When I Saw the Mona Lisa
Like ants at dusk processing in line, we finally enter the glass pyramid filled with treasures of paint and marble. The train to Paris delayed, I have only sixty minutes to rush through these hallways on this backpack-pilgrimage of my young adulthood to find her.
Frantically scouring the guide to her home within these catacombs, a blur of people, paintings, and sculptures become peripheral color and light in my panicked tunnel-vision quest. I turn a corner, almost colliding with the security official. I see the crowd of craning necks and hear a mystical collective whisper of various languages as if in prayer.
Without so much as brushing against anyone’s clothes, I weave my way through the throng of onlookers, like a cat perfectly navigating the rooftops of France. I find a perfect line of vision between narrow shoulders in order to gaze upon the woman I have traveled thousands of miles to meet.
I hold my breath. Squint. She is so small, plain, thin-lipped. I exhale.
Ashamed, I look down to the shoes that have traveled so far, but I feel her eyes on me as I am racked with guilt of disappointment and judgment. All the fame, theories, conspiracies, thefts, legends, lore, and expectations of this woman—who partially bears my name—come flooding through my being in a confusing cacophony of inner voices.
Is she famous just for being famous? Just another reality-show socialite? Have I been caught in the celebrity hype that has been so carefully constructed to sell tickets to tourists? Have I, once again, committed the sin of worshipping a god that can never live up to my expectations?
I shuffle sideways to see from a different angle and dare to look her in the eyes. They pierce through mine as arrows of light, burning into my retinas.
All becomes sublime, suspended silence between us, as I have the sacred realization that I too, am small, plain, and thin-lipped.
It is she who has always gazed upon us: without judgment, without disappointment. In her eyes, we are the masterpieces.
This work was first published in Sky Island Journal.
Lisa Molina is an educator/writer in Austin, Texas. She has taught high school theater and English, and now works with high school students with special needs. She loves to share her passion for reading and writing with her students, and they especially enjoy ekphrastic writing. She is a “Best of the Net” nominee for her poem “Who You See,” published in Fahmidan Journal, and her digital chapbook “Don’t Fall in Love With Sisyphus,” published by Fahmidan Publishing, launched in February 2022. Her words can be found in numerous journals, including The Ekphrastic Review, Beyond Words Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Neologism Poetry Journal.
The Ekphrastic Review
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