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The Faceless Quilt
Words by Angelica A. Oluoch
Image by Christine Stoddard
*Author’s Note: No accounts in the global SE market suffered any damage during the writing of this story. The author does not condone or encourage reckless trading of stocks.
Edged out of the crowd, all come to attend the quilt festival, pretending like the rest to regard the stupid designs and know what the fuck they mean—deeper meaning and insight into life—he now regretted showing up at all. But what was he supposed to after Sunday Mass was over? He didn’t want to go home and be forced to do nothing but work or sleep, so, this was the more attractive choice.
The quilts were basic-looking. Which was unfortunate considering how much time their owners had spent on them. That moment when something is so good, it’s bad.
He decided to weave through the crowd to find where the less interesting quilts lay. Hang, rather. Hang from the walls of the gallery. These were no better, though he had to admit they held more appeal because they had been cast aside by the public, albeit subconsciously. Or unconsciously even. Yeesh, man. What’s the going rate for uneducated critics these days?
Suddenly, he felt strangely magical. Like he was going to find something ethereal, intriguing and not like anything else. Or maybe he was just bored to insane degrees and needed to remind himself he wasn’t too useless.
Due to his self-destructive thoughts, he had not realized he was staring too hard at one quilt in specific, till he found his feet carrying him closer to it. It was dark. The colors of the fabrics used to create it were earth-toned or plain dark. On closer inspection, though, it wasn’t done in the normal way of other quilts. Rather, it was yarn and threaded silk and linen, woven to look like pieces of fabric. The detail was crazy. Crazy perfect. It was figures, he saw.
Figures as in people. People in action. Not in motion like the Harry Potter newspapers. But doing things. Hard things. Painful, back-breaking things. A tower, he realized, was what was being built. A huge one, and these people were carrying materials by back to the site of construction. Somehow the artiste captured the forlorn looks of the workers. Stupidly, he wondered if they were there on the own volition? Did they get paid, rewarded for building the tower?
Just as fast he discovered this is what the artiste quilter wanted. For him to fall in love with faceless, meaningless people and to want to cry for them. He made to move away, but he was still intent on deciphering the message. But wait, hadn’t he done that?Just now?
The price was modest for the quilt. Not cheap by any score, but being relevant to context, it was lower than he’d expect. Greedy for more information, he searched the tag with information on the quilt over four times for the maker’s name. But it read: 'Anon.' Ha. Haha. Why did he expect that somehow? Mode of creation: ‘Machine sewed’ it read. Which he knew was a lie. Lie. Lie. Why was the artiste being so modest about their impressive talent? ‘Because everyone isn’t like you’, his mind whispered. Traitor. But fine, yeah are most men not mildly narcissistic about their work? Some would not be able to tell if the stitches were done by machine or not because of how perfect they were, but he knew where the needle had gone like a millimeter off course, or when one stitch was longer than that before and after it, because boredom and being human.
And again, stupidly, he started to feel entitled to the quilt. To the artiste. Because what, you know they are intelligent and introspective? So yes he was taking the quilt home. Because he could and wanted to. And was feeling slightly like a killer. As in anyone who dared to book it before now or bid higher, would not lived long enough to take it to wherever. They would be dead and buried somewhere polite.
Was the artist speaking about his or her own people? Or from the other side of the fence? No. Not likely. Some emotions were only learnt from experiencing or being some things. Not reading about them. Or imagining them. But the image was a long time ago. People nowadays didn’t build towers that high with no machinery for aid. Did they?
He found the main office back downstairs to find the exhibition’s coordinator. ‘Hello, hi. Beautiful place you’ve set up here. Very inspiring. Yes, I want to buy a quilt. No, not those outside. Too much of too much. Yes I want to buy the dark one. The one in the corner? Yes that one. Oh okay.’ Irritation thrums a steady beat in his head now. ‘I want to pay more for it though. How am I sure the artiste will get it all?’ ‘I could give you the artist’s contact.’ ‘I'd appreciate that.’ Did he sound too stoked. Hopefully not. So he gave a check in exchange for the quilt and a cell phone number.
A check was supposed to take three working days to be deposited. Exactly three working days had passed he was now seated in his office dialing the number he got from the coordinator. A man answered on the second ring. ‘Hello. Yes I’m the one who bought your quilt, did you receive your money?
'I did, thanks. Enjoy the quilt.’
Awkward silence ensues for a beat. He was debating whether to ask questions upon questions about the quilt, or to let it keep a mystery. The apparent artist decided for him, ‘Is there anything else you would like to discuss? I’d love to get back to my work. No, nothing at all. Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ ‘Actually my sister is the artist. She hates talking to people so I answer her phone.’ ‘Well okay, tell her to keep up the good work.’ ‘Will do.’
Disappointment happened (forgive me, I can’t help my laziness). So close, but like a millimeter off course. Like that one stitch. But why did he want to so badly speak to someone who clearly did not want to interact with the world?
The quilt went up the wall (what wall? Facing where?) in his dining room. That’d make him guilty each time he didn’t finish his food. That’d show him. Somehow he knew the people in the quilt went hungry more times than was good. For any human.
What would he tell people when they came to his home and saw the quilt? Where he got it from. How he loved it and et cetera. And the maker? He would say that he preferred to keep it anonymous. Huh. He shook his head, impressed by how the artist had compelled him to play this game. When did he agree to cover for someone who wouldn’t even speak to him? ‘When you bought the quilt.’ Again, traitorous mind. He conceded that was true to some degree though.
Next day on his commute to work, he found himself once again mulling over the image. So he looked everywhere for the builders, wherever his gaze fell. Not surprised in the least when he found them. Many who looked unlikely. Strong. Powerful even.
Maybe those were the true builders. Those who thought they owned the system, but instead were run by it. And how they always had it together, but inside they were a broken mass of confusion. This realization brought on a new wave of discomfort. Because he was a builder. Fuck it all, but he was a builder. Case in point: he was planning to slave over twelve hours today in stock exchange and negotiations, trying to win an account that he didn’t much care for. That he objectively did not need. Didn’t even have a solid assurance of gaining it.
Pathetic, that he had to learn this from a quilt. A mass of fabric. But because he was a man and was wont to be stupid enough being comfortable doing the wrong thing, he decided he was okay being a builder. Because if not him, then who?
The tower had to get done somehow. It was not going to build itself. The economy wasn’t going to propel itself. He could not just quit a whole company and ruin the lives of over two thousand employees and ultimately over two thousand families all over an emotive compulsion.
Ooorrr, maybe he was finally going crazy and was now using the quilt as a scapegoat for his brand of crazy.
When he finally landed on his desk at work, first thing he did was shove all the newspapers and info on the current SE market rates he was going to trade today, into a bin. He was going to go against every fibre of his being and follow his gut. Whatever he won or lost, he won or lost. That was that. Yep, this was how the trip to the psychiatric ward began.
It would be a lie to say he winged it completely. There wasn’t much to be creative over with math and logic a constant governance over his operations. However, what he needed to substitute, he did with reckless extreme. Who said scientists couldn’t art? Had they met him? No. clearly not.