After dinner, the men are back at Serge’s apartment. The Antrios hangs on the back wall. Marc is in front of it with a basin of water into which Serge is dipping a piece of cloth. Their sleeves are rolled up—they are hard at work cleaning the painting while Yvan watches from the couch. Various cleaning products—stain removers, sponges, and rags—surround them. Serge finishes cleaning the painting, and the Antrios is once again totally white. Serge steps back and contemplates the painting.
Marc and Serge come together in an ego-less moment for really the first time in the entire play in pursuit of a common goal. Their cleaning-up of the painting is symbolic of the necessary cleaning up and clearing out of their friendship in order to make room for the people they have become rather than the people they once were.
Yvan remains in his seat, but speaks to the audience as if he is alone on stage. He reveals that the day after his wedding, he went with Catherine to the graveyard so that she could put her bouquet and a small bag of almonds on her mother’s grave. Yvan slipped away to cry, and, later that evening, he began sobbing in bed. He notes that he must speak to his psychiatrist about his tendency to cry, which has become worse—nearly uncontrollable—after the night of the enormous fight at Serge’s.
Something has shaken loose in Yvan following the night of the big fight. As Yvan, from the future, relays this information about what has transpired within him in the weeks since the fight, he remains seated in a scene in the past, representing his inability to let go of what transpired over the course of that fateful evening and how it has continued to affect him weeks later.
Yvan says that after Serge, “in an act of pure madness,” at last proved once and for all that he cared about Marc more than the painting by letting him draw on it, the three of them went out to dinner. Over the meal, Serge and Marc decided to try as hard as they could to rebuild their fractured relationship. Upon hearing one of them use the phrase “trial period,” Yvan burst into tears. Yvan says that he can no longer bear any rational arguments—“nothing great or beautiful in the world” has ever been born of rationality.
Yvan is disturbed by how rationality governs the world. The act of compassion he witnessed between Marc and Serge—Serge’s allowing Marc to deface the Antrios—was utterly irrational. The conversation over dinner, however, was rational and calculated, as the men considered how they might repair their friendship, and this return to a cool, removed rationality after witnessing such a radical, irrational display of empathy was more than the sensitive Yvan could bear.
Serge dries his hands. He cleans up around the flat, emptying the basin of water and putting away cleaning supplies. He looks at the painting once more before turning to address the audience. He reveals that after he and Marc had, at long last, succeeded in “obliterating” the skier, he asked Marc whether Marc had known that the ink from felt-tips was washable. Marc said he had not. Serge said he hadn’t either—but reveals now that he was lying. He was very close to saying yes, but knew that he could not have “launched [their] trial period” with such a disappointing admission. Now, though, he wonders whether it was right to start it out with a lie. Frustrated, Serge wonders why his relationship with Marc has to be so complicated.
Serge attempted to end the cruelty and betrayal between him and Marc by allowing Marc to deface the Antrios, thus proving to Marc that he valued their friendship over the expensive painting. However, this is revealed, in a twist, to have been a sham—Serge knew that the ink would wash off, and that the painting would be okay. If he hadn’t known the ink would wash off, it’s implied, he would not have committed such a radical act. This ostensibly healing gesture is then revealed to be one final betrayal, as the audience is left to wonder if Serge really does value his friendships over proving his aesthetic superiority.
The stage lights narrow on the Antrios. Marc approaches the painting. He describes it gently. Under white clouds, he says, snow is falling—though one can’t see the clouds or the snow, or the earth’s white glow beneath them. A single solitary man glides downhill on skis and then disappears into the landscape. Marc repeats his first lines: his friend Serge—one of his oldest friends—has bought a painting. The canvas measures about five feet by four. The painting, Marc finally says, represents a man who moves across a space and then disappears.
Marc’s gentle, almost ethereal description of the Antrios in this passage displays how far he has come in his ability to look past his hatred of the Antrios and see it as an object of both meaning and value, but also demonstrates how he perhaps remains disappointed in himself, in Serge, or in both of them. Depending on one’s interpretation, Marc’s description might refer to himself, a man who has allowed himself to “disappear” by getting so caught up in his own pretensions, or it might represent Serge, a man who has similarly disappeared into himself to the detriment of his friends.