Drunk all night and were falling asleep in our chairs, it was too late and hopeless to leave and go all that way from Avenue B, so Franz [Kline] put on pajamas and fell into bed. I too, beside him, as dawn broke.
I woke in terror, rigid in anxiety for his arm was around me, and he was murmuring. I shifted position and he mumbled in his sleep and turned away, yet muttering—but sadly, talking his sleeptalk to her.
He was sitting at the bar, gazing at his glass of beer. His set jaw dragged his eyes and lips down, in a bitterness. He didn’t move for a long time and I became a little: alarmed. I moved quietly beside him, and gently put my hand on his shoulder.
He turned and looked at me. His eyes were so deep they were without focus. His voice was distant and hollow, but the last phrase was terrible, bitter in disappointment.
“At first I thought it was a stalk. Then I saw it had a head on it, and then I saw it was alive.”
It was a bright afternoon. For some reason I wasn’t sitting at the bar, but in one of the small center booths, quite near the telephone. Franz was sitting a couple of stools down towards the door from the beer taps, at the bar, by himself, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette.
He was clean shaven. He had his black pin stripe suit on, and a1 clean white shirt open at the collar; his shoes were shined. He had his hat on, slightly to one side, front brim snapped down. He was dramatic and beautiful.
Now, [Willem] de Kooning, in his paint-splattered paint clothes, sat unnoticed by Franz, at the end of the bar near me, exactly in my line of vision, and of course I watched them both, Bill’s left elbow was on the bar, and right hand cupped his right knee—feet hooked over the rung of the barstool—his head was forward, arrowhead, profile. His blue eyes held a certain silvery glitter, perceiving Franz. Franz, there, glowing, de Kooning was looking into the glow.
But then he, Bill, began a change. I saw the start of a smile, and he looked so directly at Franz a personal beam of intense affection came out of his eyes and shone on Franz; almost religious, or a fullness with revealed torture. Bill stepped partly off the barstool and whispered.
Franz turned. "Bill!"
Bill picked up his drink and walked down, sat on a barstool beside Franz; after an instant of speaking I heard Bill say, softly, like someone telling a dear friend a piece of great news not everyone is allowed to hear, What about a little drink?
Franz laughed, and Bill said to Louie, "Let's have a couple of little drinks here. And this one's on me."
Quite a while later they were in the same place, but the were leaning on each other, heads together, like small stocky guys—no, tall buildings, tilting across avenues against each other—sky-scrapers, rather; having a little close conversation.
|Kline and de Kooning|