A good girl, Daisy followed her mother into that art gallery because she’d insisted they needed to get a bit of culture. All around the first room there were pictures that to Daisy’s eyes seemed much too alike. In the next room the pictures also appeared to be nearly but not quite identical.
Room after room the drawings continued to show the same old woman sitting in that same chair facing straight ahead. Always she was sitting under a door frame that like a bridge moved Daisy’s eye from one side of the picture to the other. Nothing more. No reason for her to feel fear building up inside her chest. No reason to feel the eyes, always the same eyes, bearing down upon her until the building faded away behind the figures and Daisy’s urge to flee pushed her into flight. She raced on ahead leaving her mother far behind.
In the middle of the last room was a low, white platform. Daisy slowed her pace and walked around this distinctive display many times. On the plain surface were black statues of skinny people. Africans, she decided, from that country where everyone is beautiful but hungry. There was even a starving cat and a starving dog.
And there also appeared to be an empty circle of light on the platform floor. Had one of the small sculptures disappeared? Been forgotten? Stolen? What could it have been a distortion of? A starving turtle or a starving girl? Daisy’s heart sped off on a race and her feet were once again forced to follow.
Her mother eventually found her daughter in the parking lot. When she asked what the trouble was, her good little Daisy raised a stubborn chin and announced that she hated her name, had always hated her name, and from now on everyone would have to call her Daze.
In graduate school Daze wrote her thesis on the same artist whose work she’d first encountered on that never-to-be-forgotten day. She studied the museum’s now yellowed brochure, the curator’s notes, and the exhibition list only to discover that there had not been nearly so many rooms or pictures as she’d thought. But there had been several pictures of people sitting on the same chair in the same doorway. No where did Daze find any mention of a loss or theft and all the statues listed were ones that she remembered seeing. Nothing out of order and yet she still felt she’d failed to grasp some critical insight, a valuable clue.
Even more years later a postcard arrived from a friend who knew of her interest in those little sculptures. On the front was a picture of one Daze had seen before but never really stopped to notice. There is always seeing and not seeing. she thinks to herself. The more resonate the art the more ways it can be experienced.
And suddenly she saw it, this same sculpture, laying in that pool of light she had always believed was empty yet had frightened her into running away. This same terrible, corpselike wrenching of a bronze woman with her throat cut.
Just as suddenly as Daze remembers the title she also remembers something she had forgotten she even knew. Her mother had taken her to the museum that day in order to escape the reporters who had been scouting the neighborhood for news about a beautiful, sad actress that little Daisy and her mama had just that morning found lying in a pool of blood on the white wooden porch floor of the house next door.