By Grace Keir
In Mexico City, they take me to Coyoacán. They show me where Frida lived, in the blue house. Casa Azul. Frida y Diego vivieron en esta casa. 1929-1954.
In her studio, a wooden wheelchair is pulled up to an easel. There are paints, brushes, pastels, mortars, and pestles. Things her fingers touched. Dried crusts of paint cling to the bristles. There are old textbooks and medical posters. One reads: INTRA-UTERINE LIFE. A fetus grows from nothing, emerging from a dark pink void with its head and neck contorted, its chin bent sharply into its chest. The outdated drawings give it an alien face: a wide head with a sharply pointed chin. I look away.
The crowd moves slowly through Frida’s rooms. We see the bed with the mirror hanging above it, where she could paint lying down. A pair of wooden crutches rests against the wall. A white pillow, embroidered with colorful flowers and the word Cariño, sits atop the tightly tucked quilt. Secretly, I reach to touch it, but before I can, there is a sudden commotion ahead. The crowd abruptly stops its steady flow through the rooms. Someone moans. I crane my neck, but I cannot see above the tall heads of adults. We are almost in the main bedroom. The noise comes from in there.
It’s a woman’s voice. She moans again, louder this time. Like she is in pain, but not afraid. Some gasps ripple through the crowd. A museum employee squeezes by me with a frantic urgency. The woman’s cries grow louder. There are shouts in Spanish. I turn to my mother for reassurance, but her eyes are wide and confused.
I begin to shove ahead. I hear my mother shout my name in a tone that sounds more embarrassed than angry. I don’t know what drives me to keep pushing forward. Maybe it’s those images of babies with the contorted heads bent forward. Intra-Uterine Life. It didn’t look like life at all.
In Frida’s bedroom, a woman sits on the floor with her legs spread out wide, her head thrown back, red and sweaty. The museum employee is on the phone, half-crouched beside her, but it appears she is too late. The baby’s already coming out. Headfirst, the way it’s supposed to.