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I first met my wife inside Venus, where I had less than a minute alone with her.
“Art should always be shared, you understand,” she said after I mentioned our time limit.
“Of course,” I said, and then followed it up with how much she was enjoyed. Throughout this conversation, I patted my sweaty head. This was just after the cancer, and my hair was growing back but I looked ugly. We talked about space colonization, and then love, and then how there was a line of people outside waiting to see the great Lena Twist.
After that, she crawled across the paper mache underbelly of the planet until she righted herself with me.
“Let’s give them what they want, then,” she said before kissing me and jumping back onto the ceiling. “See you at the next opening.”
Years later, I found out she did this to a thousand attendees: the kiss, the comment, the climb. As a performance artist, it drove home her point, which I guess I missed. The installation was about modern romance, but also about abandoning the Earth. Well. I heard that no one wanted Venus after the installation ended, so it was given to two sophomores to explode for a student film that no one ever saw.
Lena Twist came to my practice half a year later. Her next performance involved complicated card tricks on the Las Vegas Strip. But really, it was about her parent’s divorce. We met weekly to work through those memories and to further the significance of the art.
“You’re an ace,” she said at one session when we were picturing people as cards. That quote was forever burned into me.
“What do you see yourself as?”
I didn’t need elaboration, and no one need question it. She was the kind of woman to buy a postmodern toilet and donate it to a homeless shelter, or pretend to fall unconscious during a high school performance just to see if boys would help. This made her predictable in her unpredictability, but still gorgeous. Like space, but slimmer. We talked about situations where she acted this way. We called them “space stories.”
“I want Marina Abramović to write into her will that I can go to her grave anytime I want, and piss on it,” she said after a monologue on her mother’s recent death.
“What if she’s cremated?” I asked, and received only a smile. “Will that project be your favorite space story?”
“Who knows. Who knows where I’ll have gone by then.”
Our courting was sudden and pure, our marriage just the same. She rode off Niagara Falls in a reclaimed Soviet satellite. She invaded a cooking competition show and filled their fridges with pig hearts. She took piano lessons with me for two years, even when I was sick. And I was sick a lot; my body never really recovered from the cancer. One time, I was dehydrated and hospitalized and she brought a Rhodes piano with her. She was always more melodic. As I slipped into a deep sleep, she smiled and showed herself out.
“Better start on my next performance piece.”
Unconscious, it hit me. Hundreds of thoughts exploded across my scalp. I was her longest installation. Our nine years were great: great art, great performance. She was always pretending, testing. And if I didn’t wake up this time, I’d still live on, projected onto a white wall at the Whitney or a liberal arts library. Archival prints would be sold, materials for the project listed: ring, piano, meds, patience.
Yes I woke, and she returned with a star-like twinkle in her eyes. As she no doubt prepared to jettison me, I spent months crafting my own exhibit of our marriage. I pushed myself to be more creative, more cunning, more ruthless than her lies. I had my space story.
Later, I was told she died at the opening for an Argentinian gallery, but that’s another performance. She fools everyone, she opens a thousand doors. She won’t stop—therefore I won’t—until our lives are fully published, until there’s a line outside to see them, people asking “What’s the next great Twist?”