I Hear Voices
April 10, 2012 5 Comments
I have this friend. We’ll call her Melissa Stern because that is her name.
Melissa Stern is a sculptor and a brave, or perhaps foolhardy, one because she has allowed others to tamper with her work. I am one of those people so perhaps temerarious would have been a better word but I don’t know how to use it in a sentence.
One of the reasons people become artists is that it gives them ultimate control of the universe; even if it is only the universe of their work. It is a godlike responsibility because, as Uncle Ben would tell the youthful Peter Parker shortly before being offed by a criminal; “With great power comes great responsibility.” As we all know, Peter’s initial indifference to crime, even as Spiderman, caused him to decline the chance to stop a fleeing thief. His apathy caught up with him later the same day when the same criminal killed his Uncle Ben during a burglary. Oh,The Irony!
Melissa Stern, in her role as god, has created woman and man. Seems stereotypical doesn’t it. A requisite skill; indispensable for any deity’s curriculum vitae.
“Ok, have a seat. Let’s take a look at your resumé. Stars in the sky; Good. Animals of the land; very nice. The giraffes are an especially nice touch. Fish of the sea; check, Plants; good, a lot of hidden drama there. Very nice. You do nice work. So, let’s see your people.”
“What do you mean you don’t do people?”
“What are we talking about here!? It’s not ethical!? It messes up a perfect system!? What!? What’s the issue!?”
“I see. They’re not part of your idiom.”
“Ok, ok, well look, it’s been a pleasure. If anything comes up we’ll give you a call.”
Stern has put together a collaborative, interactive exhibit. She asked some writers to choose a sculpture and write a monologue from the sculpture’s perspective. Reckless on her part; like inviting another deity into your universe on a per diem basis but admirable nevertheless. An act of faith. I am fortunate because I am her friend and because she allowed me to choose the piece about the death of her father, Bernie.
The monologues were recorded and each sculpture has been tagged with a QR Code so a smart phone can play the reading while you look at the work. Viewers can also add their own comments that are then available for playback.
I wrote the monologue from the perspective of the Willy Loman character schlepping across the girls head.
She was Juliet. I was not Romeo.
More like Odin the wanderer.
I was no hero but to her.
At dawn, I would perform my morning ritual and then … disappear. She thought it was magic. I thought it was my job. I didn’t know what else to do. Then, at dusk, I would reappear to rescue her from the night.
She was beautiful. Not like scary beautiful. More like beautiful girl who liked me, beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was an innocent. And for a time, we had each other. “Forever!” she would say.
We had hopes. Like everybody else. Special and mundane. I hoped she would be happy; she hoped for the moon. We lived in tenements and apartments all over this town. We cooked and did laundry; and went to see movies and theater and music. Moving. Restless. Together under all those different roofs.
The magic was between us. She thought that would be enough. I knew it wasn’t. I was the grown-up. I could never bring myself to tell her. I didn’t want to break her heart. I knew it would break, in its own time, of its own fragility. And when it broke, I knew that I would be one of the pieces; brittle and sharp.
A fragment is made new by its incompleteness. A shard is not an urn. It is a new memento of something old. Once broken it can never be called broken again. I preferred it that way.
Of course I had to leave. It was the only way. The only way I knew. So many years getting up. So many years washing my face; like an act of purification. Dressing, collecting my .. self, walking out the door. Out. Ever out.
I had to leave. It was the only way I knew.
For the reading by Michael Samuel Kaplan follow the link below