my cousin and i are both artists. but we have very different ideas about how things work.
we are eight. my cousin describes to me a devotional figure of the Madonna, pasted to a ceiling fan blade in the house he grew up in. I never visited the house in manila, but in a way, the superstitions he whispered to me after sunday school revealed a house of his invention, one impossible to visit without his stuttered, meandering voice.
sitting indian-style on the blue carpet of the First Anglican Church, he begins by twirling his pointed index finger around in circles, gazing up to the ceiling.
he says she blesses the room with each turn, each successive gust of wind, strong or weak, full of her wisdom, forgiveness and compassion. I am amazed, and i laugh. it isn't funny he says. but i don't think it's funny either, i think it's special, and i ask if i can go see the blessed virgin-of-the-fan sometime, when i visit him. he says no, that they're moving, and that no one knows he put her up there.
one day when my uncle was painting the ceiling of my cousins house, he left the ladder out, amidst a canvas tarp and assorted shades of beige that turned to fatty colored mud on the walls. when his father left, my cousin moved the ladder over the ruffled terrain of canvas, avoiding the pints of sweet smelling paint, until it was under the five-winged ceiling fan. climbing up to the fan, he carried the tiny statue in his mouth, biting onto the figurine's head. a necessary act, one that had to be decided upon in an improvisational manner.
i am full of questions for him. how he secured her to the blade, how it could be that no one found him out over the years. he just smiles though, raises his hand to tell me that these are things that i do not need to worry about.
there are still times, today even, when i look up at the ceilings in my own house. each home having its own particular kind of ceiling. some very smooth, others with rough specks of plaster in which i can see animals, nation-states, faces, a man with a beard. but i ignore the images. i focus on the tints of the white, the shadows coming and going, into and out of each other. the space becomes vast in that blankness, and I see the light fixtures, the places where the walls and ceiling meet, the corners, the cob-webs; all the time waiting for something spectacular to hit me in the face.