This time she wore something comfortable – jeans and a shirt – better for crawling around and stretching to reach the many exaggerated embellishments of her nesting piece. The woman climbed atop a sleeping bag that she fashioned from blankets and bubble wrap. Each pop that burst caused her to jump out of her skin, it echoing and ever powerful in the quiet halway given to the many disparate artists invited to contribute for the floor above the coffee shop. For the time being she was alone. The halway had yet to show off more than a few pieces, something she attributed to the so-called coolness of the artists and their inability to be on time.
The woman stared and glared at the flares and whistles, blaring monstrous bellows and noise her way from her quiet piece in the corner. She wondered if it was too busy – the dragon painting, surely fingered by a child, found at a thrift store was placed and incessantly maneuvered, properly surrounded by the negative space provided by the wall. She grabbed her scissors, encapsulating a contorted cord, put the tip of her tongue to her front teeth and cut.
“Ah,” she said, shocking herself.
“That was plugged in.” She widened her eyes in the dark corner. “And I ruined my extension cord.”
“Are you all right?”
“I think I electrocuted myself.”
No unworthy hassles allowed, she continued cutting. She cut a piece of see-through-blue fabric tied to separate cords of various greens and silver as well as fabrics, strings, and chains tied all about – the see-through-blue a roof of sorts – which were used to hold up a plastic made window held by more cord and shower curtain holder uppers with an orange rectangle screen for decoration and sincerity taped at the base.
“Fuck,” she said, cursing as she continued ever vigilantly, wanting to quit, but aware of how that action would never prosper.
Pantyhose held a replaced bulb, covered by a wondrous dome, with recycled flashlights providing the warmth of its interior led by the assortment of colors lined around them. Beside the finger painting a used toothbrush was held by a white cord, a blue string from a whistle, and betwixt those two holdings a nightlight crafted as confusing as a star and a doorknob combined.
“Ouch,” she said.
“My shoulder really hurts.”
“From getting electrocuted I think.”
“Babe. Should we be going to the hospital?”
“Babe babe babe!”
“C’mere C’mere C’mere!”
“Doesn’t it look cool?” She prodded her scissors into the pantyhose, which were filled with an assortment of unmentionables, turning the bit of it around to show off a lone blue thread. “Doesn’t it look like a vein? So cool. Babe, hand me my staple gun. It’s in the Adidas side pocket.”
“Nope. Not there.”
“Dig into the bag at the bottom then.”
The staple blasted and penetrated the wall, hanging an eighties-styles polka dotted shoulder pad from a dress above her framed finger painted dragon.
She stepped back, not in awe, but with crafty eyes and bare feet.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m just writing.”
“What are you writing about?”
“I don’t know yet.”
She began to hum as she tied fabric to one of the shower curtain holder uppers connecting it to the cord which held the window with the shiny orange sheet – then covered it in electric tape.
A weird little stuffed octopus baby animal with a ridiculous face creeped in the corner beside a makeshift pillow made from the bag of a cereal box and stuffed with other plastics, ever keeping an eye on the woman at work.
“What are you doing? Where is my hammer? And there is the fishing line – whatever,” she said, then proceeding to shuffle through a collection of photographs skewered about the floor. “It’s so dark here.”
“They’re going to install a lighting rail.”
“I know – what are you doing?”
“What are you writing – oh, this would have been perfect. I didn’t see this before. You haven’t written a lot lately.”
“I’ll tell you when I figure it out.”
She continued to flip through her photos, occasionally messing around with fabric and really crazy belongings and found material about her three bags filled with magic. In front of her she had clearly taped two small pieces of beauty for presentation beside her frame of cords. The structure was coming along, she thought, never once listening to her inner voice as she continue perfecting her piece for the exhibit.
“How’s your shoulder?”
She popped out of her trance, flashing a mischievous grin as her fingers prodded her chin and her dimples sang along to the melody of her eyes. “Oh, I’m fine. That went away.”
The woman walked backward after applying more to her grand design. “No,” she said, bolting to it and tearing the new bit off and away to the bubble wrap sleeping bag. “I need another color. I need …” Digging into her bag she pulled at and extended a rope, with a quick, yet deliberate glance, dropping it. “Okay.”
“Okay, baby, I’m gonna need you to …” she attached a purple yarn to the shower curtain holder thing and threw the remaining yarn wheel over the highest cord. “Tie this for me. Okay wait, the other way – can you throw it over not under?”
“Now can you tie it?”
She stepped back again and watched. “No, I don’t like it, it’s too busy now.”
“So … what now?”
“Here – you can cut it.”
“Yeah babe, thanks for nothing.”
Climbing into the structure, the woman rested atop her knees, living inside of it as if she were a part of it, living and breathing and dying as one. Her mind in constant contemplation. The bubble wrap popped. “Ahh,” she said. “Baby, I don’t like it.”
“Why don’t you like it?”
“I just don’t anymore. I feel like it’s desperate. I don’t usually work on something for this long, it’s usually just the day before and now it just feels weird.” Her hands tugged and pulled at everything, crunching her cereal bag pillow in the process as she sighed and wined. Her grimace showed a greatly heated contention. The bare bottoms of her feet grew dark as she paced to and fro outside of the piece before she hapahadazardly climbed right back into the structure. She fiddled with the colorful flashlight dome, turning it on and crowning it with more panache. “What do you think about this light here?”
She placed a push light covered in crazy outside of her structure at the foot of the bed.
“Why would there be a light there?”
“It’s for aesthetic reasons,” she said, her tongue whipping and stretching about. “Is this outside of my line?” – referring to her designated small space.
“I don’t care. I’ll put it and see and if not, we’re going – how are we on time?”
She lifted a few carefully chosen photographs from the bag to eye their belonged location against the wall below the dragon and an apparent broom handle with a yarn wheel and ribbon, then interchangeably taping three lone photographs all about. One that of a group of children dancers, the bite of the picture conveyed through motion blur. The middle blur was her. Another that of the woman’s family and friends on a passed adventure in the rain – yellow rain jackets and all – with her eldest sister front and center. The third presenting the corner stone title of her hometown neighborhood far away in Texas.
“What do you think?”
“Babe,” she said. “Would it be weird if I asked you to leave for a while?”
I stepped out from the hallway into the room baring elevators, strange words, couches, and unfinished installations with time to recollect my thoughts as I typed my story. I heard a girl laugh and my love said, “Oh, you like it?” with an almost kind disdain. “Yeah,” said the faceless woman with glee.
“Babe! Come in here.”
“Coming,” I said, turning in through the halway again. She peeked her body out of the corner.
“Sorry,” she said. “Okay, so babe I don’t know what to do with your little man.”
“Babe, the octopus dude I only made because you told me to make something when we were last here. Throw it out if ya like –”
“– No, you’re not listening. I like it, but does it look too childish?”
“It has a child-like wonder about it.”
“Especially with this photo, right?” Referring to the blurred picture. “What about this one?” She switched it out for that of the neighborhood title.
“It reigns the kiddy aspect back a bit for sure.”
“You see – everything in this has to convey a particular meaning to each other for the overal piece. Nothing here is without functionality. The random ribbons and string are all attached and holding something up, so this final picture and the baby you made all have to add to that puzzle. Do you get a sense of nostalgia from it? Is it overwhelming?”
“It definitely brings you to that viewpoint.”
“What do you see when you look at it?” She watched the watcher intently. The time being an adversary to her heart and soul.
“I see a world created for an individual conflicted with madness.”
“So it’s not ambiguous enough? There isn’t a disconnect from that world of bunk.” She eyed me, causing me to look away and back to the piece with unhelpful thoughts.
“I don’t know babe.”
“If I gave you a title would that help?”
“See I want to take so much off again,” she said grasping her scissors and cutting at the air. “Okay, what about Crumbling Entrance to Sub, babe?”
“Sub as in abbreviated?”
“So like a turning point or chapter?”
She titled her head. “Mmhm.”
“That certainly gives it perspective.”
The woman switched out the photo once more – jumping from the popping of the bubble wrap – flickered with the emergency light functions, took more than enough steps back to better consume her vision, contorted her face, slowed her breathing, and placed her chin atop her fist. “Let’s go, I’m hungry and tired.”
“Are you done?”
“I’m done. I guess so … What are you writing?”
Photograph by me starring Sarahann Walker and a smidgeon of her art for Small Space Fest.