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He departed more than a year ago on what may have been his final voyage.
Christopher Columbus is still out there somewhere, foundering on the seas of storage, an explorer without a home port or a specific destination.
He peers out at the empty sea before him but sees nothing because of the blinding fog and because his eyes, like the rest of him, are cast in bronze.
He senses danger nonetheless. He knows he is beset by fickle winds, conflicting currents, waves as tall as mountains, battering him from all directions.
"Oh," he calls out, "what Fate awaits us?"
He directs the question to his first mate, but his first mate does not exist in this time and place. No one knows the name of his first mate, not now and maybe not even 530 years ago. First mates are not turned into statues. First mates are not immortal.
Startlingly, an answer still comes.
"Hard to say. These are uncharted waters you're in."
The voice belongs to that of a Columbus city employee, who happens to be pushing a broom past Columbus the statue at that very moment and, even more serendipitously for the statue, who had been dragged to the movie theater by a girlfriend to see "Mannequin" in 1987, and dragged again and again by his children to all four "Toy Story" movies.
So conditioned, the employee is open to the possibility that inanimate objects really do talk to themselves when no one is around.
In fact, it is the statue who might be the more startled of the two. After a life spent charging forward, however, he recovers his composure quickly.
"Indeed," he replies to this stranger. "Never would I have foreseen the day when I, Christopher Columbus, Discoverer of the New World, would find himself adrift in this dimly lit Purgatory, pushed hither and thither by the cruel winds of Fate."
"Brother, this isn't Fate you're up against. You're being thrown about on the Political Sea. We call it the P Sea for short. Few navigate it swiftly and cleanly. Many try, and a few succeed. But most are dragged under."
"Do they deserve it?"
"There's the rub."
Columbus is intrigued. He is not one to shy away from a challenge.
"I know all about politics. Try finding sponsors for a sailing trip around the world sometime. What is my status in this matter?"
"Hard to say. You've been under committee review for the better part of a year. It appears they are open to bringing you back into the light, but only if you are part of an exhibit that makes it clear you're no hero."
"Not a hero? I discovered a New World!"
"Well, there is the matter of your slave-trading and genocidal tendencies."
"I was a creature of my time! You don't hear anyone badmouthing Cortes! That guy was a monster!"
"I think Cortes has had his own reckoning of late, as have the other conquistadors," the employee replies. "And he targeted the Aztecs, who have undergone their own historical reassessment when it comes cruelty and systemic violence. You, on the other hand, brutalized the Arawaks, and they have fared pretty well, historically speaking at least. By most accounts they didn't bother anyone."
"Man has always been violent," Columbus replies. "I don't know where I am, exactly, but I have heard the thundering boom of cannon fire and the black-powder bark of the arquebus many times throughout this past year. Your city, I suspect, is not so peaceful."
"Point taken. Another thing, though. You might want to cool it with the Discoverer of the New World stuff. People were living here for thousands of years before you showed up, and we are pretty certain that you weren't even the first European to make it here. There's evidence now that Vikings had settled in North America hundreds of years before you came knocking."
The statue's mouth would fall open at this, if it could.
"The Vikings? Talk about barbarians!"
"Look, all I'm saying is they aren't about to bring you into the public eye again without context. Your days striking a pose before City Hall, challenged only by the occasional pigeon, are over."
"So what are they doing exactly?"
"A 14-member statue committee recommended that you be displayed again, but only in the right place and in the right context. They want to hire a consultant 'specializing in the research and development of narrative content, its display, and associated community learning opportunities for the purpose of public education.'"
"That is a mouthful," the statues says. "Will anyone even go to that? The people who stand by me will be aggravated, and the people who dislike me won't bother to go, no matter what context is provided."
"That may be true," the employee says. "Honestly, I get the sense that they don't know which direction to go, what tack to take. Everyone is angry these days, and there is no pleasing anyone. Their strategy may be to wait it out."
"We mariners have a term for these conditions," Columbus says. "We call them, 'confused seas.'"
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus conundrum: What to do with Christopher Columbus statue