"Life ain’t nothing but a cold, hard ride” - Bruce Springsteen
The first time I visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art I am befriended by a kind, white haired man who resembles my late grandfather. After learning I am a writer he recites poetry and quotes great philosophers. He advises me never to trust a man who dislikes animals. At this I smile.
The next morning I wake to an email. I grow four new limbs and slink my octopus body out of my chair, searching for darkness, for the nearest and tightest crack to crawl into, a place where the feeling wrenching through my belly will be so small, I won’t be able to feel it. The philosopher writes of his hopes to take me to Bear Mountain and his poetic words of devotion creep up my shoulders and send shivers down my spine. For weeks I worry he will find me.
I avoid the Met for a year, until Donald Trump becomes the President Elect. Art, I hear people saying, now is the time for artists, the time to put our anger and hurt into our work. Refuse to be silenced. But the morning after the election, a dark fog blankets the city and envelops me. I find no words to match my emotions. The only thing I can feel is heavy, the type of heaviness that rests on your shoulders after a death, the kind that makes you look around corners for bits of magic, snippets of time where the cold hard thing isn’t truth. My extra limbs regenerate, but I don’t slink away.
On my return to the Met I am surrounded by Greek and Roman statues. I admire the way hard stone has been made to look soft, the lips of Athena smoother than my own, the muscles of Hercules chiseled to perfection, remnants of the famous fallen democracy, the penises violently broken off, a reign of censorship protecting us from the impure.
In another corridor I see a bronze statue of a young woman walking, a sheer piece of cloth draped over her head and shoulders, naked from the waist down. Her hunched back attempts to shield her from something unseen. My eyes lock onto the woman as if I’ve known her all my life but am just now seeing her for the first time, only now recognizing her suffering. Circling, I find no name, no placard. She has no voice. Others pass by. How can they not stop to see her, to hear her silent cries? This girl, frozen in bronze, fills the space in my mind where the words had not been able to flow. Not important enough for a name or a story, invisible, pussy exposed for the grabbing.
Finally I find her placard on a distant wall. She is the embodiment of a season, Winter. She is every woman, every person who is hurting, isolated, and scared. Every person who has been marginalized, silenced, and forgotten. Every person who has stood behind the masses, just barely visible, and who now fears they will disappear like smoke. How had I never seen her before? What else had I missed?
Down from Winter, another naked bronze woman sits alone. She is larger than life, thick limbed, making herself small. Her knees are pulled into her chest, arms resting on the caps, head fallen in defeat. She weeps. She crawls inside my chest and I weep with her. I am her. I always have been. Strong but powerless, only just realizing that she too is vulnerable and exposed. She cries in front of everyone though there is no sound, no obvious harm becoming her. The earth we took for granted has fallen away beneath our feet. We weep for ourselves and for everyone, for those who we neglected to see when they were walking through the streets, naked, in the dead of winter.
Kristin Herren is a writer from Auburn, WA. She studied Creative Writing and English at Linfield College in McMinnville, OR and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with her MFA in Writing in 2017. While studying at Sarah Lawrence, Kristin was the Graduate Coordinator for the Women's Right-to-Write Program, a creative writing program for incarcerated women. Kristin has since returned to the Pacific Northwest where she continues to teach and work on her craft. She enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her black lab, Catcher.