April 16, 2009
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In the museum painting, instead of oil-on-canvas daisies, I saw the tall, white windmills that made my mom stop the car and force everyone to get out and look at. My dad, my sister, the dog, and I all limped out of the car on our stiff numb legs. Our elbows crossed, hunched backs protecting our identity from familiar oncoming traffic. As she hiked us up the slippery grass, we became upside-down magnets to the windmills. Needles sprouted from my toes and my heels and my calves like the slimy grass beneath my feet.

I stood five feet away from my mom incase the wind grew stronger and hurled her frail body towards me, knocking the entire family down so we’d roll down the hill into unsuspecting traffic. And it would just so happen that a lost cop would be driving by, in which case, we’d crash into his car, spilling his coffee all over his new uniform and dent his badge.

I was happy to be looking at a new painting. And in this one I saw no windmills or coffee. The painting was a still life of three apples and a peach in a crystal bowl. How original.

The purpose of the field trip to the De Young wasn’t the art. The group therapist said the purpose was to unveil what you saw in the art or how you identified with the art. The few people that made up my therapy group were a sad, misunderstood bunch of kids. The rich, always-working parents didn’t have the time to accommodate their kids’ attention demands so they bought a therapist for them instead. These kids weren’t in my group. They had private sessions. Since the rate was cheaper, my parents sent me into the group because they wanted to put an end to the “strange teenage phases” I was experiencing. Looking at the paintings only reminded me of a disappointing truth. Only other artists respect artists’ work. The rest of San Francisco is lost in their own minds, contemplating on whether they should tape American Idol or just watch it online later. Or what bus they should take to get to a friend’s house so they can watch American Idol on their friend’s HDTV.

I wanted to be able to look at the painting and honestly think that the polished apples were my peers and the awkward, fuzzy peach was me and we were all in a compact, probably plastic, crystal bowl that revealed how squished I felt, how vulnerable. The artist probably took a bite of the peach and turned the bit end away from the face of the picture. He washed the sour taste down with another swig of whiskey. He thought about carving it to make it more interesting, make it into a sun or a flower. But the peach would leak onto the apples, dimming their shine, and create a puddle of sticky peach excretions at the bottom of the plastic-crystal bowl. Which would make them rot and the artist would have to paint them for what they were, fruit. No, this was the way things had to be. Three apples, a pear, a plastic-crystal bowl. That’s all it was.

My therapist was focused on the other students. The ones that had already written him the check. I tagged along in the group, silently thinking to myself, fearing the next painting. We walked through galleries of modern art not meant to be understood. We walked through galleries decorated with sculptures of naked, chiseled bodies. I wanted to look in those galleries. But we weren’t “ready.” It was the first field trip to the De Young and our therapist wanted to gradually spread us into the world of “discovering one’s self through art.”

After our third visit we would be expected to apply for an internship for the museum as a continuation of self discovery. The therapist says that “to educate others is self education.” And since “education is the key to confidence” this little internship would supposedly sculpt the human being that I would blossom into, eventually. My parents planned on using the money I earned from the internship to pay for the group therapy sessions. But they hadn’t realized that applying to the internship wasn’t a sure thing. And I had other plans with the money I earned.

A one way ticket to New Jersey. I saved up a little money already, about thirty-five dollars. My Nana was sick and I have wanted to visit her for half a decade, but my parents protested against me missing any school and besides, she wouldn’t have been up to taking me in anyways. I wouldn’t believe it. I couldn’t. I wanted to see her face, smell the cloth on her shoulders when I showed up at her doorstep, midday, one day. Soon. She’d already have a plate of home-made shortbread cookies under a dollop of vanilla frosting waiting at the table for me, like always.

And if she was too sick to eat them, I’d cook her chicken broth and noodles. Blow on it if it was too hot, and spoon-feed her in bed. Dab the sides of her mouth, in case some escaped through the cracks in her dentures. She needed every slurp to get better. And I would wait and tend to her until she did. Clipping her toe-nails, scrubbing her back, read to her, they were small tasks but whatever I could offer, I would. She was my Nana and I was her Darlin’. And we could live in her house together. All it took was a plane ticket bought with money from my internship.

I got the internship. I got the paycheck. I planned my trip in every idle mental moment I had. I bought the ticket without stopping at home first incase my parents asked if I received my pay check yet, as they did every day since the start of the week. I couldn’t lie to them, that was one thing. I placed the ticket in between a twenty and a five dollar bill, then placed those in my wallet which rested in my back pocket. I wanted to leave, I didn’t want to have to take the bus anymore, or worry about antique vases decaying because of copious camera flashes. But even itching from adrenaline, I knew I had to go home to pick up some particulars, that was another thing. I would slip into the house; grab my bag of clothes, toiletries, etc., and the directions to my Nana’s house from the New Jersey Airport. She only lived a couple of miles south of it. And then slip out. Done.

But it wasn’t that simple. Things never are. When I “slipped” in through the door the crunchy key turning, the wind let into the house, the heavy door that slammed, told me to leave. I grabbed my belongings and proceeded to the door. I was out. I got on the next bus to the airport. Numb to the jolting turns and smells of Muni, I sat reaching for my wallet to admire my well earned ticket. I felt my right pocket, then my left. My butt was level. I felt again, assuming it had been swallowed. That my body had revolted and the little men that operated my every move had pushed the big red button and swallowed my ticket. I went through my front pockets, my bag, my shoes, everything, creating quite a scene for the other passengers to watch.

I got off the bus and sat on a bench for a while. I got up once to use a local store bathroom. And once to walk around, breathe, cry, cry, breathe. I crossed the street to the other bus stop, the one that would take me home.

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