Cold Feet

photo 5My socks were wet by 2 pm, and somehow my sleeve was wet by 4, a rivulet must have rushed up there, maybe from my umbrella being held together by a rubber band where it was held together.  It had rained and rained and rained and rained, the puddles in every gutter were gullies and the train floor a slick.

I waited in the longest line in the history of the world to check my bag and coat.  By the time I was at the front I had to be unusually nice to the girl because I was so pissed I had been planning how I could stomp out and be home quickly, forget this whole thing, why was I even there, but it was so much trouble, even more trouble than waiting in line.  If I wasn’t extra nice to her to show myself I knew she was a person like me, I would have asked her why the fuck it took so long just to check coats.

It was so wet my Melville got wet, even inside my bag, his pages are wrinkled now, the out of print book, my baby.  When I bought my Sunday paper it, too, got wet.  Paper is so delicate when it is wet, more delicate than skin.  I tried to cuddle it, it blistered and broke.

I told myself it is best I don’t read the front section.  All for the best.

I had been to ballet.  I was patient with myself back at the barre, told myself not to try to raise my leg so high, when you try to go further than you can, and it just looks and is absurd and wrong.  The right muscles, I knew, were the ones that now raised their eyebrows.  My teachers think I am not doing as much as I can, but that is how high my leg goes, actually, that is all.

We got down on mats to stretch.  I saw everyone else stretching like wet rope and I was a toy soldier and I heard my own mind chatter how I would never be flexible at all or strong to be beautiful as the other girls were.

I was so sad noticing how I talked to myself I cried a little in the shower, which felt good.  Crying sifts everything out and down it falls more like snow than rain.

We end ballet with everyone running up and bowing to the class and all of us clapping for everyone, the good dancers who are never trying, and the lady next to me today who fell from her toe-pointed-to-knee, very hard for me, also, my knee does not get that high.  This is how strangers are to me, saying take a bow, near strangers are this way, and the way I mutter to myself, so dismissive.

“What’s next?” lady in class said to me.

“The advanced class!  I gotta get out of here right away!”

“Me, too,” she said, and smiled.

I did not kill anyone at the museum.  After I finally got to hand over my stuff to coat check, and wait in the second line to buy an admission ticket, instead of going straight up to the art, I bought and drank half a cup of coffee and ate a peanut butter cookie in the cafe.  Next to me, a mom sat down with a tiny child who was chewing on a pocket-sized kleenex packet.

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Then I went upstairs.  The paintings were mosaic Byzantine ceilings crossed with African baskets, and then a room of paintings painted so dark blue and black and black green that you had to move to see what they were.

The dark paintings were hung  in a darkened room, reminding me of special rooms made for meditative paintings, the Rothkos in DC, in their special room at the Phillips Collection.  People sit there and are safe and quiet, much as they sit in the bodhisattva room at the Nelson, back home.  What was the point of a painting, anyway, to be looked at, if it took so much work, to be with, so it could work on you (Kandinsky, who is referenced in the explanation in the hall though I generally don’t read those), to make you get quieter so you could hear better?

One of them was of wild men during Carnival. It is Carnival season, though I do not celebrate it here, I know.  We have Carnival in our ugliest time.

I liked the sculptures, which is unusual for me.  I am usually partial to two dimensions.  One crucifixion like, one a woman full of nails, stretching around with stabbing implements herself.

The artist can hardly make anything without nipples or sex organs.  It didn’t much take away from what he had to say, and sometimes added to it.

At the top of the building is a room to look at the city.  It is not always open, but it was.  I’ve only been up there when it’s rainy and foggy.  Which is fine.  I love the city then.  The new World Trade Center south, the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, east.  Williamsburg is no one’s friend, I walked over it once after a night spent on someone’s floor.  Manhattan even lesser known, despite its blue jaunty towers.  There was a video piece teaching us how to do the Harlem shake, and I joined two other museumgoers in halfheartedly playing along with it.

I had decided not to wear galoshes to feel lovelier.  I feel responsible to the museum to add aesthetic quality.  And galoshes, they don’t bend, so I sometimes trip, a little, over a broken sidewalk, or up a stair, I walk like the Tin Man.  I had worn grey boots that, even though heavy, soaked through by 2 pm, after across 14th Street, up to 18th, down to 14th, over 14th again, past Manhattan’s only Dairy Queen, wet feet.

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Chris Ofili at the New Museum

The Rothko room

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