BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM | JULY/AUGUST2015 163
looks proud but sad, with her chin tilted
upward and her eyes cast down.
What is she is gazing at? Some say she
is looking toward the Mediterranean Sea,
her real home, for she was a mermaid
before being turned into stone. Some say
she is looking at the future of Barcelona.
Yet others call her the guardian angel of
La Rambla. I read all of this in a guidebook about Barcelona.
“Buenas noches, Lena,” I greet her,
bowing with one arm over my waist.
Behind me, I can hear the yellow-eyed
man snoring. For as long as I can remember, there has been a man sleeping under
the bench across from Lena. The man has
just one good eye, and when he’s awake it
glows with a cat-like ferocity. The other
eyelid is sewn shut, in an uneven line, as
if a kid had done it for him.
I bring out a piece of cloth and a bottle of marble cleaner from my canvas
bag. I position my ladder next to Lena’s
pedestal and, taking a step up the ladder, start wiping her foot. There is a tiny
speck of pigeon shit on the ballet slipper strap. As I work on the stain, I can
feel the veins and muscles on her fully
stretched instep—so fine is the sculptor’s
work. Lena’s ballet skirt has the weight-less appearance of silk, and as I wipe
across its surface I lighten my touch.
When I was still a child, a storm
flooded La Rambla, toppling trees and
power lines, and in the process, Lena’s
arm broke off. Back then, it was Papá
who juggled the fire torches while I collected tips for him. I waited many days
for the city to fix La Ballarina, until I
realized that no one was coming.
I found that people walked past the
ballerina sculpture without noticing her.
On a street known for its “human statues”—artists dressing up as trees and
bronzes and such—tourists show little interest in actual inanimate objects.
How funny that a statue was trying to
look human, while humans pretended
to be statues.
I took it upon myself to mend Lena’s
arm, and over the years I have made it
my personal duty to keep her clean and
presentable. There is still a slight crack
on her shoulder blade, from where the
arm broke off.
Since the first time I noticed Lena, I
have grown from a child into a middle-aged man, the tips of my black sideburns
turning silver over the years. But Lena has
remained exactly the same. Almost. If you
look closely, you can see some very tiny
lines forming around her lips and the corners of her eyes. Weather cracks, people
would say, but I know otherwise. Also, just
to be objective—not that I care the least
bit—her breasts have sagged a little.
As these thoughts go through my
head, I realize my hands have lingered
on Lena’s small breasts. A tiny sigh
escapes her lips. The marble begins to
feel warmer and the texture of her skin
softens. I feel tiny, rhythmical heaves
under my palm. Color rises to the surface of her skin, a healthy, rosy color. I
put my hands to the sides of her waist,
knowing what is coming, and soon I feel
her weight falling against me, the delicate balance of the arabesque position
lost with the suddenness of turning from
stone into flesh.
Lena seats herself on the pedestal,
always needing a few minutes to rest
“Couldn’t they have given me an easier
position to stand in all day?” she complains, massaging her calves. Her hair,
which a few seconds ago had been a tight
bun carved into white marble on the top
of the head, has unraveled. It falls down
her shoulders in waves of auburn locks.
“An easier position wouldn’t be so
pretty,” I say with a smile.
Every blink of her sea-green eyes and
every movement of her silky hair blowing in the night wind reminds me of her
mortality, which, less than a minute ago,
had been nonexistent. The flush on her
cheeks, her wince of pain, give her a new
look of vulnerability. Now, she bleeds,
hurts and ages.
LA RAMBLA (continued from page 158)
D.C., she has received fellowships from
George Mason University, the Vermont
Studio Center and the Virginia Center
for the Creative Arts. She was a 2008-
2009 Fulbright Scholar. Born and raised
in St. Louis, Missouri, she has lived in
rural Ohio and the Mission District of
San Francisco, and on a tangerine farm
on the island of Jeju in South Korea.
SHORT STORY CONTEST
7 Madelyn Rosenberg grew up in Virginia and lives with her husband
and children in Arlington. After working for more than a decade at daily
newspapers, she turned her attention
to creative writing. She is the author of
six books for kids, including Nanny X,
How to Behave at a Tea Party and Dream
Boy, a novel for young adults she wrote
with her friend Mary Crockett. She also
works as a freelance magazine writer.
8Robin Talley’s first novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, about two girls on
the front lines of the school desegregation battle in 1959 Virginia, was a
Junior Library Guild selection and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Her
second young adult novel, What We Left
Behind, will be released by Harlequin
Teen in October. Talley and her wife
live on Capitol Hill with an anti-social
cat and a goofy hound dog. She also
works in communications for a nonprofit organization in Dupont Circle.
9Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer whose work has
appeared in The Baltimore Sun and
Highlights, among other publications,
and on USAToday.com. Her debut novel,
The Only Thing to Fear, was published
by Scholastic Press in 2014. A self-proclaimed history nerd, Richmond lives
in the Washington, D.C., area with her
husband, their daughter, and the family
dog, Otto von Bismarck, named for the