Did you know Nelson Jewel used to be a boxer? It’s true. Before “The Piano Doctor” and “Ghosts of Syosset,” before he soundtracked every broken Long Island dream with a hook and dip to the minor in the middle eight, Nelson Jewel boxed in the 1967 Golden Gloves. He got his nose broken. Sometimes he missed the echoing gyms, the smell of canvas and concrete soaked with years of sweat, the scrape of the inside of a pair of humid gloves, as stiff as the first time your father-in-law smiles at one of your jokes. The boxing ring was pure, no externalities, nothing complicated, just two men learning objectively which of them is better. That’s why Nelson Jewel went to Indonesia. His divorce was pending and he wanted to clear his head. He thought he’d find a place where no one knew who he was, a little gym filled with real men who worked with their hands and fought to live, a place where no one shouted requests for Nilsson songs at him while he was in the middle of a round. He wanted to find out who he was. He wanted the emptiness knocked out of him. Do a little sparring. Maybe pick up some muy thai. Expand his horizons.
He rented a hut on the beach, a thatched roof on stilts with a hammock and a mosquito net for fifty cents a day. In the West, “waterfront property” is another way of saying “You can’t afford it,” but in the Third World the rich people live inland, far from the capricious sea. That’s not how Nelson Jewel wanted it. He woke up with a swim in the morning, then got the shit beaten out of him for a few hours by unemployed banana pickers with faces prematurely wrinkled from formaldehyde cigarettes and too much sun. He couldn’t speak their language and could only guess at the insults they spat down at him as he lay flat on the canvas, the world dimming until he forced himself to his feet. He stopped shaving and salt-and-pepper crawled down his neck. He did sit-ups with a medicine ball. His belly receded until it became conceivable that he might rediscover the lost cities of his abs. One day soon, he’d land a real haymaker, a darting right cross on some glass Malayan jaw, announcing to the world that he was still alive. Nights, he returned home and paid a fisherman a quarter to filet a fresh-caught monkfish right in front of him and cook it over an open fire while he watched. He allowed himself one bottle of Bintang then went to sleep, bruised and happy, listening to the surf and swaying gently in his hammock as stars flitted between the gaps in the dried palm fronds of his roof.
Early one morning, Nelson Jewel started awake. The sun had barely lifted over the horizon to break the hush of dawn. Outside of the hut, he saw the glow, illuminating a patch of desert scrub to the iridescent green of oxidized copper. Nelson Jewel opened his eyes, but didn’t move; after all he’d been through, he knew that when God was about to speak, you shut up and listened. The brush rustled and a little boy stepped out from behind the dunes. He stopped at the threshold of the hut. The boy stared at Nelson Jewel, who lifted his feet over the edge of the hammock and motioned that if the boy was hungry, he’d get him some breakfast. Pointing at his mouth: Eat, do you want eat? And the boy said, in perfect English, “Mister, come with me, it’s important.”
The glowing boy took Nelson Jewel by the hand and led him through the still-slumbering bazaar where most days he ate his lunches, past padlocked internet cafes and men slaughtering the morning’s chickens, past penned water buffalo hoof-deep in dribbling sewage. They walked until they came to a hill dotted with tin and cinder block shacks, which thinned as the land stretched asymptotically and became a rocky bluff. They began to climb. Sometimes it was hard for Nelson Jewel to pull his bulk up the hill, or he would have trouble finding his grip, but the boy would scramble ahead of him like a spider and offer Nelson Jewel his hand, saying, “Come on mister, we don’t have much time.” At the top of the cliff sat a rickety lookout tower. The wood was sun bleached and rotten. It was probably left over from the Second World War. A step shattered like porcelain under Nelson Jewel’s weight and he scraped his palms when he caught himself. He was out of breath from the climb and his tank top was soaked. The sun had grown in the sky. “I sweat like a pig sometimes,” Nelson Jewel told the boy. “It’s glandular.” The boy nodded.
“Look down, there, at the beach,” the boy said.
Nelson Jewel looked past the slum and over the bazaar. From this far away, the ocean stood photographically still.
“Can you see my hut from here?” Nelson Jewel said.
“Don’t be so conceited,” the boy said. “Take a look. Look at the beach. Look at the people.”
“Yeah, it’s beautiful,” Nelson Jewel said.
“What else,” the boy said.
“Big,” Nelson Jewel said.
“That’s right,” the boy said.
The beach had never been so large. What was once ocean was now sand. Fishing boats baked as if it had been years, not minutes, since they’d last touched water. Men tugged nets—or, if they didn’t own nets, rice or coffee sacks—over what used to be sea floor, picking up writhing fish that hadn’t yet suffocated in the open air.
“What’s happening?” Nelson Jewel asked.
“They’re picking up fish that the wave has left,” the boy said. “They think it’s a miracle. They think miracles come cheap.”
“What wave?” Nelson Jewel said.
“You think the sea is drying up?” the boy said.
Before them, the horizon rose in a gray wall. It kept rising until it looked as if it were about to put out the sun. And it was getting louder; what began as a faint rumble had amplified until it could drown out a jet. When the wave crossed the sun, a shadow slid over the beach, over the slum, over Nelson Jewel and the boy from their wooden bird’s nest. The air grew chilly. The wave became all they could see, all they could hear, as it greedily sucked the rest of the ocean into its pull.
At the retreating shoreline, the sponge of sand expanded, insatiably thirsty.
A few men on the beach ran. Most of them just stopped, staring out at the ocean turned perpendicular to the land, disbelieving impossible liquid geometry.
Nelson Jewel saw the wave crash a second before the sound reached the lookout tower. When it did, he’d never heard anything so loud, not from the walls of speakers in basketball-arenas-cum-amphitheaters or the suction of leather when a solid left hook was removed from his ear. He could only think of bombs he’d never heard in wars he’d never fought. The wave curled over the beach and broke somewhere between the market and the slum. The splash back shot out a hail of shrapnel in every direction and the ground shook. Both Nelson Jewel and the boy fell and the tower shattered, rotten wood tearing as easily as junk mail. The current kept coming.
He was on his knees, and then the water was around him, and then he was floating, holding fast to the piece of rail he’d been leaning on. Seconds ago he’d been on land, now he was part of unknowable ocean. Sometimes he’d get pulled under; for how long and how deep, he couldn’t be sure. The water churned with solid matter, scraps of wood and palm fronds from the huts and shanties by the sea, chunks of stone and concrete that should have sank but were instead propelled to the surface by the whims of the underwater current. Metal torn asunder. Pieces of trees. Bodies, everywhere. Animal bodies, bodies of people Nelson Jewel had known and fought. Bodies of the fishermen who had run out onto the beach to collect those forsaken fish, thinking that for once in their lives, something was coming easy for them. Maybe the glowing body of the boy who saved him. Maybe Nelson Jewel hadn’t been saved. This wasn’t the peaceful drowning of the near-death stories he’d heard slurred at two in the morning in the old oystermen’s bars of Westhampton. There was no calm when panic gave way to acceptance. The faint shimmer of the sun through the veneer of depth above him did not contract and then expand into some violently sublime brilliance. This was not eternal peace. This was something else entirely.
Nelson Jewel went fifteen rounds with the wave. He held onto that broken piece of lookout tower. He did not let it go. His will and a lonely scrap of wood, that’s what propelled him back to the surface.
We drifted into a sharp curve on an Amagansett back road, and Nelson Jewel yelled back from the driver’s seat, “Like this!” his hand pumping furiously at his dick. “This is exactly how it felt!” The blacktop screeched as our rear tires violated the double yellows.
I was in the cramped backseat of some tiny sports car, I don’t know what kind. I think it was red. We were driving away from a jockey’s garden party, me, Nelson Jewel and Katarina Duvall. While Nelson Jewel manipulated himself with one hand and the gearshift with the other, Katarina rubbed the crotch of her La Perlas in the passenger seat. The last time I had been this close to Katarina Duvall was ten years ago, when she hung on a swimsuit calendar in my eighth-grade locker. We’d done a lot of good cocaine at the party, which put a funny sparkle in my chest, and I’d drank single-malt scotch for the first time, which tasted like a baseball mitt. This was back when I had just been in the Whitney Biennial, and there was talk about a solo exhibition at Deitch Projects. My gallerist had introduced me to the editor-in-chief of Artforum at the party. He had this leather satchel. I took a dump in it, right there on the lawn. He loved it.
Katarina had told me how her ex-husband had commissioned portraits of her from Chuck Close, Lucian Freud, “Everyone”—the market valuation of which she was forced to include in her share of the settlement. “Can you imagine?” she said, her eyes glassy. “You get up and eat your grapefruit, you’re looking right back at you. In the living room, the bathroom, wherever. It’s not even you, it’s somebody else using you. You downward dog, look up, there you are.”
I told her my landlord didn’t allow dogs. She thought that was funny but I was serious. When she laughed, she put her hands on her temples so the crow’s feet didn’t show.
The jockey whose party it was had been the tallest jockey to ever win the Belmont Stakes. He was at least five foot five. He’d retired after he’d had an accident with a snowblower and cut off all the fingers on his left hand. When I was wandering around the garden feeling the sparkle, I’d picked up that some people thought it hadn’t been an accident. The jockey was French and his wife was Italian—not from Italy, but from Nassau County. She was old enough to be called “handsome” but with the way her lips curled up in the corner of her mouth and how high her dress was slit, you’d be lying if you didn’t say “sexy.” She loved the tall jockey very much, and wanted him to stop racing before he got thrown coming out of the gate by some unstable filly. Whenever horse racing and Italian Americans are mixed up, people automatically think the mafia’s reaching their Cosa Nostra somewhere in there, and that was the rumor: she’d paid to have someone sabotage the snowblower, trading her husband’s fingers for everything else below the neck in their coming twilight years.
It was a love story.
Nelson Jewel screamed around one more turn and I was thrown against the side of the car. An overhanging branch from some old general of a tree, mere feet from the road, neared my forehead and then flitted into the past. Katarina had slipped her other hand inside her half-unbuttoned shirt, stimulating a nipple that I’d spent a good chunk of my formative years imagining freeing from yellow rayon before entering my mouth. “I’m so drunk,” she said.
“Me too!” yelled Nelson Jewel.
“It’s too swirly,” Katarina said. “Slow down.”
Nelson Jewel eased the weight on his foot until we were going just twenty miles over the speed limit. His penis had gone soft and he’d flopped his balls over the white waistband of his underwear and absently stroked them with his fingertips. “Darcy!” he said, turning around to look at me without lifting his foot from the gas. “This is your next painting, right here.”
“My work is usually more abstract,” I said.
“Abstract, ha!” Nelson Jewel said. “What’s your favorite Nelson Jewel song, I’ll sing it for you!”
“I don’t know,” I said. “‘Fire and Rain.’”
Katarina’s head lolled onto her shoulder but her hand still groped herself.
“I don’t listen to old music that much,” I said.
“Listen,” Nelson Jewel said. “You know how I could tell the tide was going back out?”
I shook my head. I wanted him to turn around.
“Nelson, I’m tired,” Katarina said, her voice webby and dew covered. “Turn out the lights.”
Nelson Jewel switched off the headlights and the pavement disappeared. For a moment we were gliding, floating, a stingray diving through secret depths. That’s a kind of sports car, right, a Stingray? We were blind until Nelson Jewel toed the brakes and the red lights illuminated the trees like photo equipment in a darkroom. He guided us onto the graveled shoulder and turned the engine off. Night returned. We could hear cicadas rattling and summer crickets.
“When it got calm, that’s how I could tell,” Nelson Jewel said. “Calm and quiet, like this. The current pushed me into a thicket, and as the water receded beneath me, I realized the thicket was a treetop. I clung to the branches. Below my feet, the flotsam of a whole society was collecting, a whole way of life. So much that could be erased in just one morning.”
“Darcy?” Katarina said, her eyes still closed. “Can I come back there with you?”
I nodded, but then realized that I couldn’t tell if Katarina could see me so I said, “Yeah, but it’s small back here.”
“The bodies on rooftops had been contorted into horrible angles,” Nelson Jewel said. “Severed limbs in eddies of concrete and rubble. Some who hadn’t yet succumbed were screaming from somewhere far off, someplace I couldn’t see. A pickup truck had gotten caught in the branches of the tree I was in, and as the wave left, the trunk of the tree creaked under its weight. I didn’t know if the tree would hold or if it would send me crashing down.”
Katarina climbed into the back with me. Her bare legs didn’t fit and she put them through the gap. I heard a pop from the leather front seat when one of her heels punctured it. She folded her arms around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder.
“I thought I might be the only thing that had survived intact,” Nelson Jewel said. “Me, Nelson Jewel, the Piano Doctor, the last man on Earth. But when I saw the ground again beneath the water, there were shadows playing below the surface. At first I thought it might have been a trick of the sunlight. But it wasn’t. It was the fish.”
I put Katarina’s hand on my crotch. She patted it twice, like an unfamiliar dog’s head. I undid the button on my jeans, hoping her hand would follow by pulling down my zipper. It did.
“The same fish that, minutes before, had been flopping around on the beach, slowly dying, they were the only ones who could survive the direct impact of the wave,” Nelson Jewel said. “The fish lived. That’s the miracle.”
“But what about everyone else?” I said. My eyes had started to adjust to the darkness. I could see trees, Nelson Jewel’s shadow, my stiffening jimmy, the jellyfish tendrils of Katarina’s long hair borne up on the current of the night breeze. “All those people. They didn’t get any miracles. What about the boy?”
“The story of the universe is the story of the impossible regeneration of the nothingness of the self,” said Nelson Jewel, wiping his hand on his shirt.
“Yup,” said Katarina, her hand loose like she was shaking dice.
“Wait,” I said. “How do you know they were the same fish?”
“Paint this, Darcy,” Nelson Jewel said. “Paint this moment.”
I put my hand on Katarina’s, stopping her, and sat up straight.
“They weren’t the same fish,” I said. “They couldn’t have lived. That’s some bullshit right there. The wave would have ripped them apart.”
“Sweet boy,” Katarina said into my neck. “I’d love to have you up on my wall.”
“You’ve never been in a tidal wave,” I said. “I bet you’ve never even been to Indonesia.”
“The fish lived,” Nelson Jewel said.
“Paint all of us,” Katarina said. “Paint all of us, together.”
Youth is a depreciating asset. I monetized mine while it was at peak value. Most girls don’t have that chance. I don’t just mean the modeling. The modeling was an audition before I signed the real contract, the one whose terms were fulfilled when Peter and I dissolved our domestic partnership. I think we both got a fair deal—I received half our mutual assets and a reasonable stipend, Peter got to have one of People’s most beautiful people on his arm for twelve years. That’s no small potatoes, either; there are fewer of us than there are professional sports teams, and if you remove the men and the concessions to political correctness from the list, a fair valuation of the remaining girls, even taking depreciation into account, has to be somewhere near the level of, say, the Sacramento Kings.
I didn’t think this way at the time, but I’m glad I had a lawyer who did.
Peter thought he’d found a loophole when he stuck me with those paintings as part of my share of the settlement. Well, the real estate holdings, the stock options, the collateral bonds, just about everything not liquid or gold that he thought he’d fleeced me on dropped like it’d been shot, and when the market for luxury art finally fell—not until about four years after the housing bubble burst—it basically dipped from “ludicrous” down to “comical.” It’s supply and demand—basic economics—and de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Stephen Pace, their supply is now fixed. They ain’t making any more. And unlike the demand for a woman’s beauty, the demand for a work of A-list art doesn’t decrease as the product ages.
That said, I think much of the collection is beautiful of its own accord. The rest (the Close portrait, the Flack sculpture) because I was beautiful. When it was more like looking into a mirror it made me feel narcissistic to display them, but now I see it as a record of my accomplishments, like how a doctor hangs his degrees on the wall. The Brice Marden and the Stephen Pace are non-representational and use my beauty as the background, like the air which vibrates for the sound of a piece of music to be heard, and they resonate in an even deeper place for me. I don’t care for the Lucian Freud—I keep it in the guest bathroom—but it’s worth the most of any of them (go figure).
Darcy Thompson was speculation. It didn’t pan out. It’s not worth the canvas it’s painted on. But it’s my favorite.
He painted it in a week, after I brought him back to my house. While Nelson Jewel and I slept it off, Darcy swirled charcoal on vellum for eight hours. He looked wild when I woke up, but he had just gotten into the last of the blow. He apologized later for going into my bag. We made love in the same room as Nelson Jewel’s prone body. Nelson didn’t wake up until the next evening and complained of terrible nightmares when he did. I had supplies in my art room (a brief and, I know, predictable phase) but Darcy had to have his paints, his stretchers, his brushes, so his gallerist made an assistant deliver them out to Montauk. He barely slept that week, pausing only to shove a piece of pizza down his throat or when I started touching him. Sometimes I would strip naked just to meditate next to him while he worked. I was very big on my practice in those days. I believed that reifying the unconscious would pull the world out of its collective hyperobjective malaise. I didn’t get him any more coke. He couldn’t handle it. He was a sweet boy trying so hard to be tough, to stay in character. He didn’t even want to take the money when the painting was finished.
When Darcy showed up at my door seven years later, I didn’t want to give him the painting back. He even offered to return the ten thousand I’d paid him for it, an idle promise if there ever was one. Like I said, the painting wasn’t worth anything. Except to me. And, I guess, to him.
All men don’t age better than women, by the way. It’s a blanket statement that demonstrates no knowledge of Western gender roles, economics, social theory, aesthetics, or the bounds of good taste. But you can generalize that rich people do age better than poor people. Not because of plastic surgery, which is desperate, if not completely gauche. Darcy Thompson couldn’t have hit thirty yet but the angles of his cheeks and chin had already softened (too many cheap, simple carbs) and his eyes had gotten jittery. He looked like a feral cat, always making sure he knew how he could escape from every room and taking note if there were a meal to be had in the immediate vicinity.
I could tell he wasn’t homeless because his shoes were too nice, but for a shirt he wore a Charlie Brown pillowcase with holes cut out for his arms and neck. He said it was part of his fashion line, “since not much is happening with the painting anymore.” He must have taken the last train out from the city because it was past midnight when he showed up. I let him walk with me around the grounds of my estate. I live a couple miles from the lighthouse and at night, the beam swooshes overhead every few seconds, freezing everything but the shadows. Darcy had a moustache.
He told me that when he started seeing his name used as a point of disparaging comparison, he thought it meant he’d really made it. “I even remember the first one I saw,” he said. “It was in the Village Voice, about some show at the New Museum. ‘With none of the twee histrionics of a Darcy Thompson,’ it said.” He took a pack of tobacco from his back pocket and rolled a thin cigarette, almost unconsciously, like a nervous tic. “It was probably all over already by then, it turned out everyone was saying it. I didn’t realize how fast things could change. I got shut out at my opening two weeks after that. Not one single sale.”
I nodded and listened. Deer rustled the hedges beside us but they had run off by the time the next cycle of light from the lighthouse shined overhead.
“Just like that, I was done. I was a tapas bar, low-rise jeans. I was a prime-time game show.” He looked up and the passing beam froze the smoke around his face. The moving shadows made him look like he was melting. “The one I did of you and Nelson Jewel,” he said. “That was the last one I did that was worth a damn.”
“It’s a beautiful painting,” I said.
“I need it back,” he said.
Some women complain that when they get older, they become invisible. Not me; when Darcy painted me for Katarina and Nelson, I appeared. There’s a reason they put angel wings on Victoria’s Secret models—they don’t exist. When I stopped doing those “Fabulous at Forty—And Beyond!” spreads, I had to start wearing sunglasses at King Kullen and staying out of the bars in the summer. I can’t go down my driveway without my neighbor calling me an inspiration or some investment banker pulling his Mercedes over to tell me that he learned to jerk off with the 1991 swimsuit issue. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever felt objectified, now that I’m no longer an object. I’m something else now, a souvenir, a reminder. It’s terrible.
I used to have the glow. I don’t mean some ethereal, ephemeral je ne sais quoi, I mean literally, I glowed. Not that most people could even recognize it. When you glow, only someone else with the glow can see you without the help of some kind of filter—a camera lens, a canvas, a song—between you and them. Cocaine helps, too. Some people glow but never realize. I used to think it related to Buddhism until I realized how many assholes glow. Peter glowed. Cindy and Elle and Stephanie glowed (Kathy Ireland, conspicuously, did not). Nelson glowed. Willem glowed and so did Lucian. Darcy did once, but not anymore.
I told Darcy if he wanted the painting back he had to do something for me.
He started unbuckling his belt. “No, not that,” I said. Honestly, it was a little insulting. I kept him more than an arm’s length away when I brought him inside to the sitting room.
Darcy’s Katarina and Nelson hung on the wall opposite the de Kooning, above a wicker settee that makes me feel like I’m at the beach. Peter used to make fun of my taste in furniture, asking how I could fill a room with seven-figure art and chairs that would sell for half-off at Goodwill, but I like it and it suits the paintings. More than lights or the color of a wall, I really believe that the story told by the entirety of a room can properly display a work of art. The story of this room is about contrasts, and of my entire collection, only the Thompson and the de Kooning (which, truth be told, was done no favors by the sterility of the MoMA retrospective) can hold their own at the room’s edges, defining its boundaries. I sat Darcy down on the settee, facing the de Kooning. He turned around and looked up at his own work.
“I remember everything,” he said. “Like I painted it fifteen minutes ago.”
“Face me,” I said.
The de Kooning wasn’t large by his standards for the period but it had taken all the strength of two bulky handlers to hang it, and I had trouble getting it off the wall. I leaned it up against my waist. “Do you know who painted this?” I said.
Darcy shook his head. “de Kooning?” he said.
“Right. Do you know what it’s worth?”
“No idea,” he said. “Too much.”
“Woman in Repose” I said, “Was considered a minor and lesser-seen work, mainly because I’m not in the habit of bringing Japanese tourists into my sitting room. I lent it out for his retrospective last year, and with its prominent display, its value and place in Willem’s oeuvre was reevaluated. It’s now considered his last important painting before the Alzheimer’s set in. If I talked to Sotheby’s or de Purys, even given the downturn in the market, I’d be surprised if they wouldn’t expect three, four million for it.”
“It’s nice,” Darcy said. “But not worth that.”
“Everything’s worth what someone’s willing to pay,” I said. “If you destroy it, I’ll give you your painting back.” Darcy laughed. “I’m serious,” I said. “It’s beautiful, but it’s served its purpose, and I don’t need the money.”
“I could use it,” Darcy said.
“Don’t be greedy,” I said.
He crossed his legs so his ankle rested on his knee. They really were nice shoes he had on—a delicate material (calfskin, maybe?) made sturdy with solid, yet elegant, stitching. They looked like someone had dressed him in them so his cadaver would be well-appointed, and the vibrancy of Katarina and Nelson behind his head made the painting look like the lid of a colorful casket waiting to be closed. Maybe it always looked like that. Maybe that’s why it was so beautiful.
Darcy took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He put his hands in the Vinyasa mudra.
“This is a limited time offer,” I said. I took the glass guard off the fireplace, then picked up the remote and pressed a button. Blue-centered flames floofed to life and I switched on the air conditioning so it wouldn’t get too hot. “Throw the de Kooning in and leave with yours. Or leave with nothing and Katarina and Nelson goes in the second you walk out the door.”
Darcy opened his eyes and turned back to his painting. The Darcy Thompson I knew, the one who shit in that art critic’s purse, the one who glowed, he would have done something, wouldn’t have looked like a two-bit maharishi meditating on the difference between the brain and the mind.
“I’m the fish,” he said.
“Oh, come on,” I said.
“The fish lived,” he said. “I’m alive.”
“What if I told you it wasn’t a real de Kooning?” I said. “That I studied de Kooning’s palette and painted it myself, then convinced MoMA that it was authentic. When I’m exposed, it’ll be worthless. Would that make it easier?”
“Is that true?” Darcy asked.
“Of course it’s not,” I said. “It’s a real fucking de Kooning. Now break it down and throw it in.”
He stood up and took the painting from me, squatting in front of it before he gently began to loosen the canvas from its support beams.
“You’re destroying the work of a master of abstract expressionism, not folding a fitted sheet,” I said. “Come on.”
The heat that comes when oil paints burn is tremendous.
Art in America ran a story a couple months ago, long after that visit, called “Darcy Thompson’s Second Act.” Darcy looks good in the photo, taken in (I’d assume) his studio, standing, arms crossed in front of a bunch of canvasses. He’s slimmed down some. He’s holding brushes but you can tell the photo is staged because his calfskin boots don’t have a drop of paint on them. Behind him, a corner of Katarina and Nelson creeps into the shot.
It’s funny, my favorite Nelson Jewel song came on the radio while I was flipping through the magazine. It’s that one, “Stuck in the Middle With You,” which I actually thought was Bob Dylan for a while because of how Nelson sings it. And I realized that neither Nelson nor Darcy understood the story about Indonesia, the one Nelson told that night. There’s only one important character in that story. It’s not Nelson Jewel. It’s not the glowing boy, either, the one who died without realizing how special he was. It’s definitely not some doomed banana picker or a fish (though Darcy might be right—he might be the fish). It’s the wave. The wave is the hero of that story, for all the tragedy it caused. It’s beyond good and bad, right or wrong, and it can never die, only ebb and be reborn, stronger. Eventually, the glow always dims, but the wave goes in cycles; a muse of division and a lover without boundaries, in all its variations in frequency and amplitude, all its infinite regenerations. It’s a love song, not a love story, and it’s the same song each time you hear it, never dying, changing exactly as much as you do. Love never dies, either. Once you realize this, there you are: towering over the world, ready to swallow it up, beyond time and perception. That’s me now. I am the wave, and I’m going to live forever.