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Kirsten Mosher


have got used to the pause between the end of this and its beginning. The indistinct pixels marking dusk. Looping. The clarity of dawn.

Do dishes while waiting for the coffee to brew. Rewrite the opening scene, no longer the start. Suds. Both hands in. Cobalt blue patterns float, the plates sink. My mother’s Persian dish set, now mine, a maze of remembrances. The tips of my fingers rub sound out of the clean surface, good to go.

I had described it all, already (me at the museum, the video, my mother). My phone is propped on the window sill over the sink, speaker on. Again, I ask José. He thinks he remembers it, but my description of the video has become so detailed, he isn’t sure if he saw it, or if he just imagined seeing it.

I can’t get it out of my head.

I pored over museum listings. It was part of a big group exhibition. I knew that. What was the name of the artist? Maybe I’d never noticed. Nothing matched my memory of the split-screen video.

I can still see the video covering one wall. The hum of the projector mounted on the ceiling. Dust caught in the stream of light it cast across the dimly lit room. The room, not that big. I was glad to be the only one there. The floor, carpeted. I had to put the headphones on to listen. One pair hung on a discreet hook to the right of the entry. Like you are supposed to be alone in the gallery. The room, open on one side to the main gallery, but still private feeling. It was the only quiet spot on the whole floor.

A woman narrated the story in the video (maybe the artist), her voice like a friend talking on about something, like she expects you to listen and when she’s done talking it will be your turn to talk and her turn to listen. It kept switching back and forth from single screen to split-screen while she walked you through her day. She, in her bedroom, in a hallway, going to work, at her cubicle, at her desk, in the aisle at the mini-mart. The costumes she wore to do average things like taking the trash out, and the way the costume was hidden under her work-clothes and how part of the costume was dangling out the back of her skirt and the way she tucked the orange and black spotted leopard tail into her underwear.

I try to recall specific works from the other art exhibits that day. I can’t. Why can’t I? I try jogging my memory. I circle back to being in the room with the video projection, back to the split-screen, how hot it had been, slipping my flip-flops off. The muted tones of the carpet, soft feel.

Standing in front of the video, I was on the phone with my mom. There were so many calls between us at that time, they all seem to blur into each other. But I remember this call. I was rambling on to her about the exhibit. I was describing the video from start to finish. Did I mention the artist’s name? Would she remember it if I had mentioned the artist’s name? Her memory is blurring, remembering her childhood like it happened yesterday, the time her sister caught a fly between two fingers and swallowed it without blinking, then not remembering the details of the last ten minutes, what I had said.

(If she could even remember the last ten minutes—she goes back and forth between years, writing lists. She reviews her address book for clues.)

Her address book. She’s had it for so—It’s old. There’s the letter M. Who is listed under M.? Family members. Me. My old address. And underneath, my old-old address. She wants to cross them out and put in my new address. No. She doesn’t want a lot of cross outs. Everyone has a cell phone but her. She has to write everything down. She writes on scraps of paper when she can’t find the notebook. Her scraps of paper are piling up. She can’t find her Today list. The Today list will say 2 pm. That’s when her daughter (me) will call. She looks for a pen. She writes, Don’t complain about the blue sheets. She doesn’t like her blue sheets. Not everything needs to match. She doesn’t want to seem ungrateful. She would have preferred white sheets. She only watches Blue Planet, skips over the screechy jungle stuff. She wonders what R is doing now. She’d rather listen to whales. Watch the whales bump up against the screen of the television. She can’t reach the mute button. The phone is ringing. She drops the receiver then fishes it back off the floor with its curly cord.


remember calling her back, conversations blurred, bits splicing back and forth.)

Hi Mom! Yeah, I’m at the museum now. Yes, it’s already two o’clock. I’m the only one in the gallery. I know! It sounds like we are in the same room.

I wish you could be here too. Yeah, like when we used to . . . I am going to describe the art now. Yes. Every detail. Remember our deal? My eyes/your eyes, until

The exhibit? It’s all video. We’re in the middle of the loop. Yeah, there is audio too. The galleries are all carpeted, to make it quiet. I wish I could take my flip-flops off. Don’t worry Mom, I wouldn’t do that.

I got half my earbud dangling, so I can talk to you on the phone, and I’m holding half the headphone up to my left ear for listening to the video. There’s nothing else in the room. Just the video. It’s projected on one wall. Yeah, the video covers the whole wall. The wall is the screen. Right.

It shows a woman lying on a bed, but it’s not nighttime. You can see the sun shining in, maybe she’s just taking a break. Oh, she’s starting to masturbate.

Sorry. What kind of sheets? They’re white, like everything here.

No, she’s funny, saying she just wants to get-off, to climax, that she needs to release a fuck-lot-of-tension. What?

Your sheets? I gave them to you.

Sea blue, they’re going to match your walls. You said you wanted to paint your walls blue.

Well, the walls in the video are white, they blend in with the

I know. Mom, it sucks to be stuck at home. Did Ari come in to fix your lunch yet? Wait, now she is saying she would rub herself anywhere, like at work sneaking under her desk, so funny.

I know, I know, you are a cool mom, remember when we saw Vagina Monologues?

Ha, yeah, not shocking.

So, she’s saying she masturbates in bathroom stalls or even just in public, like all she has to do is think about it. Now the video is cutting to some guy on top of her. The screen is split in half. One side shows her in her bed and the other

I don’t know. Maybe she’s in a hallway, her cheeks are pressed down on the wall. Sorry Mom, I can’t today. How about take-out next time I come up to visit.

Shush, I can’t hear

She’s saying that he

No Mom, she’s not naked. I mean, actually her skirt is pulled up. That’s on the right side of the split-screen with the man, but she is wearing jeans on the left side of the screen where she’s on the bed. Now she’s turned over on the bed, copying the position she’s in on the right side of the screen, with the man, so she’s doing the same thing on both sides, but on the left side, on the bed, the man’s not there.

Mom, he’s not on the bed with her. It’s like the video edits are showing a memory. She says she needs to think about what happened to get to climax, like it’s the only way she

Um, the Kandinsky show was last month? Right, the memory is like a formula. Now all she has to do, is the positions, remember how he forced her to

Do you have Blue Planet on? It sounds like you’ve got monkeys in there with you. Can you turn it down? The woman is just saying that she needs him. She needs the memory of him shoving her

So that’s the stuff that’s happening on the right side of the split-screen, to help her relieve the pressure that builds up in five-or ten-minute increments throughout the. No, he’s not on the left side, he’s not in her room.

No, nobody’s in the gallery with me. I’m alone. Uh, right Mom, the right side of the split-screen


nd then I tried to tell my mom that the man was raping the woman. But she was talking while I was talking, turning the volume up on the TV instead of turning it down, saying that she thought the remote was broken.)


hat moment in the gallery, during the silence between the end of the video and its restart, I felt elated. My spine straight, electric-charge. My ears ringing, room suddenly larger. The feeling stayed with me as I wound my way out of the maze of art objects and museum visitors.


couldn’t stop thinking about the video, the artist. She was funny and alienated and powerful. She consumed public spaces, wore costumes and shot the video making sure that the glare in her bedroom was just as bright as it was when she was out on the sunlit street catching the bus to work. She, Master of the Universe, masturbating in public spaces, re-mixing her most painful memories—then (as I imagine it) in the constant context of claiming her sexuality, editing her videos in a dimly lit room, splitting clips and jamming them back together.

Sometime after that visit to the exhibit I was pacing in front of a marble statue of a naked man daintily touching his chest in the Greek and Roman Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was on the phone to my mom, telling her about the exhibits, and trying to convince her not to have the house painters repaint her house for the third time in two months. They were taking advantage of her lapses. She hated the most recent color. She thought something else would be better.

By the time I arrived at Mom’s house for my weekend visit, it had already been repainted. She was nervous about her choice. I said I loved it. She was so relieved. At that point, I would have said I loved any color she chose. But I really did like it. I asked her what the specific name of the color was, like what it said on the color chip. She didn’t know. She asked me to walk around the house so I could admire it properly. I did. I kept my eyes fixed on the color. Not a trace of the previous coats of paint remained.

That evening I found myself rummaging around her basement looking for leftover cans amongst the brushes and drop cloths. But the names on the cans were smudged with paint, references gone. I stood there, thinking back to the brief silence between the end and the restart of the video, before climbing the basement staircase to rejoin Mom by the TV.


Kirsten Mosher