Flash: X is for Xanthic

Photo 159761726 © Darius Bau�ys | Dreamstime.com
The rotunda in the Central city Park of Odessa on Deribasivska Street. Ukraine
(photo paid for through Dreamstime.com – please purchase from them so that the artist may be paid)

Flash: X is for Xanthic

A weight bounced on my bed. “I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?” I shoved up my sleeping mask and opened one bleary eye to focus on my special American fully dressed for the day, laying across half my bed, sunlight streaming in behind them bathing them in yellow.

“For the slide show, let’s go, chingu.” They slapped the covers gently, rolled over, and headed down the steps from my loft.

I don’t have a door. Xanadu got the one room in our open space as their bedroom, other than the bathroom, with the door. I might need to rethink that. Especially when obviously they had a conversation in the shower without filling me on my side of whatever happened. Maybe a dream. Likely a dream. Maybe this was one now.

“Coffee’s ready!” They shouted below. “Morning is awasting!”

Not a dream. I groaned and roll out of bed. Stripping out of my pajamas, I replaced them with slacks and a button-down short-sleeve peach shirt. I pick up the linen jacket from where I laid out my clothes for today’s afternoon interviews last night and circle the staircase to our kitchenette below my loft. When they opened their mouth to dive into whatever part of reality I missed, I held up a finger. “Juda coffee.”

They passed me a mug. I smelled the sweetened bitter brew. Enough sugar to give the caffeine of the French press jitters, and a spoonful of matcha powder with a pinch of cinnamon to give caffeine a leg up on the sugar. I leaned on the counter and sipped the steamy mug down to half. While I did that, Xanadu finished making us both Korean street toast, dropping the ketchup bottle on our island. They added cabbage to our grocery list before sitting down with their green tea opposite me.

We gave proper consideration to their cooking skills and ate the egg and vegetable sandwiches in silence. Tomorrow starts my three days cooking and I would need to do the grocery run tonight. So far alternating three days cooking each with one day off for Saturday hijinks has worked, but we were only on the second week of living together.

Pushing the plate to their side of the island with the empty mug, I asked them, “Alright, what slide show?”

“The one you keep putting off, of course.” Xanadu slipped off the stool and took our dishes to the dishwasher.

“Oh, that one.” I pinched the top of my nose and rubbed. “Don’t you have to do prep work for your commission on the Manyard columns?”

“Got it done this morning waiting for you to wake up. I got them scanned and off to Georgio before I started the coffee.” Xanadu walked around the island and pressed a finger to my chest while looking into my eyes. It wasn’t often they were at my height, but the stool made us equal eye level. “I am clear of all projects. This won’t impact anything I am making.”

I looked over their shoulder at the open space behind them. A corner of the room was sectioned off behind privacy screens where my photography computers lived. The rest of the space included a long table, a pottery wheel, a curtained section near a window to work wood, and a stack of boxes where a stained-glass dragon fighting a tiger resided until the greenhouse the contracted buyer finished being adjusted for the art piece. We grabbed the space recommended by one of my father’s friends once we realized we did not actually want to live in New York City, and Georgio, the art agent Xanadu had lucked into getting before graduation, let them know he had galleries on both coasts. Everything in their studio was cleaned up and packed away. “Don’t you need to make examples of the columns?”

“Not until the initial sketches are approved.”

“Okay.” I pushed up from the chair and walked over to my office area. Xanadu grabbed one of the folding chairs left behind by the last renters we will use for guests once we started having them, and added it to the cordoned off space, flipping it around to side in to astride, leaning their head on their arms across the back. I fired up my desktop and waited the few seconds for the three monitors to load everything, then activated the sixty-inch screen. “Are you sure?”

Xanadu switched to Korean. “Seok, you see my work every step of the way. I want to see yours too.”

“Your work uplifts, mine reveals.” I paused, to concentrate on clicking until I got to the curated pictures I had taken during my senior exchange student time. The group I put together for my final project. “These are unpleasant.”

“But their yours. Stop protecting me.” Xanadu firmly ordered. “If these are things that need to be revealed, reveal them.”

I looked at the clock on the computer and set an alarm for 1:00 so I wouldn’t miss my interview, then opened the first picture. I debated describing it in English, but ended up choosing French since that was mostly what I spoke while I was there. “You know how I love art everywhere. This hospital’s stonework is from where it served as an abbey in the 1300s. I spent a full day there just filling my camera USB.” I clicked through a dozen of the best pictures, until the last showed rubble and a wing of gargoyle. “It was bombed during the ‘softening’ exercises. They didn’t have time to evacuate the bedridden.” The next picture was a mangled bed, the obviously used bedsheets still on what was left of the mattress.

Xanadu gasped softly beside me, but I didn’t look over.

“This was the city park, about five blocks from where the university students stayed. I spent a lot of time there taking photos as winter switched to spring. The landscaping included hundreds of unique plants gathered over the centuries…”

(992 words, first published 6/9/2024)

Capturing the Tiger and Dragon Series

  1. X is for Xenophile (4/28/2024)
  2. X is for Xylotomous (5/19/2024)
  3. X is for Xanthic (6/9/2024)
  4. Exhibit (7/14/24)
  5. Exit Strategy (9/1/2024)

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