Marissa decided to break up with Evan. He just didn’t seem like the right fit for her even though she liked having sex with him. He was young and unimpressive, good enough to pass the time but up until a point. He didn’t like Kim Gordon or Olivia Nuetron-John (her two favorites). This didn’t feel right to her. She wanted to move on to newer things but what she wasn’t sure about. Maybe she would just focus on her art and try and get her art career moving in a more serious direction. She had been neglecting all aspects of her art making practice as of late, especially the more business aspects which every artist hates. Or maybe she would just focus on being Zev Bauhaus’s head studio assistant and spend the rest of her time reading and dating. She always wanted to be more sexually liberated but never seemed to take the time to pursue it. Marissa knew she was in her prime, but also felt ashamed about possibly being perceived as a slut. After seeing Amy with another man, she had been thinking about taking more risks herself. She would never be this young or this free again.
Evan didn’t take the break-up well. He was in love with Marissa even though he tried hard not to be. He loved having sex with her and thought she was a cool girl to hang out with. Like most women should do, Marissa made Evan look better. She made him feel better about the limbo like direction his life had turned towards. He was stranded in a sea of indecision and not knowing what he was going to do with his life. He was terrified of having to lose himself and conform to the defeat most adults seemed to accept. He worked minimum wage jobs and spent the rest of his time drinking, listening to contemporary progressive music, socializing, sleeping and worrying about what he was going to do with his life. He argued a lot with his parents because he had arrived at a still-point most men who resist conformity arrive at in their late twenties. Being upset about Marissa leaving him gave him some other miserable thing to obsess about.
Evan did all he could to get Marissa back. He just went about it in a pathetic way. He texted Marissa continually that he loved her. That he was thinking about her. That he wanted to be with her. That he knew she was in love with someone else. He was relentless with regards to trying to find out if there was someone else. Marissa kept telling him no but he didn’t believe her. Why would she leave him for no one? He would come by Marissa’s apartment unannounced, in a sorry state. Sometimes Marissa would make the mistake of letting him in. She felt bad that she was causing him all this grief. Evan’s perilous behavior made Marissa even more aware of not wanting to be with him but she cared about him and wanted to do what she could to help. When she would let Evan in they would sit on her couch and talk for hours. Evan would continue to talk about how hurt he was and what a terrible mistake she was making. Sometimes they would fight and sometimes they would fuck.
Even though Marissa wanted out of a relationship with Evan she kept fucking him. She knew it was wrong but it was also an easy and convenient way for her to have sex. If someone attractive wanted to have sex with her and this someone was right there in her room she would not hesitate to do it. She liked sex and would not say no if it looked good enough. She felt bad about using Evan in this way but she also felt like it wasn’t her responsibility. He was making the choice knowing full well she didn’t want to be his girlfriend. Marissa was telling Zev this as she helped him work on a new series of large abstract paintings. Zev was gessoing the large canvas’s because he wanted the foundational texture to be a certain way. This didn’t require much focused thought from him so he had more mental space available to talk with Marissa. He told her that she should stop having sex with the poor guy. She was stringing him along. But Marissa disagreed. She thought that Evan was an adult and knew full well what he was getting into. It wasn’t her responsibility anymore. Zev didn’t disagree. He felt like Evan was acting desperate and pushing Marissa further away. He told Marissa that she was still very young and shouldn’t get locked into anything serious anyways. Especially not with someone who was crazy about her. She should just have fun and enjoy her youth. She had a lifetime to still be brutalized by the nightmares of love and serious relationships. The more he seeks the more she will hide, he told Marissa. Marissa didn’t disagree.
They talked about the San Francisco opening and other studio related things. Zev asked Amy how her painting career was going and she told him that it wasn’t right now. Zev told her not to worry about it. He was in the same situation at her age. Just keep painting and gradually things will happen. But never when you think they should. When things do finally happen, you won’t want it anymore is what Zev told Marissa. Marissa thought this was a bleak futuristic view but it was probably true. Zev was a famous painter and he was miserable. When he finally got what he wanted he didn’t want it anymore. Would the same thing happen to her? What was the point of anything then? This is what Marissa thought about as she talked and worked with Zev Bauhaus.
Marissa thought about how much she liked Zev. He was such a cool guy. Yes, he was a lot older than her but people often told her that she had an old soul. She could be with an older man. She like how honest and free spoken Zev was with her. He would talk about anything (accept the things that could get him in trouble with Amy). Marissa wanted to be able to be like that someday. Free-flowing in her talk about herself. But for now she was too afraid. She was too afraid of what people might think of her if she was honest about everything she thought and felt. This idea terrified her and it’s what kept her from putting her art more into the world. She didn’t even think her paintings were that good because everything she painted was limited by her fear of self-expression. But she knew Zev did the same thing. He was unhappy because he was not able to freely express himself in his paintings. He had to do what sold and stick to a particular style that he could easily reproduce. Maybe this was just a part of being a successful contemporary artist. The ability to hold back and make less self-revealing art.
Marissa wondered if she should tell Zev about seeing Amy with another man. Did they have a polyamorous relationship? Did he know that Amy was seeing other men? If she told him would he not care or could it destroy his life? Always trying to do the right thing, Marissa thought about the actions she took. Nothing went unplanned, if possible. If she told Zev, maybe she would have more of an opportunity to be with him. Maybe once Zev grew further away from Amy he would move closer to her. She knew she liked him a lot and she knew that he knew she really liked him. Sometimes she could feel the sexual tension and so could Zev. She was an attractive young girl after all and Zev was a decent looking famous painter. It was surprising they hadn’t fucked yet. But Zev’s loyalty to Amy got in the way. Maybe if she told Zev about what she saw, his loyalty would fall apart. Marissa respected Amy for her sexual prowess but at the same time she saw an opportunity to sell her out. But she also knew she would be a terrible person for doing so. Marissa was torn. She nervously shook her legs and picked at her hair. She felt uncomfortably restless as Zev asked her to hand him another wide paintbrush. She decided to wait until she was certain and looked down at the street and saw a black man in overalls wearing a straw hat.
Zev had already begun to have his suspicions about Amy. At first it started out as brief thoughts about her sleeping with someone else, which he would dismiss quickly. He was curious about Arthur who he knew was sometimes at their house. But he was convinced Amy would never be too interested in him. He was too young and looked like a literary nerd. But Zev knew that something was off. She was more distant from him. She was on her phone a lot more and coming home at odd times. She started getting her vagina waxed. Was something going on? Once Zev’s suspicion kicked into gear he had a hard time thinking of anything else. But at the same time, he couldn’t believe that Amy would be cheating on him so he would try to let his suspicions go. Sometimes he would check Amy’s phone when she left it on the bed and took a shower. Or when she left it on the kitchen counter and wondered into the backyard. Amy wasn’t stupid. She left no trail of the adulterous other life she was living.
The deeper Amy got into editing Arthur’s book of essays, the further into his intellectual world she fell. They started participating in a few of the countercultural art pop groups Arthur had wrote about. They would read the same books that Arthur had wrote about. Arthur would reread the books just to be able to deepen his connection with Amy. To do something with her. They went to certain modern art museums and galleries that Arthur had written about. Arthur wanted her to experience the things that he was writing about and Amy felt completely absorbed. She was bored of Zev’s world and she always needed a man’s world to deepen her sense of self. She didn’t know who she was alone. Arthur’s world was a fresh perspective. His interests felt closer to her own. Amy loved nerdy contemporary literature, anime and graphic novels. She loved silly and intellectual stuff. The kind of stuff Zev thought was too light-hearted and lame. She liked contemporary museums but Zev refused to go. Arthur was illuminating her once again after her light had long gone dead. The world Arthur turned her onto was the world that lay dormant and unexpressed with her. She had stuffed a lot of it down to be with Zev.
Certain things are impossible to hide from a person. In time these things always bleed out because human beings communicate at a level beyond cognition. This is what Zev thought. If something was going on he would find out in time. He didn’t want to think about it now. If he approached Amy about it, where would that go? No, he would just wait. If he continued to feel the way he did then he would become more active in trying to find out. But he saw nothing on her phone to feed his suspicions and assumed it was probably all him. He was so unhappy after all. Bothered by Amy’s very presence most of the time.
The marijuana that Zev was smoking was helping his depression. He smoked it most of the time now and was also smoking a lot of cigarettes. Smoke had become a continually presence in his life but he didn’t seem to mind. He liked having smoke around in the same way people might want to have a cat or a kid around. Even though he would wake in the mornings with a slight weeze, it was only a mild inconvenience. Zev wondered if the marijuana was responsible for his suspicions about Amy. He knew that marijuana caused him to become more irrational. It caused him to zone out and think about paranoid things. If he wasn’t careful, being stoned could cause Zev to be locked inside a looping and schizophrenic cerebral state that went on for hours.
Being stoned seemed to take the angry, anxious and depressed edge off of Zev. It allowed him to feel more grounded and focused when he worked. He felt himself curious about things when he was stoned. He would read and draw more. He listened to a lot of underground music. He enjoyed simple tasks, which normally felt like drudgery. Marijuana helped him to not dread going to work and to not be in despair as he made his way through the work day. Zev was more productive when stoned and less critical towards Amy. She felt like he was a happier presence even though she knew he was stoned. Amy had less of an attraction for stoners even though she realized she advocated for Zev to start being high all the time. She would even tell him what Willie Nelson said about how if you are not going to be high all the time don’t get high at all. But now that Zev had become an around-the-clock-stoner, she had even less respect for him. He was happier in his work, he was more creative, he was more interested in things and he even read more but still Amy felt like Zev’s intellectual acuity had declined. He had become stupider and stranger as a stoner. He was clumsier and didn’t make as much sense when he talked. It was intellect that she admired most in a man. Arthur smoked weed but he was clever. And he had a nice body. And he didn’t need weed to not be in a miserable mood. Zev didn’t realize that the distance and emotional detachment he felt from Amy was because he was the less desired man.