I didn’t see Chelic for two days before his show. When it came the gallery was changed completely. Every surface — walls, floors, ceiling, windows, bar, bathrooms, welcome desk — was covered with a kind of dense, sticky white shroud made of strands and strands of different kinds of silk or silicon or paste. And his pieces were made of the same material, nests or cocoon type things suspended on stiff stems at odd angles from the ceiling. Inside them you could see bones, bent and bundled, the bodies of dogs, children, men and women, folded and wrapped. The show was a huge success. No one was working in that technique at that time in Paris. Everyone was curious about his materials, about which Chelic was coy. He wore a white suit, which made him seem even paler, like one of his own pieces. He sat on a shrouded bench in the corner and everybody came to him, the buyers, the gallery owners, critics, other artists. I brought him whiskeys and gossiped with the gallery receptionist.
When it was over we walked to Bar Onze. It was cold. It smelled like winter. I wore a red velvet three quarter length swing coat. I was afraid of myself, afraid of how brilliant he was and how strongly I felt drawn to his side. We were walking down hill down the rue St. Genevieve. I could see my breath in the dark. I announced in a brave and detached way that it shouldn’t impose anything on him but that I, personally, felt I was falling in love with him a little.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “we can carry on as before. I’ll manage myself.”
He pulled me in with his arms. He was surprisingly strong. He held me locked to him and kissed me. Or, he pressed his human mouth to mine in an odd, cold way that technically would be described as kissing.
Then his mouth peeled back and in its place I felt two furred, hard tusks. Something sharp flicked in my mouth. I pulled back. I tasted blood.
“I love you too,” he said.
A month later we were living together. I gave up my apartment and moved in with him. All my belongings fit in two suitcases. His studio was bare. There were walls, wood floors, exposed rafters, a stone fireplace. He had no human bed or food.
The first night I came he had bought tea and a cake for me. He borrowed chairs and a teapot from a neighbor. We sat politely on the chairs, not touching, eating cake from the box with our fingers. Then he drew me toward him with his strong, bony hands. He clicked in my ear. His feelers nuzzled my throat.
I undid the buttons of his shirt. “I want to see you,” I said.
He stood, formal and serious, and undressed in his kitchen. His human body was like a twisted cord of rope, a bleached driftwood spar, unnaturally white. I stood an arm’s length away from him and reached out to touch what seemed at first his rib. In my hand the skin grew pasty. I could see the growing outline of four folded black sticks or bones. I looked at him, his strange, serious face. I pressed my fingers through his skin, like wriggling through wet papier mache. I searched out and found and drew out and unfolded a long black jointed leg. The others followed, opened together like an origami flower. There he stood, naked Four human and four spider limbs, six feet in spindly diameter, resplendent.
“Wait,” he said.