angel in the marble

My dad’s Parisian and used to hang out at museums all the time as a kid and then he studied art at the Sorbonne for a while—and that’s where he met my mom. She was studying poly-sci at George Washington and went to Paris just cuz she could. Also somebody told her she’d see everything about America a little differently once she got back. So they met through some mutual friends and they fell in love and since my mom was all about her career, and my dad’s kind of a hippie, he kind agave up on school and just came back to Washington to live with her, and he started teaching and they just kinda settled down there.

            My dad didn’t really care too much about history but he’d take me to museums all the time cuz it was just a habit, and like he’d talk about how Paris was so much better, how everybody’s busy here and never slows down—which was kind of a jab at my mom. She was doing all of this thankless exhausting work for the homeless, staying at the office for twelve hours but only getting paid for six, and then she did some stuff at the mayor’s office about lower income housing, putting drug offenders in rehab instead of jail—tryna save the world, basically, and I’d hear her come home crying at like midnight and she’d say to my dad, like, “fuck this, it’s hopeless nobody cares,” and my dad’d console her all night, he’d make her laugh, and ultimately she’d agree to stop tryna change the world, to be more present with the family or whatever—and then she’d go right back out in the morning and work fourteen hours doing the same thing.

            Then she started running for office and suddenly she was really savvy at politics—like this woman who used to cry all the time because she was so helplessly compassionate was suddenly super cunning and clever, and she could sorta turn her emotions on and off whenever she needed, and like…I could tell my dad had an issue with it. And they’d get into these arguments where he’d tell her she was being fake and say, “Oh you were never like this,” and she’d be like, “It’s not that I was never like this, I just didn’t know how to play the game back then. Like, I’m still fighting for the same things.”

            Then one day—it stays in my head cuz I don’t know what he meant by it—we were standing at a crosswalk and somebody’d stuck a nametag on the light post and they’d written a Michelangelo quote on it in sharpie. It said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

            And we were both reading it at the same time, waiting for the light to change, and my dad points at it after a minute and goes, “That’s your mother.” But I was like sixteen and I didn’t really…pay attention(?) to anything he said. I just smiled and nodded and we crossed the street and went about our day.

            Then outta nowhere, like a week later, I remembered him saying that and I was like, Wait, what? And so I went up to him and I was like, “Dad remember, like a week ago, we were at the crosswalk? There was the Michelangelo quote on the sticker, ‘I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until it was free,’ and you said, ‘Oh, that’s like mom.’ Did you mean she was the angel, or the person carving it free?”

            And he just blinked at me and went, “…what the fuck are you talking about?”

            Says he has no memory of it.

            Which I’m like 80% certain he did actually say it, but I’m also wondering what it says about me if I did actually imagine it, y’know?

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