Listening to every heart
Lady in Red ~ Woman in White
From the marble bench on the north side of the main hall of the City's Museum, I was a watcher of people. That was my only intellectual stimulus. Otherwise, my single value was that of ornamental art. Clothed in a Chinese style, Chinese red dress of the 1960's and matching Chinese red heels, my only purpose to be present, here in the City's Museum, was to strike an inanimate pose against a black background. I was to repose on a slate gray marble bench there on the north side of the main hall of the City's Museum and be "inanimate art."
Paid an inordinate sum of money, my responsibility to the artistic nature of the creator's piece was to be "The Lady in Red", mannequin-style, Saturday through Thursday. No one really noticed when I struck a new pose every fifteen minutes - that was one thing the City Museum visitors were not to notice.
But during those days of artful poses, I observed many things. None struck me so much as the gentleman in the dapper suit. To say a gentleman is dapper in today's world is archaic at best, but that was the only word that came to mind as I watched him move carefully in the City's Museum, and he came for only one thing.
At the south end of the marble floor in the main hall of the City's Museum stood the sculpture of the "Woman in White." Of cold white marble, the artisan had sculpted bone and skin and drape of Grecian dress just so; that unless you touched her, you thought you could feel the warmth of the character emanate from her stone's soul.
And she is why he came. As a piece of art she was of true inert marble, unmoving, of no breath, of unwilling flesh, of no response. So unlike what was directly across from her. He came only for her.
Life size, she stood five foot seven inches. I knew this because one night, after hours, when the City's Museum guests had departed, I strode over to her, to look into her face, to see what it was the dapper gentleman saw in her. We, she and I, looked directly into each other's eyes, hers of white, mine of hazel. So, she was, like me, five foot seven. Her dimensions were such that I supposed she could have worn the Chinese red dress. And in that, that being all, was the only way in which we were similar.
But let me take you back to the dapper gentleman. Always dressed in a white broadcloth shirt with a lemon-cream colored sweater vest, over which a soft gray suit jacket and slacks graced his lean form, he would arrive, always on a Monday morning. Invariably his arrival time with the opening of the doors at 10:00 a.m. Although the very slowest time of the week, that was his arrival time, rain or shine. One could set the City Museum's clock by his arrival. He would stride in with such grace, the only noise that of his gold handled cane, which he used most dexterously.
The main entryway was on the west side of the City's Museum, huge ornate porticos that balanced heavy on their pedestals. He would walk in and turn to the right, heading straight for the "Woman in White." As this was a museum that allowed for interactive art, patrons were allowed to give and receive tactile impressions as well as visual impressions. One expected to watch guests as they would move past various objet de art, deftly touching each artisan's reason for living. But he would not touch, nor even observe, other artists' works. Instead, he strode directly toward her, the "Woman in White," as if on a mission.
And no one could be as tactilely giving as he. Walking slowly up to the "Woman in White", one could see him slow his step, as if gathering her within his field of vision, taking all of her in, almost as reverently as if she were a religious icon, the Virgin Mother. Then, when he was but arm's length from her, he would inhale deeply as if she carried about her a perfume that only he could inhale. One could hear him take in three, four, five deep breaths.
Slowly, artfully, I moved my position to the far edge of the slate gray marble bench for my next fifteen minutes of mannequin pose, unnoticed by the dapper gentleman.
From this position I could now watch as his right hand slowly reached out, touching her left marble wrist, encircling his fingers around her wrist gently, as if to feel her pulse. Most of my view was obscured by the gentleman's back, but I could see enough to know he would then slide his fingertips up the Woman in White's bare inner arm, for clothed as she was in a Grecian styled dress, no sculptured fold of dress covered her left arm. From the movement you could tell that if she were of flesh, she would have tingled from his touch, so slight, so smooth, soft, sensuous.
Once his fingers reached the inner curve of her elbow, his touch lingered just a brief moment longer, then softly he drew his hand up, but brought it back no further than an inch from her. Holding his palm outward, fingers vertically upward, he softly caressed the air over the sculptured clothing that covered her breast, as if every minute particle of atmosphere between his palm and her breast could be felt between them.
The air grew warm in the vast room.
Slowly his fingertips moved to the indentation at the base of her neck and again, as if to feel her pulse, his fingers alighted softly, tenuously, and it was hard to know if the marble quivered.
Although in mannequin pose, I held my breath.
Although I could not see, I could imagine that if she could, the Woman in White pinked in anticipation. With the palm of his hand, he stroked with loving gesture her face, traced his forefinger along her brow, and caressed the tendril of hair that curved over her shoulder.
When his right hand slowly fell down back to his side, he took one step back, and breathed in deeply. The set of his shoulders could tell an observer, such as myself, that he was deeply satisfied at the moment. Then, broad shoulders exhibiting, and my ears hearing, he expressed the heaviest of sighs, and took one more step backward, as if the perfume of her reached out to him, and he had to extract himself from the spell of her.
And he turned to his right, to retreat from the room. His gold handled white and red cane tapped gently on the marble floor, leading his way, taking him back toward the porticos' entrance, and he slightly adjusted his black sunglasses on his face, as if they had been made slightly askew by a woman's kiss. He was blind to all, but her.
I watched him retire from the room, while in mannequin pose, draped in Chinese red silk, in a Chinese styled dress of the 1960's. My fifteen minutes were up, and I reposed myself, quitting myself of the inner quiver, and turned my thoughts toward next Monday.
He came to see the Woman in White
in only the way he could
and while he stroked the Woman in White
the Lady in Red sat as if wood.
©Karilea Rilling Jungel
13 August 2000
When you want to be loved, look within...KRJ
[This message has been edited by Sunshine (edited 08-13-2000).]
[This message has been edited by Sunshine (08-16-2002 06:59 AM).]