Five-Twenty-Two Harrison

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522 Harrison as it looks today and much as it looked in 1906. Domenico’s door is to the right of the storefront windows. Photo credits to Christopher Calcara.

 

As much as he loved me, Terry hated 522 Harrison. I think he psychically anticipated conflict – not with me but with my family, who owned the property – as if he, too, might come to be acquired, or turned out for being an in-law and not a member by blood.

Outsiders marrying into our tribe are called outlaws and when photographs are taken, they are poised at the outskirts, where they can handily be outcast with a pair of scissors.

Neither my first love nor the love of my life, Terry’s was the love that made me feel the most alive. Still, I have only one frayed snapshot of him, standing conspicuously alone.

Like the three-story brick shotgun of a building that stands on its own at the intersection of Harrison Street and East Missouri Avenue in Kansas City.

“If this is what you want, babe,” he said sweetly, “if this is where you want us to live.”

The history of 522 Harrison Street that passed to me from my father, who inherited it when his mother died shortly after Terry and I met, began coincidentally with my mother’s family. Her mother’s uncles, Angelo (who we knew as Old Uncle Angel) and Domenico (who I never met), erected 522 in 1906.

 

My maternal grandmother is five years old in 1906. Theodore Roosevelt is President and her enterprising immigrant uncles want their share of his promised “Square Deal.” In January, for the first time, Dow Jones closes above 100. This is the year Einstein introduces his Theory of Relativity. Buoyed by the Wright Brothers’ patent of a “flying machine,” Domenico and Angelo see a future without limits.

But 1906 brings with it tragedy and uncertainty as well. The great San Francisco earthquake levels 75% of the city and takes nearly 4,000 lives. Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius erupts and devastates Naples. In both catastrophes, relatives are lost, rendering kin ever more precious.

Closer to home, Kansas City, which officially became Kansas City only 17 years earlier, is booming. With its sophisticated livestock and rail transport industries, the town rivals Chicago. Thirty miles to the west, the first federal penitentiary is built in Leavenworth, Kansas. Thirty-six years hence, political boss and Harry Truman patron, Tom Pendergast, will check into a cell there. Angelo and Domenico shun the stockyards and organized crime.

 

522 took to its feet as Kansas City and the country took to theirs – painstakingly, progressively, hopefully. The Irish were the first colonists to settle in this part of the city. After establishing themselves, they moved to better neighborhoods, while additional waves of immigrants, including the Italians, my relatives, replaced them, followed in lesser degree by German Jews, Russians, Poles, Blacks, Cubans, Mexicans and more recently, various Asian persuasions. For all, family, business and church intertwined as major threads in the area’s fanciful cultural embroidery.

Though it was formally named Columbus Park in 1908, and has housed one huddled mass after another, insiders know the district as the North End for its northernmost nearness to the Missouri River. My people called it Little Italy.

 

Terry wanted to know if my father was in the Mafia. I was so used to hearing the question from bad-mannered “peckerwoods” that my pat answer became, “No, but my mother is.”

He was married when I met him (without her, in a bar). For a short while, Terry and I carried on furtively, then earnestly, and ultimately he introduced me to his wife Ellen. Passing me off as Terry’s new friend, the three of us got along well and even enjoyed doing things together. On Sunday drives to the country in her canary yellow convertible Volkswagen “bug,” we flitted from scene to scene, pausing along our way to study the zoetropic rows of a cornfield or the brooding presence of a dilapidated barn. Ellen and Terry were artists. It was mandatory to marvel, as the fickle midwestern seasons changed, along with the directions of our lives.

In the thick of it, Terry and I never thought of ourselves as adulterers, not even I, the Roman Catholic. We believed we belonged in a dissimilar country and had happened across a border without legitimate passports. This may have made us trespassers, but not sinners.

And so I became a friend to her, too, until the truth came out, and then she and I were unhappy peas in a crowded pod, two equally misguided souls in love with the same man. I promised I’d never ask him to divorce her, but that was a lie. In a situation like this, there has to be a victim and a separate peapod for the others.

 

I am just out of college in 1972 – eager, naïve and untested. Having escaped the concluding war in Vietnam by earning a degree in journalism, I have yet to untangle a real snag. My résumé is short, my hair is long and together with my olive skin, I look more European gigolo than American wage earner.

There are dress codes for Terry, a teacher who appears conservative but is in fact a true redheaded bohemian. Weekends find him in ragged pants and tee shirts, Indian water buffalo sandals, no underwear, paint-spattered from head to toe.

Terry is older, more experienced with men, accomplished and ambitious, and it does not feel unnatural for me to defer to him. I’m not exactly the woman in the relationship (whatever that means), but I am happy to serve in a subservient role just to be near him and his energy.

As we become lovers, he teaches me how to make picture frames to complement his works without overpowering them, and so I come to be his judicious framer as well. Unable to immediately find employment after graduation, back home with parents, the grown-up activity restores to me a sense of worth. I find I have the capacity to form something that requires patient deftness with my hands, a certain aptitude for math, an intuitive eye for decoration and color.

 

Designed in the Gothic Revival style, 522’s architecture distinguishes it as a gangly wallflower of a building with no distinctive ornamentation, save for the uppermost notched cornice that mimics Holy Rosary Catholic Church raised 10 years earlier across the street. In reverent genuflection within its nave, Angelo and Domenico whisper the same simple prayer at Sunday mass: May the Lord see fit to hold family and business together in our adopted United States. This is what Italian émigrés do – they flock – to preserve tradition and sustain lineage, they claim, but likely more to gather apart from pale and wary strangers, their peculiar slangy language, critical peccadilloes, and privileged American way of life.

 

Terry and I long to be among our own kind. I take a retail sales job and leave home. Terry divides his time (splits his personality) between life with Ellen and life with me. We quickly grow tired of trudging back and forth with our toothbrushes from my costly eastside apartment to the empty bedroom at the rear of their lake house, where Ellen surprised us on one occasion – in our nakedness. It’s probable she knew about Terry when they married, perhaps only intuitively, but was somehow devoted enough to look the other way, to shut her eyes to the one inevitable conclusion.

I know she never closed her heart to him; she was that kind of person. Both tenacious Scorpios – she was born on the twenty first of November, and I on the twelfth, a reversal of digits, a juxtaposition of genders – I fully grasp her inability to let him go.

By the time I become interested in it as subtext of my ancestors’ romantic narrative, with few tenants and no commerce, 522 is more a crenellated decaying fortress than an Italian castello. It faces east toward level Harrison Street, while Missouri Avenue slopes uphill. The first floor on the Harrison side contains the mercantile space that backs into the Missouri Avenue elevation. It attends many uses after my father’s father presided over a butcher shop there, but now it stands empty, inert and without purpose.

A short flight of stairs beyond the storeroom, with its 12-foot ceilings, provides direct access to the business from a small, five-room apartment, the front door to which lies on the first floor at the rear of the building, on the shoulder of the Missouri Avenue incline.

 

Angelo and Domenico plan five apartments for 522: the one closest to the store; two larger ones back-to-back on the second floor; and two more the same size above those, on the third floor. A tall ocean liner built to transport legacies point to point, as families and fortunes ebb and flow.

Wood piazzas and stairs are anchored to the hull’s aft to access the upper rear apartments. For the top unit on the Harrison side, a narrow hallway and staircase leading to the third floor are constructed within the second level interior. There are no emergency exits or fire escapes. A rigging of clotheslines on squealing pulleys socially connects the tenants living in one apartment house to those of another across the verdant harbors of driveways and alleys.

The double doors of the business entrance, like open arms of a bow’s figurehead, slash a corner of the east façade, just a few yards from the curb, and face the headwinds of the crossroads straightaway. To the north of the doors, on a broad plate glass window, the establishment is christened with the brothers’ surname, my maternal grandmother’s maiden name, followed by “Grocers.”

522 Harrison, 2006. Photo credits to Christopher J. Calcara.

Over the decades, the once majestic piazzas on the drunken boat had pitched and drooped, as their decking planks split and swelled amid seasonal shifts. Between college sessions one summer, I was hired to paint them. My father was color-blind, having become heir to his mother’s abnormal X-chromosome as well as her property, and together they chose sea foam green. This shade looked atrocious beside the grimy hemoglobin red brick. Clinging perilously to posts and rails three stories off the ground, a sailor tight to a mainmast, teetering on waves of aqueous slopes and seasick with nausea, I had to quit the job.

 

His premonitions regarding 522 and its scruffy neighborhood aside, Terry does want to live with me, and after a fair degree of acrimony all around, he and Ellen finally agree to divorce. I begin searching for an apartment for the two of us, yearning for the day he’d leave their pretense of a marriage and come free and clear to me. Ellen must despise me. I’ve stolen her husband, after all, and have no intention of returning him this time, as I had all the other times.

Terry consents to consider my father’s tenement. I inform him that many young people, some of them like us, are moving into the area. This intrigues his freethinking spirit. We would be plucky prospectors on a migratory march, I enthuse, in the forefront of a movement – urban pioneers.

Two units are vacant – one being my deceased paternal grandmother’s apartment behind the store, the other the third story front walkup. Though we acknowledge them, neither the tumult of traffic below us nor the footfalls of occupants above us figures in our decision.

Ascending the stairs – the umbilicus between my family and our new home, which had conveyed generations of related travelers, their baggage more laden with obligation, convenience and sentiment than common sense – I know we are but two in a long line of wide-eyed turisti.

The only practical vision in the matter is divined by Terry, and that is for an art gallery (showcasing his work) in the shop space. But the demographic, rutted and unrefined, won’t support such a venture. Not yet. And then there is my landlord father, who’d invent deficiencies for condemnation before letting it to us to engage in his view of a silly scheme. A pool parlor, maybe, but never an art anything. He would rather the store remain deserted – a ghost town of cobwebs appropriated by a runaway herd of spiders grazing in the rent-free dust  – than be a mortification to the family names.

Overlooking the concrete junction of Harrison Street and Missouri Avenue, the apartment contains six rectangular rooms of varying sizes. If each were the cardboard box of a household’s shoes, they’d nestle neatly, one inside the other. We imagine enormous potential. What captivates Terry, more than the French-paned double doors prettily separating the dining room from the kitchen or the one-windowed alcove off the living room that would be his studio, is my palpable intensity as I explore the home of my mother and father throughout the first eight years of their marriage, before I was born.

Might I discover subconsciously in which shoebox I was conceived when Terry and I make love there? We would consecrate each one to find out.

It’s the rent that seals the deal – $45 a month – a pittance, even to a middle school art teacher contemplating alimony. And me now in my first real job.

“If this is what you want, babe,” Terry says sweetly, “if this is where you want us to live.”

There is no lease to be negotiated or signed by my father and Terry and me, only handshakes and a gentlemen’s agreement among us that we will take care of the place, not burn it down. Dad is relieved to have family living on the premises again, to keep him abreast of any mischief or bursting pipes. He thinks Terry and I are friends about to become roommates, a couple of confirmed bachelors, and if he suspects otherwise, he never says so to me.

 

During the building’s construction, there are irregular approaches and relaxed contracts between Uncles Domenic and Angel. There is little in writing, since neither has beyond a third grade education. Historical documents mention Angelo but not Domenico, who is four years younger and dies 11 years before his brother. After the death of his first wife, Angelo takes a second one and has several children. Battista, born in 1911, passes away only 19 days later and Raffaele, born in 1917, lives two months and eight days. Uncle Domenic, “cèlibe,” never marries.

 

Terry and I embrace the spaces with hands both heavy and tender. Sanding nearly 70 years of wear from the blackened honey oak floors, patching and painting every square inch of plaster wall and peeling papered ceiling, re-staining and varnishing blistered wood casements, doors and trim, a formerly flat pen and ink inspires a tactile impasto. We throw open the windows and the apartment takes a deep breath, resuscitated.

My father comes on Saturdays to collect the rents. I am high atop a stepladder when Dad sees Terry climb the treads to kiss me. He pretends not to notice.

Another time, my mother and I watch while dad and Terry install linoleum in the kitchen. She recalls that 30 years earlier, they didn’t have a refrigerator but a crate outside a window in the winter and the iceman in the summer.

Before my father’s sickly mother died, we frequently took her into our home. My mother, vexed, nursed her. Whenever she talked to my father about his mother, she invariably referred to her as “522,” as if the old woman and the moldering building were one and the same.

Dad visited his widowed mother on Saturdays, too, always without mom. My grandfather predeceased her by 23 years, and so she depended heavily on the son who had his own hands full with a needy wife and three children. Her mother-in-law absent from 522, mom seems easier, able to relive their honeymoon years, and to mingle them privately with Terry’s and mine.

With dad’s permission, we take a portion of the old counter from 522’s storefront and fashion a breakfast table under the window that frames Holy Rosary’s bell spire and the Kansas City skyline in its view. Terry builds a loft for our bed in the high-ceilinged bedroom and constructs a ladder that I learn to scale backwards and forwards while balancing a tray of food in my arms.

The unit comes with a miniature gas stove – a trio of burners and a too-narrow oven. It takes me a while to learn gas cooking, having grown up in the transistor 50s with electric. My parents give us a brand-new “ice box,” delivered up two soaring flights of stairs by burly icemen from Sears. In the dining room is a squat pilot burner furnace, which we try to hide with paint to match the walls. I get used to its intrusion and labored hiss but live in fear of an explosion. I appreciate that in winter, it keeps the entire apartment, a steeping teapot under a cozy, thoroughly warm.

 

Angelo, 31 at the time 522 is built, has been in this country longer than Domenico, and finds success as a liquor merchant. 522 is to be the family’s first real estate owned outright. The neighborhood is without an Italian grocery, and Domenico, 27, single and more a son to Angelo than a brother, is eager to be his partner in the project. That 522 can be home, generate income and be of value to the community are blessings. Good fortune – “Buona fortuna” – is predicted.

 

Bristling with creative vitality, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol splash painting their way out of a watercolor tin, Terry and I coat the second and third level corridors and lay cheerful golden ochre vinyl squares over their deeply scarred wood floors. I lather the steps to our landing in a glossy tangerine. Though not enamored of our decorative choices (or seeing them differently than we do), Dad is thrilled we assume such an interest and gladly pays for all materials.

The tiniest room, a four-pack box of crayons, is Terry’s studio with a separate entrance from the hallway. It contains an east window and at one time, had been a bedroom for either my brother or sister, or both. Not the best exposure for painting, but Terry is deeply into batik now, the African fabric art of waxing and dyeing and boiling, although we use the easier and safer steam iron. This method doesn’t remove all the wax, however, leaving the cloth stiff in cool temperatures and flaccid in warm ones, and makes stretching and framing a nightmare. I propose banners secured top and bottom to dowels, liberating the material to give and take as it would. Terry says we will have to try that.

For a painter, Northern light is the most consistent but completely inadequate on dark days. Notwithstanding right light, Terry craves any amount of unrestricted space that he can call his own and from which he may come and go. He is photosensitive and claustrophobic, side effects of his long cloistered existence in the dim monastery of his metaphorical closet.  New to the lifestyle, I, too, need freedom.

With Terry divorced, the renovation complete, we move in. Our first holiday alone together is Christmas. Every Christmas thereafter becomes our favorite, for all the frothy commotion we whip up awaiting the coming, and the going. Stealthily, we axe a cedar tree from a farm’s fencerow and sneak it home in the old Ford van we buy to haul Terry’s art works to shows and fairs for sale. We sprinkle jubilant faces on sugar cookie Santas and watch the snow bank and drift from our window ledges to the stone saints guarding Holy Rosary. We snuggle in the affections of our home, like two kittens in a basket with a ticktocking timepiece.

The thoughtful gifts we squirrel away for one another are never costly, for we can’t afford much. Should a stirring impulse travel from Terry’s head to his fingers, I can anticipate a painting or drawing or ceramic. Or a tattered, titanium white bed sheet debauched in broad brushstrokes to portray me nude in several revealing positions. Ode to a Grecian urn, our own Michelangelo, it would make a wonderful (though profane) mural for a wall in the apartment, but I am too modest to display it. With his left hand (he is right-handed), Terry sketches my portrait in lampblack. He so captures me. I keep this one forever.

In spring, we toil in the courtyard, tending precise processions of produce in our garden patch. Tomatoes, green onions, radishes, herbs. And summer catches us sleeping restlessly on the tiny balcony outside our third floor landing. To escape the oppressive July/August heat of our loft bed beneath the flat black tar roof, we carry our mattress and alarm clock to the balcony. 522’s outdated electrical system hasn’t the amperage to sustain window air conditioners, but we try several. Each one blows the fuses of the entire building. Fans merely regurgitate the stifling fever. We awaken ourselves early enough to avoid the French-speaking dowager and her temperamental dog on their own porch across the courtyard. They seem to get along fine without air conditioning.

Occasionally, we treat ourselves to dinner at an Italian restaurant a short block away. On the first floor of a similar three-story structure, it continues to look very much like a home, furnished with a sideboard borrowed from its proprietor. The same dedicated owner, still cooking and waiting tables and living above the business, had served my young mother and father on their nights out.

Saturdays, we walk to the city market and purchase what we do not cultivate, prepare meals that we consume in erotic candlelight, after (or during) which our passions prostrate us on every horizontal surface in every room and on the mattress under the mirrored bedroom ceiling that reflects us.  Forsaking contrition, we attend Holy Rosary, where my parents were married, my siblings baptized.

A year into the relationship, Terry admits to being of a different mind, that he is agnostic, and stops accompanying me to church. We lug our dirty clothes to the neighborhood Laundromat and pay fifty cents a load to wash, a quarter to dry. Terry continues to teach art at the junior high school and I, in my spare time, take up painting. I, too, am developing a mind of my own.

Angelo’s exterior staircase and the balcony of the third floor – Harrison Street-side apartment. Photo credits to Christopher J. Calcara.

 

When the moment arrives during construction to decide which units the brothers will take for their homes, Angelo sacrifices the larger quarters on the upper floor to Domenico so as to be closer to the business in the apartment atop the stairs beyond the storeroom. To this end, Domenico orders a graceful archway in the stonework on the north side of the store window to accommodate a door. From the street, he wants a private entrance and steps to rise conveniently to his second-floor apartment, as those behind the storeroom lead to Angelo’s.

Angelo maintains that a set of stairs plopped in the middle of the business would gobble up important shop space and reduce the efficiency and value of the property. A more suitable place for the staircase, he argues, is on the exterior wall of the building, around the corner from Domenico’s gaping hole. And so he has a doorway built on the second level where he thinks the outside stairs should terminate.

 

In telling her chapter of the story, my mother’s mother said of her uncles’ obstinacy, “Teste dure.” Hard heads.

Terry maintained that middle schoolers are the most difficult to teach, at the age when their hormones rage, their stubborn independence flares. And yet, accepting of their worst and coaxing their best, he was adored. Often, projects he and his students produced in class came home and we decorated the apartment with them. For an academic art magazine, I wrote a piece that described how they fabricated abstract wall hangings from carpet samples and scraps. When the school year ended, we used these masterpieces to softly line the old van and protect Terry’s works in transit. I attributed authorship of that essay to him to embellish his curriculum vitae. I regret it to this day. It was the first of my literary writing to be published, and I have no record of it now. Even if I did, it would not bear my name. Rest assured, my left-handed portrait bears his.

 

In anger, Angelo and Domenico board up their hollow signatures on 522. Construction halts while the brothers bicker over placement of the Harrison Street-side staircase to the second floor.

 

If Terry had ever feared his identity being veiled by me, my family or 522, the opposite came to be true. As his art obsessed him, and I assumed the role of apprentice, I became the still life hiding among his vivid canvases. In awe of his artistic talent, of which I despaired of having any, I let this wonderment eclipse me and my own skills. My immature worship sketched me in his silhouette, but only so long. When I began to paint, I began to grow.

Unquestionably, Terry was gifted. In the words of author Edmund White, “To watch a genius at work is the highest civilized pleasure.” On the contrary, to endure his theatrics is the lowest form of entertainment.

He was insecure, aloof, forgetful and changeable as a mood ring. Conditioned to listening for mice in the walls, given to casting sidelong glances and bending reality to thwart the suspicious wife, he had long searched for domestic tranquility in the muted, somber tones of winter, which he preferred over fluorescent ones of other seasons. While this tempered his emotional paint pots, it left him personally with a rather meager palette. As a result, much of his work was dark and foreboding.

Hot-blooded and Latin, autumn had always been my favorite season, with its ripe burgundies, mustards and pumpkins. Living with Terry, like a pet that resembles its beloved master, I came to adopt his preferences, unknowingly hunting for harmony myself. As our days and weeks lengthened into months and years, we behaved more like dogs marking their territories than men in love.

 

If they couldn’t reach agreement on something as basic as a set of stairs, brothers Angelo and Domenico concluded they could never be partners. For years, their last words to each other were:

“Non si sa nulla di affari.” You don’t know anything about business.

“Non si sa nulla.” You don’t know anything.

Unwilling to resolve their differences, Angelo had a staircase built around the corner from the storefront window that beamed beside the frowning archway, which Domenico plugged with a frame and a door without a knob or keyhole. Then they put the building up for sale.

My father’s father bought 522 Harrison for his own growing family and butchering business. He mounted six mailboxes on the panels of the infamous door, one for each apartment and one for the store. And that’s how 522 remained for decades.

 

It was in our mailbox months after moving in that I found the newspaper with its notice of Terry’s divorce from Ellen. He had lied. After filing, she kicked him out and he came to me – still legally married. I was furious. Suddenly 522, and all the intense pigment we had restored to it, went stark black and white with the untruth. I now saw objects that were his and objects that were mine, nothing that was ours. When before everyday events were adventures, punctuated by commas or exclamations, each now ended dully with a period.

Terry was sincerely, tearfully sorry. I forgave. We had sex somewhere in the apartment. Life went on, but the cracks in the relationship grew as deep and wide and prescient as those yawning holes in my uncles’ building.

Our resentful, possessive tendencies resounded as reliably as clicks in a time bomb. I can’t tell you what made us that way, whether it was the notion, from my point of view. that if he cheated on his wife, he’d cheat on me. Or from his perspective, if I’d sleep with him while he was married, I’d sleep with anybody. Either way, detonation seemed constantly imminent. We blamed each other for our garish troubles: him for my indigo blue discontent, me for his remorseful maroon divorce.

In Victorian times, our unspoken feelings might have been expressed to each other in the language of flowers. A yellow carnation from me would say to him, “You have disappointed me.” An asphodel bouquet from him would say to me, “Carry my regrets to your grave.” Did he wish that he were back with Ellen, as early on with her he lamented not being with me?

I never fully trusted Terry again after that first big lie, and I know he felt completely unstable with me, especially at 522. We separated many times over one idiotic argument or another, and on several occasions, he packed up the van and moved in with a fellow teacher.

I, on the other hand, had nowhere to go, having lost or given up friends he did not like or want to be part of our lives, felt threatened by, as he was by my early juvenile amusements of smoking pot and getting high. It was Terry who got me started on cigarettes, and it took me years to quit them, but marijuana transported me away from him and, therefore, was forbidden.

When you lose faith in someone, his every uncontrolled move is a case study, dissected time and again on a slide under the microscope, and to what end? Without a control variable, there is no change. And without change, there can be no cure. If we fought, and there were fights, he would invade my personal journals to infect my thoughts and record his own snide, convoluted prescriptions in the margins: “Just because you heard it happened doesn’t mean it happened.”

Alone at the sporadic pauses during which we lived apart, I suspected him of being with other men. He phoned once to forewarn me that in the course of an earlier separation, he found himself cavorting in the swimming pool of a wealthy female patron of his art and had acquired a common sexual infection. I didn’t believe him – that he had intercourse with a woman.

The red-hot obsession that bound us to one another like match to flame was doused on its mad getaway down the stairs, out and into the atmosphere, into the world of others, trailing the bitter smell of burnt sulfur in its wake.

After three years together at 522, I decided to leave Terry. Boxing up my belongings, I prepared to move out of my family’s cherished edifice, anxious to shed the shadows, particularly his and mine.

Why was it, I grieved, that partnerships forged at 522 Harrison could not coalesce?

Curse or coincidence?

“It’s like a business,” my father said to us the Saturday he came for the rent, and to convince me that I must stay in the apartment, that Terry should be the one to vacate. “Sometimes partners just don’t get along.”

From experience, in a business transaction gone sour, he knew this to be true. After Terry walked out of our home, betrayed and wounded, Dad told me, “Do you really think I’d let him stay here without you?”

I remained another lonely Christmas. Then I decommissioned the teapot, completely emptied the rooms of our lives and went my separate way. 

My father eventually sold 522 for a song to a foreigner who barely spoke English. The new owner disguised the bricks under a dreary paint that extinguished its old-world charm and made it look even less significant than time has a way of doing by itself.  A string of ethnic endeavors engaged the storefront to serve the neighborhood, as its residents changed gradually and almost imperceptibly over the years. For all I know, Middle Eastern refugees or some aimless aboriginal tribe may be the present nomads.

I can pinpoint exactly the moment Terry and I split apart, the second in which fate malformed two distinct embryos from the one zygote. It happened when I stopped framing for him and began painting for myself, and when he said to me, “You’re not an artist. You haven’t been trained.” As if he were telling a wife where she belongs, her place not remotely synonymous or as relevant as his.

But it’s true, of course. I had not studied art as he had. I could never teach it. The most I could do was copy what I saw, and that made my expression sheer imitation, me a dabbler. Without being invited, I stormed a door that he had earned the right to pass through. For him the journey inspired a life’s labors. For me, the door led nowhere.

 

Christopher J. Calcara: Following an education and degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, he worked eight years in the field of advertising and public relations in Kansas and Missouri creating marketing campaigns for businesses and institutions featured in both print and broadcast media.

He has written in fiction and semi-fiction genres, which include short stories, memoirs, poetry, plays and novels. He has collaborated with composers to write plays with musical scores. Joan is one such musical play that vividly portrays the triumphs and tragedies in the life of Joan of Arc. A portion of its book, music and lyrics was performed in 2002 under his own direction at the “Living Room,” Kansas City’s original entertainment/talk show.

Christopher was one of eight authors, and the only Charleston writer, to win the 2011 South Carolina Arts Commission Fiction Project for his short story “Truckers,” published online in the fall of 2012 by Sandlapper Magazine.

He moved from the Midwest to Phoenix, Arizona in 2004, from Phoenix to Sarasota, Florida in 2007, from Florida to Charleston, South Carolina in 2010, where he was a member of the Lowcountry Creative Writing Forum. He returned to Kansas City in 2012. Each of these locations greatly inspired and informed his work, but there’s no place like home.

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