‘Picasso, My Pal, You Stabbed Me, Drank My Wine, and now You’re Leaving with my Wife. What Happened?’ (pdf)
by Tyler Burton
I first realized my long-standing beef with Pablo Picasso in the lower level of the Berggruen Museum in Berlin. At the time I actually mistook it for some kind of fierce brotherhood. You know, the kind you normally find only in dank fox-holes or the corners of noisy cocktail parties. Two poor souls schlepped there by forces beyond their control, making the best of things.
I thought, yeah, me and ole’ Pab would have been close to inseperable, the two guys towards the back, having one of those deep but irreverent conversations that make everyone around them jealous they aren’t witty enough to be included. Then, after everyone’s gone home or just started to bore us, we would stumble off together to the illicit after-hours bar in the tight, dark alley, and spend the rest of the night buying each other rounds of absinthe. Toasting to disconsolate and as-of-yet underappreciated geniuses everywhere while Pab pulled the lace looser, stitch by stitch, on the barmaids’ bodices.
Arm in arm. Together. Against all odds.
Boy, was I wrong.
Picasso at war would’ve probably spent the whole time in the trenches whispering to himself in a small, hand-held mirror. In fact, you would’ve rarely seen sight of him at all, so often he was off hiding his precious “talent” in abandoned barns, where women of dubious marital commitment nursed his troubled conscience. If she had a fine body, he’d surely have spent a few of his fallen comrades’ francs on a bottle of wine–as a business expense, you know; to loosen her up for a modeling session.
Life goes on, sure; but when it came time for helping out his unfuckable friends I’m sure old Pabby was always leaving that damned money in his other paint-smeared frock, if you know what I mean. I know the type. You could see it in his eyes, staring back at you, from his hallowed place on the wall.
The whole basement floor of the museum was dedicated solely to this single, illuminated picture, a tight head-shot, and the eyes–daring any stray passers-by to be remembered as a man as great as he. There was a fierce certainty in that glare of his, that this foolish task was next to impossible.
You can only imagine the balls this guy had.
But set aside the chutzpah and the undeniable genius and what are you left with? An exotic Spanish accent? An atelier of his own? An almost insatiable lust for other men’s wives? I can’t believe your threats Pablo, because of that erotic accent of yours. Jackson Pollack, on the other hand, you knew not to mess with when he was drunk.
At least Picasso was working through it all; he never lost sight of the real reason he over-stepped so many friendships. Sure, he fucked your wife; but then, when he went on to paint her so that only you would recognize her and say, “Well, she is beautiful in a way”; and all the critics thought it was a comment about the horrors of war; you alone knew it was her. Poor Guernica Guzmano, you’d know that bullish Minotaur anywhere.
And what if you were this guy’s landlord? What would you do when you found out he’d spent the rent money on absinthe and paint brushes, and he’s joking about how at least he hadn’t wasted any of it on condoms? What would you do? When he’s quite willing to trade you a print that’ll be worth millions in ten years–or so he says. Quite a few poor, bitter Frenchman are sorrier than Sartre that they didn’t take him up on that offer when they had the chance. But with all the rocking and knocking of bedsprings and bodies to remind oneself how much better this guy’s life was than your own, even you would have probably kicked him out, right on his drunk cubist ass. And oh what a portrait that would have been.
Unless you, too, saw the kind of gems he was escorting out late the next afternoon from that property of yours. And just that brief interaction, that glimpse of fresh, young skin gleaming, faces flushed: after a fine long look at just one of those women sashaying by your open window, leaving her trail of lavender in the air, any man in his right mind might have just let ole’ Picasso stay as long as he liked, just out of sheer awe and an almost professional sense of respect.