Photo from Treehugger.com provided by Julia Othmer (9/7/10)
Frank was incredibly content with being one-dimensional. In fact it was easily arguable that Frank was the happiest of everyone in the dungy basement bar hiding just below the lonely fiddle shop. The two and three dimensionals were incredibly, almost unnervingly, jealous. The napkins being both utilitarian and blank felt that gnawing burn of hatred, unique only to those who secretly wish to be most, those who they hate. Even the octogenarian photos that hung haphazardly on the tea stained walls wished they were not recreations, mere simulacra of 3 dimensionals but original drawings, like Frank; unattractive, blissful, one of a kind, Frank.
Many years ago the grumbly old bar taps and the unpolished brass plotted his demise. It began as mere jeers to his flattened perspective. They poked “Why are you so joyful? You are flat, one dimensional; a depthless being, a simpleton, a joke”.
“And ugly” piped the paper umbrellas, not yet in bloom.
“Yes ugly” cried the chorus “flat and ugly”.
Frank would look on as Frank was wont to do and respond in his methodic, depthless voice, “I am. I am all those things my friends and I am happy”.
This would send them reeling in annoyance. They would not stop. They insisted he realize his lowly position.
“But I am not low” he would respond “I sit up very high above the mirror. So high in fact that I can’t even imagine the ground”.
The floor boards took offense, the welcome mat felt impotent. For as much as they tried to make him feel bad, they would just end up feeling worse and the jealousy mounted.
Things went on like this for years, their hate, his content.
And then one windy morning a gypsy man entered the bar. He had travelled from the north to pick up a new fiddle, as his had been lost in a gamble over rummy 3 years before. The badger of a bartender brought him a slender glass of Campari, because he was not merely imbibing (which he had given up years ago) but taking his medicine, for the healing of both body and soul.
After his fourth glass he addressed the mirror. At first she didn’t know the gypsy could hear her, usually she spoke so softly even the others could not hear and besides, he was a man. No human had ever heard them, EVER. But she had been screaming at the bar stools and the countertops, the soda guns and the coasters. She was fed up with the vodka bottles and the wine glasses and the tiles beneath the moaning rubber mats because they were in the most ridiculous frenzy and had been such since the night before.
Just a mere 12 hours earlier, a young couple had sat groping and molesting one another right where the gypsy sat now, hunched over his half empty glass. The couple, in their un-intimate lust had taken notice of Frank. The female squealed at his ugly, his misshape, his lack of form, but somehow, strangely, his character, such character. They asked the bartender, what was he? As usual the answer, “that’s a drawing, nobody knows what it is, can be anything you like I suppose.” And Frank beamed with pride and the bar went crazy with agitation.
Although the mirror was buffered by decades of dust and tar it was not enough to keep all of the moaning and complaining out. When the gypsy had entered everyone took up again in a severely heightened cacophony of disgust and misery. She could no longer withstand the onslaught and bellowed out to them “SHUT UP ALREADY, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT UP!”. It was this outburst that had stirred the gypsy to respond to her plea with the knowing of a blinded but wise stranger.
He said in a wheeze while looking into his glass, “Must you? My mother is dying. She lies on her death bed as you scream.”
“Me?” the mirror was quite taken aback.
“You, mirror. Must you?”
The rude and emasculated barstool responded “Well buddy, your mother isn’t here, is she now?”
“No” the gypsy said “but she is here” and he touched his hand lightly to his heart.
“Oh he’s sentimental”, said the straw.
“Its sweet” countered the mirror. “And I apologize, but I did not think you would hear me, no human ever hears us. “
“I hear the voices of everything. I often do not eavesdrop though. You were hard to ignore.”
And the mirror blushed and said “I am sorry for your mother, and for you sir. If I’ve shown disrespect I apologize. We have known loss, all of us”
The gypsy looked up at her for the first time with his scarlet nose and bloodshot eyes, he smiled a crooked yellow and said “Thank you for your kindness, it is rare and appreciated. What might I do for you in return?”
There was a moment of silence and then in unison, everything in the bar responded for the mirror, who remained silent, “Kill Frank. Burn him, shred him; destroy him.”
“Who is Frank?” asked the Gypsy.
“It is me” said Frank.
The gypsy looked up at the small drawing that had been scribbled in haste years before by a passing customer. The bartender at the time, amused by his ugly, tacked Frank up above the mirror not realizing what he was doing to the depressed solidarity of the bar.
It had been chaos ever since.
“Why do they want you destroyed?” The gypsy asked, quite intrigued.
“I am happy” said Frank “I like what I am.”
“And this is a problem?” the gypsy asked the mirror.
“It is” she said without explanation, reflecting his inquiry back to him with the silence of that which is, yet cannot be justified.
And the gypsy looked at Frank for quite some time. Frank understood if the ragged man had to kill him, he would go to his end willingly with the resigned understanding that his life would one day end as suddenly as it began. But that would not be the case.
The gypsy leaned back and pulled his fiddle up to his chin, ran the bow across the strings letting out a mystifying whine and smiled “I can give you life”
The room grumbled confusion with undertones of jealousy. But not Frank, Frank answered with calm knowing, “I have life.”
“But I can pull you from the page, make you flesh.”
“Then I would not be what I am.”
“No, you would be much more. You could move about, you could dance, run. Leave.”
“No thank you.”
The gypsy was speechless. The mirror shrugged. The room waited, bristling with anticipation. The last lick of the red elixir slid down the glass into the man’s thin dried lips and as he set the empty gently on the bar he admitted “I can not destroy another’s work of art. I will not do that. You have to ask something else of me.”
And the ink pen mumbled.
“What?” everyone was curious, as ink pens rarely spoke; they were far too active and felt slightly above small talk.
“Draw something else” said the pen “If you can of course”.
“Why?” screamed the group.
“Because then he (Frank) may not be so proud, he will have competition. Knock him down a peg or two. Let him know how it feels.”
“Yes!” they cried.
And the gypsy played a bit more on his new fiddle and thought about their request. Eventually he placed his instrument down and picked up the pen, pulled forth a napkin and sketched for a while. When he was done he turned the napkin over, finished his last drink, set some money on the bar and left. The tension was painful. The sound of the fiddle playing outside vibrated through them as it trailed off into the distance.
“What is it?” they begged of the pen, the napkin. The pen was silent, the napkin wept.
The bartender cleared the glass and took the change. He wiped down the bar and was about to drop the napkin into the trash when he noticed there was something drawn on one side. He studied it for a moment and then went to a drawer, drew out a tack and stepping on a stool, reached above the mirror and placed it beside Frank.
As the hands of the bartender withdrew and revealed what the gypsy had drawn the room gasped and wailed. A shudder of horror rang through their collective mass.
“Hello Frank” was the first thing she said. “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Francis.”
That moment was the first time Frank had ever felt love.
And he felt sorry for the others, their misery now doubled, there was nothing he could do for them. No matter how he felt, how much joy, sadness, love or anger, the others would always be mad, always be jealous, so why not delight?
It was not until many years later that they learned what the gypsy had actually done. When the love faded and familiarity set in, the nagging, dissatisfaction, blame and annoyances took hold and soon Frank, like the others, was hurled into the melodrama of another, ripped from his moors of contentment. He had forgotten who he once had been, how he had once felt.
Now he knew their misery all too well, the displeasure of being encroached onto him as it had them, his smile had faded and his heart ached a hollow he could not have imagined. It was only then, that the tiny basement bar beneath the lonely fiddle shop, once again knew peace.