North Atlantic White

A color walk piece inspired by William Burroughs. Originally written for Immanuel Iduma’s class on narrative criticism.

One similarity that struck me with Burroughs and a Filipino painter named Juan Luna is that they both killed their wives. In Luna it was the heat of passion and jealousy but for Burroughs it was the blur of heroine. Burroughs played a game of William Tell, meaning he was probably trying to shoot an apple on top of his wife’s head. Luna suspected his wife of canoodling with a certain Monsieur Dussaq, whereabouts unknown. The lives and words of these two men run through my mind while talking a walk along Sixth Avenue. Luna once said that the light in the northern hemisphere is different. He points the difference of the appearance of white in terms of how it touches his painting subjects, mostly the coastlines of Brittany, especially in his later years. New York City is filled îwith a particular light that I haven’t seen anywhere else, perhaps it is the granite or the kind of cement they use in constructing the turn of the century buildings. I never really notice the white bands in the American flag that hangs on poles that jut out from the top of the carriage porch. It’s the kind of white that I think becomes peculiar with a layer of grime.

Yesterday, I was told it was the first day of fall. The same day when Luna tried to kill his wife and mother-in-law more than a century ago. September was also the month Burroughs shot Joan Vollmer, his second wife, from whom he had one son he named after himself. Luna also had one son with his wife who became an architect, whom I believe made several copies of New York buildings that have since been abandoned in bygone business districts of Manila. September is the cruellest month of the year for a lunatic artist.

Luna was acquitted of charges on the grounds of a crime of passion. Temporary insanity; the “unwritten law” at the time forgave men for killing unfaithful wives. He was ordered to pay his remaining in laws a sum of one thousand six hundred fifty one francs and eighty three cents, and an additional twenty five francs for postage, in addition claims for dommages-intérêts. Burroughs got out of Mexican prison in less than a year, travelled to Tangier and then later settled in New York. His son and namesake became a novelist but died earlier than him. Drug addiction I suppose. The son of Luna died in a New York apartment where he kept the bones of his father under his bed.

The North Atlantic white, I should just name this color. Not quite gray but grimy white. The grime that makes this kind of white peculiar.

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