I lie here, like a dog licking my wounds. Somebody, please, put a cone on my head. It's like I'm ripping the scabs off just to feel the pain, because the pain is the only thing left of him.
One night, several days before the revelation and subsequent phone conversation, I had taken out the soft blue scarf he gave me, and I hold it against my cheek for barely a moment before I start to cry, these jagged wet sobs from my chest. Standing in a dimly-lit apartment in a sleepy Texas suburb, clutching this fabric to my face, I was like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, or Annette Bening in American Beauty, clinging to this shred, this idea that had become my entire world, which was gone. More than gone, now it never existed. I felt the pale glow of light in the apartment spilling out onto an empty street, just a soft cry into darkness, and knew that the muffled howl of my sobbing, too, would be heard by no-one. The strangeness that I even owned an object that he had touched once, much less given to me as some token of fondness, was eerie. I wanted to hold it to feel the fondness that it once embodied, but instead, it felt like a hallucination. That feeling never existed. The scarf may not even be real. I thought I was given a blue scarf once. I don't know now, I don't know now... I don't know. I placed the scarf back more quickly than I had anticipated- wanting it to be far away from my body, away from me, where I couldn't look directly at it. The token of this hallucinatory reality makes the absence of what it used to represent too painful. It was creating a series of tiny emotional explosions that I couldn't parse out into any real feeling other than stress / nausea / unreality.
Driving home down the avenue, the city is quiet- I feel like I am always the only person outdoors here. I think of the time a woman I used to know moved to Soho. She didn't tell me she was going to be in the city at all, and then she was. She felt like a strange apparition when we met in a sidewalk cafe, her shiny, curvy self wrapped in the many furs and complex garments that she always wore, such that she emerged from them like a swathed jewel. I spill some random slightly dirty gossip for like 5 minutes (-- at Essex Flowers- last weekend. So last summer we were like randomly hanging out, it turns out he’s rolling- it’s like Tuesday night ok- and he starts talking about how he has herpes - - ) and then I run out of things to say and start pushing crumbs around on my plate with the tines of a fork, looking up at her as she thinks about things, serene and self-possessed. She asks me to come out with her, like we used to. I go to her apartment and we trade clothes, like we used to, me fidgeting and judging myself as I quietly put on one of her t-shirts and wondered if I could wear it as a dress. When we were together it made me see myself as this gangly, boyish, sensitive person, and always a bit like, kind of protected by her energy, like dreaming under her shelter. She stood in her bra by the mirror, and we said a few short sentences to each other. I felt bad, because I couldn't stand on my own back then. or maybe she said, you need to stand on your own. I don't remember. or I felt weird because our lives were so intertwined then. I don't really know who said how I could or couldn't stand. As a feminist, you should express your intelligence more. You should be who you are instead of how you think people want you to be. I said that. I gaze at a smutty piece of bric-a-brac by her bed, a slick clay vagina, as I sit on the edge of the mattress. Once when we were driving around LA, we had a completely serious discussion about whether bangs are appropriately dignified to be considered an acceptable part of the female experience. I thought they were infantilizing and school-girlish, at least for me, but she pulled them off as part of a more postmodern harajuku-esque self-expression. It represented underlying differences in our beliefs about feminism. She looks quietly into the mirror, putting things on, taking things off. We want babies, Kat. I wonder if this comment is about my independent-standing, or about her intelligence being expressed, or something else, but I don't ask. She smokes a cigarette on the stoop of her building. You should stop. I say. Because then you'll live longer, and we can be friends for longer. Soon we're sitting in a tequila bar somewhere in Soho or the village; she needs to scout the venue for her job. My stomach hurts. I feel sad. I say I need to leave. It's sooner than I would have preferred to normally, but things feel strange, and now I'm sick. I hope she understands. We never really spoke again after that night. Maybe we had become different people. She is a rose, and her heart is a dark & beautiful sea.
I started to think of another time a friend had come to the city. His friends were getting married in Westchester. They’d given him their loft in Williamsburg for the night. I’d offered my keys to a band that was in town from LA, and I was going to go hang at the loft. The band ended up not needing the place, so I locked up and walked to the L stop. He came downstairs in a black hoodie and sweats. We hug, the top of my head barely reaching the middle of his chest. He rests his chin on the top of my head for barely a moment.
Last time we had hung out, he had a bit of a diva freak-out, after I washed my underwear in cooking bowls on the roof of his friend’s apartment that we were staying at in Highland Park, to avoid a trip to the laundromat. I was only washing the clothes in the first place, because he was complaining that I smelled sweaty. After the wig-out, he drove to Santa Barbara and I ended up taking a bus to a motel on Hollywood Boulevard to wait for the next ticket home. To be clear, the friend was in Vienna, and the bowls were washed post-laundry, so there was no-one there to even be offended by my clothes-washing. I had forgiven this episode, but it informed my current level of trust with him. I remember now that while I was staying with him in HP, I got a moderately bad cold. He responded by making a yuck face, and telling me to sleep on the couch. I walked to a bodega for vitamin C, down a main street that was popular at nights. I saw my ex-roommate walking ahead on the sidewalk; her penchant for flashy leggings was very recognizable. I shout her name. She turns around and hugs me. She comments that the things I post online are entertaining and different. I thank her for the comment, surprised that she still remembers or follows me, since she has become somewhat famous since we lived together, and she has always had a lot of friends. Although, I just say thanks instead of vocalizing this surprise. When I lived there, she was always making complex DIY objects. I was bartending at the time, and only really came home to sleep, often crying quietly while staring out the window and then falling asleep on the couch in my clothes, often leaving whatever plate of beans and potatoes and bag of salted almonds I was going to eat for dinner half-finished on the coffee table next to me. I had a complicated emotional connection to an unavailable man at the time, and it was wrecking my game at life.
Once, she & I and two other girls from our house went out dancing at The Standard with the guys from the house next door. The rooftop was crowded, and it seemed like we could not stop laughing that night. Everyone was in a big mood. I remember shimmying up next to one of the guys from next door as he reached out his hand. He was tall and handsome, around 6’, with his afro-hair in twists I think, or short braids. We danced for most of the night, until we were all back in the lobby laughing again around 2am. He and I briefly had a thing after that, despite my overarching despondency related to the other emotionally complicated connection. Once, a while after our thing ended, I went to the house next door to say hi. One of their moms was visiting from the Midwest, or wherever. One of his housemates walks up to me with a pair of pink print cotton panties in a clear Ziploc bag. I think he was a skinny guy with short blonde hair and nasal inflection. Are these yours, he says in a tone that is simultaneously patronizing and accusatory. Are you fucking kidding me. No, I say curtly, raising my hands in a gesture of please-don’t-bring-those-panties-any-closer-to-my-body-than-they-already-are. They were not mine; I would literally never wear pink cotton printed panties. I never, ever spoke to the boys next door after that.
We exchange a few more comments on the sidewalk, and she and her friends continue on, probably to one of the bars / clubs on the street. I buy a range of vitamin-enriched water products and shuffle back to the apartment to lie on the couch, screen door open, listening to the summer breezes licking past over the flaking plaster rooftops, littered with succulents, laundry, forgotten tools. I had bought the guy flowers at the farmer's market, but he had not noticed. They opened in cool, sweet shades of blue, and their complexity and goodness brought me a great deal of joy. I made a drawing of them, and their beauty only grew as the night faded to darkness, moonlight moving more delicately across their contours than the sun.
Anyway, in Williamsburg, we walk to a bodega. I get blood orange San Pellegrino. He asks me if I would mind if he gets dark chocolate. I understand that what he is really asking is if I judge him for his flaws, and I say I don’t mind. He has always been a big guy, but he’s slimmer than he used to be. Once in Highland Park, I cooked him a big pan of kale with blueberries and almonds and a slab of salmon. He said he was broke, so I bought our groceries. I feel safe when he’s around, because he’s a big tough guy with a big soft heart, and I think he sees the good in me, respects me as a human being and feels my pain. If somebody tried to hurt me, he’s probably be on my side and might punch their lights out. Although, there’s also a chance that he would pussy out and take a bus to Santa Barbara. We talk for about five hours as the sky fades from bright to black, and I fall asleep on his big belly, watching as the other windows glow soft gold. I don’t want it to get too physical. I say so, and he’s respectful, touching my hair and talking more. I kiss him goodbye on a street corner in Chelsea. His soft gruffness is just the same in Chelsea as it was in LA. I cannot fix his problems, so I take him as he comes and am glad and grateful to know a bit of his soul.
A+HRRA award summer 2023
The Summer 2023 Arts + Human Rights Research Award will be open to submissions this summer (approx. 14:51 UTC June 21 2023 - 06:50 UTC September 23rd 2023). The topic of the Summer 2023 A+HRRA is AI, Computer Logic, and Human Rights.
th_Eroses, an arts publication www.theroses.xyz, is awarding $100 for a work of artistic / literary research that addresses or concerns human rights in conjunction with this season's topic, AI, Computer Logic, and Human Rights. The term 'research' here is intended to indicate the process of creation, exploration, and discovery, rather than the compiling of archival facts and/or materials, although the compiling of archival facts and/or materials may be a part of the process of exploration and discovery, or a part of the process of shaping the path or direction of discovery. This is intended to be an open-ended premise, to support the range of work that may occur in artists' and writers' unique processes.
From the UN:
"What Are Human Rights? Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination."
Successful submissions may, but are not required to, focus on investigative, process-based exploration and material discovery. Successful submissions may couple rigorous (or subjective) analysis with documentation of investigative, process-based exploration and discovery. Submissions do not need to be factual; forms of literary fiction, subjective expression, abstraction, choreography, and/or non-narrative presentations will be considered as well. Submissions in all languages and media are welcomed.
The goal of this award is to amplify artistic voices that inquisitively and critically approach the pressing issues of our time, to create a habitat where a unique form of creative journalism can thrive, and to provide th_Eroses readers with artistic / literary insights into key issues.
Please note: If your work is submitted and selected for the award, you consent to the publication of your submitted work by th_Eroses now and in the future. Not all submissions will win the award; there may be one submission chosen, or multiple submissions, or none of the submissions. Selected submissions will receive an email of acceptance and next steps.
Please submit work to email@example.com with "Entry: Arts + Human Rights Research Award" in the subject line.