Downstairs, the floors, ceilings and walls are white: Lilo makes the most of the Northern light. The kitchen extends across the whole width of the house. At one end, an island unit holds the hob and a breakfast bar; at the other, a work desk serves as a dining table. Look! Burnt-down candles in candlesticks; a vase, fresh flowers. In the living room, their backs to the window, two steel-framed wicker chairs stand discreet and elegant. Edith, Egon Schiele’s wife, beautifully drawn in three crouching nudes in the last year of the artist’s life, occupies one wall. The others are bare. In the middle of the room, a round table on a textured rug gives off a black sheen. I’m sitting in an Egg chair, my feet on the ottoman. Lilo’s sitting lotus-like on the sofa. We’ve just had lunch (Braunkohl und Pinkel), after a morning spent at the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum.
We speak of women artists, we find we share a love for Frida Kahlo, Tamara de Lempicka, Remedios Varo. We speak of Egon Schiele, dead at twenty-eight. Lilo says she likes the drawings on her wall, but she prefers Egon’s earlier work. I agree that Edith’s too old to be a girl like Rimbaud (my first gift to Lilo) but not Gerti, Wally and the working-class girls. I explain why I’m so moved by Edith: If she didn’t have Wally’s divine gift of lust, she did show Egon that to be moving he didn’t have to be demonic.
̶ Sprague, you’re so isolated in that Egg chair. Come here. Come and sit next to me.
I go and sit next to her. She unfolds the throw she’d wrapped around herself and gives me one end of it; I pull it till it covers me from the neck down.
We sat like that, wrapped in one blanket, for the longest while. Yes, in the fading Northern light we sat in intimate silence, Lilo and I, as if we’d been lovers for a long time.
Still I speculate, still I ponder: When you surprised yourself in the mirror, when you became a stranger to yourself, who was the who you dreamt yourself to be?
̶ Mirror, mirror, tell no lies, how do I look in Egon Schiele’s eyes?
̶ Gaunt, stark, raw in her nakedness, the girl you once were confronts you. Instantly you recognize her defiant vulnerability and self-subjugation, her vestigial femininity and proud isolation. A wave of tenderness overwhelms you, you feel a kind of homecoming: Never have you forgotten this girl who lives inside you, never has a day gone by without you paying her tribute.