It all ends in sex or death, usually.
I think I've been writing about shadows on bedroom walls and tangled sheets all of my life.
These will, with some likelihood, be my last thoughts as well. The sheets, the crisp unloving whites of a hospital bed, the shadows dancing on the eggshell walls of an antiseptic ward.
But there have been other walls and other sheets. I think it comes from the stillness of being awake in bed. If you immediately roll out, bare feet scraping on hardwood, the normal course, you miss this calm, this still point in a turning world. Perhaps it is a wholly unnecessary stillness, brought on by sloth or indolence, but its quietude, its difference are indelible.
I linger in bed because I'm too sick to get out or because I'm lying with someone who I'm reluctant to abandon.
In detective stories, tousled bed sheets are a clue. In The Maltese Falcon, they are a false one.
Empty bed sheets, the lovers departed. One of the great heartbreaks in recent art sadly gifted to us by AIDS is Felix Gonzalez-Torres' billboard snapshot of an empty bed, two pillows printed with the heads of the lovers who slept there. It was a memorial to Felix's partner Ross, who died of AIDS. Felix would succumb a few years later to the disease. Their bed forever emptied.
I loved a girl once who as a teenager, regularly had sex on a tombstone shaped like a bed, the crumpled sheets carved from marble.
Giuseppe Sanmartino, The Veiled Christ, 1753, Marble; Courtesy Capella Sansevero.
In Naples’ Capella Sansevero, Giuseppe Sanmartino’s marble Veiled Christ from 1763 lies long and lean under the paying eyes of a million tourists. Carefully wrought, the shroud wrapping Jesus seems see-through. The body beneath is long and lithe, beautiful. You feel in that carving a hint of lust, the violent longing found in Caravaggio's men. The veil between us and him so thin, the body so real. Make no mistake that nuns are told to consider themselves brides of Christ. An embrace that is only ever truly consummated in dreams and perhaps for some in heaven.
A better sculpture yet might be the shroud left behind, the naked Jesus moved on to better things. His body imprinted on the tangled sheet, forever.
(Image on top: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled, 1991; Courtesy the estate of the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery.)