• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 07
Image by

The Bowls We Hold

Alexandra leans forward at her wheel. Her hands cradle and centre a wet mound of clay, a slippery brown hill, a rough form. “This is the beginning of making a pot, this is turning,” she tells me. We’ve only just met as she is teaching my husband pottery, yet here I am as she explains how things are made, how they turn from what we imagine into what we get. I only came here to drop off his check.

“The touch must be subtle but steady," Alexandra says. Her little fingers are perfectly poised, moving in rhythm with the rotations, the revolutions, the turning of her wheel. Everything spinning.

Then she digs two fingers into the clay’s middle. All at once, there is a hole, a cavity, a slippery dip. I look away.

Around us are shelves are piled high with unglazed pots, bowls, vases, cups, plates and jars. Row upon row of fragile, unfinished things. They lean, and teeter. I want to give her the check, get out of here.

But now Alexandra pulls the clay up. She makes it rise, it looks like it will fall, but it thins and holds, and holds and thins. Suddenly I remember a dream I had, I want to tell Alexandra, but it would seem odd. It was a dream about being inside a Roman amphora, trapped in the smooth interior, unable to escape, because the neck was too narrow.

“You must feel the shape coming” Alexandra says. The wheel buzzes. She holds her pot. It seems to have grown from nowhere. I shift from one foot to another, wanting to tell Alexandra that I know something about her. Yesterday, after his pottery class, my husband told me, fingernails caked with brown clay, “Alexandra is like you, Venezuelan but living in France. You should talk.” The check is in my bag.


The Bowls We Hold

“I need to dash,” I tell Alexandra with a smile, even though, suddenly, I want to speak about bowls. I want to talk about the military coups in Venezuela, and how I try to grasp onto life's rim, by my fingertips, even when I feel like everything is collapsing. But the wheel is turning. Alexandra looks up. There is the slick sound of water on moving clay, like a slap, the lapping of a wave. Our eyes meet. The wheel keeps on turning.