The Creating of Adam by Michelangelo

Someone’s been living beneath my bed for a while now. I don’t care why she’s there, never felt curious to bend down and look. I know her by the aroma of her perfume, the same perfume my ex-wife, Louisa, used to wear – Chanel no.5. Some nights amid inhaling her heady fragrance I take a hint of her wearing makeup too. The scent reminds me of my insipid life after Louisa left this apartment a year and three months and twenty days ago at nine twenty p.m.; left me grappling with the prolonged hours of viscous nights, her perfume lingering in the empty wardrobes. No, I never look down, what’s good in doing that? The white curtains and empty fridge interest me more than her. I hate women. 

Especially this woman; when her scent wakes me up in the middle of the night, her quiet struggle underneath sways the bed… a jinx elongating my chthonian night hours when I’m in need of unconsciousness most. But sometimes as she starts punching the bed from beneath and it’s 2 or 3 a.m. … I keep staring at the ceiling, drawing deep breaths one after another, wondering, not knowing what to do, what to say. Waking up in a double bed is vexatious enough. Her punches shaking the bed say she’s desperate, furious, forlorn and forsaken; like me. I agonize over the idea of remaining understanding.

Some nights, however, I wish she could punch stronger. Can’t ask her to cause we don’t talk. The idea tempts me more when I lie in Louisa’s side. She’s always beneath my side and doesn’t follow me to the other side; maybe she’s not aware of my existence up here. If I could call it existence in Louisa’s provoking, insatiable absence, sucking at my disquiets and obsessions. Couldn’t she realize how solidly I had rooted in her? 

Louisa could stay in a separate room and never hear anything from me, never see me. I would’ve imprisoned myself in another room if she asked me to, on condition that she would stay close. She could share her room with another man. My eyelids get heavy while brainstorming over these eccentric ideas, until she starts punching the bed from below as if trying to make her way up to me. The Triazolams I’d taken before sleeping make it more tolerable.

“Is it you, Louisa?” I whisper, barely conscious, my head buried in the pillows. 

She doesn’t answer; her silent struggle makes me sway gently. I fall asleep amid her long-running, probably never-ending battle. In the morning her perfume’s still in the air accompanied by the scent of her makeup. Time to dress and go to work. I throw the briefcase in the car and sit in the driver seat, looking into the rearview mirror. The idea flashes across my mind again. Go to her, tell her… but I’ve already told her whatever there was to say. Words never work when you need them to. I’d better keep driving and shut my mouth.

I blink. My body’s hospitalized, dressed in white between white sheets among white walls, seemingly unconscious. I view myself from above, floating mid-air. I want to wake myself up but fail. She’s punching the bed from underneath; still, I can’t see her. I blink. I’m standing in the nave of a grandiose, Catholic church. I blink. I’m the Adam painted on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I blink to turn into Eva. All colors around me start dripping, painting the nave in an abhorrent dark hue. As I open my eyes, I’m back in my bed, smelling like Chanel no. 5, wearing makeup. The stranger underneath my bed is gone. I blink, I’m staring at the white ceiling, still lying in my bed. The scent is gone, I’m alone. Better say left alone. The difference is only one word but enough to break my heart in two. She’s back beneath my bed. Yes, someone’s been living beneath my bed for a while now.

About the Author:

F. Z. Majidi is – currently – a Ph.D. student at Sapienza University of Rome, living in Rome, studying Astrophysics and Space Sciences. She writes in her free time and recently has started publishing her short stories. She won 2010 Kharazmi prize for writing the novelette “Eternity” and one of her short stories has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine.

Eva’s Comments:

‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo is an icon of humanity. Kept preserved in the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, this image of Man reaching out to God and God reaching out to Man and yet never touching, was painted circa, 1508 and 1512.

I had the chance to see this fresco in the Vatican, where it is located. The awesomeness of it is striking. The feeling of being immersed in High Renaissance art in the person is undescribable. Looking up at the ceiling is to stand in the presence of God and be struck dumb. I am an agnostic and so were many artists painting during the Renaissance, yet the awe of being in the presence of such powerful majesty and spirituality makes me wonder about the Divine. I have to say that even as I waver between believing and disbelief, God is so much part of my life that there is no avoiding this theological subject. Similarly, God is so much part of the Italian Renaissance that there is no escape from this subject pictorially.

‘The Creation of Adam’ depicts the Biblical story in Genesis when God created Man in His own image (Gen 1:27) In Genesis, we are told that God created Man, represented by Adam, from dust and breathed life into him through his nostrils. Hence, it is common to hear the phrase ‘from dust you were created, to dust you shall return.’

There are many interpretations of this fresco as there are many copied versions of it. What I find symbolic is in how Michealangelo presented God and Adam. God is seen floating in a convex nebula towards Man who is depicted concavely. Movement is suggested by the drapery that seems to form a receptacle containing God, who is dressed like a bearded older man, ordinary and avuncular yet still corporeally powerful. [Michelangelo is a sculptor, after all, and his style of depicting men is always to represent them as mascular creatures of nature.] This way of portraying God is refreshing and makes the Divine more accessible and approachable, compared to other depictions of God, where He is often placed on a pedastal and unreachable. Static is suggested by Adam’s lackadaisical form, waiting for the touch of God that will spark life into him, that will ignite Mankind with life. The concave-convex binary mirrors the Biblical story of the creation of Man: Man was created in God’s image.

To me, there seems to be an urgency in this fresco that I’ve not read or heard others refer to yet. The two forefingers outstretched but not touching indicate this urgency: that God is elusive and difficult to connect to. Perhaps, it is only my interpretation as I do know many people who’ve told me that they’ve found God, and are connected to Him. As viewers of artworks, we often bring our personal experiences and lens into the musuem, art space and gallery with us. Hence, what I read as urgency, others may see as God’s desire to connect with Man and Man’s lack of interest. The latter could be interpreted from the way Adam has been depicted.

The story of God and Adam/Man is a story of love, above all. “For God so loveth the world …” is a phrase that continues to be repeated. Putting theology aside, we can say that ‘The Creation of Adam’, could be a reflection of Man’s search for an unending, unlimited and unconditional love that humankind is not able to offer. The search carries on as long as we do not accept that Man’s love is often limited. I love my husband and I know he loves me but yet, I also know that he has disappointed me many times, like I have disappointed him too. But we persevere in our relationship, always attempting to love each other more daily, despite our limitations. I’ve been told many times, in my search for the Divine, that it is not God’s fault but ours when we cannot connect with Love. God is the ultimate love, as a friend once said to me. I don’t know about this belief but I do know that love is an unending emotional and psychological quest .

Majidi submitted her story with the image of Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ and has this to say about her work, “Here in Interloper, I have tried to depict a man continually seeking his love in his mind; so that when she’s not around, he has to replace her with an image of her.”

Majidi also tells me that “[f]or the image, I found […] Michelangelo’s masterpiece, [T]he [C]reation of Adam […]. I believe what defines every individual is their passion and heartfelt interests, what and who they are capable of loving. I found it extremely romantic the way Adam is seeking God in his mind, his brain, and there, he finds Eva.”

I leave you with Majidi’s thoughts, readers, as I too cogitate on it.

The image is courtesy of Getty Image.

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