• Dzama

The White Void

Jermeld stood alone in front of a painting. He wore his signature ivory-colored dinner jacket with some jeans and dark-framed glasses. He’d wandered into a side room in the museum and stood, transfixed. That morning he’d left his wife and his world had been torn to shreds, leaving gaping holes that he intended to fill with art. The piece he stared at was an explosion of white paint and wax, littered with glued-on wooden matches. Small animal bones had been bleached and epoxied into the swirl. Looking at the piece he felt like he was falling into an abyss and spinning. Or like he was being lifted off the ground. He imagined porcelain hands reached out from the painting and pulling him in. Stand away from the art! the goateed security guard said. Jermeld stumbled backwards, blood rushing to his face.

Then he was out by a fountain in the museum’s courtyard. A dead Coi fish floated in the water, staring up at him. He found a few coins in his pocket and pressed them between his fingers, concentrating hard on a wish. The wish was that his wife would have a perfect life without him. He threw the coins into the fountain.

In the men’s room his face didn’t look like his own. It looked like a rubber mask loosely epoxied to a lopsided armature. He rubbed his chin and stared.

He looked at his phone. He’d deleted any sign of his now-former wife but he continuously unlocked it to see if something new had come in.

He sat for a while in his car in the cement bowels of the parking structure. The air smelled of exhaust. His tongue pressed on a chip in one of his teeth. He closed his eyes. He focused on an imagined white void like the one in the painting he’d seen. In the end he determined he needed to see more art.


It was at a modern art gallery that he met his next wife. The place was completely empty except for the woman working there, Marla McKenmille, 32, from Rhode Island. She had on an olive turtleneck and a white skirt. They got talking and before long she was leading him on a walking tour of the gallery. They went upstairs to an installation piece that included a large white bed, about twice the size of a king-sized bed. Beside the bed were bedside tables and lamps, equally oversized, all white. A giant, white alarm clock rested on one of the tables. You’re allowed to get on the bed, the woman said. Really? Jermeld asked.

Yes, go ahead. That’s part of it, she told him. Jermeld cautiously pulled himself up onto the huge mattress and sat on the edge. Hmm. Comfortable, he said.

She laughed. Don’t just sit on the edge! Really try it out! He lay back, his hands behind his head. I like this! he said.

Oh, come on! she said. Don’t be shy! She swung her legs up onto the bed and kicked off her heels. Then she jumped up and down on the white bedspread in her stockinged feet. She lifted one of the huge white pillows and heaved it right at him. Hey! he said. Soon they were swatting each other with pillows and laughing, goose down floating around them like snow. So, people come in here and do this every day? Jermeld asked.

No, actually, she laughed. This is the first time.

Jermeld stopped his pillow in mid-swing.

This is actually my last day, she said, with a serious look. I was fired this morning! She laughed. Before Jermeld could respond he was hit squarely in the face with a giant pillow. He swung his in retaliation, knocking her off her feet. She lay face down on the bed. He knelt beside her. Are you okay? She sat up suddenly and pulled him towards her. Her hands went all over him, sliding under his clothes. He glanced around but they were still alone.

Suddenly the giant alarm clock beside the bed went off. They stopped and stared at it, sweaty and panting. Then they laughed.

They were still going at it when they heard voices downstairs. They hid under the huge duvet, giggling like school kids.


Their first son was conceived that afternoon but instead of becoming an artist he installed storm drains for work. He supplemented his income with a side business selling cocaine. When he went to jail they divorced and Jermeld found himself in front of the original white painting once again, standing there motionless for hours. The same goateed security guard waited a few yards away to make sure he didn’t get too close.




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