The Cursed Painting

It’s impossible to mourn what we’ve already lost. There’s too much and I haven’t even lost anything. I have a friend who lost a parent, lost his job, is going through a divorce and is separated due to quarantine from his young son. I have a friend who lost both of her elderly parents to the virus within days. I have friends with hospitalized parents, partners, friends. I have friends who are waiting for their loved one to die of cancer during a time when it feels like that shouldn’t be allowed. How dare they die of cancer at a time like this, right?

And for most of us, the losses are still too abstract. Everyday more institutions crumble away in a whisper. Do you even remember what restaurant or music venue or startup closed yesterday or last week or last month? The details slip out of thought, forgotten like the condiments rotting away in the fridges of corporate america.

The days blend together. We say last week but we mean yesterday.

Last night I dreamt about a cursed portrait. To remove the curse, all I had to do was put the portrait back on the beige backlit wall in the abandoned school it hung in. I was painting the wall with milk and carving symbols into the plaster with my fingernails to bind it. All the time the portrait was whispering to me of the riches I would find if only I wouldn’t hang it back up on its hook. My pockets grew heavy with coins and my tears turned to sapphires in my eyes.

What’s your cursed painting? Mine is of a distinguished man who looks like he read the newspaper from cover to finish every morning back when men would read newspapers and we would trust them to know. Know how to run things, what to do, what needed doing, what we could sacrifice, what we couldn’t. Know where his money was and what it was doing. Know what was coming and what to do about it. The great lie. The grand illusion of capitalist patriarchy. That the future and what to do about it was knowable. That it wasn’t just men failing up. That there was a plan. That we would be safe.

I hang the painting on the wall, pack my things into a giant plastic bag that says Bed Bath and Beyond on it and walk out of the school into the blinding light.

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