My uncle, Micah Carpentier, was a Latin lover with the heart of a Russian Jew.
He adored women.
He loved their delicate proportions. He used to say that even women of what he used to gallantly call “broad bone” possessed a frangible precision that echoed the music of the spheres.
“Look at the ribcage,” he used to say, “we men, bulky like pianos, are beasts. Our chests are spread with brutal geometry, engineered like a machine at 90 degrees. Women, by contrast, crown their milky abdomens with a sweet 60 degree coronet, their tenth rib is discreetly extended like the wings of a blue throated thrush.”
Carpentier had many lovers but foolishly married a casual friend. My aunt Antonella was beautiful and cold. She ran the Carpentier household like a floor captain. She used index cards the way others use memory, and therefore denied herself the luxuries of poetic self-deception.
At first Uncle Micah tried to love her, bathing her with adoring asides and lavish appreciations. Their home simmered under the small flames of his uxorious attentiveness. He venerated her and she knew it.
But his efforts were wasted on Aunt Antonella. The daughter of a Jesuit missionary from Valladolid and a bossy and strangely masculine Bavarian seamstress, her childhood was an ice chest of inhibition and restraint. At first she saw my uncle as an opportunity. With the famously sybaritic artist, Antonella foolishly believed she could rise to his level of feeling. But feeling was never available to her so she hid her heart behind a wall of efficiency.
Everyone marveled at the orderly cogs and methodical wheels of the Carpentier studio and home.
But poor Uncle Micah.
One could sooner remove his healthy liver than deny him the pleasure of staring into a woman’s eyes and telling her how much he loved her. He tried to pry a pulse that he was certain lay entombed inside his bride’s snowy soul but it was to no avail.
Denying Carpentier this lifeblood of sensual expression was a personal crucifixion.
As an art student, Carpentier was not a gifted draftsperson. His gifts were of the cruder sort. A chiseler, a pounder, a man of thick fingers and powerful arms. He started as a sculptor in the manner of Brancusi but soon began to draw in order to gaze again at the lyric of the female form. He could not draw a woman without falling in love with her and his models delighted in his gratitude. He was always respectful and protective but he was also unmistakably moved.
Every one of his drawings is an ode to pleasure. In the end, Micah found Artemis Llevar, the woman with whom he would finally summon to his voluptuary calling. Like a man half starved by the meager rations of a sadistic jailer, Carpentier gorged on Llevar’s genuine tenderness and warmth.
His Blue Drawings could be seen as the diadem with which he crowned his last lover as his queen.