Monumental Objects

I woke up and walked to the library downtown this morning, and when I arrived, a few things happened. A voice ratcheted off sky-rise walls, high-pitched but low-pitched at the same time, a rumbly screech echoing from somewhere further away than where the voice was actually coming from. I could hear the voice from a few blocks away, ominous and angry, full-tilt pissed. When I walked across 13th, I could see where it was coming from--a woman with five slumped bags was screaming at the top of her lungs underneath the jagged stack of prisms which is a statue I don't understand. Her voice bounced off the Denver Art Museum, then off the Mad Greens restaurant, then off the bull sculptures--a papa and its calf bedded down, huge and black-brown pewter-shiny, together about 1500 square feet. I know what 1500 square feet look like because I've been looking at houses. I know I shouldn't be because my mind fills rooms before they're mine, but there's something in my hands that wants to paint a home of our own, something in my knees that wants to not walk up 16 stairs with my groceries, something in my nature that wants to fill kitchen cabinets that have doors, unlike ours. The woman shouted racist obscenities and hissed while I picked up my pace, and her voice rattled like a strangled can of uncooked beans.

When her voice had stopped coming off the buildings, I came to the lawn next to the library and ate half a grape jelly and bacon biscuit from the Denver Biscuit truck. I thought maybe I shouldn't eat because she might have been homeless and how insensitive would that be, but I was hungry, and I couldn't hear her voice anymore, so I did. Next to the library, there's this statue:

This is not me in the photo. This statue confuses me. It is shiny and I like it, but I'm not sure why. I know it's a play on smallness and point of view, because it's outside the children's area of the library. Another Lighthouse instructor named Terry was at the Biscuit Truck and he started raving about the statue, how much he loved it, how the original horse had so much hail damage, they had to put a second one up and the mayor (or someone locally famous, I'm not sure) now has horse #1 in his house.

I have never been good at understanding art. When I took an art history class in college, I was amazed at how much I didn't know but then knew as soon as someone else told me it was true. On the DPL website, they explain the statue: "The scale of this work is meant to recall that time in life when even everyday objects seemed monumental." So maybe that's why I like it.

After I left the library, I drove by another homeless man with a Hollywood face, cinnamon brown hair pulled into a ponytail, and a beard like the thick strap of a hat around his chin. His sign said, "I need a miracle." It gave me goosebumps. I wonder if miracles, I mean real miracles, really happen.

When I got to my neighborhood, I drove past the house for sale that I love, and there was an old man leaning into the doorway with a paint brush. I've been watching that house--how its windows went from streaked to silvery clean, how it had been emptied out then refilled with bland modern staging furniture, how purple flowers were standing straight up from red, wet-looking wood chip mounds one morning. The repairman invited me inside and told me to take my time. I went into the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the mudroom. I opened all the closet doors upstairs and I tried the master bathroom's sink. My favorite part was the separate garage out back and my mind did what I told it not to--a dinner party started under paper lanterns strung in Z's, and I laid a tray of pink salmon in between glasses and plates.

Frank, who has been working on the house for a few weeks, said he used to write short stories. Then he said he read some poetry some time ago and he thought it was something, so he started doing that, too. His parents came from Poland and settled in Wisconsin, and that's where he learned to swim, he said, something they aren't teaching kids anymore. I don't remember why he brought up swimming and poetry, but I thought it was perfect, and he said it was a solid house, and he loved to have dinner under strung-up lanterns. I almost shook his hand when he said that (not that shaking his hand is something I would usually do, but a hug would have been awkward and anything I could have said in response would have been cliche--that's exactly what I was thinking, or, you read my mind) so I thanked him a few times for letting me walk around and told him to have a nice day. Sometimes when I talk to people, I sound boring to myself.

It consoled me to think that Frank took pleasure in lanterns, too, and I wonder now, after learning what that statue means, if everyday objects aren't still monumental to some people. Sometimes I feel materialistic, peeking into houses I'll never buy or trolling for old tables in thrift stores and boutiques, but these searches are what bring meaning, too. I bought a table this afternoon. A man in a yarmulke named Isaac sold it to me in a musty antique store on Mississippi. "Looking's free," he said. And then when he ran into me in the hallway he said it again.

The table has an antique sewing machine built under the hinging lid, and when you angle the machine down into the dark, the head and arm of it disappear smoothly under the top like they never existed. Whoever owned it last left blue thread in the needle. I can picture the self-stitched hem of her dress, the music crackling from a slick record. Her feet pumping in matte Mary Janes.