constant pain now. He hated having to make art to sell to rich people. His colorful abstractions were in high demand by those with money. Many museums wanted to carry his work. The high demand for a specific kind of work kept Zev from being the artist he wanted to be. He felt too much pressure. Zev considered himself a counterculture, outsider artist and not the kind of artist who made art for rich people. He was an anarchist and wanted to do very weird and personal things through art, which he knew rich people would never want to buy. He didn’t want to have to make art for anyone but himself. Now that he made his living as an artist he had to pretend to be a different kind of artist. A more respectable abstract artist who kissed the asses of those bourgeoisie people who wanted to hang his work on their walls. He felt like a sell out and Amy felt like she heard this from him almost every day. She would try and reassure him and tell him that eventually things will get better. But she was sick and tired of hearing him complain. He lived in a beautiful home. He drove a nice car. He was handsome and healthy. He wore nice clothes. He had a beautiful wife who loved him. He had a successful painting career and the studio space he had always wanted. What the fuck was wrong with him? She felt like nothing could make Zev happy.

As they sat by the fire Amy tried to talk about more positive things. She pointed out the new garden plants she had bought. She asked him if dinner was good. She talked about how WORD was featured in The New York Times. Zev faked a smile and tried to listen but he was as uninterested in the things she was saying as he was in the paintings he was making. The sound of her voice bothered him. They finished their cigarettes and glasses of wine and decided to get in bed and watch a movie or something. Amy suggested a Netflix series she thought he might like. Zev didn’t care what they watched. He wanted most decisions to be made for him.

Reluctantly Zev brushed his teeth. He had neglected his teeth for a long time and now had a reoccurring infection in one of his teeth. He had to brush regularly now to keep the infection from getting bad enough that he would have to get a root canal. He got in bed and turned on the television. Amy came into the bedroom naked and climbed on top of him. She asked Zev if he wanted to have sex. Even though she had already had sex that day, Amy had a voracious appetite for sex and could never have too much of it. This was one of the things that had initially caused Zev to fall in love with her. He felt like she was the best sex he had ever had but now he had little interest. He told her that he didn’t want to be touched and once again Amy felt rejected. She got up and put a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt on. As she was getting dressed Zev looked at Amy’s naked body. He thought she had a great ass and her body was looking good. He felt frustrated with himself. He couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to have sex with his beautiful wife. Again and again he was rejecting her and he felt terrible about this. But for some reason he seemed unable most days to have sex with her. He desired women he didn’t know. Women with no emotional attachment. Women who were unavailable. Amy was offering her naked body to him again and again and for some reason this disinterested him. Amy got in bed and moved close to him. Out of guilt, Zev put his arm around her and pulled her in closer. He told her that he loved her and was sorry he didn’t want to have sex. Amy told him that she understood and she found the Netflix series that she thought he might like. Together they traveled far away from the realities in their mind to a place created for them on the screen. The room was dark besides the light from the show that was playing. Gradually Zev forgot about himself and became absorbed in the story. It was a nice, vegetative feeling and soon thereafter he fell asleep.

Zev woke early the next morning. He got out of bed and made coffee. He drank his coffee on the couch in the front room, just like he did every morning. He played a record from the depressing experimental rock band called Duster and read “The Exploding Memoir” by Johnny Strike. Once he was finished with his coffee he went out into the cold morning and smoked a cigarette. He looked out into the garden with sun beginning to shine down on it. He looked at the squirrels and birds. He saw plants that Amy needed to water. He saw things that she needed to clean but he tried to ignore it. He went back inside and continued reading his book. He looked at the clock which read 8:43am. He felt angry that Amy was still asleep. He felt like she slept too much. She should wake up and exercise. She should have her coffee with him. Amy was always not doing the things that Zev felt like she should be doing. He didn’t consider that she was depressed because of how unhappy it was being married to a miserable artist like him.

Zev wanted to be at his studio by 10am so he finished the chapter he was reading and got dressed. He showered but didn’t bother to shave. He put on his black jeans, black boots, black t-shirt with a black sweat shirt on top. He combed his long black hair and gathered his things. As he was getting ready to leave the house Amy woke up and came out into the front room. She looked disheveled and like she was coming out of just being knocked unconscious. Zev felt disgusted by her. Get your life together, he thought. She faked a smile and said good morning but Zev ignored her and told her he would see her tonight as he went through the front door. After he left Amy stood there for a moment. She knew that once again he was pissed off at her. She knew he was bothered that she slept in too late. She felt the hatred for him overtake her but then talked herself down. She told herself that everything was going to be alright. Zev was just unhappy with himself. It wasn’t about her. She then let any negative feelings towards Zev go and proceeded to make her morning coffee. Once again, she felt happy that Zev was gone for the day.

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