Our morning writing assignment involved observing a place on campus, and my classmate and I chose The Barrick Museum. This is what I wrote:
Where to Find Art
In the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a couple of teens unimpressed with the two teddy bears on a blanket, decided they could do better by placing a pair of Burberry glasses on the floor of the museum. And, it worked. Many stopped to admire the glasses as if they were a work of art. I have to admit that I too do not understand art—not modern or impressionist or surrealist or anything -ist. The first time I went to the Tate Modern museum they had plastic cubes in different colors, which looked like really posh versions of the Tupperware I had at home, and a toilet that had been signed by the artist and a great mountain of trash, and I just didn’t get it. But, I wanted to get it. I went through the entire museum reading every wall card explaining the artists’ vision. But, then I got to one that didn’t have the note card explaining what I should admire about the piece. So, I stared and I stared at the ruler sized bit of beige metal screwed to the wall horizontally just above eye level. And, after about a couple of minutes, it dawned on me that what I was admiring was a mounting strip for a piece of art that was coming soon. As if I’d tripped in public, I looked around to see if anyone had seen my ignorance on display. Did my idiocy qualify as performance art?
Since my desire to understand art did not go away, I joined an art class in Florence, Italy. As part of the class, we had to visit museums and sketch what we saw. And, I decided that I would sketch Michael Angelo’s David. And, it seems that tourists in museums not only enjoy viewing the works of art, but also art students sketching. Soon I was surrounded by tourists, watching me draw a stick figure version of Michael Angelo’s David.
So, as I sit in Barrick Museum, I admit, I am not equipped to admire these works. What can I notice about them that shows me a bit of the mind of the artist and helps me to believe in humanity once more?
I look around and see a man wearing maroon shorts and a gray t-shirt, and a woman wearing brown corduroy trousers and a black tee. They both wear glasses, and they carry a UNLV ladder that the man climbs to change a light bulb. In the background, an art video plays. The colors in the video change from white to yellow to orange to pink to red to purple to blue to green to brown. The ceiling is a hanging rectangled maze and it faces the pale hardwood floors that sometimes have wood colored electric cords held down with clear packing tape.
Later the woman in brown corduroys tells the older woman with a dog that she can’t take the free Weekly Magazine copy on the table because it has the review of the show.
The only people I see inside are students from our course, museum employees and the lady with the dog who couldn’t keep the free copy of the Weekly magazine. I wonder if I really am welcome in this place. It is a celebration or a mausoleum? Is this where art comes to die?
During the afternoon, we visited the Writer's Block and created a children's book!
Then, we were asked to write something inspired by a classic book's plot summary. So, I wrote this:
Heart of Darkness
I sit on my bed, spraying water into the fan, trying to cool down in this Texas heat. I can hear my grandmother in the kitchen amazando harina for lunch. She doesn’t know that my duffle bag is hidden under the bed. She doesn’t know I’ve taken the sixty dollars she kept inside the empty coffee can on top of the refrigerator.
Maybe you’ll think I’m foolish. Maybe you’ll dismiss me as another sixteen year old mocosa that has too much time on her hands.
But I know what happened. I was there. And, everyone swears that it’s impossible. That I was two hundred miles away. But, I was there.
They say my mother died of a heart attack, but she was only thirty-six years old. They say it was a congenital heart disease from childhood no doctor had ever diagnosed.
But, I was there when the man walked in the door. My mom used to be a curandera—well sort of. My great grand mother was a straight up curandera that had a yerberia and everything in a ranchito in Mexico. She would perform barridas and cure barren women. She knew what every herb and plant could cure. But, my grandmother, her daughter, was too afraid to learn; so, it skipped a generation. Before my great grandmother died, she taught my mom everything she knew. But, my mom would never charge anyone for her services. She read cards and cured mal de ojo. She gave wives special herbs when they thought their husbands were cheating.
My dad wasn’t too thrilled with this stuff either, but he put up with it—mostly. He has a body shop around the corner. And, as long as my mom had his breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table, she could do whatever else she wanted.
Before I left that day---the day—I heard her talking with her comadre on the phone.
“Si, comadre, no problem. Just bring her by around 2pm. Rogelio will be back at the shop by then.”
Now I wished I would have asked her more questions about what she did. That morning, I just wanted my $20 so I could buy hot Cheetos and cheese and whatever other chingadera on my school trip.
But, it wasn’t a woman who showed at 2pm. It was a man. If I close my eyes I can picture him. He wasn’t very tall, just a few inches taller than my mother. Under his black cowboy hat, he had a graying ponytail that hung below his shoulders. He had a Pancho Villa moustache and sideburns that almost turned into a beard. His gray snap button shirt had silver embroidery—maybe of flowers and I could she that his belt buckle had a gold plated “S”. His polyester western trousers hung below his belly, and his cowboy boots had silver-plated tips.
I could see my mother was confused as she laid out the tarot cards. I had seen her smiling or even sometimes pained when she laid out cards before, but I had never seen her confused.
And, the man didn’t wait for her to speak. He saw the laid out cards reached over the kitchen table and grabbed my mom pulling her into an embrace.
But, my mother didn’t return the embrace. She didn’t do anything. She slumped into his arms. He gently sat her back down, and walked out of the house.
But, no one believes me because I was 200 miles away in San Antonio.
Nobody believes me even though the man’s name is Don Roberto. Nobody believes me because Don Roberto was in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nobody believes me because Don Roberto is respected.
But, Don Roberto is a coyote. I know this. My grandmother knows this. My father knows this. So, why did a coyote kill my mother.
This is what I have to find out, and that’s why I have my duffle bag ready; and as soon as my grandmother is asleep, I will make my way to the bus station. I will take a bus to Reynosa, and from Reynosa I will take a bus to Oaxaca. I will find this Don Roberto, and I will find out why he killed my mother.
Oh, and if I can, I will also find out how I was in to places at once when my mother died.