“He a big car guy?” I ask.
Miriam shakes her head. “Neither am I. If I were, I still wouldn’t like it.” She takes another sip of her watery scotch. “It’s an ugly boat, and it drives like a horse buggy. My father arranged it so that I got to keep that car, even when my brother made sure he’d get everything else.” The lilt in her voice when she says father makes me think of a country club. “My father loved it. He loved cars. He didn’t know anything about them, but he collected them for a long time, just so that he could look at them. That was the kind of man he was.”
I snort, accidentally, but I roll with it. “The kind who buys expensive stuff and doesn’t learn anything about it? So, a rich guy, then?”
“The kind who appreciates aesthetics in the abstract,” she says. She’s turned to me again, but my wisecrack didn’t stick, and she’s not looking in my eyes; she’s drifted somewhere far afield, and she’s barely a full gulp into her drink. “Say you walk into an art gallery, and you don’t know Da Vinci from a hole in the ground. You’re still going to feel something in there, right? If the art’s any good? Every choice that artist made in stroke, touch, color, content, whatever — all those choices are crucial, but if you’re just some drunk from small-town nowhere, you wouldn’t recognize a single one of those choices — but if the art does its job, it shouldn’t matter. You’ll still cry; you’ll still feel a drop in your chest. Right?”
“I once saw the Mona Lisa!” croaks the elderly man behind Miriam.