She was a jealous wife, possibly one of the most jealous in the city of Berlin. Each time he got into the studio with a girl, she started moving the furniture in the adjacent room to notify him (her? them?) that she was around and she wasn't going anywhere. She dragged the chair across the floor. She pushed the sofa an inch or two closer to the wall. She opened the creaky door of the wardrobe. Opened – and then closed back again. Another thing she did was bring the coffee into his studio three or four times during one session.
And of course there were conversations. Black looks. Angry stares. Broken glasses. Nervous sex. Sullen mornings.
'What, Richard, another girl?'
'And how am I supposed to make a living? All that is in the house, all that you see around you...'.
But she never let him finish the sentence as she knew too well where he was going with this.
'Why don't you paint something else? Flowers, landscapes, religious figures? And why do you have to undress them? For God's sake, Richard?'
In that dry, tough German accent of hers. Still too dry, too tough for the American husband of so many years.
'I do nudes. That's what I do. Besides, nudes pay. In fact, at Herman's next week they are having this new exhibition...'.
That, too, she knew quite well. And besides, did he always have to adopt that faux British accent when he began talking about art?
'What bothers you, specifically?'
'Women are not so simple. When she undresses, she feels entitled. She leaves her telephone number under a cup of coffee'.
'Well, if you bring so many cups – then perhaps she might as well'.
The joke wasn't taken lightly. Jealous women lose every shred of good humour once their jealousy gets exposed, and she stood up from the dinner table and began the washing up. Noisily, taking it out on the dishes. All that anger. All that frustration. With just one remark thrown as if casually, with her back towards him:
'They are like planets, women. Each one is different. Men are weak'.
'But I'm quite happy with you', he protested, half-heartedly, because there was no point. 'With this planet of yours. If maybe a bit thorny occasionally'.
And so it went. The conversation at the dinner table multiplied, and spread like a million of germs around the kitchen as well as the whole of their apartment in Mitte Strasse. For days on end. Until those germs reached his head, and he asked her, politely at first, to stop bringing coffee into the studio. And then, later, he insisted on the closed door, which she grudgingly had to accept.
Later still, in a year or two, this drove her insane to such an extent that once, when she could no longer hear the soft touches of his brush, she burst into the room like a comet to witness what in scientific books and astronomical circles is widely known as a very violent collision.