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“It is, I believe,” the younger woman said, “a commentary on the contemporary milieu of lost youth.”
“Quite right,” said the man with the squeaky voice. “It’s a statement about one’s ability to look oneself in the eye and recognize the years wasted on indulgent hedonism. Really powerful, if you ask me.”
“I can certainly relate,” the elderly woman said, a tinge of distance in her voice. “Who was the artist?”
“Unknown,” the guard said, returning with a rope. “Here’s the placard.”
“A perfectly apt name. Really true to form,” the younger woman said.
“I didn’t know this gallery had anything but paintings,” Tomás said.
“We don’t,” the guard said, clasping the rope over hooks on either side of the alcove.
It would only be a few hours more, I thought at the time, where I would have to bear the brunt of their talk about which modern, postmodern, or post-postmodern movement I represented. Before long, the sun would fall, the room would empty, and I would have an opportunity to rouse my stiff body from its slumber.
However, that would not be the case. As he was leaving, I overheard the guard punching in an alarm code, some sort of a motion sensor, which would spell my embarrassing doom. Imagine the headlines:
I would be the laughing stock of the city, a cretin. No, I would wait it out until a more opportune moment presented itself. The moment could be morning, before anyone arrived. I would pretend to be a patron who slipped in unnoticed as the doors opened.
But word got out around town that The Boy was a sight to behold — more a medium for a message, than a message itself. What you wanted to see within me, what artistic emotions you wished to spill out of your soul, I provided. I was a vessel of creation, no matter the circumstances.
A renowned art critic was the first through those doors that very next morning. He said little, though I heard him shuffling behind me, trying to find an appropriate angle to take me in, followed by many exasperated hmmmmmmmmms and the scratching of lead on paper.
Segments of his review would later find my ears, through the mouths of my admirers who read his words out loud as they surrounded me. Here’s my favorite quote:
The subaqueous sexuality presented in the piece is conceptually seen through an internal crisis of self. The disjunctive becomes conjunctive and we all gain a greater understanding of what it is to be in its purest form, without any utterance of incoherence. The optical suggestions of purity, which form along the lines of the rotting corpse, contextualized in the near death we all experience as we lie awake at night, gives us a humble reprieve from our own burdensome lives. You may agree and/or disagree but I know no horizon after this. It is the pinnacle of mankind.
Despite the elusiveness of the critic’s words — or perhaps because of it — men and women, children and babies, dogs and cats and their respective owners, spacemen and cowgirls, the purple and the pink, came from far and wide to lay their eyes upon The Boy. It gave me and my thirty-six short years on earth some modicum of meaning. I was, for a time, beyond my wildest imagination, famous. It sustained me for weeks, through some sort of attention-based photosynthesis, powering my self-made prison.
Then, my singular movement gained momentum and it became bigger than just me in the alcove, the boy unknown. Imitations started popping up in other galleries, performance artists went days without moving, holding up paintings of their own likeness. Plush toys were given out as gifts, postcards were sent to loved ones with my face on it. But after a while, and not a long while at that, people became desensitized to the original. My little alcove was soon passed over by the gallery patrons and I began to collect dust under my nose and in my armpits and in the space between my thighs. My placard might as well have read:
At the end, when I had withered away to bones and dust, the old woman who had first discovered my artliness came by to see. She commented flippantly and without attention how “smart” it was to have ended this way, and I have to agree with her.