It’s an odd feeling. Suppose at any given moment during the day someone asked you how your socks felt and unless there was something stuck in one of them, or they had gotten wet, or it was cold out and you were wearing wool socks, you might not have noticed them at all. It’s that kind of feeling. I’m dreaming and I know I’m dreaming but it’s a Sock Feeling, that knowing that I’m dreaming, and it feels good to be sitting in the park again.
There’s several dreamscapes that reappear in my dreams and one is of a small, clean, and neat little city where there’s never any people but the buildings are nice. There’s a long rectangular park, greenspace surrounded by buildings on the west end and homes by the time the park ends at the east end. There’s a walking track around it and the track had two colors; one for runners and the others for those who walk, and the walkers walk counterclockwise and the runners run in the opposite direction. There are three fountains and each of them look exactly the same. One is near the west end, one in the middle, and one near the east end. I know this city by heart, but most of my wanderings, in my dreams, have come on the east end where the comfortable homes with their nice lawns are. There’s a house there, a normal looking wood frame house with a porch and shutters and columns on the porch to hold the roof up over the porch but everything is painted white. Trim, the front door, the swing, the columns and even the mailbox hanging beside the front door is painted picket fence white.
There’s a building near the west end of the park and I got lost in that building one day because of all the sameness in it but other than that building and that white house, and the three fountains, now that I think on it, everything else is just as normal as anywhere else I’ve been. I’m sitting on a park bench looking west and the top of the building, which looks like a five story office building of some sort, is perfectly aligned with the the fountain, which has three fluted tiers for the water to flowing into and drop out of, and I can tilt my head, change the focus of my eyes, and it looks like the top part of the fountain is sitting on top of the building.
That would be different, if an office building had water slowly moving through it all day. The workers would wear swimsuits and paddle around the break room but cell phones would be out of the question or enclosed in waterproof cases. I like the idea of an office building being part of a fountain and I like watching the sun going down and the water lights up.
“Human create their own viruses” a man sitting next to me says and he wasn’t there a second ago. Scared the hell out of me he did, but I stay asleep. “Ebola is being found dormant in survivors and we don’t know why it’s there but our bodies keep it alive. We’ve been looking for the host all these years and we never realize it was us. But that’s what we do,” the man adds with a sigh, “we keep alive those things that keep repeating themselves; reproduction is why we exist and it is our existence. We create the viruses to kill off enough people so the rest of us can survive, so even when we kill it’s so that we can keep replicating. It’s like throwing up to eat more.” The man falls silent and I wonder if he’s about to pull a knife or something. He looks homeless, like someone with nowhere to go and all the time on earth to get there, but he’s nearly lucid, as if part of him resides in the real world while part of him is living in a dream.
To a degree he can’t be argued with. The office building has identical floors, someone, even if it was me, designed the park with matching fountains. It’s only recently that people thought that mismatched socks might be cool. But even in our works that are vastly different those works are very much the same, are they not? Look at “Lord of the Rings”. It’s still made out of the same letters that some child’s story about a frog who became king of New York. Each person is made up of the same genetic building blocks as the amoeba floating around in the water spilt from the fountain.
The sameness of our world catches up with me as I wonder why humans react so strongly against anything that is new or different or alien. Could it be that we’re hardwired to see anything that isn’t replication as a threat? I hear him get up and move away from me and I’m glad to be alone again. The sun is sinking lower than the building and the light begins to fade. I know I cannot stay here much longer and I feel the urge to walk, to move from one place to another, the ultimate act of replication as one foot is put in front of another and repeated endlessly. Is this why so many of the homeless drift from one place to another? It’s an act of repeating, of creating another version of something the same; the day before.
“I’ve seen you here before” the woman says and this time I half expected it. She’s replaced the homeless man and it almost looks like she’s wearing his coat. She’s a small woman but she’s wearing a winter coat that covers most of her body, and only her legs from the knees down are visible. She’s Asian, maybe, but the accent is European. Her face smiles from the eyes and I have to remember it’s impolite to stare.
“Yes” I reply simply and I stifle the urge to tell her she’s beautiful. It’s the eyes, really, dark brown to the point of liquidity. It’s never a good thing to tell a beautiful woman she’s beautiful until after she has allowed, until after she has encouraged, the first kiss. She’s been told she’s beautiful endlessly, thoughtlessly, as all beautiful women have been, and it’s meaningless to her now, and it will be until there’s an emotional charge, a lightning strike, that goes with it.
“I went to Paris with some friends,” she tells me as she reads my thoughts, “and the first morning we were there a man took my picture, came in from my right side and surprised me by snapping a photo of my face, and he was no more than a meter away from me. It irritated me, shocked me a little, and I wondered what the hell he thought he was doing.” She stopped and shifted around and she looked at me as if she wondered if I was still listening. I tried not to stare at her legs. I could tell she had some serious inkworks but I couldn’t see the details. She continued…
“Later that day, we were standing in line at The Louvre when he came up to us. He was with a tall blonde woman who translated for him. He didn’t realize I spoke German, and I knew enough French to be dangerous. The blonde’s name was Kathy and she told me that he wanted to sculpt me. Yes, here I am, an American tourist in Paris, there for less than a week, and this man wants to turn me into a piece of artwork.” She laughed as if she still found it amusing but at the same time she looked as if the wonderment of it all still surrounded her at all times. “I said no, but when he looked at me I knew that he knew I would do it. Kathy wrote down an address to his workshop where he trained students and did his own work. My friends were totally against it, but later, after we had been drinking French wine for far too long, we decided to investigate him.
His name was Lexington, no last or first name, and he was locally famous in Paris. Kathy and he were in nearly every photo of his work, when anyone at all was, and his studio/ workshop/ classroom was in a building that was an abandoned factory of some sort. We had to go, just to look, and we did.
There were a dozen students inside, all of the working on stone, rock, anything difficult and impossible, this is where it was born. No one stopped working, no one looked up as we entered the building but Kathy greeted us, in a fashion, and she told me that I would be allowed to go further but my friends would not. There was no way they would leave me alone in a strange building in Paris but I surprised them and followed her to an ancient elevator that was powered by students who suddenly rushed to turn the wooden wheel that operated it. It creaked and shuddered as if it might fall apart itself but we arrived at the second floor.
The workshop had in it several amazing pieces of artwork, carved out of stone, and it was like standing at the birthplace of creation. Here, was a life sized sculpture of a little boy, his left hand outstretched, palm upwards, with a tiny stone toad craved out of the same rock as the hand yet seemingly independent. Kathy translated from the Lexington, no, not Lexi, or Lex, that this was to be a memorial for a child who had died very young and his parents wanted a memorial that would matter and reflect. There was a statue of carved pillar of stone; its detail painfully exquisite. It was a match to one found at Pompeii and accidently destroyed. This was to be the replacement.
‘Why am I here?’ I had to ask the question even though there would be no other reason for me to be there.
They led me to a corkboard on the wall where the photo of my face had been printed out. I had turned towards him in surprise and slight irritation. There were red marks on the photo as if he had been making measurements. He pointed to a massive piece of marble in the middle of the floor, it looked as if it were half a mountain to me, and told me he wanted to carve this into me, and me into this.
How could anyone say no to becoming art? It would be me but three times my size, to scale, and I went down to say good bye to my friends and to tell them I would be staying. When I returned to the workshop he photographed my face again, and my body in various positions. Kathy told me that I could keep my clothes on and I knew that before we truly began that I would be nude. I had never taken my clothes off for a stranger. I had never taken someone I didn’t know as a lover and every women who has a young daughter knows that each encounter with a man might be the same encounter her daughter might have, years later. A mother wants her daughter to be immunized to mistakes her mother has made but deep down inside she knows that physical attraction is an addiction very few can withstand. Even as this young man with a small beard and a covering of dust studied me I knew that he was thinking of more than just a woman made of stone and despite myself, I was thinking of what it would feel like to be more than made of stone. The divorced had crippled me emotionally yet in this ancient building with a piece of a mountain waiting to be a mirror, I felt the stirrings of life again.
What does a woman tell her family, her friends, her employer, herself, when at thirty years old she quits her life to stay in Paris to become a model? Yet my children were young and they would agree it was the right thing to do, and forever they would live to see the day they might dare some adventure. But yes, it was selfish of me, and the second day that I spent sitting for hours, first in one position and then another, with a man standing, walking around me, looking at me closely, standing across that great room from me, and asking me, motioning to me for he spoke little English and I very little French, finally, I walked out and gathered my things at the hotel, and I moved into the studio. It was an explicit surrender to the process and to the artist. It also prompted Kathy to move out.”
I began losing her. The sun was going down and I knew when darkness fell things would change. She curled up on the bench and faced me, and suddenly, I knew under that coat she wore nothing at all, and she had walked around the city, naked but covered, that day.
“The next day I took my clothes off for the first time for a stranger and sat still and waited. My body reacted to his words, his gestures, his gentle repositioning, but he didn’t touch me except as an artist. There was to be another two days of this, with he looking and I sitting still, he would touch me, reposition me, guide me, and I could feel my body willfully obey and my mind saying it was madness and my heart saying to leap into this. Finally on the fourth day we kissed and for that moment on my body was his to command during the process and during the night. We lived together, cooked together, drank together, and we turned a stone into a reflection of who I looked like during this time.
It was finished. I stood and marveled at it and that expression on my face was the very first and the very same in the photo. Kathy returned, as she always did, for the one feature what was not mine was the long hair of the statue, which belonged to her; I cut mine before the trip, from past my shoulders to as short as you see me wearing now. Oddly, he meant to carry the sculpture out to sea and leave it in water that was ten meters deep. It was a popular site for divers and forever I would remain there, with that expression on my face as they explored me. I returned home to my family and everyone was excited over what had happened. It was difficult for me to explain what had happened to me in the last nine months, but it was the same length of time as a pregnancy but this time I had given birth to myself.”
Without another word she got up and walked away, a slight swaying in her walk as if she were still at sea, still adrift, but happily, in the City of Dreams.