She worked in children's books. This was her job, her New York City job, the one that barely paid her rent and student loans. Reading manuscripts. Picking artists. Putting the two together. This was her job.
His style was bold and graphic. But the company she worked for produced books featuring playful pastels of godawful little scamps making a mess of tubes of toothpaste, rolls of toilet paper, plates of spaghetti, piles of mud, etc. They really weren't books for kids as much as they were rather long greeting cards about the joys of cleaning up after kids.
Just looking at the art samples - the sharp lines, the modern movement - she knew that the bosses would hate this guy, this Brandon Carr. But, she was bored.
She banged out an email. Sure, stop by this afternoon.
He showed up in jeans with a smooth black leather portfolio case tucked under his arm. The case looked brand new and it made her think that though he appeared to be in his mid thirties, maybe even older, this was his was his first time venturing into the professional world.
He was edgy but his edge was a good 15 years old. Stretched lobes. Goatee. Chunky silver rings. She was going to guess that under his clothes, there was a tribal tattoo wrapping itself around the circumference of a bicep, ankle, or thigh. He was from a town in Oregon she'd never hear of. Unintetionally, she hummed Jane's Addiction while flipping through his work.
"I love them but I have to be honest, they'd never work here. I'm sorry."
Brandon Carr slowly nodded. He stood to leave but instead of gathering his things, whipped an old timey pen and well of ink out of his bag.
Without waiting for an answer, he began to draw. In place of a sketchbook, Brandon used a paperback novel. One that was tattered, stained - like it was bought from a homeless person or found in a bus station.
He drew while the editor sat still, held her breath. She knew the rules of life quite well and people weren't supposed to act like this. There might as well been a knife at her throat.
"I spent a lot of years wandering, you know? Doing things that maybe seemed like a waste of time. I think the hippies would have called it 'finding yourself.'"
His hands moved like a chef, like a surgeon, like a person sure of the world and their place in it. He finished the drawing, ripped it out of the book, and began another.
"I've been to 37 countries. I've been in love. I've been arrested. I've moved back in with my parents on three separate occassions. I've never been addicted to anything except the truth which is why when I've tried to please other people, I've failed."
The editor could have moved. She could have called security. But she sat and listened calmly, letting breath find her again.
"There was a time when I thought selling my work was the worst thing I could do. Like it was a sin against god or whatever."
He finished another drawing, ripped it out of the book, and began again.
"But I need moeny and the the world needs art. Seems like a fair exchange to me. And anyways, roam too long and your life starts to sound like a country song."
Finish. Stop. Rip. Start another.
"I hate country."
The editor had never seen anything like it. The images were gentle, strong, percise, and rapid. So damn rapid. Her office smelled of ink, like computers had never been invented and the world of words still smelled of wet, messy, ink.
"I enjoy my work more than anything else in the world," he said. "I truly hope that one day you are as excited about your work as am about mine."
Without much fanfare, he stopped drawing, put the cap on the jar, plopped it all in his bag and left the room.
The editor was stunned and, surrounded by so many inky black figures on paper, no longer felt quite so alone.
All images by Loui Jover