She parked her bike in front of the museum near a fence and locked the rear wheel, looking back at it as she walked towards the entrance. The Danish only used a rear wheel lock; she was confident that the bike would be stolen when she returned. She just hoped that she was not liable for it, though she was prepared to blame the concierge. “Does the bike come with a lock?” she’d asked him.
“Oh, yah, yah,” he’d said, his blue eyes and blonde hair not betraying the fact she was in Copenhagen.
“And do I need to lock it at a bike rack or can I park it anywhere?”
“Oh, yah. Anywhere is fine.”
“Even at the museum?”
“Yah, yah. You will like da museum. It is good.”
She felt a crease form between her brows. She wasn’t sure he understood her. Surely there were rules. She thought of her own bike back home and how she was not allowed to park it “anywhere”. Yet she’d nodded, tucked the map into the zipper pocket of her athletic jacket, thanked the concierge and walked towards the little gravel lot on the side of the hotel where the bike rentals were kept.
Now, as she pulled open the door to the museum, all she could think about was how the bike would be stolen because there was no way a flimsy rear wheel lock would suffice. They’d just carry the bike off. And yet, she was determined to spend a day sightseeing, and the art museum was one of the best, according to the concierge and confirmed by her guidebook. “To hell with it,” she muttered as she twisted the oversized knob and shouldered herself into the entryway.
She was greeted with still-water blue walls and stern crown moulding. White marble swirled with gray lines caused the soles of her boots to click as she worked her way to what appeared to be the ticket booth. She held her thumb up to indicate “one” (not her forefinger, as they did in the States), and after fumbling with krona was given a slip of white paper with black type. She handed it to an attendant and pushed through the turn style.
A short hall down a few stairs led her into a covered garden filled with palm trees and Grecian statues. The sunlight, muted by the skylights above, fell in streams of hazy tears that she figured only Danish painters could capture.
She sat down on the bench for a moment as she read the map that had a small British flag in the corner. Antiquities were through the left corridor, which she could see led past a mural with more artfully placed statues of Pan and wood nymphs, faces frozen in wicked smiles and eyes glimmering in eternal mischief.
She stood, slinging her purse over her shoulder. Her hips and knees ached from the hour long bicycle ride. She was not young anymore, though her body was still lean and muscular. She had been ambitious this morning when she thought the route would be easy; she hadn’t accounted for getting lost. But she had a lot of time to kill. He would not be finished with meetings for at least another five hours.
Mostly empty, the museum was quiet, a firefly caught between a child’s cupped hands, the sound of its buzzing deafened by flesh. She walked up a set of stairs into a long corridor which opened in a hallway of more statues with maimed bodies. A woman with exposed breasts, her left arm missing, her once flowing hair chipped off. A man whose nose and penis were gone. A pair of dancing girls with no fingers or feet. There was a somber silence in their beauty. The roundness in their remaining limbs looked soft to the touch and perhaps even warm, though she knew that defied logic. The effigy of their flesh was no doubt cool, long dead. They were but whispers from a place no one remembered, except in the silted reflection of the museum’s exhibition, remains distorted like mirrors in a fun house.
She glanced at them warily, passing by a pair of young Danish art students who sat in folding chairs, sketching the broken people. They boy wore eyeliner, and the girl a red linen scarf. They ignored her, which she supposed was appropriate since she was an outsider.
At the end of the hallway was a collection of items; vases and cups, pieces of marble cut from buildings, part of a mural, a cornice, a plate. It was all rather boring.
Nevertheless she continued through the exhibit. Up ahead was a dead end, yet her pace did not slow. She gave all of the pieces their due, for in spite of her disinterest, it seemed disrespectful to race by them. Her footsteps steady, quivering on floor’s smooth marble lines.
The last room contained a collection of stone heads. The heads were stacked on top of one another in a cone shape, nearly a pyramid. They had all been detached from their marble torsos and bodies. Men, women, children. Some had large skulls, while others were small, not to scale. She looked into their empty eyes. She studied the lines of their faces, the rise of their cheekbones, the curl of their lips and arches of their brows. There were so many heads in this room. How many? She was always bad at that game, but she supposed maybe a hundred.
She circled the heads again, this time certain that she would recognize one of them. For how many faces could there be? How many combinations of eyes, cheekbones, chins and noses were there in time? There must be someone here that she recognized, even one that she’d stood next to in an elevator, or maybe in a deli while she waited in line for her romaine salad. There must be someone in here that she knew. It was impossible that every single face in the world was different.
Yet there were none here that she recognized. These were all strangers.
She grunted and straightened herself. She decided then that she would keep looking. “One day, I will see someone I know.” Her voice echoed.
When she left the museum, she was lost in thought, her hands stuffed in her pockets. As she approached her bike, she realized that no one had stolen it. It was exactly where she had left it. She could not even blame the concierge.