Oil on Canvas

by Jimmy Chen

I was lost in the Museum of Modern Art last Sunday on the 5th FL in Painting and Sculpture, in front of Rene Magritte's "The False Mirror" in Gallery 12. I have not been able to consult with security, for obvious reasons, but the newspapers have reported very similar facts with the aid of security cameras. The footage reveals the back of a man's head, a surrogate pupil perhaps, in front of a painting of a large eye whose cornea is the sky. Modernism, it turns out, is a hallucination. It has been noted by the associated press that I "simply vanished," and as prophetic looking as Magritte's painting of that eye is, I must assure you that it had nothing do with my disappearance. (Here, I'm referring to radical theories that I was somehow pulled into the eye.) If there any irony, it is that I wish this entire experience was actually surreal, and not, verily, so very real. I have been thrown into quite a melancholic state over this, especially after seeing my family so composed at the other end of the cameras. I notice the lawn needs mowing, and don't suspect the dog to be as diligent as I. Remorse is a donut hole you never knew was missing, and my wife's frail face gets shiny behind my watery eyes. I've been watching shadows crawl here and there and realize not only are they without a soul, they cannot dance. Life may well be a waiting room. It is surprising that this entire time no one has bothered to look in the café, sitting at what in the past few days has been table 28. The fennel and arugula have since wilted in my canvas bag, whose contents fortunately also carry a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. Who would have known that a simple trip to the farmer's market then MoMA on a nice Sunday could be so postmodern, which is how I thought about it as the canvas bag fell off the table, meeting the floor with an extra virgin oily crack.

Jimmy Chen works at a large institution where he enjoys writing. He maintains an archive of his writing at He lives in San Francisco with his wife.