- Door to Everything
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Galleries know there is a certain type of painting that sells, and every gallery has one or two artists whose work isn’t exciting or edgy but are kept on because it is nice to know there will be enough income to pay the water bill every month. The average buyer doesn’t want five mason jars glued to a steel beam containing all the artist’s body hair collected over the span of four years. Most want something to hang over their new Italian couch or in a blank space in the foyer by the stairs. Claire made these paintings. Still lifes mostly, acrylic or oil, heavy brush strokes and bright colors with an expert play of shadow and light. They had enough artistic flourish to give the proper amount of expressionist feeling, but not so much that despair might leak from the canvas into the comfortable rooms of a buyer’s brownstone. [End Page 123]
This, coupled with the fact that her grandfather was a very famous artist, secured her regular shows where her paintings sold quickly. Her grandfather wasn’t just a little famous but a household name whose work demanded millions and hung in the Met. You could find his paintings reproduced in the poster bin in any college bookstore for undergraduates to frame for their dorm-room walls. Little of her grandfather’s wealth, however, trickled down to Claire. Her grandfather had had two wives after Claire’s grandmother, and her father had sold what paintings he had to fund a series of ill-fated archaeological missions. Because of these missions, Claire had grown up in a random assortment of countries—Morocco, Israel, Bolivia, Sri Lanka—never knowing where home was, exactly, and learning to speak with the slight British accent of the international traveler. So though she sold everything she made, she barely managed to make enough money to survive on her art in Manhattan, and when her old building went condo, she was forced to find a new place.
She met the Realtor outside a building near Washington Square Park. She liked the Realtor’s name, Spieglenik, liked how her gray suit matched her eyes, how she was bent in unlikely ways like a sculpture that had to work around a huge knot in wood or stone. She liked how she seldom spoke and, when she did, how each word felt like calligraphy.
They went upstairs, opened the door, turned on the overhead fluorescent lights. The apartment was a characterless white box. High ceilings and one nice window, but those were the only things remotely special about it. It was small, about five hundred square feet, with one corner blocked off for the bathroom. The only other fixtures were a small stove and a tiny freestanding basin for a sink. It felt more like an art studio than an apartment, exactly what she was looking for.
“This apartment meets your requirements with one exception. There is a door on the back wall that leads to a room that is un-in-hab-it-able.”
“What makes it uninhabitable?”
“It would be easier to show you,” said Spieglenik.
The Realtor led Claire to a plain white door on the far wall. When she opened the door, there was nothing on the other side except a six-foot-square platform. Around the platform there was empty space that extended, seemingly forever. The empty space was a mauve color.
“What is it?” asked Claire.
“The everything behind everything, around everything. That space.”
“But what is it made of?” [End Page 124]
“That would be the wrong question to ask.”
“Can I go out on the platform?”
Claire walked out on the platform. Looking back, she could see the outline of the door, but around it was just more of the mauve space extending in every direction. Then, two eerie feelings in quick succession—the first was the fear that Spieglenik might close the door on her, and the second was the impression that she was standing on nothing and was sure to fall. Her knees buckled, and...