Hildie S. Block and Marilyn Ackerman

Marilyn Ackerman

Inspiration piece


Phaedra, oil on canvas
By Hildie S. Block


Taking my fiancé and my step.mother.in.law.to.be to the Museum of Modern Art for Mother’s Day is not my idea of a good time.

But as my boyfriend would tell you, it was my idea.

And here we are looking at his dead sister’s painting. Her only painting in this museum, and we’re just standing here, staring at it the way people stare at grave stones when they go with other people to cemeteries. Like not wanting to emote, not wanting to look like they aren’t emoting, but feeling torn up inside and simultaneously wanting to be anywhere but here. E.Mote.Shun.

And I didn’t want to be the first person to speak.


But the silence in that echo-y white gallery space was killing me.

Instead, I reached over for Logan’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

He squooze (is that a word?) back and then dropped my hand as if to say, not here, not now.


The step.mother.in.law.to.be took a step back and started, “I’m not sure it’s her best one, you know, the way she . . .” she waved her hands as if she was schmushing the paint. “Are we sure it’s finished?”

Logan shot daggers at Teresa. I mean he looked like the old Godzilla movies where lasers came out of the monster’s eyes.
“She finished it. She’s the one who offered it to the museum,” his hands were balled into fists, alternately flexing and relaxing his arms. Pulsing. Pulsating with power. I wanted to touch his arms.

Teresa looked at his arms, too. She slid a reptilian hand from his forearm up to his bicep in a ? what? Calming? Sexual? (GOD I HATE THIS WOMAN) way.  “I’m so sorry Logan. I’m sure it’s done, it’s just . . . “ she stopped herself. “Of course, you need to feel like this is how she wanted it.”

Through a clenched jaw, Logan said slowly and with menace, “This.Is.How.She.Wanted.It.”

Teresa’s brow furrowed. She leaned in toward Logan, again it felt like she was TOO CLOSE. (GET AWAY FROM HIM my monkey brain was yelling. MINE! Step back!) “Logan dear, maybe you need to see someone about your grief. Before. You know. Maybe before this wedding you are rushing into.”

I.AM.STANDING.RIGHT.HERE. Did I mention that? I fight the urge to kick her in the shin.
It isn’t until I go to speak that I realize my mouth is hanging open. “Teresa – I think art is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe,” I gulped, fearing the psychoanalysis I was opening myself up for, “Maybe Logan has a better grip on things than you. He accepts it as finished,” I swallowed hard, my undergrad in psych working overtime against Teresa’s PhD in clinical, “while you feel it is unfinished.”

Teresa looked at me as though a random stranger from the gallery had just asked her to move away from the painting and give someone else a turn.

“You know,” Teresa turned back toward the painting, gracefully putting her back to me and deflecting, still holding onto Logan’s arm, “I’m curious what you think the woman in the painting is doing.”

“It seems like a sort of ritual song she singing, like a feminized Kokopelli or one of those blue aliens from Avatar,” Logan started at the painting, looking at it, through it.

I announced to Teresa’s back, “I think the woman is singing out in joy to the sky” – “I think she’s howling like a wolf, announcing herself to the planet, letting herself be heard.”

“Blind.” Teresa’s confidence overshadowed her abilities. As always. “Fools, she’s crying out for help.”

“You think it’s a self-portrait.” Logan shook his head disgust dripping down his face. He put his hand in his pocket and jingled his keys. “Pshrinks think everything is a hidden message from the inner child. My sister. Calling out for help.”

“Of course not,” Teresa scoffed, nearly snorted as she turned abruptly and walked toward the exit, her heels snapping against the marble floor, “I sat for this painting. It’s me.”



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