I had reached the end. This was the last room of the gallery that I had to clean.I had woken up early just to clean the floors before opening hours. I was weary and couldn’t wait to go home. The paintings in this room were all black and white. They were painted by the same artist. The theme for this exhibition was ‘Hidden’. I had studied all these paintings for the last three months but I never found whatever had been hidden in these paintings. I assumed the theme ‘Hidden’ meant something else.
A woman wearing a floral red gown was singing and twirling away as she danced past the paintings. Her gray hair wrapped neatly in a low bun. She immediately caught my attention. It was too early in the morning for guests to arrive. She stood still before a black and white painting. I stopped cleaning just to look at her. What made her stop dancing I thought what is so fascinating about this painting.
I looked closer to the black and white painting she was staring at. She took a quick glimpse at me and I looked at the ground pretending to clean. I slowly lifted my head back up and she was gone. Where did she go? I thought. I looked around but there was no way the woman could have left the room without walking past me. She seemed to be 70 or so years old and was wearing heels. I would have at least heard her walk past me. I walked closer and put my broom against the wall. I don’t remember seeing this, I thought. The painting was an image of a long curtain. the curtains had always been drawn but this time the curtain was slightly open and there was a man standing behind it. He was wearing a suit and a hat. It looked like he came from the fifties. I don’t remember seeing him before. I touched the painting and the curtain was pushed slightly. I was shocked and took a few steps back. I looked around but I was still on my own. There was no way to confirm that what just happened was real. The man signaled me to follow him. I took a few steps closer to the painting. How can this be real? The man continued to signal me to come. I touched the painting and pushed the curtain. A clicking sound was heard coming from the painting. The man signald me to leave as he rushed to hide behind the curtain. I let go of the painting and quickly grabbed my broom and continued sweeping.
The woman reappeared in the room and started singing again. She was radiating with joy. She had her sunglasses on, and she had a beige coat draped over her arm. She walked out of the room. I imagined singing with her and dancing with my broom. What had gotten into me. The man in the painting reappeared. I put my broom against the wall next to the painting and pushed the curtain open and went inside. It was dark inside the painting, the curtain felt soft in my hands.
There was just enough light to see him walking before me. He was tall and still black and white. The ground was uneven as though I had been walking on rocks. there was a lot of light coming from the end of the hallway. I took a step and felt sand covering my foot. As I pulled my foot out of it I noticed my shoe was gone. As though the sand had eaten it. I stepped out of the room and was blessed with the sight of the beach. He seemed so out of place against the beige sand that looked like crystals against the rays of the sun. And the blue sky that didn’t have a hint of rain in sight. He pointed at a sea turtle that must have been the size of my head. I stood there behind the turtle as it walked into the sea.
I became aware I was in the water knee deep. The sea was clear and I could see different kinds of colorful fish surrounding me. But my attention was on the sea turtle. As it swam further away from me. I felt this need to follow it. In the sea there was a huge rock twice my size. The turtle swam around it and I followed him walking in the water. When I walked behind the rock I checked to see if the man was still standing on the beach. But what was once the beach was now the open sea, and the open sea turned into the beach. I hadn’t walked in a full circle, so how could this be? The man was gone, it was just me and the turtle.
The rock had a gaping hole in it like a small cave. I stepped into the cave. The inside of the cave was green with moss. The turtle swam in the cave as it became smaller and smaller until it disappeared in a tiny whole. I knew I wouldn’t fit into that whole. But somehow I could see through the turtle’s eyes as he swam into the whole and in the open sea. It was as though I became the turtle. We swam and a school of small fish surrounded us. We looked up and saw a rock floating on the surface. On it sat a mermaid, her long green tail created ripples in the sea as she swayed it left and right.
The turtle swam towards her but was met with resistance as an even bigger turtle chased us around. The school of fish distracted the bigger turtle for a moment by surrounding him. My own body returned. The small turtle was swimming next to me and nodded his tiny head as if to tell me I should go first. I looked at my legs and I had a green tail too. I swished my tail and swam towards the mermaid on the floating rock.