When Life Imitates Art, by Wendy DeRaud

My backpack and I did not fit very well as I tried to go through the turnstile of the New York City Subway.

 

And the speed at which I walked was a meander compared to the warped speed and heartless determination of the commuters on their way to work or home or somewhere very important. All the things I heard about New Yorkers were being confirmed to me. I was a pariah, everyone glared at me because I was keeping them from going as fast as they wanted to go. No one was the least bit curious about who I was and why I was there.

What made me such an irritation was that not only did I have to wedge my way through the turnstile with my backpack and frame on my back making me wider and more cumbersome than usual, I was also carrying my guitar case, and had to maneuver myself through the crowded station with all my accoutrements. What a disaster. Once again, New York City was not measuring up to my expectation of it, the romantic view of myself was slowly dissolving into a disappointing reality.

Making my way to the surface streets from the bowels of the subway, barely squeaking through with my guitar case and backpack, it was pouring down rain. Someone had told me about a really great place to buy pizza on some important sounding corner around there in Manhattan, but was it really worth it?

I made my way to the Museum of Modern Art. That was all I could muster on this rainy day, heavily burdened as I was. But I was in New York City, and I was going to make the most of this opportunity.

I found myself standing in front of a painting I recognized.

 

 

 

"Sleeping Gypsy," Rousseau, Museum of Modern Art, New York City

 

 

 

 

I felt that this was very important, that I met her this way. She was asleep in the desert, her mandolin at her side. There was a lion hovering over her, eerily eyeing her in the stark moonlight. How colorful her gypsy garb, but her dark face was lost in the night, even the moon could not illuminate it, perhaps knowing she needed to be hidden from the stalking predator.

All these thoughts eluded me then, but looking back to that moment, I now recognize that girl. She is art imitating life, she was me. Her mandolin, my guitar, her desert bed, my vulnerability. The lion is poised to attack as he picked up on the scent of her womanliness contained in her heaving breast, deep in slumber, dreaming of love, the romance of adventure, riding across the country on a train, only to be met by disappointment.

 

 

 

 

Gaia's Lamb, oil painting by Mark DeRaud

 

 

What happens next in my story is that I slept all night in Grand Central Station, and just like the gypsy girl in the moonlit desert, I slept exposed in an awkward pose, guitar under my arm, backpack as my pillow, keeping one eye open to any stalking predator. When I awoke to the surging throb of civilization on their early morning missions, I was safe, I had survived the night. I then went to catch a train to Boston, trying to imagine that I was a normal commuter, to meet my Uncle Jack, who would provide me with a blue VW bug driveaway car for the last leg of my journey home, across the country to California.

 

But that's another story.

 

 


Go home, gypsy girl, and wait for the silence telling you something important about yourself, about how beautiful you really are. You need a soft bed for your head. You can play your mandolin in your own room, and sing along with your graceful fingers as they cascade around the strings, carving out a melody of desire, telling the story in moans and whispers, whichever you want.

 

You are worth the wait. You will be planted, you will bear fruit, you will become all the colors in your gypsy garb, and when the moon sets, and the sun rises on your new day, the lion will be far away, knowing he is barred from entering. You are safe here. Now rest your head on your soft pillow and dream of the days ahead, when you will be seen for who you really are, in all your beauty, your unique knowing, your adventurous heart, your melodious arpeggios, telling your story for all to hear.