The giant poster of Dracula looms over Times Square. Frank entreats Mother to take him. To his surprise, she buys two tickets.
Van Helsing descends into the tomb of his daughter Lucy and pries her coffin open, only to find it empty. His eyes fall on a ghostly visage in a puddle in front of him, in contradiction to the legend that a vampire casts no reflection. He turns to face a wailing carcass, an apparition of his own flesh grown rotten.
“I want to leave,” Frank whimpers. Outside, Times Square is bright and noisy.
They order cheesecake at Lindy's. Mother makes no mention of his cowardly retreat.
Dustin Hoffman holds forth at the next table. He feels boxers shouldn't lift weights, stiffens them up.
Mother betrays no interest in the actor. “You read the book, Franklin?”
“It's all letters.”
“They correspond with Dracula?”
“They write to each other.”
“I'm divorcing your father.”
That cold December morning the electricity goes out and the students present their drawings by candlelight. Frank's sketch of the French window in his apartment makes quite an impression on his classmates.
Yasmine asks can she paint that window? She's half Filipina, half something else.
Frank nicks his chin shaving just before she rings the bell. He helps her set up her easel, smearing one of its legs with his blood.
Every five minutes Frank offers his assistance.
“Would you draw the curtains shut?”
Frank complies. Their eyes lock. His gaze lingers, too long. Yasmine makes another listless attempt to sketch the window, then packs up.
In the doorway Frank crouches in front of her and washes his blood off the leg of her easel with a wet rag.
After she leaves, Frank comes upon her belt on his couch. He has no recollection of her sitting down or taking it off.
Yasmine misses next class. During a fire drill, the students pour into the street and peer at the building for signs of a real fire.
Frank overhears someone say Yasmine has transferred to UCLA.
Frank windowshops on 24th Street while Harper and Baby Frank rest at the hotel he knew as The Summit. During the decade he has been away, the city has lost its rogue charm along with its grime and derelicts.
“Frank?” The woman sports sunglasses, the man squints at Frank in the autumn sun. “Yasmine. From Parsons.”
As they exchange pleasantries and updates, Frank can't decide whether the sullen European with Yasmine is a boyfriend, confidant or colleague.
“I'm right at the corner.” Yasmine points to an apartment building by way of farewell.
From the bus stop across the street Frank watches Yasmine say goodbye to the sullen European. Frank can't recall the man's name although they were just introduced. The bus arrives.
Frank doesn't get on.
“This is Frank.”
Yasmine buzzes him in.
Frank grasps for a pretext for his visit as her footfall nears the door.
She lets him in without a word.
He's about to mention her aborted painting when Yasmine kisses him, her kisses are hungry, violent.
Frank makes love to her. The act descends into something like a conjugal routine, tame in comparison with the despair of her kisses.
Afterwards the silence is comforting, then oppressive.
“I always wondered about your belt.”
"My belt?" Yasmine runs the index finger over the back of his hand.
“The one you left behind.”
Yasmine says nothing.
Frank spots dried blood on her cuticle. “Your skin's paler.”
Yasmine strokes his fingers. “Like that white circle where your ring should be?”
“When did you notice?”
The groan of the traffic lulls Baby Frank to sleep before the bus trundles onto the dark I-95.
Harper mumbles without taking her eyes off the infant. “That was my first time.”
“Your first time?” Frank has never cheated on her before.
“My first time in New York.”
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want you thinking I was some sort of yokel."
“So much I could have shown you,” says Frank. “The sights.”
“With him in tow?”
“Don't you like the place?”
“Not as much as you do.”
On a dry summer evening Frank watches the row of sketch artist at work in Piccadilly Circus. Only one of them, a man with harsh Old Testament features and a scruffy beard, has yet to find a customer.
The man seems down and out, emaciated in way of deprivation rather than abstinence. A middle-aged, duffel-coated lady sits herself in front of the sketch artist without a word and he draws her in silence. The artist furrows his already wrinkled brow in concentration and Frank recognizes his frown.
As the sullen European settles into his work, Frank debates whether to introduce himself. He will know where to find Yasmine. Although they were at Parsons at the same time, Frank doesn't recall a single conversation with the man. Frank heard it bruited about that he was the most talented student at school. Frank would see him with Yasmine and be struck by a double bolt of jealousy, of his prodigious talents, of whatever he had going with Yasmine. The lady in the duffel coat seems uncomfortable under the artist's harsh gaze. Even in his present straits, the European's haughty demeanor remains undiminished. Already Frank resents him for holding the secret to Yasmine's whereabouts, or her fate.
The man bolts up, tears the sketch from his easel and foists it on the woman without a glance at her. “It didn't come out right. No need to pay.” The sullen European grabs his easel and marches off into the throng.
Frank cannot find the compunction to give chase.
He looks at the rough sketch over the woman's shoulder. “May I?”
The woman hands the sketch to Frank as if his curiosity were nothing out of the ordinary.
Frank inspects the drawing with care, then resignation.
He cannot find the smallest fault with it. In fact, it's the closest thing to perfection he has seen.
words: Jónas Knútsson, Iceland (more)
image: Joel, Germany (dying light)
another blueprintreview New York story: Doing the Right Thing