Augustine grappled with a prose poem he’d been writing. He tried to create a collage of images, some connected, others not, but all part of a dream sequence that revealed discordant elements he’d seen while walking on the streets of New York City. More dreamlike than practical, he pushed the limits of his talent to bring it together. He finally decided that his vision could be more appropriately painted on canvas than written on paper. He had wracked his thoughts and plummeted deep areas of his unconscious, but couldn’t connect all the disparate images.
When Martin knocked at his door and invited him to a gallery opening of a friend in Chelsea, Augustine thought little of it until they had entered the warehouse building on 26th Street west of 10th Avenue, went up an elevator, and walked through narrow, empty corridors that turned right and left and made him lose all sense of direction. When Martin opened the door of the Red Masque Gallery, it was full to capacity with people Augustine had never met before. Conversation filled the room, glasses clicked, and wine was being poured; giggles, loud laughter, and an occasional drunken outburst followed him as he wove a path through the crowd of fashionably dressed people to the photographic works on the wall. There he saw large black and white portraits of New York City homeless on subway gratings, in courtyards, on park benches, under bridges, and in tunnels; there he saw shots of kids at Coney Island and Rockaway Beach, of Latina mothers and children on the streets of Harlem, of junkies on street corners and of prostitutes standing in front of doorways, and there he saw burned out tenements on the street where he lived as a child. Excited by the exhibition, Augustine looked for Martin in the crowded room.
“Do you like the photos?” a woman asked him. She was about forty years old, dressed in jeans with a long turtleneck sweater; she had mulatto skin and black eyes and hair pulled back in a ponytail. Martin was standing next to her.
“This is Sally,” Martin said.
“Hello, Sally,” Augustine said.
“Do you like the photos?” she asked again.
“I did them for you,” she said. “I knew you would be here.”
“What do you mean?” Augustine asked her.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just nothing.” Then, she took Martin’s hand and the two of them made their way through the crowd to the door of the gallery.
“Ciao,” she cried to him. “Just remember, I did them for you.”
Martin waved to Augustine as he and Sally left the exhibition.
He sat alone on a chair, sipped a glass of wine and watched the crowd of people slowly leave the Red Masque Gallery, until no one was left but Augustine looking at black and white photographs of homeless people and burned out tenements on the street where he once lived in the Bronx…