Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

more lost prose

Blah. I'm still struggling to write coherently whilst riding the emotional roller coaster of a book release.

I'll get better.

I can't seem to figure anything out after just an idea or two, and then my hummingbird-like attention span flitters off faster than usual...

***

The woman who trained me warned me that strange things happened at museums, but that decades had passed and nothing bad had ever happened to anyone. She, of course, didn’t mention that the original director had had a heart attack in the parking lot, and died after just one step out the front door. She didn’t tell me about the crazy night security guards that weren’t allowed to carry bullets in their guns.
Basically, she lied.
I was new. What was I supposed to do? I needed the money, and it was a respectable place to work. I’d get free tickets to exhibitions that my mother, bless her sweet heart, would love to go see. I believed the woman that trained me. How could I not?
The first morning I was going to be trained we began our day at seven in the morning. We took soft cloths and scraped off the spiderwebs that sprouted every morning over the marble statue of a crouching Aphrodite. Of course Aphrodite had no head, and only one arm. Of course she was nude, nubile, and the kind of marble perfection that seemed to glow as if she were made of perfect, white skin. Of course, every night spiders we could not see sewed elaborate white dresses of purest gossamer.
When we wiped them with our gentlest rags, the spidersilk weaving melted away like wet paper until we had succeeded in stripping Aphrodite nude.
Then, we cleaned bathrooms. We cleaned windows. We swept and mopped the floors.
When the museum opened, we stood in the back rooms, waiting for problems, and cleaning what we could.
We never talked about the dress on Aphrodite. The next morning came, and we did it again to Aphrodite, stripping her nude of her gossamer dress.
I asked the woman how this could happen.
She smirked. “It’s best not to ask, most of the time. It’s just weird.”
Sometimes a pre-Colombian statue bled from its base, as if a reservoir of blood had swollen up inside of it and flooded down the base. We sprayed it with club soda and bleach and wiped it all up before it could clot.
We had an Italian reliquary, complete with a saint’s armbone. You had to look real close, but if you were cleaning the base, and you looked away for a minute and then looked back, you’d see that the bone behind the little viewing glass might have turned a little – just a little bit.
Sometimes the elevator took you to the wrong floor. We were supposed to think this was mechanical, but I knew it was something else. It always took us to the basement floor where the first president had stepped out to the employee parking lot and died with one step away from the building.
Nobody really talked about it, but the general consensus was that if the elevator took you to the basement, you were absolutely not – under any circumstance – to step out of the employee exit. Even if you had to leave, anyway, you first you went back upstairs, and then you climbed down a floor on the stairs.
After she was done training me – which was the third time I had cleaned up the blood on the pedestal – the woman who trained me quit and never looked back.

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