- Vol. 01
- Chapter 01
I’ve started wandering around the Louvre during my now-vacant breaks. Not at all thoughtlessly: I’ve actually developed a little routine and make sure to pass three specific works in a quite specific order.
The first exhibit is found on the ground floor of the Sully Wing. She has neither head nor arms, marble drapery clinging to her as if she has just escaped some frat boy’s wet T-shirt contest. Her foot rests upon a tortoise. He might have had races to run, hares’ egos to deflate but the goddess is clearly having none of it: Aphrodite Ourania and her club-footed friend. I told you that I had been hurt before and that the experience had toughened me, made me uncaring. ‘Carry your shield on your back, or return on it’ was my motto, I had said, and warned that I could leave at any time. Shields can also serve as coracles. That same evening we swung by a screening of Blade Runner. During an early scene with the Voight-Kampff test when a character declares: ‘You're in a desert, walking along in the sand -’, you had reached for my hand in the darkness.
The second exhibit is François Rude’s Young Neopolitan Fisherboy Playing with a Tortoise. The boy is naked and wears a hat. Either I let my guard down or you got under my skin; whichever, I began to think solely in awful lines of poetry during those days together. Let’s lie here arm in arm, let’s get lyrical, let’s make psalteries of each other’s inexpert mouths. You were taller than me and in order to kiss you I had to lift my chin. That sounds more delicate than the action deserved: I had to crane my neck. I felt impervious and brave, all at once wonderfully dunderheaded with love. Every small thing you did made flush my calipash and each day I woke up knowing that I could have withstood storms for you. Beneath the brickwork of my skin my heart became built like a ziggurat. Our days were glossy and embossed. In the statue, the boy is tickling the tortoise’s face with a reed.
Tortoise shares the same etymology as torture and torment. I knew passersby were laughing at us, that you could bear walking with such a squat, conch-backed idiot. The shell is fused to the ribcage which holds the heart. So obviously ugly! Calloused, Hermetically sealed; I swallowed my head into my body for shame. Ludicrous fossilised meringues. Tortoises look like nothing less than those upturned UHT milk cartons from the Louvre’s café.
The third exhibit is a small bronze god ( ‘identified by notches on the ankles for the wings’). He looks miserable and is portrayed with hands cast out (‘holding a lost object, probably a tortoise’).
When the weather is good I sit outside and watch the clockwork-footed tourists in the gallery courtyard. My exhibits are safely fixed on their plinths or nailed in their display cases: they will wait for me.