Saturday, March 13, 2010

40th Street (Cont. #13)

An art lesson at 1546 40th Street, Brooklyn, NY.

XVI: Plugging a leak

Everybody except my father, who had been an artist, told me that the clay horse I made out of plasticine was beautiful. My father didn’t comment on it, but that was okay, because he rarely commented on anything I accomplished. Especially any artwork. Anyway, the horse was about two inches by three inches. My mother, who had also been an artist, showed it to people, aunts and uncles and neighbors on the block. Look at how beautiful it is, she’d say. Even though she may have been exaggerating, I felt very proud. I was about eight years old, I think. I decided that this was proof that I’d grow up to be an artist, just like my parents.

One day soon after, our washing machine sprung a leak. It was a big white machine, on wheels, that you could wash clothes in if you moved it next to the sink, and somehow connected its hose to the sink faucet and got the machine to turn on and start chugging.

Only this time, the fixture that extended from the washing machine sprung a leak. And no matter how tight my mother turned a knob or something, she couldn’t stop the leaking.

Then she had an idea. She saw my clay horse. And she decided that the only way to deal with the water dripping down onto the floor was to stuff the horse into the pipe or spigot or whatever that was leaking. That would stop the leak. At least temporarily, until she got around to calling the landlord, who was a plumber. (She probably didn’t think of putting a pot on the floor under the leak until the plumber came.)

So she took my horse and squished it in her hand and stuffed it into the spigot. It minimized the leaking, but didn’t completely stop it, because I saw some water seeping out around the clay.

I just watched her do it. Then I did what I'd often do when something like that happened: I stared, and kept myself very still, and started to scream inside my head no no no it’s my horse no. . . . Silent screaming, just like that painting by Edvard Munch of the person on the bridge.

Then I walked away.

Later my mother said she was so sorry she had to use my clay horse, but it was the only thing she could do. This is what I remember her saying. “It was so beautiful! I had to destroy it to stop the leaking. I’m so sorry.”

It was so beautiful, I had to destroy it. . . .

So I pretty much stopped playing with clay. But I think I kept silently screaming for a long time.

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