Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Word: Charmaine Pauls: Box

Pandora’s Box

My brother once told me of Pandora’s Box, a shady bar with that cheesy name to match, on a deserted crossroad on the way to Clarens.

Clarens is somewhere between the Free State and Lesotho, which left Pandora’s Box itself in the middle of nowhere. I imagined a dusty town and its only bar opposite its only church, a layout characteristic of places hanging off the edge of a map like that. But my brother said that when you entered, you left the real world far behind, and stepped into something that had no trademark date, or space.

There was a bookshelf, filled with uniform spines, names etched in gold, and to find the men’s room, you had to find the book. You had to press on the right volume, you see, to slide open the shelf, and expose the loo. 
Many a man, beer in his belly and whiskey in his head, had tripled in front of that library, knees locked and fingers shaking, feeling their way through Shakespeare to relief. 

And then the reward – the shelf glided to the side, and you entered a room, the walls painted red and the toilet seat embossed with flowers. Strange for a men’s room, until you saw the naked woman, painted on the wall. Clarens is an artists’ haven, so anything goes… even nude oils on men’s toilet walls. Her name, printed at her feet, was Pandora

Lowering his eyes from the woman’s gaze to wash his hands, my brother said he couldn’t help but notice, in the mirror, the box on Pandora’s naked body, well, where only a box could be.

He resisted, dried his hands, walked to the door… turned back and… touched the cold handle. Him pulling it open was from pure artistic curiosity, of course, and when he did, red lights went on, an alarm went off, the bookshelf slid open, and he faced a choir of faces from the bar, laughing and shouting, “He opened Pandora’s Box”!

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