Yesterday I saw Frida Kahlo working at FedEx Office. I biked there with my hawk sketch between pages of a magazine you’d read on your flight. I didn’t tell you, not because of the insensitive thing you said about my sketch but rather the package of Trojans that fell from your overnight bag as you turned to hang your blazer in the closet.
Right away I saw her sitting behind the service counter under the fluorescent lights, perched on a stool by the paper cutter, hair topped with a crown of dahlias, wearing skinny jeans under her tunic. Texting.
“What an ego!” she snorted at her phone just as a large man carrying a paper tube walked in through the door—beep. The man had five dogs on leashes connected to one central leash like arteries. They cast a wild unbounded shadow that swept across the floor to the counter, over highlighters, sticky notes, and hand sanitizers, reaching the embroidery covering Frida’s chest. Diego Rivera is a big motherfucker.
That’s when I caught sight of the other Frida in the shipping area, dressed in a wool skirt and turtleneck, wrapping a camera in bubble wrap. She and I turned as Diego entered and watched the other Frida grab the tube from him, hissing, “Didn’t you get my text?”
“Text?” He reached half-heartedly into his blazer pocket.
She raised her eyebrows and stared into his eyes as if bored. So bored. Lifetimes bored.
She waved him off. “Come back later,” she said. “The paper cutter will be in use most of the day—I can feel it in my chest.” She came over to the other Frida saying, “Listen to this.” She lifted the white cord dangling against her tunic and tucked an earbud into Frida’s ear as well as her own. “It’s called Bad Guy.”
They were a sight to see, the two Fridas, listening to Billie Eilish in FedEx Office with an earbud cord stretched between them, their heads bowed and temples touching as the hit song pumped against their eardrums.
When I asked what you thought of my sketch you said, “Never sketch from a photograph. It’s a glorified photocopy.”
After a while, the Frida in skinny jeans drifted over to the paper cutter and the wool skirt Frida turned to me. “How many copies of the pretty hawk?”
I asked for one hundred copies, as a joke.
She gave me the same stare I’d seen in photographs of her, that clear-eyed one that bores right into you. It hit me: A photograph is a photocopy. My sketch is a copy of a copy. You’re a photocopy. Nothing is original.
“Wait—” I said, reaching for my sketch.
As I turned to go I noticed the other Frida was sweeping the cutting blade back and forth, trimming Diego’s posters. The blade was swift as a swallow swooping, except when it hit an edge and transformed into the sound of a tiny heart breaking against a windshield.