In the lobby, a plexiglass box with a theater light under it, petals open. In the box, a spiderweb. That was all.
Black curtains, two sets, to go through, a sign that said, “Exhibit continues behind curtain,” because it is unclear in these Chelsea galleries where an exhibit might continue and where it might be office space, I have made the mistake before, seen just a desk and a too-young person getting paid probably nothing to do something on a computer.
Through the curtains, two sets so sunlight and office light never come in, five more boxes. Four are plexiglass, with spiderwebs, lights placed to tickle them just right, and one is open. A spider is still working there.
Once upon a time I was a person who screamed and shook and took a whole day and her Majesty’s prayer book’s funeral service to pick up the bathroom rug and take it outside and just leave it there next to the house with the dead mouse in it, now I am a person who gets the dustpan, sweeps the mouse corpse in, and puts it in the trash, and sighs.
Once upon a time I trembled and held a vacuum attachment far from me to evacuate the spider in the kitchen. I may be improved, I don’t know.
There was a group of ladies being given some sort of tour, talking about going to the new Whitney on its opening day, I had already decided I did not have the constitution to face the celebration, and would pilgrimage there another time. Soon.
It is a funny thing to explain to my students why a character we are reading about is pushing the envelope by wearing an African print dress and a head wrap. Here in New York City, in Chelsea, in 2015.
It is a funny thing to hear my students talk about longing for the suburbs. It always has been. My city kids and what they mean by “getting out,” different from what I meant.
What I hated, I think, was that in the suburbs, people acted as if life was fair, as if all the weed-free lawns and never-crime and A students were a reward for something they had done. Well. I did, too, until I had to stop. Maybe I would have forever.
The tour guide lady said the spiders were still in some of the boxes. They died for art? Heavens. The open one, though, that had a live spider in it. “See her?” she said, and I stood as near the group as I could, awkward as it was, them and me and the spider guard the only ones in the dark room except that one live spider, see her? She’s moving now. See her?
Former student reminds me of something he said that made me laugh, a few years ago. What I think about is how I may have failed him, them, how ever I did, surely somehow, but what he remembers is a moment of my personality and his, little moment from our being chained together for a year, the way students and teachers are, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.
This spring, at least three of them graduating from college, and one drafted to play for our hometown pro football team. It still amazes me, as many times as I said, “You are going to college, you will grow up,” I did not believe myself.
From Pierre, the Melville novel I am still (barely and rarely) reading, the protagonist sees a speech in Hamlet, and a passage from Dante, and is troubled: yes, life is hell, and yes, you have to do something about it.
The other pieces in the show, upstairs and in the daylight, skylight, were made of wire, helium, balloons, fishing line, rocks. And amazed in their lightness, simple trickery of looking like floating, really looking like floating, but then, helium, fishing line, wire not cages but form for form.
Images here by me.
For much better images, including of the spiderwebs: