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Gorgon in New York
“I wear this veil because I am a Gorgon.” Maddie said.
An angry pedestrian punched the hood of a Cadillac Escalade outside the coffee shop, and Maddie did not doubt the driver deserved it. The driver laid on the horn, the pedestrian yelled obscenities. The light changed.
The man in front of her blinked incomprehension, eyes disappearing and reappearing behind heavy lids like orange peels.
Wait for it.
“Wha’s that mean?” he asked.
She would show him, but he did not deserve the gift of her thousand singing snakes. Her gift, the lathe of heaven, would transform him, yes, but he could not be made lovely. Even as a perfectly sculpted statue, this was no Michelangelo’s David.
Any reply would be wasted, so she took her latte and emerged onto Broadway. She’d been told that New York was a good place to retain anonymity; that it was a good place to blend. Mostly it was true.
Some healthy terror of her, however, would have prevented her from being jostled as much on the train. She wasn’t very big.
The elevator was down again, so she took the seven flights of stairs up to her office. The receptionist, Tara, greeted her with a friendly smile. Maddie smiled in return, but of course Tara couldn’t see it.
Maddie compensated with a little wave and a cheerful “Hello, Tara.”
“Boss is looking for you.” Tara warned. Maddie appreciated the heads up.
Sure enough, when she got to her desk, there he was, one shiny shoe crossed over the other. “Maddie.” he said.
“Hello, Jim.” she said. He grimaced, but tried to hide it. She could not bring herself to call him Mister.
“Your Excel tables. You are using ten percent grey shading. I want fifteen percent. You need to do this over.” His tone was paternal and deeply disappointed. She wondered if there was a twelve-step program for recovering ten percent grey shading addicts, and if so, if Jim would hand her a flyer and recommend that she attend.
“Sure thing.” she said, taking the document.
“Remember, we have a deadline.” he said, wagging his finger at her.
After he walked off, his pant legs rubbing together making a swishing sound, Maddie flicked her computer on and slipped down the hall toward the ladies.
She peeked under all the stalls to make sure she was alone. Then she slid the veil aside so she could fix her makeup. It was personal pride that made her wear makeup even though no one else could see it, like wearing pretty underwear under a nice dress.
One of her serpents snapped at its reflection in the mirror.
The door creaked. Maddie flung her veil back over her face, but not before her colleague, Sylvia saw her reflection.
Sylvia stood frozen in the bathroom doorway, a shocked expression etched across her face.
Maddie was momentarily worried that she had seen her face directly. She scurried over and poked her cheek. Still flesh.
Sylvia shuddered, and then snapped out of it. “Did you just poke me? What is this, Facebook in 2009?”
“You’re blocking the door.” said Maddie.
Sylvia took a half-step back as if to move, but then stopped. “Do you have a snake under your head thing?” she asked, the corners of her mouth tugging downward. “Because I’m pretty sure that’s against regulation.”
“A snake? Under my head thing?” Maddie asked.
“Why would you even ask something like that?” Maddie asked.
Sylvia’s eyebrows furled inward. She seemed to realize the whole idea was absurd, and, not knowing exactly how to process it, she simply stepped aside.
Maddie shuffled back to her desk to fix the Excel tables. She wasn’t as fast as she should have been. She kept being distracted by Pinterest.
Jim came back for his document just before she was ready to escape for lunch. He gave her another scolding, and Maddie wondered, for the second time that day, whether she should move aside her veil. But neither was Jim the material that sculptures are made of.
Maddie sighed, wishing momentarily for the perfect douchebag boss, unwanted suitor, or jerk on the train that could also somehow look angelic and grace the halls of some world-class museum.
It took too long for the day to be over. She picked up a supposedly detoxifying fruit smoothie on the way home, mostly because she could drink through a straw without moving her veil aside. She got off the train near Union Square. She dodged foot traffic, which was becoming nearly as congested and rude as road traffic, when her foot hit something hard. She stumbled, then caught herself, but not before dumping half her smoothie on the sidewalk.
“I’m so sorry.” said a little man, who was so remarkably unobtrusive that she had not seen him. He sprang to his feet to assist, but found himself grabbing at air, since Maddie had already righted herself.
Her eyes slid down toward a bottle in a bag next to him on the bench. He must have noticed the slight turn of her head, because his eyes followed. He snatched up the bottle and tried to stuff it inside his tan corduroy jacket, which only made it more conspicuous.
“I’m not a drunk.” he told her.
“I hadn’t thought to imply that you were” said Maddie.
“I just can’t cope, some days.” he said.
Maddie hesitated. Why should she talk to some random guy on the street? Then again, why shouldn’t she?
“Cope with what?” she asked.
“The pointlessness of it all.” he said.
She thought of Jim and his Excel tables. “I hear you.” she said.
He looked at her suspiciously, as if to say, ‘Wait a minute, no one ever listens to me,’ but all he did was humph, which could just as easily have been a complaint of indigestion. Then he turned his head away.
As he did so, she noticed his slightly pointed ears. She squinted at him, bobbing her head to get a closer look. Could it be? Yes, horns!
“Gargoyle!” she said.
He grinned, an unmistakably gargoyle grin. Then he cocked his head and looked at her. His eyes widened and he took a step backward.
“Gorgon.” he replied.
“The veil gives it away.” she said.
“Are you going to turn me to stone?” he asked.
“Do you want me to?” she responded.
He considered. He cocked his head to the right, then to the left, as if having an internal debate.
“Art endures.” he said.
Maddie nodded. “I like art in the park.” she said.
“Do you think a statue of a gargoyle would even work here?” he asked.
“Why not?” she asked.
His expression vacillated between fearfulness and eagerness until it dropped into something like despair.
“No. Thank you.” he said, finally. “I think it would just immortalize the meaninglessness inherent in my life.”
Maddie considered, thinking of Beckett and Camus.
“Maybe that’s the point.” she said, with a small shrug.
He shuffled his feet back and forth, as if unsure whether to say anything else. Finally, he breathed out, “Besides, I’m ugly.”
She cocked her head at him.
“That’s okay.” she said.
“Is it?” he asked.
“No one knows whether or not I’m ugly,” said Maddie. “You’ll be the first to find out in quite some time.”
“Okay,” he said. Then, “Wait, don’t you want to know what my name is?”
“Dave.” he said.
“Maddie.” she replied.
“Okay, Maddie. Hit me.”
She moved her veil aside.
An expression of wonder slid across his face, as if he had randomly looked up at the sky and happened to catch a shooting star, or a lunar eclipse.
And then he turned to stone.
She took a step forward, stooping down a little so that she was nose to nose with him. The transformation had done nothing to improve his features, and yet Dave made a fine work of art.
“Hmm…” she thought, and resumed her walk home, a little jauntier than before.
She heard a young girl remark over her shoulder, “Momma, was there a gargoyle statue here yesterday?”
The impatient mother only huffed and hurried the little girl along.
Maddie watched the last rays of the sun slip below the horizon, happier than she had been in a long while. Maybe not everyone needed to be Michelangelo’s David. Maybe old Jim would make a good piece of art after all.
Maddie decided that it was high time she brought her talents to the world.
#Unreal #CreaturesOfNewYork #BringOutThoseTalents #ImmortalizeYourself
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