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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Claudia Sherman

Ce qui semble gris est un composé de nuances claires qu'un oeil exercé devine.
What seems grey is, in reality, a composition of nuance that a practiced eye can discern.
--Paul Gaugin

You complain when the weather's grey. You are not stupid; you know full well that Chicago's primary forecast is colorless, that grey defines the character of this city; it obscures the sharp edges of everything. Under the purveyance of fog, brutal things happen, beautiful things happen. Things sway in the half-light, grow, grow old, die. You bemoan these facts daily. I am sometimes startled, never surprised; grey curls her tongue into my ear like a daydream, and I drift a little further into her arms, surrendering my opacity like a bad habit. I have given in to grey. Sometimes I cannot be seen at all.

You misunderstand the silence of true beauty and spend your days longing for a West Coast candyland. The flat non-dimensionality of Los Angeles is an unfunny joke wherein cut-out constructionpaper shapes totter like animé across landscapes limited to the tones of a Crayola Bold Colours marker-pack. Every sunrise is a triumph of Technicolour, of Kodak, of saturation and contrast, and every sunset is a kindergarten imagination stumbling over paper. You weep for such chromatics. I moved over the face of them like a lonely little cloud in Vegas, drifting east, drifting home.

Here, the infinite layers of smoke, dust, fog and steam provide an endless world of scrims, of veils, of metaphor-as-reality-as-metaphor-as... You get the picture. Grey allows for mistakes, permits kindnesses, lets us be weak or foolish or uncool. Grey forgives. Grey says sorry, or holds me when I must. You have never said sorry.

When we met I had to explain Gangs of New York to you. Specifically, I had to explain why Bill the Butcher's gang, the Bowery Boys, didn't slaughter the Dead Rabbits when they were a rag-tag group of twenty. "He could have crushed them right there. Why didn't he?" you said. "Because it goes against the idea of honour," I said, puzzled by the obviousness of the answer. "That's not how gentlemen conduct war." You still looked skeptical. You are not a gentleman.

On days bright with hard sun or snow, grey crouches in alleys or groves, waiting for us to miss her. She is this city's unseen foundation; without her, we would not long for the violence of summer, the slow cruelty of winter. She shifts from foot to foot, restless, eager to spill through the air like muddy watercolours. You miss her point. She is a character drama, a cello's lament, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. You prefer action, jazz, Chagall. I tried to say Even Chagall's bride, floating over Paris, couldn't have possibly drifted that way in Los Angeles, thinking of the fingers of her upside-down hair trembling on his blue swell of smogless air. For this trouble, I receive a blank stare. Paris understands grey, I mutter to myself. I have spent a lot of time doing so, muttering while I waltz through a gauntlet of days.

You think of yourself as a rock star, pop hero, perhaps at best a man's man from movies our fathers saw as boys. You like the cool authority of mixing drinks with proper implements, which I can appreciate; and the in-joke of strip clubs, which I cannot. My shtick is being publicly mournful, gloomily referring to myself as Tamara Toumanouva or Lou Salomé. My joy is soft. You are a tambourine's painful clatter. I am drawn to you the way cotton catches on a broken board, the way stockings snag against a bitten fingernail.

Today is the last day we will meet. I will sit at a bus stop, nearly still, dropping stitches: I like untying things, unravelling the progress of my knitting, reknitting, unravelling. I have learned after a closetful of scarves and mittens that to create something for a man too soon is to lose him. I will be picking out a snarl in the yarn when you plunge by, flying on the foolishness of rollerskates, joy stretching your face wide. I will smile a little as you pass, and I will think goodbye. My smile will be empathy, not sympathy. I do not attach things to my feet. I fall enough as it is.