They swarm the Louvre in droves. Attack the British Museum with their ignorance. Bombard the Vatican Museums with their selfie sticks. None of them knows a goddamn thing about art, nor do they want to. They just want the picture. The one that declares to their equally as disingenuous friends: “See, I was here. I’m cultured.” Cue a fart noise in the wake of that statement as they step into the Hard Rock Cafe afterward.
Raphael might never have noticed–or at least not been forced to pay so much attention to–this brand of person had he not secured a job as a museum security guard at the one place in the world where the greatest beacons of humanity collide with the foulest. Yes, the Louvre. Where incredible indications of man’s capabilities are at odds with how goddamn flaccid his scions are. Giant pieces of dough sullying the Sully wing, among others. Though, of course, the Salle des États bore the brunt of being accosted by daft tourists and their ceaselessly clicking phones, all in an effort to get the perfect shot with Mona Lisa that would assure both themselves and the ones they left back at home that it has been the trip of a lifetime. Had they never done acid?
Raphael should have quit after a year, but the position was too cush. It was the easiest job he ever had for the most pay. Granted, there were moments when he did need to feign intensity in order to make the higher-ups believe he gave any kind of shit about the art. The thing was, the longer he worked there, the less her cared about it. The more he wanted it all to go up in flames so that these unworthy eyes could never see it again. Not that they were really seeing it to begin with. All they could muster was that cursory glance, that quick picture-taking and maybe a few more looks at it on their phone over the course of the day. Then, nothing. It was as though the original intent of artists had been entirely lost on the descendants of their kind. For this new strain of human didn’t feel human at all, caught in between the evolutionary phase that would later determine they were the missing link between original humans and cyborgs. What would Raphael’s progeny be?
He chortled at the thought. What was he thinking? Of course he was never going to have children. Never going to be someone’s ancestor. He knew better than to play that game. Unlike the game he chose to politic in by working at all. He wanted to get out of Paris. Working was the only way to do it. Maybe he could get some museum job in New York, where he imagined, for no good reason, that museum patrons might be different. Less fucking atwitter over all the cliche works they were taught to identify in school. He figured the graffiti in that city was probably more likely to warrant tourists’ captive photo-taking interests than museums. Plus, who really wanted to pay the twenty-five dollars to get in the Guggenheim? Maybe for the Whitney, but that was because it was spread out enough to slightly avoid bodily contact. Then again, theoretically so was the Louvre.
Still, he had this fantasy in mind of leaving. Of starting over somewhere entirely different yet vaguely familiar (after all, New York has ripped off essentially every aspect of Paris and London). He had been born in Nantes, a place where few people left, let alone could find dissatisfaction with the “ascent”–the social climb–implicated in moving to Paris. But after six years, at the age of twenty-nine, Raphael still wanted more. And he knew he needed to get to New York before the unspoken cutoff of thirty for moving there. He was naive in some ways, but not naive enough to believe that NY wasn’t a town for the young. Or the rich. Sometimes synonymous in the city that never has a shortage of trust fund babies. So it was that he tendered his resignation just six months before December, which would signal his thirtieth birthday (on the 29th, to be exact). That would give him ample time to set up shop in the city–find some shit room and talk his way into a job at the Met.
He was more sentimental than he thought he would be about leaving. Taking one last look at everyone’s beloved Seine after meeting with some of his friends to drink wine and reminisce by the water. There was even one friend who confessed her long-standing love for him in a moment of having tipped the scales of drunkenness too far in the direction of truth serum. In vino veritas. In New York nothing but loss. He had yet to unearth this, though it would take him less time than most to understand that he had been duped.
The job at the Met was a cinch to procure. Tell anyone from the U.S. museum world that you worked at the Louvre and they cream themselves. For all they knew, he could’ve simply worked at the Paul there. They didn’t care. The clout of the “institution” was enough. They even offered him a position as associate curator as opposed to a guard. That’s how much the Louvre meant to them. He turned it down in favor of his usual post. He had no interest in pretending to splooge over art. He could do it vicariously through the hordes of Asian tourists that trickled in on a daily basis. The ones that constantly asked him where the bathroom was as opposed to any inquiries about the art itself.
It didn’t take long for him to have the unwanted epiphany that people are the same everywhere in major cities: tourists. It was all he could do to get the infection of their presence off of him as he walked through the park after work to get to the west side and take the train back down to bumfuck Brooklyn. He was growing wary. Already. And it was only two months to thirty. Did people honestly think living like this was normal? Living only to keep one’s head just above water? It sickened him. In Paris, one could live on baguettes and wine with nary a dime. Here, it was six dollars for a coffee. To make matters worse, he hated the women. They were all vacuous twats seeking to pursue some grand dream they would spend their youth trying to achieve before finally settling for the notion that “just living in New York is enough.”
With the advent of his thirtieth birthday upon him, only three days away now, something came over him in the museum. The sight of some pale, portly sack of shit taking a picture of “Garden at Sainte-Adresse” solely because it bore the signature of Claude Monet–not because they genuinely cared about it or it spoke to them in any real way with its patriotic French and Sainte-Adresse flags–but because it was “famous.” By virtue of being painted by someone famous. He couldn’t stand it anymore. Later, when he explained to his superiors why he attacked the tourist without provocation, he claimed he misinterpreted the situation. That he was trying to preempt potential damage to the painting.
Getting fired wasn’t a great upset, so much as a sign from the gods. He fled on the day he turned thirty. Got on the soonest flight he could back to Paris. He wasn’t going to work in a museum again. But he did feel obliged to go pay his respects to the rarely visited Keith Haring mural in Montparnasse. It was irony at its finest (not just because he would’ve assumed there would be more impressive Haring murals in New York). A man who declared that art is for everybody (even though Raphael knew damn well it isn’t, nor should it be) going unappreciated in this esoteric pocket of Paris. He stood there for what felt like hours taking it in. He could finally breathe again. For no one was around him snapping their insipid photos.