Summer, I move back to the east side
and spend the days between cubicle walls and (fall, winter, spring) filing cabinets.
A fluorescent air
conditioned office
three floors and a sterile elevator ride above the art museum
pushpins, voicemails, paperclips, computer keys. Yogurt with a plastic spoon at ten-thirty.
A deep breath in and a pasted smile
every time
I have a question for the curator, two gray walls and two pursed lips away.
Two more hours: copy/paste, Bcc, see attached, send, submit.

On my lunch break, I take the stairs
down and linger in the galleries. My favorites: the dim Romanesque with the worn alcove seats
smooth velvet-roped
off: please do not (but sometimes, my fingers would) touch.
Next, the wood-floored Impressionist rooms (gray walls here, too)
with Degas’ still bronze dancers on their pedestals gesturing me into the thick daubs of Van Gogh’s greens and blues.
Close your eyes—well, just almost—
dashes and dots meld into landscapes.
Now a soft-stepping into the Egyptian wing, always hush quiet with sounds muffled by centuries-old
B.C. wrappings resting (dead) in sarcophagi.
And for twenty-five minutes I am warm and more alive
than the seven hours and thirty-five minutes between walls and cabinets three floors above.
It’s one o’clock

two, three flights up the stairs, past Marketing and Communications, copy room, vending machine
(sarcophagi of sorts—preservative of preservatives).
A cordial hello back to the curator, computer
screens and clicks and squints.
Close your eyes—well, just almost—
dashes and dots and control-alt-delete meld into the remaining hours.
Five p.m.
I leave around then and close myself in the car
seatbelt hot and air thick after a day absorbing sun on the black asphalt.
A deep breath in: this time release. I wait until my ears and nose and fingertips warm.
The chill of eight hours—one more day—dissipating.

Paula Manni
Paula Manni (‘13) works as Arts Programming Coordinator and is an arts advocate for the Calvin College community. She enjoys throwing parties on the side, and fills in the gaps with wine making, music listening, museum visiting, and Michigan exploring.

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