Visiting Mona Lisa



Writing Group Prompt: Select a painting and write a reflection.

 I just can’t believe that people are still interested in me.  It’s quite true. They really are. I’m amazed that I have been in the public eye for so long.  Sometimes I think that my incredible run will destroy me, just like public adulation has destroyed women for centuries. 

 I wonder what they whisper, the millions that stare at me every year.  Some come like homing pigeons biologically programmed to return to me. I stare back at them through time and am powerless to convey anything but a reflection of what they want to believe.  It is my role really, as it has been the role of women from the beginning of time. We always reflect what men wish. Let them think they have understood me, as they position their cameras, elbow each other out of the way, squint and squirm to get a better shot.  They have wiped the veil of history and think they have finally discovered the real me. I’m the enigma and my smile holds the secret they want revealed.   

The women look too, with wistful concern for my welfare.  Always, they come close, hoping proximity will bring clarity and reward them with some insight into my troubled life.  “It must have been troubled,” they think. If they stare long and hard enough, I may divulge the secret detachment that has made me both accessible and unavailable at the same time. 

 Of course, I would share the secret of my simple existence with them, but they would never believe me.  They are looking for something complex or something immensely clever, something that will save them. Somewhere in the folds of my cape, there must be a code that will free them of their bondage.  I hate to disappoint, but the answer is so basic that they miss it and have to come back again and again.

In 1962, I caught the attention of Jackie Kennedy when she visited.  She was so enamored of me that she had me transported to Washington, where hordes came to see what Jackie had brought back from the cultural capital of the world.  It was like she had been hunting in Africa and had brought back a trophy of some unfortunate beast. 

 I was her trophy, a symbol of simplicity and style that captivated her.  It was a tough trip as I was packed away in a climate-controlled room on an ocean liner.  No one came by to stare at me for the whole trip, but someone found out that I was on board and the passengers had parties in my honor.  I treated the crowds as I treat all crowds, with quiet resignation.  

New York was challenging as they left me in a special room at night.  I was not damaged by an hour of water cascading over me when a hot water pipe burst.  Someone had the good sense to encase me in a bullet-proof, waterproof case. I’m back home now and happy to have my wall to myself.  I see them coming, the tourists, with their equipment clicking, posing for me, framing themselves with me, snapping, capturing, thinking they have finally seen me.  Lately, I have come to realize that they have switched places with me; they have come to see themselves– framed by me.

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