She had been more interested in his son than his art. And he had been more interested in her art than in her son. It was hard for him to imagine that she even had one, a son, and one that was a bit younger than his own. “How’s your son?” she would ask when the met. “He’s great,” he would say. After some more of this chit-chat like that about her son and his son, they would talk about art, his art; for, in this situation her art was already established as art, and his art was just becoming or just about to become established as that. And she leaned over his work on the picnic table they were seated at and talked about it. While she did so, while she was leaning in, getting closer and closer to the paper lying on the wooden picnic table, he found it harder to imagine that she had a son, and even stranger that she and her husband had named their child, when translated into English, what means the word “God” from “Isten” in Hungarian, which was his name: Isten. That was strange. But it wasn’t just that.
It wasn’t just the large difference in age between them, and their both having very young children—toddlers—and the added oddity that it was the much older woman in this case who had the very young son rather than a man with a fifty-year old’s paunch and a two year old after having had a first run at family life that totally burned out starting over again. It wasn’t that, however likely and usual such imaginings go. It was that she was so much farther ahead in her art than he was when, in the distance of time measured forward from the ages of the births of their small children as a zero point, they were about the same. So, from that perspective he was so much behind her, perhaps even hopelessly. “I really like this piece,” she said at the end of their conversation. “It’s got a narrator who seems to be quite sure of himself almost to the point where as the reader I almost feel he can’t be trusted anymore, if that makes any sense. And I always like that very much about your work.” Straightening her back, she put her own notebooks in a canvas bag, looked him briefly but directly in the eye with hers, and, after touching the wooden pin holding the back of her hair in position, got up from the picnic table to pick up her son somewhere else by 3.