As the doors closed behind me in the Riverhead Maximum Security Jail, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I sat down at the table. The correction officer said “Kevin, are you ready to see Ivan?” I nodded silently. The heavy door in front of me buzzed, and the figure slowly emerged. He was hunched over, and was wearing handcuffs on his arms, and some restraining device on his feet. He sat at the table. He was dead quiet. “Ivan, I’m here to paint your portrait. Are you okay with that?” I stammered. He was silent. “Ivan, I know that you were the head of the Russian mafia, for the entire New York City area. I know what you’ve done. Are you willing to sit for a portrait?” He nodded yes. He never spoke. I took out my brushes and began to paint. And so, three hours passed in absolute silence. Ivan “the Terrible”, a household name for those familiar with the highest levels of Russian corruption, sat in dead silence. I watched his face emerge on my canvas, and shuddered to think of all that had transpired in this man’s life.
To look into those eyes…
Gotcha, I’m just kidding. His name is actually Andre, and he’s the nicest guy in the world, and I painted him at my studio. In fact, I decided to throw a curveball on Monday, and I canceled the portrait class that I usually teach. Instead of having my students paint, I had my students sit in a semicircle, and I invited Andre to come and sit. I then did a three hour painting demonstration. It was fun.
Andre works in the other part of the warehouse, where I paint. He sews linen, he irons, he cleans, he makes jokes. To be perfectly honest, his jokes are hard to understand, because he has an incredibly thick, Bulgarian accent. But, they are jokes nonetheless, and I enjoy them. We have chickens at the warehouse- don’t ask. They are the newest tenants. They will be laying eggs pretty soon. As I paint, throughout the day, I occasionally peek my head out the window. And, now and again, I see Andre happily waltzing around the chicken coop, throwing seed hither and thither, yonder he ponders, prancing and dancing, whistling and… I can’t think of anything that rhymes. But you get my point. He really loves those chickens.
But, lark of mercy, doesn’t he look like a Russian mobster?
Dear me, what if he is….