Last week a friend handed me a guitar box. He told me I could keep it if I wrote about what I did with it.
Yesterday in a fit of inspiration I smashed out its seams, tore off its edges and laid it flat. Thus flattened, it stretched taller than me in one direction and almost as tall as me in the other.
I painted onto it the face of the Irish writer James Joyce. I painted him in blue because I happened to have a big bottle of blue. He had the skinny mustache, the eye patch and bowtie, and everything. Above him I painted a cloud using the very last of the white, and scratched the names of his works into the cloud in bold colors at odd angles. A girl from upstairs gave me a no-good book she didn't mind destroying, and its pages filled in all the blank spots on the box. Because, of course, Joyce was a man of words.
The width of the smashed box filled the hallway. To work on both sides of the painting I had to take several running leaps across its length. I moved so fast, glue gun in hand, that I lost my breath in the heat of inspiration.
This morning I carried the box across campus, where it served as a visual aid in a report on Joyce. A ferocious Virginia wind nearly toppled me. If you find Joyce difficult to read, be consoled by the idea that he doubles as a parasail. If you are female and know what a windy day means for a skirt, be comforted by the understanding that his long and foldable face triples as a dressing room.
I came in late. As if carrying a parasail unannounced into a classroom isn't upsetting enough.
"Dr. Libby," I said, "This is going to be a disruptive report. Is that alright?"
She laughed that it was too late to ask for permission.
So a boy held Joyce up the entire time, and impersonated him twice-reading Joyce's love letters to Nora Barnacle in an Irish accent.
By that time I felt resigned that my odd art would be what it was. At least I didn't have to look at it while I gave the report.
Students kept asking me if the pages glued to the painting were from Joyce. No, I had to admit. They were from Fascinating Womanhood, a wee pink book from the 1960s about manipulating a man into loving you. One prominent page read:
"How to give feminine advice:
"Ask leading questions.
"Use insight words like "I feel."
"Don't appear to know more than he does."
Fascinating Womanhood, from the girl upstairs, was the worst book that I could find. I couldn't rip up the works of James Joyce, even if I don't always understand him.
Anyways, it was a stream-of-consciousness painting, according to Dr. Libby. As for me, I behold it now as I expect my parents sometimes behold me: Did that come from me? And if it did, what is it doing?
And that is what I did with the guitar box. I have no idea what to do with it now.