This is how we begin: a little paint here; a little dab there. Pointilism is the favored method. All of a sudden our whole canvas takes on shape, all of a sudden it seems to spring to life before our astonished eyes, before the executioner’s well-timed swing.
We go off to check on something else but then soon return to argue some more about inclusion and exclusion, the quality of cheap unwanted gifts, tradition and its inescapable lack of variance. We go off to the mountains on weekends in search of butterflies to pin down upon our return home.
What coloring have you got? the policeman asked the bystander at the crossroads. None, officer, this pale and naked manikin replied, unsheathed sword in hand. A child rose up from behind the concrete barrier at the curb, a wind stuffed leather bag near its foot, grounded. Behind the child, behind the manikin the tall apartment towers ascend skyward, their windows filled with faces puffed up for the ongoing parade, faces that are nothing more than blank forms emptied of language, of national origins. May we propose a day of remembrance, a day of sausages and beer?
On the way to the exhibit the conservator whispered a few unkind words about monuments. My binoculars remained on a shelf high up in a closet on the second floor. His whispers and innuendos made close inspection difficult; criticism of collectibles, easy. He was that cruel. It is necessary to forget this trip. It is necessary to forget the conservator’s harsh words, almost inaudible but nonetheless distinct and understood. It is necessary to forget the failure, the refusal to exit the cab.
A little bit here; a little bit there. All of this made creative action possible, all of this exists beyond a machine’s capabilities and range. All these words, these actions and inactions, these brush strokes. Hasn’t this all blended together yet? Step back. Is it still impossible to distinguish the middle of the floor from the edge; the edge from the surrounding wall? Is it still impossible to draw up sides and then when the time is right, when it’s safe outside to cross over to the other?
A frail, young woman placed her withered hand on my arm and pulled me farther down the cold dark street. The balloon was in the tree, she said. But the dark, the buildings, the empty field. Vacant, quiet. I didn’t see the balloon. I didn’t see the child. I only felt my own spine shaking in the unavoidable cold of this irretrievable night.