Theseus

Published in Visual Verse Vol. 6 – Chapter 12 (October 2019)

She calls herself Theseus. She’s a fixture in the galleries and museums. She goes to all the openings, drinks wine from long-stemmed glasses, talks knowingly about perspective, layering, composition. Every step she takes in this abstract world is a step taken away from the concrete, away from where she’s been. 

Her stocking-ed calves ache from wearing heels all day. It’s a good pain, far removed from the growing pains of her youth, when Mother rubbed Tiger Balm into her calves and whispered, “Cara mia, va bene, va bene.” She remembers Mother’s strong fingers and the smell of camphor in her nostrils – a sweet sting like a happy memory.

And the first time she wore heels, her sister’s, going to see Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Village Theatre. She was a virgin then, dragged up before the crowd, tottering in the unfamiliar shoes, stripped to her pants. The audience laughed and called out but there was no threat in their voices, no malice. It was the first time in her memory that she did not feel ashamed of her body.

She started going more often. Every Saturday night. She taught herself how to put on makeup. She split herself in two and lived in both bodies, longing to put herself back together into one – the one that wore boas and corsets with pride. This body came with its own family and the feeling of their love was intoxicating.

It was her chosen family that convinced her to sing. She never before realized that she had a beautiful voice. She used to be quiet, still was around Mother, who also had a beautiful voice but rarely sung. In the darkness of the Village Theatre, she sang loud enough for both of them.

Now she lives in a loft. People pay her good money to tell them what she thinks about art, but they don’t want to know, not really. She’s gotten good at lying for money. 

If you buy her a drink, or give her a smoke, or maybe if you just smile at her in the right way, she’ll tell you what she really thinks. She’ll tell you that she’s a work of art. She’ll tell you about her perspective, her layers, how she composes herself. She’ll tell you that she is both a subjective object and the process that creates that object. She’ll tell you why she is Theseus and how you can be too.

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