The longest Galatea had ever held one pose was for two and half hours while sitting close to the port of Barcelona where tourists strolled by wondering if they had actually reached the end of La Rambla, and seeing no further displays of magnets, scarves, or mugs to capture their attention, crossed the street leading over a small bridge to a Starbucks with a view of the pier. Every fifteen minutes or so, there were a few tourists who paused to see if she would move, a quiver in her finger, a turn of the head. Most tourists understood she was a living statue in an elaborate costume sprayed gold and black, ridiculous in the summer heat, but well worth the money the agency paid her to do nothing. In fact, those were the words on their flier, “Get Paid to Do Nothing,” which she’d found stuffed inside a newspaper.
A month ago, they’d given her a half-hour of training, a young man with rotting teeth who claimed to be a sculptor, predicted how the very instant she assumed her position on the plaza, she’d feel an overwhelming urge to shift, scratch her nose, pull her panties loose from her ass. “Recognize what’s going on, but think instead, how your feet hurt, or how your mouth is dry. Transfer that feeling to another part of your body.” Galatea tried to remember his advice, stood there on her first day in a black mantilla and gloves, balancing her weight evenly between her two legs and trying not to clench her muscles. “Whatever you do, don’t blink,” he told her. “That’s how people can tell that you are human.” He kindly suggested that she might want to buy a pair of contact lenses, which helped the whole eye problem blinking thing. He wished her good luck and explained that he had to get back to a large block of marble.
Galatea wanted to excel at something, having wandered around Barcelona since she’d arrived in the spring trying to sell God’s eyes on street corners near metro stations resulting in being chased away by the police, who threatened her for not possessing a permit. As weeks went by, she got better at being a living statute, enjoyed those moments when a family gathered around her with their little girls, each one of them removed a fan from her pocket, and posed while their mother or father took a picture with a cellphone that they’d immediately relay back home. Galatea enjoyed those moments, the only time that she dared to move, handed out her fans and collected them back again; the family then smiled and walked over the bridge where she knew they would be greeted by a real beggar.
She took her job seriously, practiced achieving true stillness: read up about yogis who slowed their pulse rates down to almost nothing; it took time, all of it took time, but before the end of the summer, she had calmed her nerves into slowing down their electro-chemical impulses and stopped the constant twitching of her muscles. Everyone gathered around her and pointed at the statue. They threw money into her pockets.
One evening the sculptor came by and unfastened Galatea from her spot on the plaza, carried her off with some difficulty back to his flatbed truck and to his studio where other statues of women were waiting.
September 16, Berkeley, Poetry Express, 1585 University Avenue, 7-9pm, Open Mic
October 14, Alameda, Frank Bette Art Center, 1601 Paru Street, with Nina Serrano, 7-9pm, Open Mic,
November 1, Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, 200 N. San Pedro Road, with Rose Black and Andrena Zawinski, 1-3pm
November 12, Jewish Community Library, San Francisco, 1835 Ellis Street, 1:30pm