Andy told me that their ultimate dream was to see the pyramids in Egypt. They saved up for months. They literally made a penny jar. And they were finally able to do it. Andy and Marcus remained as a couple for a few more years. But Andy was a lot older. He was ready to settle down, and Marcus just wasn’t there yet. He wanted his freedom. They decided to just be friends. It was during this period that they both tested positive for HIV. Andy was one of the lucky ones. Somehow it stayed dormant in his body for the longest time.
However, Marcus got very sick, very quickly. He was one of the ones who disappeared. He moved back in with Andy until it was time to go to the hospice. He slept on the makeshift bed in the living room. And when he grew too weak to get out of bed, Andy painted the beach from Puerto Vallarta on the wall. Marcus held on for a few months. Andy rarely spoke about what happened during that time, but he never recovered from the trauma. During the months we lived together, people would ask me: “What’s going on between the two of you, really?” Everyone assumed there must be something sexual. But there was never any of that. Not a single moment. Andy had set up a giant folding screen between our beds. On it he had painted the pyramids of Egypt.
Andy once had dreams of being a great artist. He’d moved to New York during his early thirties. He’d rented a hippie studio in The Village, and he found a bit of success. At one point he designed the set for a play which was featured on the cover of Life Magazine. Andy was always so proud of that, but his paintings never attracted much interest. He said the art scene was more about who you knew, and not so much about what you made. Eventually he got worn out by the scene and moved back to Austin.
He painted occasionally over the next twenty years, but he was never very serious about it. And when Marcus passed away, he lost any remaining ambition that he had left. He’d sleep late every morning. During the day he’d drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes, and visit with friends. He eked out a living by doing faux-marble finishes. He really had a talent for it. People would knock on his finishes to see if they were marble. But I always thought he was wasting his gift. He would spend his days getting bossed around by interior designers: “Do this,” “Do that.” Sometimes he wouldn’t even get paid.
He never seemed to care though. If he had enough to pay the rent, then he was happy. I was the one who cared for him. I was always ambitious on his behalf. From the moment I first saw his portfolio in that Italian restaurant, I knew that he belonged in a museum or a gallery. And I wanted that for him. Not only because his art was beautiful, but because he saved my fucking life. I wanted to give something back.
So, I offered to represent him. I didn’t want a commission. I convinced a local coffee shop to let us put on a show, and I gathered all the paintings I could find in his apartment. There wasn’t much, because Andy had given away most of his work. But we did find a few. There was one piece with some guys playing water polo. And we included the folding screen with the pyramids. We only sold a single painting, for $300, which was enough to pay the rent. I can’t remember who bought it, but I remember the painting.
It was a solitary palm tree.
To be continued…
Garfield is copyright © Paws, Inc. If you like the cartoons we reproduce here on Jammy Toast, please consider purchasing some of the Garfield official merchandise. These are available through Garfield.com where you can view them in full-colour and at a higher quality!