Sam Alper


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Mona Lisa sits at a table playing cards with a portrait of Anne Frank. At the moment, Mona Lisa is a person, unlike the portrait of Anne Frank, which is a painting.

I’ve got a game. Do you recognize me?

Mona smiles a mysterious smile at the audience.

I’ll give you a clue.
The clue is: This is a mysterious smile.
The second clue is: My name is Mona.
They should have it by now, don’t you think Anne?
We met at a party by the punchbowl.
Everyone was dancing except for us.
Every party I go to everyone dances except for me.
Anne says it’s the same for her.
It’s too bad. We want to participate.
But we’ve been relegated.
Haven’t we Anne?
We’ve been relegated
By history
By our fathers.
Anne says it’s like an island.
I went to her house once. It’s a museum now.
People were always filing through it. In and up the stairs and down the stairs and out.
They all looked bored.
They looked like people going to see the doctor.
Everything is white and bare in that house. There aren’t even any magazines to read.
What little there is… an old black telephone… a rolltop desk… you’re not allowed to touch.
At my day job, I’m a painting.
I sit behind ropes all day with everyone looking at me.

And I want
so badly
To be touched.

For someone to drag a finger –
To lick their finger

Mona licks her finger.

And drag it through the paint.

Mona reaches towards the painting of Anne Frank. Pauses. Brings her hand back.

Paint gets bored staying right where it was put for years and years.
But no one’s allowed.
You can go to jail for touching a painting.
Somebody stole me once.
That was nice.
An Italian patriot tucked me under his coat and took me away.
We spent two sweaty wonderful years in Florence. It was nice to not have guards or velvet ropes around me. And the Italian, I really liked him. I’ve always liked Italians.
He leaned me against the wall by his bed. Some days we wouldn’t leave his bedroom. He’d sit with his legs dangling off the side, he was very short, and we’d just stare at each other all day.
He was a very handsome dirty little man.
He wore his shirt open.
I liked him quite a bit.
The longer I was there though, the more it seemed he wasn’t looking at me. The more it seemed he was looking through me, like my face was a portal and if he stared long enough he might glimpse some alternate mighty Italy. One in which he was taller maybe…
I was glad when they found me. All the qualities I’d liked about him turned out to be ones he didn’t have.
He never even touched me once we got to Florence.
And I…
I really haven’t told anyone except Anne
I never had a first kiss.
Who knows how long they put you in jail for kissing a painting? Years and years.
It’s too bad.
Anne let me read her diary.
Which was a great honor, for her to share something so personal with me.
She says she hasn’t let anyone else read it.
Anne makes kissing sound so wonderful.
And when no one can kiss you
It’s like being in the waiting room at the doctor’s office for years and years.


without anything to read.


Everybody says I have a mysterious smile.
They say it so much that I’ve started to believe them.
But if I ever had a secret to smile about, I’ve forgotten it by now.
When I get home from work, sometimes I put a frame around my head and look in the mirror.
All I see is the face of someone who’s done a lot of waiting. Someone who’s had to wait for painters to finish and European patriots to be arrested and inquisitive strangers to leave. Someone’s who’s had to remain very still and quiet for a very long time.
That’s why the two of us get along so well.


Oh look at that Anne. You win.
Anne always wins.