The museum was reasonably empty. The continuing series on feminist art in Eastern Europe was not as big of a draw as the curators had hoped, and the height of the tourist season was still far off. Only a few die-hards and lunch-hour office refugees were in the central atrium.
Luis tore open the family sized bag of Cheetos that he and Michael had brought with them. “Hell yeah!” said Michael as Luis poured the phosphorescent snacks into his waiting hands, spilling many of them on the floor.
“Come here, man, I want to show you something,” Luis said. Michael followed him up the escalator to the second floor galleries, munching and dropping Cheetos as he went. Michael and Luis stepped on some of the Cheetos they had dropped, pulverizing them and leaving a trail of powder. Many of the Cheetos ended up getting caught in the grooves of the escalator’s steps and comb plates, forming a caked-on layer that would take many hours to clean.
Luis and Michael arrived at the Abstract Expressionist gallery. It was decent, though without any major works to anchor it. The de Kooning studies and the Barnett Newman sketches were nice enough.
“Here it is, dog,” Luis said as they rounded a corner and came face-to-face with a monolithic Rothko.
“Damn!” Michael said. “This is crazy.”
They approached the canvas.
“This painting, I’ve always felt, is almost suffocating,” Luis said. “This was towards the end of Rothko’s life, and it’s as if he could almost drag you with him into the depths of despair. Your average person looking at Rothko would perhaps accuse him of being too simplistic, but they end up mistaking an all-consuming obsession for a facile approach to the work. The use of blue here is particularly disturbing.”
Luis gestured to a section towards the middle right of the Rothko. He placed his finger directly on the canvas for emphasis, and when he removed it was to reveal a streak of Cheeto residue on the painting.
“Excuse me, sir.” It was Carl, the security guard. Luis and Michael spun around.
“I’m sorry,” Carl said, “but do you mind if I grab a couple of those Cheetos?”
“Oh, sure, man! Go crazy.” Luis held the open bag out to Carl.
“Thanks,” Carl said, fishing out four Cheetos. “Man, I love Cheetos!”
“Me too,” Luis said.
They high-fived and an orange cloud effervesced into the air around them.