My mother came to stay because she wanted to stick her own thin fingers deep into the clay and find out what it felt like to make something new. To feel what it felt like to love, not just whisper invisible suggestions to the artists about it while they dreamed.
The real and true life of a shadowy, gossamer muse was dull and flat to my mother. Beauty was around her and the rest of the muses on that side of the Universe all the time. It wrapped around them and filled their daily lives, but it was commonplace. There were no scraped knees, no stinging paper cuts. No gravel. It was perfect, and that’s why they barely noticed how perfect it was.
Forever and ever I’ve dreamed of a museum filled with shiny grey statues hidden deep in dizzyingly curving corridors. The phantoms in the paintings, their canvas houses stretching from floor to twenty-foot ceiling, whisper secrets about the worlds that they lived in before their painters hammered frames around them, before they existed only oil and water and canvas and gesso.
Before they lived in the minds of their makers, they lived in the dreams of the muses who live in the other side of heaven. The muses held the phantom people in their mouths and whispered what they looked like to the artists while they slept or drove or walked to the corner store for coffee. When the artists (or writers or architects or composers) woke up from their reveries they were ready, armed with the whispers of the muses. The artists’ spines were straight and their heads were bowed in concentration, and then they made the paintings and sculptures and skyscrapers and bungalows that they had dreamed about. They’re able to crawl out of their dirty apartments and day jobs and hovels and mud huts and levitate above it all. What wasn’t to love about that?
My mother, along with the other muses, traveled forever and turned numbers around in their heads up to infinity and arrived breathless back on their side of heaven again and waited for more cloudbursts of thought and beauty. It was repetitive in its perfection, and my mother grew bored after just twenty years. She was one of the best messengers, though. She could gather up visions of snow falling in birch forests and whisper them perfectly and eloquently into the minds of humans who had always lived in the desert.
Then I was born. I wasn’t born on the other side of heaven but in the living room of a crowded apartment. There were shadowy photographs on the wall, of women in red dresses, their faces blurry and purposefully off-focus. My mother had whispered the secrets of these women to my father as he slept. And then she had fallen in love with him, and was never allowed to be a muse again.