Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
They went for a walk in the main area of the museum, and once again, Gabriel seemed to know exactly where to take her. They strolled by all the Impressionists, stopping to see Reclining Nude by Modigliani and Two Tahitian Women by Gauguin. Then they entered the Charles Engelhard Court, a glassed-in courtyard so that she could enjoy the Art Nouveau architectural elements and the large-scale American sculptures.
She noticed that several of the Met’s security guards seemed to be following them from a distance. She assumed it was because Gabriel was so important for them. Once in a while, Gabriel nodded to the guards or stopped by to exchange a few words while she was enjoying the sculptures.
“They’ve increased security measures since the last time I was here,” Morgan commented.
“Yes, they’re monitoring every visitor because of the party tonight. We’ll have many distinguished guests, including former presidents and diplomats.”
“You can assure them that I’m not a terrorist. Although, I do have a reputation of asking people for funding in situations when it's difficult to say no.” She raised her eyebrows and smiled cheekily.
“I expect nothing less from you.”
They sat in the courtyard, enjoying the sunlight that illuminated the room through the glass ceiling and walls. In the basket, there were berries, fruitcake, juice, and a bottle of champagne. He opened the bottle and served her a glass.
“Thank you, this is delightful. Won’t you have some bubbles?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t drink alcohol, but I'll have some juice.” He poured the juice into a champagne glass and toasted her with a smile.
“I guess that’ll have to do,” she said, rolling her eyes theatrically and then smiling. He smiled back, blushed, and bit his lip briefly.
There was something so genuine and affectionate about this man. The effect she had on him was surprising to her. Most of the time, he appeared guarded and somber, but beyond that invisible wall there seemed to be a great vulnerability. For a few moments, his discomfort allowed Morgan to relax and set aside her own inner gremlins.
Morgan moved her eyes away from his, to reduce some of the intensity of the interaction. There was a copy of the New York Times on the stone bench and she read the main headline: 22nd of November 2014, Water Zanus announces possible candidacy for President of the United States.
“I don't know if I should laugh or cry,” she said, picking up the newspaper.
“It's no laughing matter. Zanus has gathered an impressive number of supporters amongst the working class and social elite.”
“But the man is a complete buffoon!”
“A very dangerous buffoon.”
“There's no way he'll be successful. I've met him a couple of times. He's an offensive sorta fellow. He'll rub people in the wrong way. He's sexist, bigoted and racist. No one in their right mind will vote for Walter, especially the minorities.”
“Don't underestimate him, Morgan. Many, especially men, see the rise of minorities as a threat to their cultural and economic dominance. White men are losing their jobs to women, minorities and people at the other end of the supply chain in third world countries. Beleaguered voters will support him in the hope that he will restore their vanished status.”
“People won't take him seriously. This is the man that said on national TV that a woman's place is in the kitchen.”
“That may indeed be his biggest strength.”
“Are you serious? I can't believe you are legitimising Walter Zanus.” Morgan placed her glass down on the bench. Her irritated look proclaimed that she was ready for a heated debate.
“I'm not,” he said, swiftly raising both hands, palms towards her, “his campaign dares to shatter taboos. Those who think privately what he speaks publicly perceive him as speaking truth to power. And, the journalists struggling with a broken business model are happy to use his sensationalist statements as clickbait. They are selling out in exchange for eyeballs that bring them advertising dollars. It's working in his favour.”
“Sure, but progress is everywhere. You have an African American President in office, women and minorities are slowly gaining consumer power, and there are many good, progressive Caucasian men supporting them.”
“Some, not all.”
“Yeah, I know. But, I don't see how Zanus would ever get a serious shot at the White House. Plus, the jobless working class can't blame the minorities, it's the one percent who’re stealing their economic power. And the software, the robots, the artificial intelligence and the value extraction economics.”
“That's not what the clickbait headlines are selling to the masses in the US.”
“Do you really think that Walter has a chance of becoming president in two years?”
“Yes, I do. I believe that, in the next few years, we are likely to experience a war between a large population of disenfranchised, jobless, Western Caucasian men and everyone else. The status quo is being disrupted, and they don't like it. Don't expect them to give up power willingly. The forces you challenge are dangerous and don't play fair or clean.”
They sat there for a while in silence. Morgan was too shaken by the possibility of a future where Zanus was President of the United States. Gabriel broke the silence by talking about art and history. He explained that the Ange’el Foundation spent a lot of its resources on the preservation of artefacts from all over the world. He said that it was very sad how much great knowledge from ancient civilisations had been lost. They discussed her favourite sculpture, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. She talked about the three-dimensional nature of that sculpture and how Giambologna was a master of turning marble into flesh. Gabriel continued to impress her with his knowledge of the things she loved most. He added that the actual Roman story did not include rape and that the word “rape,” in this particular case, was derived from the Latin word “raptio,” which meant “abduction.” In return, she showed off her own knowledge of the tale.
“Women were once again both the victims and heroes of the story. The women ended the war by imploring to their Sabine fathers and their Roman husbands. Why are men so cruel?”
“You are full of contradictions Morgan. Is cruelty really a gendered quality?” He remarked, raising one eyebrow. She loved the way he challenged her with her own arguments. She shook her head in a gesture of hopelessness.
“Sometimes it's hard to believe in the goodness of men. The two hundred plus Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram are still missing. One day, if they are still alive, they too, may have to plead for their children and kidnapper husbands to their parents. I'm so sick of the violence of men trapped by prehistorical expectations of manhood.”
“Manhood is, today, an uncertain, frail status that is easily threatened. Insecure men attempt to affirm their manliness physically and symbolically. Zanus's appeal speaks to the insecurities of men raised with traditional values; men trapped in a world that is pulling the rug under their feet and challenging everything they believe in.”
“We’re all to blame; we are teaching our daughters that they can be whatever they wish to be, while our boys are still hopelessly stuck in the man box.” The thought of Zanus brought fire to her gut, the type of frustration she struggled to contain. “Sometimes it's difficult to take a peaceful stand when some men only understand the language of violence and war. These people don't want a fairer world; they want power, control and destruction. You don't see women acting like that.”
His eyebrows sunk and his eyes focused on the floor. “Women are capable of as much destruction and greed as men.”
“Give me one example of a place in the world where that happens.”
“Perhaps one day,” he murmured and changed the topic. “You won’t find the magic of Giambologna here, but I trust you’ll still enjoy the sculptures of the American masters.”
“Indeed, it’s not Florence nor the Louvre, but I can assure you it will do just fine. Unless you plan to fly me to Europe this evening?” She smiled, teasing him. He was so considerate and eager to please that she could not help but playfully retaliate with lighthearted irreverence.
He blushed. They both struggled to look into each other’s eyes, constantly playing a game of hide-and-seek: brief eye contact followed by swift escapes away from the electric charge that rushed through their bodies every time their eyes met.
Have you missed previous chapters of Ahe'ey?
Chapter 1 - Beginnings
1 - Sky Falling: Read or listen.
2 - A Surprising Reception: Read or listen.
3 - I Will Find You: Read or listen.
4 - The Interview: Read or listen.
5 - Royal Orphans: Read or listen.
6 - Breakfast with a View: Read or listen.
7 - Water Angels: Read.
8 - Perfection: Read.
9 - Alone: Read.
Chapter 2 - Gravitational Pull
Stop by tomorrow to enjoy the next episode of Ahe'ey.
Reclining Nude by Amedeo Modigliani [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons