My God, she’s beautiful. Mike stood still, locked into the woman’s unyielding
gaze. He adjusted his glasses and tilted his head to the right, letting his arms drop to
either side of his jacket. He kept his eyes attached to hers and knelt on the cold tile floor
as if to propose. The woman had no reaction. “She’s amazing,” he said out loud to no
one in particular. “She’s perfect. She’s incredible. She’s --”
“She’s a statue.” Thom’s baritone sarcasm punctured Mike’s fantasy. “And
you’re a freakshow. Get up before someone sees you.” Thom folded his arms and
looked down at Mike. He smirked as his roommate picked himself up off the museum
floor and dusted off his jacket. “Sometimes I don’t know why I put up with you.”
“Shutup.” Mike’s face grew a shade darker as he adjusted his glasses again and
scratched his head. He was still smiling, though. “Look at her,” he said, pointing at the
statue. “You can’t tell me you’re not in love with her.”
“Well, it doesn’t hurt that she’s not wearing any clothes, but that missing arm
kind of creeps me out. She’d probably be a pain to introduce at parties.” Thom grinned,
unfolding his arms. He scratched the back of his neck with one arm and put the other
one in his pants pocket. “Or business meetings.”
Mike laughed. “That crack running across her stomach probably doesn’t help,
“Come on, Mike. The Magrittes we’re supposed to look at for class are down the
hallway.” Thom began the trek toward the Abstract Room, but Mike still lingered
around the statue. Thom grabbed him by the elbow. “Let’s go! I’ve got to get to work in
half an hour. You can get a postcard in the gift store on the way out.”
“Okay, okay... Just let me get one last look.” Mike turned to grab a final glance
of the statue.
“Man, I’ve got to get you out of the house more often.”
Mike and Thom were busy typing their final drafts of impressions on the Magritte
exhibit they saw the day before. For the next few hours, their lives were going to be
dedicated to their Sophomore Art History class. The sound of fingers hitting keyboards
bounced off of the four walls of the common room on idyllic Bay State Road. Mike
broke the monotony. “Do you think we’ll ever have a good work ethic?”
A pause. Thom took a sip from his Coke can and dug his hand into a box of
animal crackers. In-between crunching giraffes, he managed to say, “probably not.”
“That’s what I figured.” Mike turned back toward his computer, but stared at his
walls instead of his computer screen. He scanned from left to right, stopping to pause on
each disturbance of the pale drywall: a Salvador Dali print; a picture of him and his two
best friends from high school, each holding a copy of the literary magazine they edited; a
clipping of a newspaper article about him from his hometown; a postcard from the
Museum of Fine Arts. His eyes stopped on the last item and remained there for some
time. It was the postcard he had purchased the night before. Mike focused on the face of
the statue, squinting his eyes. Did she just move?
The statue shimmered slightly and began to turn inside her cardboard prison. She
tilted her head to the right to look directly into Mike’s eyes, but her face remained
emotionless. Her lips cracked open, spilling some marble dust onto the floor. A siren
voice spoke, “I’ve got to hit the can.”
A lazy-eyed Mike murmured, “What, darling?”
The statue narrowed its eyes and frowned slightly. “What?” Mike just smiled.
“Dude, what’s wrong with you?” Thom stood in the doorway with his jacket on.
“Huh? Oh, sorry. Daydreaming a little bit.” Pause. “You know, that whole poor
work ethic thing?”
Thom shut the door and stepped back inside the room, dropping himself down on
his bed. “Don’t give me that, Mike. You were talking to that postcard.”
“No, I was just --”
“Man, something’s got to be wrong with you. You were staring at that thing the
whole ride home. God, you even took it to dinner with you. That’s just . . . weird.”
“I didn’t take her to dinner.”
“All right. First of all, it’s not a ‘her,’ it’s an ‘it.’ This is a postcard.” Thom
moved towards Mike’s desk and swept the postcard down from the wall. He held it up
towards Mike and pointed at it while he spoke. “This is cardboard. The woman in it is
made of stone. It’s not a real person.”
“I know that.”
A long pause. Thom broke the silence: “I’m going to be gone next weekend. It’s
Allison’s birthday. Just thought you should know.”
Pause. “Okay. Thanks.”
Another pause. “I’m going to make a run to CampCo. Do you want anything?”
“No, no thanks. I’m fine.”
“All right. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Thom dropped the postcard on his bed,
zipped up his jacket and went out the door.
As soon as the door shut behind Thom, Mike ran toward Thom’s bed and
retrieved his postcard. He held it underneath the light in the room, carefully examining
every aspect of it; making sure it was still perfect. He looked at his alarm clock: 9:30. In
an instant, he had grabbed his jacket from the closet, put the postcard in the jacket
pocket, and closed and locked his door. On the dry-erase board on his door, he wrote
“Back at MFA for Magritte’s. Back later,” in navy blue marker.
By the time Mike got off the T at the MFA, it was already 10:30. He ran up to the
entrance of the museum only to be met by the locked glass doors. He leaned up against
the doors and slid down the smooth glass, tilting his head skyward and sighing.
The last remaining streaks of blue sky were yielding to dominant black. Mike
reached in his pocket and pulled out the postcard. The slight gloss on the card reflected
pale fluorescent lighting. He placed the postcard on the cement sidewalk and reclined
alongside it. He looked at the statue for a few minutes before rolling onto his back and
staring at the sky. Small splashes of white punctured the dominant black.
Jackson Pollock. American painter: abstract expressionism. Mike smiled,
resting his head on his arms. Well, at least I’d do well on a test. A long pause. A long
sigh. What am I even doing here? This is dangerous. And irrational.
Mike stood up, dusting off his jacket. He picked up the postcard and took another
glance before he slipped it back into his pocket. After he balanced his glasses on the
bridge of his nose, Mike got the impulse to walk around the perimeter of the museum.
He hoped for a window.
The somber classical decor of the Museum of Fine Arts building did not allow for
many windows. Mike stopped walking for a moment and noted his surroundings. He
looked behind him. He could still make out faint traces of his footsteps in the grass.
Directly ahead of him was the fenway -- a small stream flanked by grass and weeping
willow trees that cut through the cement and landfill foundation of Boston’s Back Bay.
Mike looked to his right and saw a large glass door. He stared at it for a second before
realizing what it was. He ran toward it, tripping slightly, but still making his destination
in one piece.
Mike cupped his hands on either side of his glasses and pressed his face close
against the door. He squinted his eyes to try and catch a glimpse of something; anything
-- some faint outline or suggestive shadow. Peering closely into the darkness, Mike
spied the top half of a circle. It’s her head! I knew I’d see her!
Mike tried to press his face even closer to the glass, but when he did, the statue’s
head increased in size before vanishing altogether. Mike moved his head away from the
glass and her head appeared again. He narrowed his eyes to focus the image, but found
that the statue’s head again changed size and shape. He took a step away from the glass
to get a better view, but saw only his own reflection.
Thom was perched perilously on his seat, typing with one hand, eating pretzels
with the other, and balancing an open notebook on his lap. The door opened. “Heya,
Mike. Getting some late night studying done?”
Mike entered the room, shut the door, and put his jacket back in the closet.
“Yeah. I just needed to look at Dominion of Light one more time.”
“You mean that one in our art book?” Thom continued eating pretzels.
“Yeah. I wanted to see it in person, though. You know -- on the wall?”
“Sure.” Thom tapped his alarm clock. 11:00. “Come on. We’ve still got a good
ten hours before class to finish our papers.”
Mike sat down at his computer. The sound of typing continued into the night and
well into the next morning.
In Art History class the next day, the two sat in their usual seats in the center of
the lecture hall. They slouched in their seats, each thinking of how much more
comfortable his own bed would feel right now. The professor announced a slide
presentation on Magritte -- a sign of death for anyone in the classroom who was even
“Oh, God,” whispered Thom. “He’s gonna hit the lights.”
Mike leaned over, grinning. “What do you care? You’d be asleep in five minutes
“Yeah I would.”
The lights went down and a slide of Magritte’s Golconda slowly appeared on the
off-white projection screen. Numerous men in black suits and bowler hats were arranged
in lines and superimposed over a picture of some tan buildings with red roofs. The sky
was a sickly blue.
Mike had significant trouble suppressing his laughter. He covered his mouth
and turned toward Thom. “Thom. . . Check it out -- it’s rainin’ men.”
His answer was a barely audible snore. Thom had moved into “The Sleeping
Position,” as he called it. His left elbow was on the pull-out desk, and his left hand was
supporting his forehead. His right arm was lying on the armrest, and his right hand was
grasping an upright pen over his notebook.
“Man, that’s amazing,” Mike said to himself. He sank in his seat and turned
toward the projection screen again. Mike’s eyelids were soon competing for vision space
with the Magritte slides. There was no real battle, though. The eyelids won.
Mike found himself falling through the sky in a row of black-suited men. He
pulled his jacket tight and buttoned it closed. Although he was falling, there was no
upward draft. The row of men he was in stayed exactly level while rocketing through
space. Tiny pinpoints of light slid upward slowly around them, piercing the surrounding
Mike straightened out his glasses and turned toward the man falling next to him.
“Umm.. Excuse me?”
The man smiled broadly but showed no teeth. He took his hand out of his pocket
and tipped his hat. “Oh hello there,” he said in a heavy English accent. He put his hand
back into his coat pocket. “Nice spot of weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, I suppose. Actually, I wanted to ask you a question. What is it we’re
all doing here?”
“Well, sir. We’re falling. Nice spot of weather we’re having, wouldn’t you say?”
“Do you mean the stars and space?”
“Yes, sir. Fine weather, no?”
“Well, it’s not really weather if we’re in space. There’s no air.”
A long pause. “If there weren’t air, sir, we wouldn’t be able to talk.”
Another pause. “What?”
Louder and slower this time, “If there were no air, sir, we wouldn’t very well be
able to talk, now would we? I mean, beyond the fact that we’d both be suffocated by the
lack of air, waves of sound cannot travel through distance without air. Nice weather,
“Well.... What’s going on, then? Where are we?”
“We’re in a dream, sir. Not the brightest one in your class, are you? Oh, we’re in
the atmosphere, now.” The space around them changed from black to pale blue. The
suited-man took out a pocketwatch, looked down at it, and slid it back in his pocket.
“Should be arriving soon, sir.”
“W-where? Where are we going?”
“Should be there soon, sir. Any minute now, actually. Fine weather, isn’t it, sir?”
Mike tried to move closer to the suited-man, but found he could not maneuver
from his position in the falling line. He compensated for his lack of movement with an
increase in volume. “Where are we going?!?”
The lines descended into a small town full of beige, red-roofed buildings. Mike
looked down to see the cobblestone street just before his row sank feet-first into it. He
blinked and adjusted his glasses again. As he looked around, he saw the street was
littered with men in black suits and bowler hats, all sunk to their waists in the
cobblestone street. They were all looking up toward the sky. Mike looked upward, too,
but saw only an empty blue sky. He lowered his head and turned toward the man he had
been talking to on his way down. “Excuse me, sir?”
The suited-man removed his pocketwatch once again. He checked the time with
wide eyes and looked toward Mike, grinning. This time he showed his teeth. “It looks
like it’s just about time, sir. Lovely weath --”
Mike let out an involuntary shout. The man he was talking to had just been
crushed by an exact replica of the lifeless statue he saw at the museum. As he
re-gathered himself and began looking around the cobblestone plain, he saw statues
falling out of the sky one by one, each crushing an excited-looking suited-man
underneath it. Mike looked up again to see a statue falling directly above him. He tried
to move, but was lodged deeply in the cobblestone. The more he pushed against the
stone, the deeper he sank into it, until only his head and chest were aboveground, looking
directly at the statue that was about to crush him.
“Mike! Hey, Mike! Wake up!” Thom was nudging Mike’s shoulder.
“Oh, man. What happened?” Mike rubbed his eyes and looked around the
near-empty room. Students were rushing towards the door as the professor gathered his
“You fell asleep in class for the first time ever, that’s what happened.
Congratulations. Welcome to the world of the Normal Student.”
“Come on, let’s go get something to eat. I had a great calzone at University Grill
the other night.” Thom pulled Mike to his feet.
“What about our papers?”
“Oh, I already handed ours in. We’re set. Now, let’s go. Fried, greasy Italian
food is calling our names!”
“Actually, Thom. I’m going to head back to the house. I’ve got some things to
“All right. You want me to bring you something back?”
“No, no. . . I’m fine, thanks. Enjoy the calzone, though.”
“You got it. I guess I’ll see you at the house, then.”
Thom left the classroom and headed toward University Grill. A few minutes
later, Mike left and waited at the B.U. Central T stop, Inbound, with 85 cents in hand.
He got onto a green trolley, made the necessary transfer at the Arlington Street station,
and got off in front of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Mike flashed his Boston University Terrier Card and gained free admittance into
the museum. The woman at the counter recognized him.
“Hi, Mike. Back for the Magritte’s again?”
“What? Oh, no. I’m just going to be looking around today.”
The woman smiled. “Slow Thursday?”
“No, I -- yes, I’ve got slow Thursdays.”
Another smile. “That’s what I thought. Enjoy your visit!”
Mike stepped toward the large double glass doors that led into the museum. He
glanced back at the cashier to try and remember her name, but she was already busily
typing on her computer, probably entering credit card information for the next family of
guests. He pressed his warm hands onto the cold panes of glass and pushed his way into
the next room. His hands left faint outlines of themselves on the glass. The prints
quickly evaporated and vanished.
The museum floors were sparsely populated this afternoon.
Mike dodged between various museum patrons and exhibits, his green jacket
brushing against glass covering ancient Mayan necklaces and pottery. He made his way
through several doors, briskly walking past the Magritte paintings he had seen two days
He stepped off of the carpeted room and onto a tile floor. He heard his footstep
bounce off of the wall before him and shoot back to his ears. He noted a small stream
running down the hallway in front of him. Tiny blades of grass started to push through
the cracks in the tiles. Mike’s eyes followed the stream down the hallway until it split
into two branches. Above the fork in the stream, standing upon a Doric pedestal, was a
She looked exactly like the statue except she had both arms still attached to her
shoulders and she was wearing a thin, pale blue cloth around her body. She said nothing,
but stared directly at Mike as he followed the stream toward her.
Mike carefully stepped over the stream where it branched, smiling and moving
onto the pedestal with the woman. As he stared into her green eyes, the corner of her
mouth rose in a slight smile.
Mike took off his glasses and moved his face close to hers. He stared into her
blurry eyes for an eternity, moving closer, centimeter by centimeter, until the tips of their
noses were almost touching. An uneasy fire rose from his feet and filled his body,
making each hair on his body stand on end. He paused, then brushed a few strands of her
golden hair out of her face. He placed his hands gently on her cheeks, tilted his head to
the left and kissed her.
Her lips were smooth, and Mike held the kiss for a moment to savor their place in
time. Then Mike noticed something else about her. Her lips were smooth, but also cold,
hard and dusty. He pulled away, coughing, and replaced his glasses to come face to face
with the statue’s dead, apathetic stare. He quickly jumped down off the pedestal, looking
around to see if anyone had caught his embarrassment in their collection of memories.
He was lucky the museum had low attendance on Thursday afternoons.
The one-armed statue looked straight ahead, no longer at Mike, but rather through
him. Mike stepped back over the velvet rope surrounding the statue and buttoned his
Mike adjusted his glasses, put his hands in his green jacket pockets, and walked
towards the museum exit. As he listened to his footsteps echo in the long, dry, tiled
hallway, he thought of calzones and smiled.
As he rounded a corner, Mike ran directly into a heavyset, middle-aged security
guard. Mike stepped back slightly. “Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me.”
“Sir, please come with me.”
Mike’s smile vanished with the thoughts of calzones. “What? What for?” Blood
rushed to his forehead, bringing anxiety and paranoia.
The security guard held Mike’s arm and guided him back to the statue. He
pointed to a sign sitting at the bottom of the woman’s pedestal. “Can you please read
that sign for me?”
A small group of museum patrons had gathered in the room and intently watched
the unfolding events. Mike moved his eyes from the floor to the sign and quietly read,
“Fragile. Do not touch.”
“Right. That means don’t cross the velvet rope, don’t jump up on the pedestal,
and don’t give the statue a hug, understand?”
“Now, I’m just going to give you a warning this time. Consider yourself lucky.”
Mike stood still, staring at the tiled floor. The crowd broke apart and returned to
their respective galleries. The security guard wandered down a long hallway to protect
and serve 18th century tinwork.
Occasionally, a pair of shoes would walk by, stop to turn toward the statue, and
continue on. Mike’s eyes moved upward, following the pedestal. They stopped at the
statue’s feet this time, having no motivation to continue. He mumbled something at
the statue before adjusting his glasses and walking toward the exit again. He reached
into his jacket pocket, pulled out the postcard, and threw it in the trash on his way out.
The statue remained silent and still.