Experiments in Romanticism

Featured Image Credit: “ECLIPSE“ by Ryan Peltier is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

It was on that day when we decided to drive to the mall because you thought we’d reached the level in our lives where we should start purchasing art, even if it was a cheap imitation.

It was the feeling that mattered. The synthetically destroyed sculpture, born without arms in order to replicate the original. It’s somewhat promising that we, now, see the destroyed and ravaged remains of art from bygone eras as the epitome of perfection.

The Venus de Milo wasn’t conceived without arms yet that’s how we saw her when we met her so, to us; she’s always been a double amputee in loose-fitting clothing that adds to her beauty. (Although the look of distress on her face does read as if she’s thinking, “I really wish I had some arms right about now.”)

How funny. These works that took years, if not decades, to complete arrived at our century as less of their complete form, yet they are so beautiful because of their age and their pure will to survive. And now, the clones and offspring of these relics can be purchased at a reasonable price at your local mall.

“It’s a—how do you say—experimentation,” you said as you looked the window. The seemingly perennial dusk light that entered my Ford Escape lit you up but I, being the safe driver I am, could only enjoy your beauty through my peripheral vision. Strangely enough, the warm honey light remained for such a long time within the car, against your face and reflecting through your hair, as if it was waiting for me to give my full and undivided attention to the theatrical production the world had set up for me, and only me, apparently.

You looked out the window, into the horizon, into the half-visible sun sinking into the edge of the earth when we arrived at a stoplight. Finally, I was able to turn and look at you and, although the moment could’ve lasted only a few seconds, my eyes and soul sure were glad that time stopped for that moment. As soon as the light turned green (which you kindly pointed out to me) all the remaining light the world had was ripped away and dragged beyond the horizon, leaving us to drive on a dark street, sitting in a dark car. I reminisced on the moment that perspired not a minute before, remembering you, and reached my right hand out, to rest on your thigh.

“An experimentation,” I said in response, clearly not focusing on anything specific save for the sense of the fabric of your dress against my hand, the way your thigh feels when pressure is applied, how the reflective strips on the road only shine because of the car’s headlights. A deep, hidden jump of fear frolicked within me. What if the store is closed? I thought for a brief moment.

“What’s wrong?” you said, probably because you noticed that the pressure my hand was supplying suddenly stopped.

“Nothing, nothing,” it really was nothing, why does my subconscious mind enjoy bothering me and making me worry so much? Does it grow bored, unable to escape me? Does it regret who it chose to control? This is when I enter my dimension of inescapable rhetorical questions. At least your voice helped to bring me back from the abyss my subconscious so seductively attempted to drag me into.

“An experimentation in whether art affects the environment that it occupies,” you said continuing your previous thought.

At this point, with the change of light and scenery (we were approaching the mall, which meant the residential neighborhoods were being replaced with freeways, cars, and tall buildings) had made it feel as if hours had passed since that moment at the stoplight when in fact it had only been a minute or two at most. Again, my mind was playing tricks on me. Time seems to stretch for eternity within my head but outside, it ticks on and on as it has forever, although it does so suspiciously. 

“Explain, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said. I could feel your eyes on me as I pulled into the mall’s parking lot.

“What is there to explain?” You said, getting out of my car. “Imagine waking up in a room with nothing up on the walls and then imagine waking up in a room with a few painting hung up.”

We walked in silence for a few steps across the empty parking lot. I remembered my college dorm and the band posters I had up then I compared that to my current living situation, which includes naked walls, and I found no change regarding how clothed versus naked walls, or an “environment with or without art,” affected me.

“Okay,” I said.

“Now, think of a museum. We could make our bedroom the Musée des Beaux-Arts.”

“I guess. I would prefer our bed to walking through museums for hours.”

“But now think about why we go to museums.”

I did.

“Don’t you think it would affect you if your bedroom had sculptures and paintings of people all around it? You’d feel as if everyone constantly surrounds you, even if it’s just a subconscious feeling. Imagine if you woke up in the middle of the night because you heard a noise and the first thing you saw was a shadow of a man next to the window. You’d panic, yes? Or just imagine what it would feel like to have that many eyes, open eyes, looking into your bedroom. It must do something for you. And to me too, of course.”

“This ‘experimentation’ sounds a bit sinister.”

“That’s the point. It’s supposed to make you more alert, at least that’s my initial hypothesis.”

Thankfully the mall was closed. Tonight, we would be able to sleep alone in our room, no open eyes to gaze at us while we drifted in our dreams.