I was thinking about John Lerner the other day. John Lerner—artist, felon, friend, dead. It was the summer that Matisse got married. The summer we all graduated from the University. A long time ago, now. Alot of stuff happened that summer. For me, whenever I think about it, it starts with that dream.
I’m behind the counter at Deli House. I look up and Matisse is there, beautiful as always. Long dark hair over her shoulders, that large smile turned on me again, a couple of freckles across her nose and those eyes. I grab a slice of whole wheat, spread it with mayo, remember that she hates mayo, toss it, grab another, smear that with mayo, toss that, grab another…
“Don’t try so hard, Danny,” she said. “It’s going to be OK.”
“Easy for you to say,” I tell her, then I look back to the rack. A dozen slips and I don’t what’s on any of them. There’s stuff behind me sizzling on the grill, fry baskets and junk all over my board. I look back. She’s gone and Marcie is there wanting table seven.
I remember the dream, because I had it again the day in early June when I got the invitation in the mail. Mrs. Julia Kramer cordially invites you …wedding…blah blah blah. Underneath, Matisse’d written, Please come. I want you to be there.
I told John about it after work. He was not impressed. “Good,” he said. “Maybe now you’ll forget about it.”
John. He had those Duane Allman sidechops then, and hair like Duane, wire rims like Lennon, the awkwardness of Neil Young and brains like Roger McGuinn. He always thought Pink Floyd was hipper than the Dead and he was smart. He was rolling a joint when he said it, one of those fat, perfectly straight ones he could turn out time after time. “He has no soul,” Matisse always used to say. When I’d argue, she’d shrug. “Maybe I just don’t see it. I don’t know.”
“Good,” he said, giving the joint a last lick and lighting it. “Time to move on.” He handed me the joint. “Relax,” he said. “It’s going to be OK.”