Waiting with Frida


The Bus, 1929 by Frida Kahlo


I could hardly see the screen. The vapor coming from my light blue face mask inundated my transparent glasses. Tears clung stubbornly to my eyes.


The empty sanitized cafeteria had been retooled to limit human social interaction. I typed my code to access my portable digital life on a laptop that had forgotten my face months ago. What can I do to take my head of an excruciating five-hour wait? To start, I needed to force myself to concentrate on the simplest task I could think of. Tweet something, I quickly decided.


I got into the Whastapp web app, found the Canva link I’ve been using to make Clubhouse graphics, and opened Google. Search.


A few minutes before, a bed carrying the love of my life had slid out of sight into a long bright corridor. When the doors closed behind my back, a sudden urge to cry had invaded me. There was no one there to find me, no one to crack a distasteful joke with, no one to grab a donut with. Should I hug the two policemen screening visitors’ temperature? No, I replied.


I downloaded the first image that appeared on the search results. Seeing her brought me peace. Frida Kahlo’s photo by Nickolas Muray filled the monitor with colors and serenity. The green backdrop evoked the Mexican flag. The pink roses reminded me of the flowers Juan Diego dropped to reveal the Virgen de Guadalupe in a kitsch seventies Mexican movie. Frida dressed in black looked intensely at the camera.


When most of my 7-year-old friends were hearing stories about Oui oui and The Cat in the hat, my mother filled my imagination with tales about Frida. She weaved the historic and the fictional to create a virtual storybook collection: Frida and the bus, Frida and the pantsuits, Frida and Diego, Frida and the spine, Frida and polio, Frida and her dad.


We were forced to visit innumerable times the Casa Azul with random French relatives traveling to Mexico City. Back home, a poster of the Two Fridas hanged on top of a typewriter; a young Frida in a gentlemen suit was framed and surrounded by dozens of black and white portraits of writers and artists; a postcard of her bloody feet in a bathtub was clipped between a frame and a mirror. The real, the imaginary, and the magical filled my head with terror, beauty, and humanity like “a ribbon around a bomb” as André Breton described her work.


Since taking the wrong bus, Frida's wounds kept her coming back to doctors and hospitals. Her bed became her museum, her thorax casts, her canvases, her blood and tears, her paint. She transformed modern art and changed the world from the prison of her spine.


The memory of Cecile’s resting on a Stanford hospital bed after welcoming our first son kept coming back to my mind as I fought my ADD to concentrate on my tweet.


I typed Latin American tech club, then Clubhouse. The automatic color feature of Canva revealed a vieux rose and the pistachio green of a delicious Macarron as if my grandmother had sent them from heaven.


‘Thank you. Thank you for being here. As we grow old together, I guess we’ll have to come around here more often,’ she had said, eyes smiling, before gently letting my hand go.


I can hardly see my screen and only 17 minutes have passed.

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