When she saw my badge, she said, “Benvenuto alla cappella Sistina!” and that was all I need to be home. I was fearful that I would be disappointed after the plain and dreary tan exterior of the chapel, but seeing her and that ceiling was a massive relief.
“Uh, Bon-jour-now...” She knew how beautiful she was and had the good sense to buck the American trend of shoulder pads and permed hair; she didn't need to power dress to make men-no, to make boys-like me putty in her hands. She giggled when she noticed my eyes darting back and forth between her slender face and her un-Vatican-like cleavage; this girlish outburst took something away from her. Love at first sight often lasts only as long as it takes to get a good look at someone. I stopped stammering in something it would be a favor to call Italian and asked, “Speak English?”
“Of course!” She giggled again. “How may I help you?” Her accent almost made me fall back in love with her again.”
“Umm... I'm here for the...the restoration. I mean, I'm here to restore...for the restoration. My name's Garner.” I inwardly shook my head at myself and she looked at her clipboard, smiling.
“Oh, yes, yes, come this way. You're early. This is the best start. My, my, the master himself. Come this way, please, this way.” We rushed through a crowd of people with their heads lifted up. The crowd was smaller than I expected since they were limiting visitors since the restoration started in '84, but it was still, well, a crowd. I had not yet craned my neck; I wanted to savor the moment when I would see it. I could see all of their eyes maneuvering around my colleagues, around the scaffolding that I would soon be climbing. They had sponges in their hands and stood inches from the ceiling. My career-defining moment would be walking in the footsteps of the greatest painter who had ever lived. Maybe it was arrogant, but I saw us in a partnership, unbound from language or time (or fame, or prestige).
The woman had gone ahead of me, but I could clearly see her head towering above a sea of enamored Japanese tourists. Then she stopped; we didn't go to a ladder or an elevator. We stopped at the “Scenes of the Life of Moses.” This badly maintained fresco of seven episodes was impressive in scope, but was only remembered for the religious value it held. She now looked at me as if it was my turn to lead. She nodded, indicating that we had reached my new home. Botticelli? Fucking Botticelli?