There is a museum six blocks away from my house. I like it. Unlike what I have seen of most of the world, the museum is a place of order. The windows are always washed, the doors are all either open or automatic so you don’t have to touch them, and no one pays attention to you.
Being in a museum is a powerful feeling, like being invisible or a ninja or both.
One day, however, there was a new traveling display and the collection’s centerpiece-- a huge and garish modern painting-- was slightly askew.
My heart fell into my stomach as I looked around the room to make sure that no one else was looking. No one was in the room. I pulled out my pocket level and held it to the inside of the frame. Sure enough, the tiny bubble raced over to the left. Gently, I pulled the painting the slightest bit away from the wall. The d-rings holding it in place groaned at the sudden resistance but didn't even come close to giving way. Unless I could tear down the entire wall, there was no way I could fix it.
A little voiced in my head told me that checking the rest of the paintings could get me kicked out. But it was too late-- could I let this haven of perfection become merely one more edifice to human folly? No-- I had to defend this place. It was mine.I looked at the advertising pamphlet that I had slipped into my pocket-- it said that there were 52 paintings in the new display. If I timed it just right I would have time to check the other 51 smaller paintings without being caught by the guards.
A guard came in, then left. The moment he turned his back, I measured one, two, three of the paintings without incident. The fourth was crooked-- but very small, so I was able to correct it quickly.
I froze. “Yes.” The word was out of my mouth before I could stop it. His eyes and pupils widened and surprised.
“Oh,” he said, suddenly very helpful “ Are you here with anyone? I could help you find your group.”
“No. I was actually leaving,” I said, a little too quickly.
“Right this way, then.”
But he didn't lead me down the stairs and to the entry way. Instead he pushed me gently towards and through an Employee Only door. Immediately the clean scent of the museum turned musty. I felt my breath catch.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes” I managed to squeak out.
The hallway seemed to go on forever. Was it getting narrower-- or was that just me? I’m still not sure. All I know was that images of being gruesomely murdered started forcing their way to the front stage of my mind. I was so preoccupied with thoughts of being horribly murdered, chopped up into bits and buried in all fifty states, that I walked down an entire flight of stairs without realizing that I was supposed to be blind. But as we reached the bottom, it hit me.
I had been framed, and found out.
For the first time, I looked the triumphant security guard in the eyes.
No words needed to be said. I was caught and I knew it. I walked home nearly as blind as I had claimed to be, my head swarming with the unalloyed feeling of dread almost as powerful at the frustration as not being able to check the rest of the paintings.
It was only when I had reached my apartment that I realized I would be returning to the scene of my deception much earlier than my anxiety would like. He had broken me.
You see, I hate above all things, people who always forget things. Yet, when I got home, I realized that I had driven to the museum. And walked home.