The museum tour guide droned on and on and on. And on. Shan thought she was going mad until she turned the corner and saw it. It was so small she almost missed it. She waited for the others to look the other direction. The guide was taking them to look at some obscure Rubens filled with oversized and “overbusted” long-nosed pink and blond women, sitting in dark places, looking bored and pained. Nothing to compare with the elegant brushed charcoal drawings and delicate jade and porcelain objects she grew up with. But no time to ponder on that now.
She had found it! She would soon be heading home!
Wherever that might be.
Her heart was beating fast. She felt something big was about to happen. The sound of the guide’s drool, a beat to every step she took, unnoticed she hoped, towards the object of her attention.
The object? Not really an object. She took out her camera and proceeded to take a picture of the three signs and two graffiti-like symbols that were penned next to the electricity socket underneath Bruegel’s Peasant Wedding.
It was only then that she noticed the guard sitting opposite the painting, staring straight at her with a raised eyebrow. Ready to snap and jump if she made use of the camera she had taken out of bag.
“Damn!” She thought, she had not thought of the guards. She smiled her shy Asian smile, the one she knew Europeans expected to see, covering her mouth and all. “Dumbass guard!” She put the camera back in her bag. She was facing a serious dilemma here: the guide’s voice was getting hard to hear and she knew she could not risk them noticing her absence; on the other hand, she had to take one single shot and the guard did not seem about to move. She had to make a decision. She was getting fidgety, when she remembered her phone had a camera. It was not the best option, it was an old phone with a very basic camera but it would have to do.
She took it out of her bag and stuck it to her ear pretending to start a conversation. She spoke in Chinese.
She was in a hurry. The guard was still looking at her when finally luck appeared in the form of a multi-kidded, very noisy American family who had apparently never been to a museum and had no control on their children or how to avoid making more: the mother was pregnant. Again.
“It is now or never” she thought as she saw the guard busy chasing after the numerous children and giving the eye to the parents who were so obviously oblivious to it all. The museum had AC. That was all that mattered to them anyway. They sat contented on one of the wooden benches, or rather he sat and she laid down with her head on his knees her big belly protruding, their eyes closed.
The kids had moved to another room.
Shan had taken her camera out again but when she tried to turn it on, the no battery sign started blinking and a split second later… The camera died in her tiny hands.
She took her phone out again, the guard was back in, she kneeled in front of painting, the guard looked completely beside herself, the parents were in heaven, she aimed the camera at the three signs and two graffiti’s on the wall, the guard was walking towards her looking positively pissed off and dangerous now. As she was about to click the camera button, one of the children came running in and unavoidably bumped into her, her camera/phone flew across the room and starting ringing at the same time. It landed on the woman’s big belly who screamed from shock and pain as her husband stood up, almost making her fall on all four in the process. He too started heading towards Shan who could no longer hear the guide and knew she had lost.
The kid who had caused all this to happen was now lying on the floor a step from her and was screaming. His ankle looked twisted. His screams had alerted the rest of the gang who were rushing back in the room.
Shan’s advantage was her size and agility. She made a sprint to the phone, picked it up, slaloming between the legs of the guide and the two lost screaming kids, jumped over the belly back to the wall, clicked the camera button and was about to head for the door …
When she was brutally stopped by the cold sound of handcuffs clicking on her left wrist. The metal cut through her skin as it stopped her mid run. It was now her turn to scream in pain.
The museum tour guide alerted by all this noise had come back with the entire 30 people group. He started arguing with her torturer. The men were now shouting heatedly at each other in a guttural language she did not understand. The little guard was back in the picture, shouting from afar, calling for help in her grey walkie-talkie. A whole unit was on its way.
The alarm bells had been activated.
It was a mess. The man holding her was getting really agitated now, his face red as a lobster, his angry shouts were accompanied by salvos of uncontrollable spittle.
Finally, the moment she had been waiting for, arrived. The moment the red man holding her wrist got so mad at the guide, that he went for a hit, thereby letting loose of his side of the handcuff.
She split on the spot.
Did not ask for her change and disappeared into the rainy cobbled streets with her code saved.
The Little Father would be proud of her.
(November 6th, 2013)
Alex S David