2.34 pm, 12 December, 2011.

car door

National Portrait Gallery

Canberra

In the underground car park we walk to my car and I open the front door to put in my bag, and then the back door, where I have placed her book. I brought it to give it back after years, and in our memories the book is large and weighty and we are so glad it isn’t, as it will fly away with her.

We stand and look together as I turn the pages, we look at Alice Neel’s portraits – I’m no longer familiar with where they rest in these pages. I look for dark-eyed Nadia, but don’t see her (my favourite of Neel’s models) and we smile at the old men in their wrinkled suits, the naked pregnant woman lying on the bed with her clothed lover, (they both seem so undressed) and I love that one and that one, Neel’s daughter sitting in front of the rubber plant, leaning towards us, and there are those toddler twins on the bed like tanks, their jowled and bosomy forms pointed at the viewer along with their gaze, and we talk about what it is to view these pictures, that we can talk about them, and I say I feel I have seen these people. We stand together in the Portrait Gallery car park. She says she is using more colour, Neel is very good to look at for that, and we hug, we hug, say goodbye, and hug …

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