Ink on drywall (ball-point, marker, etc.)
ca. 1995-2004 CE
He opens a door marked EMERGENCY USE ONLY and ushers her into a shabby stairwell. Graffiti covers the walls:
Carlos sux williams pensil dick... and swallows!
Rats ate my paycheck
LATE CAPITALISM DOOMS ITS SUBJECTS TO [crossed out and illegible, mostly concealed by a carefully shaded and cross-hatched giant penis]
METS YANKEES EAT ASSHOLE !!!!
The concept of “genius” is an essentialist phallacy.
GO BACK TO COLLEGE, DICKWAD!
The guard turns to May and says in a low voice, “Walk along the walls.” He nods to a shiny black dome in the ceiling corner. “The cameras.”
May flattens herself against the graffiti—Product is the Excrement of Action…Jets Suck —and creeps down the stairs sideways, following close behind him. They keep turning through a bland labyrinth of white and grey corridors. May follows along numbly, with the beginnings of a headache and the taste of stale champagne thickening her tongue. Every once in a while the guard pauses and pulls thoughtfully at his bottom lip, or looks back at her and waves a hand for her to make a quick sprint across the hallway to avoid a camera. His pants are too short for him, and each time he takes a step they rise up to reveal an ankle.
His walkie-talkie crackles and peeps, and voices say, Japanese...European Paintings...Egyptian...
“What's that?” May whispers.
“It's the other guards doing their rounds,” he says. He brings the radio to his mouth and presses a button. “Ahm...Cubism...” he mumbles.
In one hallway he unlocks a door and nods for her to enter. It’s a small bathroom with off-white tiles and one stall. In the mirror she sees the same face she caught a glimpse of earlier in the Egyptian display case. Names scratched on the mirror’s surface, another giant penis scrawled on the wall. She cleans herself up and re-examines. No more mascara tears and she’s tied back her hair, but she still doesn’t look like herself. There’s a stranger in her own reflection—it’s a feeling she hasn’t had since she was a teenager. She smiles at the stranger and the stranger smiles back in almost perfect imitation.
Too much champagne, she thinks.
More hallways. They walk so long May can hardly believe they're still in the museum. Where's he taking her? Are there really this many hidden grey hallways? Suddenly he stops and shushes her, flinging his hand almost to her mouth. He tilts his head intently, listening. They've come to a door. He unlocks it, and they step out into a suite of French period rooms.