Chapter Seven; Part One
“Oh, Araki. What am I going to do without you?” I mutter to myself, tears rolling down my face. The years stretch out in front of me, and I don’t have anything to fill them with. My job? Bullshit. Rembrandt? Too soon to say. My cats? Yes, they are the loves of my life, but they are well-provided for in my will. Wait. Damn it. I had listed Julianna as their caretaker. I’m going to have to change that now. Goddamn it. I’m going to have to change my whole will because I’ve left a third of my assets to her and a third to each of my sisters. Now, I’ll have to change it to give each of my sisters half and name Jasmine as caretaker of my cats. I would have chosen Liz before she moved, but it’d be difficult to uproot them and move them to Philly. I email my solicitor to take care of it, then I dismiss it from my mind.
I draw a bath because I need a long soak. I grab a box of truffles and sink into the bubbles. The cats perch on the counter and watch as I eat my truffles and try to ease my emotional pain. I breathe slowly and smoothly, but it doesn’t help. I try to clear my mind, but the thoughts keep racing in. I give up and grab my phone which is on the floor by the bathtub. I make notes as to where Ramona’s bakery is—in St. Paul—and where she lives—also in St. Paul. I will stop by tomorrow, ostensibly to buy some of her baked goods and to see if she knows anything about Julianna’s murder. I don’t know how I’m going to bring it up, but I’m sure I’ll find a way. I stay in the tub for another half an hour before reluctantly getting out. It’s a nice reprieve, and I’m reluctant to go back to the real world.
I head for bed because I can’t think of any reason to stay awake. I lie down, waiting for my cats to join me. They do, and they promptly fall asleep. I envy them their carefree lives, but I can’t do anything to make myself emulate them. The more I try to sleep, the more wide awake I feel. In the past, I’ve tried everything to sleep, and none of them have worked. Melatonin has no effect on me. I’m allergic to lavender, and St. John’s Wort and Valerian just slowed my brain down to the point of dullness. I hate sleeping pills because I cannot wake up after taking them, not even when I cut them in half. Asian people need much less medication than white people, so it’s hard to gauge how much to take. I’ve tried meditation, chamomile tea, and a half dozen other natural remedies. None of them worked. I’ve come to accept that I’ll sleep when I sleep, and I won’t when I can’t. If that means I have to operate on four hours sleep, so be it. I try to nap as much as possible to make up for the deficit, but it never feels like enough.
I get up and go to the window. I push it open so I can smoke because I don’t feel like going outside. I grab a mug from the nightstand to use as an ashtray and blow the smoke outside the window. So. My agenda for tomorrow is to get up when I get up, then go to taiji at noon. After that, I’ll go to Ramona’s bakery and hopefully catch her without her husband. I’ll stop by Minneapolis Slammin’ after that. I’ll swing by Pinky X’s parents’ place to see if I can get her to talk to me, and then I’ll get ready for dinner and perhaps dessert with Rembrandt. Wait a minute. I also need to talk to Mrs. Ephrams, Julianna’s neighbor, the one who said she saw a man running away from the apartment building the night Julianna died. I’ll see if I can squeeze it in before or after visiting Minneapolis Slammin’. I get an email from my sister, Vivian, saying she heard about Julianna’s murder from Jasmine and asks if she can do anything for me. Frankly, I’m surprised to hear from her. She’s an artist who isn’t securely tethered to the real world, and I can go for months without a peep from her. I’m touched that Jasmine went to the trouble of informing her and that she had actually responded. I shoot her an email saying I’m fine, which is a patent lie, but she’s my little sister, and I can’t break out of the habit of protecting her. She writes back suggesting I visit her in Boston to take my mind off of things. I tell her I’ll think about it and let her know when I can make it.
On impulse, I check her website to see her latest works. She’s very focused on the female body, but not in the Georgia O’Keeffe sort of way. No feminine flowers for her, not at all. Instead, her paintings are filled with women in agony, in grief, in despair, and once in a great while, being killed. She uses mostly browns, blacks, and reds, with a splash of yellow here and there. I have one in my living room of a naked woman lying on the ground, her back arched, with flames shooting out of her body. It’s graphic and disturbing, but also vibrant. I could sell it for six figures easily, but I would never do that. I had bequeathed the painting to Julianna because she admires, admired, it so much, but now I suppose I’ll just return it to Vivian when I die. I get one more email from Vivian. It says that she has a show at the Walker this spring and could she stay at my house? I respond in the affirmative and tell her I can’t wait to see her.