- Barry Hannah
- Open City/AAWW
- Sound Art/Dissonance
- Trance Poetics
“I want to kill myself in this sushi restaurant,” she told her telephone, “I want to drown myself in sake— or soy sauce. I want to drown myself in either sake or soy sauce— I’ll figure it out later. Okay. Okay, okay, okay. I want to gouge my eyes out with chopsticks. I want to order that Japanese blowfish that maybe kills you and have it kill me. I want to run around this sushi restaurant with a pot on my head and bang on the pot with a wooden spoon. A soup spoon. Like, one of those wide flat spoons you use to eat udon soup with? Find out the Japanese name for that. Oh, and the sushi rice pot. A wok? A wok! Not a pot, a wok. I want to roll myself into a bamboo sushi wrap and chop myself up into a California roll where the avocado is my heart, the cucumber is my bones, the crab is my skin, and the roe is my... guts. I want to squeeze all the raw fish they keep in Saran wrap into pulp with my hands and throw it at the wall and stab my heart out with that big old knife of theirs and batter myself in tempura batter and tempura—fry myself and serve myself as a special. I want to take all the wasabi they’ve got and stuff it up my eyes and ears and nose and shove it so far down my throat that my whole stomach and esophagus and throat and my whole mouth would be full of it. I want my whole face and body to turn red and I would be crying so hard but I couldn’t cry because my eyes would be full of wasabi so my eyes would explode and every part of my body would burn to death, and I would explode. That’s how I would die.”
Three Hours Earlier
“You like lots of wasabi,” he said.
“Yes,” she said, “I do.”
“And the ginger,” he said.
“I just like it plain,” he said, “I'm so white.”
“I'm white,” she said, “I don’t think those two things are related.”
He dropped some food on himself.
“Hate these things,” he said about chopsticks.
“Yeah,” she said, “They're pretty terrible.”
She ripped a slat of tempura sweet potato into half with her bare fingers. One half took more of the batter, on the other the negative space of where the batter had been looked like one fingernail on a fingerless hand. It was the color apricot.
Sam ate the batter hangnail. Her fingers would smell like tempura until she washed them.
“Yee—ah boy,” said Baden, pointlessly aping a frat boy, “Goin’ for it with the fingers.”
Sam didn’t know what to say to that— Yes, she thought, I am.
Why am I here? she wondered, Why am I doing this? but remembered—
“You want to go out this week?” he’d asked.
“Do you mean next week?” she asked.
“Today is Saturday,” she said, “Well— it’s Sunday now, because it’s past midnight. Sorry to be nitpicky, but I’m drunk, and not really thinking out what I’m saying before I say it. I was thinking out loud. You don’t mean this week, right? Because a week— The Week— ends on Sunday, in my opinion. I was just being an asshole, kind of. You don’t want to hang out tomorrow— tonight— right? Sunday night. You want to hang out, like, a weekday next week. I’m sorry. None of these are words that in any way need to be said.”
“Yeah,” he said, “Ha! You’re right. Next week. I totally meant next week.”
She regretted going on that whole strange tangent about when weeks begin and end and what day today was. It made it so she had to say Yes to him; she painted herself into a corner— it made no sense why she would have bothered with talking all that shit in a circle so soon after accidentally making direct eye contact while mindlessly mouthing along to “If I go to bed, baby, can I take you?” only to dismiss him, and on the grounds of what? For failing to meet qualifications that she didn’t meet herself?
She’d known who he was before she met him— Baden, his name was everywhere. He was that sort of fake city popular where if she told any girl she knew she’d gone on a date with Baden they’d know who she meant if they cared, and before that night she’d often been a girl who other girls told “I went out with Baden last night,” although she didn’t care. But she had a good memory for names, especially such a weird one— Baden— she didn't totally buy it as a name. It was just some fake word his parents made up; people will name their kids fucking anything these days: Jonnell. Aismeir. Egsen. Solija.
“Well, what do you want to do?” she asked, “Go out for dinner?”
“Sure,” he said, “Dinner. A classic.”
“Seriously, sorry to be a dick,” she said, “But honestly, I can only go if you pay. I’m really broke right now; I just blew all my money on an iPhone.”
“No probs!” he said, “Don’t you love your iPhone?”
“It’s a phone,” she said, she told everyone when they asked her, and one of her co—workers when she said it told her, “You sound so sagelike when you say that” and “It’s a phone,” she said, trying to parody a sagelike voice but ending up sounding exactly as she’d sounded in the first place.
A new consciousness of the italics hidden in the way people spoke came over her on the same day it happened, the answer to the question he was asking, which she didn’t tell him: “And with it came a new consciousness of the italics in people’s voices”— “What do you mean?”— “That mean was just italicized, did you hear it? Do you even know what italics are?” “I know what italics are.” “That know was italicized too.”
“So you’re an artist?” he asked.
It was an awful question to have to answer— her only two options of answers were “Yes, I’m an artist,” and “Yes.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Like, a painter?” he asked.
“No, I don’t paint,” she replied, “I’ve never painted in my life. I mean, maybe when I was a kid, I painted. But I can’t even remember it.”
“So, what?” he said—asked, “Tell me about your art.”
On the plate in front of her were two kinds of sushi roll: a Red Dragon, and a Green Dragon. She didn’t prefer either of them, but ate a slice of Green Dragon because she’d eaten a Red Dragon last.
“That’s a hard question,” she said with her mouth full, and remembered back to something she’d seen earlier: a Yorkshire terrier crawling through the grass. The grass was so high compared to the terrier; it came up to his chin. She’d never liked a Yorkshire terrier before, but she liked him, or her. She liked the terrier, she liked the grass, and she liked their relationship. She wanted to lie and say that her art was about a Yorkshire terrier crawling through the grass.
The terrier had belonged to a mom pushing a stroller, the baby boy she pushed, and another boy, the baby’s older brother.
“Where’s Michael’s shoe?” asked the mom, and nobody said anything.
“I’m going to go back and find Michael’s shoe,” she said, and the terrier crawled through the grass. The older brother climbed onto a yellow fire hydrant and hung over it so his belly smushed against the top and his arms and legs hung down over either side; he was such a small kid that neither his arms nor legs touched the ground. She wanted to lie and say that her art was about a child so small that when hanging over a fire hydrant neither his arms nor legs hit the ground.
“You know Donovan?” she asked.
“Does he live in Toronto?”
She laughed. “No, no— the singer. From the sixties? Donovan? Donovan Leitch? Britain’s Answer to Bob Dylan? Mellow Yellow? Ring any bells?”
“No,” said Baden, “Sorry, I don’t.”
“Seriously? Mellow Yellow?” she asked, “You know the song, Mellow Yellow?”
“Not off the top of my head... sing it?”
“I’m not gonna sing it. I mean, if you knew it, you’d know what I meant. It’s Mellow Yellow, by Donovan. Either you know it, or you don’t.”
“Sorry,” he said, “I guess I don’t.”
“That’s okay!” she said brightly, “Well, Donovan’s my favorite guy— I’m answering your question. This is what my art is about.”
She took a sip of her wine and looked at her glass of wine, filled a fifth of the way full, and drank it. She poured herself a new glass from the half—carafe and drank some of that glass, too.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be an artist,” she went on, feeling the same amount of non—drunk she felt prior to drinking an entire glass of wine’s worth of white wine in three seconds, “Until about six months ago.” (She went back to it in her head, “Conceptual art is pointless,” she’d said.
“Well, yeah!” Mitch replied, “But so is, like, sitting around and doing nothing! Like, obviously, Samantha—”
“Just Sam will suffice.”
“Okay, Sam— obviously, everything is pointless. The pointlessness of everything, blah blah blah, we all know that— well, I mean, maybe we don’t all know that, but, like, a lot of people do. I know that. Any smart, good person who ever did anything good and, like, made something of themselves, knows that. That’s why they did good: to try and do something a little less pointless than, like, being a manager at a bank or whatevs. Like, we get it. Everyone gets your point. We get your whole deal, Sam. Everything is boring and pointless; we’re all gonna die, and no one will ever remember that we lived. But, like, honestly? Like, I’m not gonna mince words here— get over it. Stop wasting your life making yourself the most pointless thing out of all the things that are all already pointless. You use ‘the pointlessness of everything’ as a crutch, to prevent yourself from ever doing anything. Like, sorry, but shut the fuck up. You don’t want to get a real job because it’s pointless? Be a fucking conceptual artist. It’s less pointless, and you’d be good at it. Just do something, or else you’re going to be fucking pissed at yourself, on your deathbed, when you’re like ‘Oops! I just pissed my entire life away, doing absolutely nothing.’ And then it’s going to be too late. So, like, fuck.”
It was nothing while he said it but soon became the prickles of red that pierced her face every night when she woke herself up to think I’m going to be dead one day, it’s real, it really is going to happen harder every night than she had the night that came before it, November passed, and she saw the Sam all all lot I made knows why some any Ev get over it self any sorry less do pissed fuck of it and that was cool, neat, a neat thing to see, and now it was May and here she was, it smelled like chlorine sort of, before it became a sushi place it was Korean BBQ; she fiddled with the lid of the griddle they’d been too poor or lazy to do away with and in six months it would be the same thing six months later only this time it would be sing, sing, the only word, sing.)
“One of my friends told me I should be a conceptual artist, and I didn’t believe him—”
“Was he, like, your boyfriend?” Baden asked.
“Nope,” she said, “Just an intuitive guy.”
“A gay guy?” he asked, “You seem like the kind of girl who would be friends with a bunch of gay guys.”
“Nope,” she said, “And I’m just gonna pretend you didn’t say that, because it was kind of weird and homophobic—”
“I’m not homophobic—”
“I know,” she said, “I know that about you. But erase it, erase it— those sentences never happened. La la la! It’s over. So I was like, ‘No, he’s so totally wrong about that, conceptual art is stupid, and why would I ever do that’, but then I was walking home from work one night, and I saw this car ad, and the slogan was: Introducing Colors That Men Can Say Out Loud— because, I don’t know, I guess men are afraid of feeling gay if they say the car color name champagne out loud, so I guess this car company just calls it, like, beige or whatever, so that men don’t have to feel gay when they say it. That’s a real problem men face these days, apparently.”
“I can see that,” said Baden, “It’s fucked up, but I can totally see that.”
“Yeah. So, when I was walking past that ad, I was listening to Donovan— who’s like, my favorite guy. Like, my favorite musical... singer, or, like, band, or anything. I like him better than any band. And he has this song, this song called Wear Your Love Like Heaven, it’s not even my favorite song by him at all, not even close, but the lyric— it has all these, like, crazy color names, in the lyric. Like, these really out—there color names, like, Prussian blue, rose carmethene, Alizarian crimson, he calls the sun a crimson ball, and it was just such a funny coincidence— I was all, 'Whoa, car company— Donovan is so not your target market!' And then I started thinking that that’s kind of, like, the thing about Donovan— all his songs have, like, this crazy color imagery. And then I decided, ’Oh my God, I want to, like, run home right now, and listen to every single Donovan song,’ and I made a rule for myself, that I wasn’t allowed to look up Donovan lyrics on the Internet, I had to find them all myself, and then I made this list, and it was Every Color In A Donovan Song, 1964—1972. That’s what the piece was called. It was in a show, in January, at Ugly Duckling—”
“Oh, was that the one with Mark Jarman’s tennis thing?”
She screwed up her face, remembering. “No, no... I don’t remember there being any tennis thing in it... oh, and it was an all—girl show, so, unless Mark is a girl...”
“No, Mark’s not a girl.”
“Okay, yeah. Then, no. But yeah, so, then I made a list, this list, of every color in a Donovan song, and it was like, honestly... it was like, it felt like— it was the first thing I ever did. And then, like, I have nice penmanship, so I got into this show, and I just wrote every color name on a little slip of paper, and pasted them to the wall, and that’s what it was called— Every Color In A Donovan Song, 1964—1972. But I regret that. I should have just called it, Introducing Colors That Men Can Say Out Loud. I knew I wanted that, from the beginning, but I wanted to give Donovan credit where credit was due. But I regret that now.”
She sucked thirteen beans out of five edamame pods in a row.
“And then— I’m just gonna keep talking about this, because it’s interesting to me, and I’m kind of drunk now—”
“Yeah, yeah, no— go for it!”
“Are you going to, like, eat anything? I feel like you’ve eaten, like, one edamame so far, and I’ve eaten, like, everything. And now there’s almost, like, no food, and I don’t want you to go hungry—”
“I’m fine,” he said, “I had a late lunch.”
“Okay,” she said, “Whatever. That’s cool. So, anyway, my second thing was— do you like Jay—Z?”
“Doesn’t everyone like Jay—Z?”
“I don’t know— my Dad doesn’t. But yeah. Yeah, I see your point.” She nodded. “You know the song What More Can I Say, from The Black Album?”
“Well, okay— do you know Liz Phair?”
“I mean, yeah, kind of— I know, like, the general gist of— like, she’s, like, kinda Riot Grrrl, right?”
“I mean, not really, but yeah. Basically. Sure. So, there’s like, two Liz Phair albums that, like, matter, but really, only the first one matters. Exile in Guyville? It’s, like, this feminist anthem... album. Post—feminist? It’s so raw. It’s, like, lo—fi, and just, like, really, like, gross— it’s like Pavement, but for girls, and about, like, dirty raw sex. But then her second album, Whip—Smart, it’sworse. It’s, like, universally acknowledged to be worse. It’s really all over the place, and it’s more mature, but it’s less charismatic for that reason, but, I don’t know. I like it better. I just do! And I was talking to my sister about it, about Exile in Guyville vis a vis Whip—Smart, and I was like ‘I like it better! What more can I say?’ and so she started humming What More Can I Say by Jay—Z, and I was like ‘Oh my God, I should totally write a parody version of What More Can I Say by Jay—Z about how I prefer Whip—Smart to Exile in Guyville!’
And then I did. That was February; that was I did in February. February’s so dull, you know, so I just, like, threw myself into writing this Jay—Z parody thing about Liz Phair, like, it was, like, the only thing I cared about in the world, and then I got into this show at Dog Art based on the strength of my Donovan/Ugly Duckling thing, and I was like, ‘Oh cool, I’m gonna do this really sick and killer, like, post—post—feminist comment on, like, my place in the world’— I really do love Jay—Z, you know. It’s not, like, an irony thing. And it was kind of just about, like, preferring beauty to things that are, like, not beautiful— like, maybe I’d rather things be physically beautiful than emotionally powerful, and I was, like, so good at doing it in my room! I like, killed that shit, in the weeks leading up to my show, in my bedroom. I was such a good rapper in my room those weeks. Like, I don’t even care— I was so good. I was so good at it. But in real life, when I was actually doing it, it was rather, um, lackluster. Um. I did a bad job of it. It didn’t go over very well.”
“Well, I mean... I’m not exactly, like, surprised. Those aren’t exactly, like... universal themes.”
“What do you mean? Sure they are! They’re totally universal themes!”
“But, like, if you don’t know the Liz... albums you’re talking about, and if they don’t know What More Can I Say by Jay—Z, it means, like, nothing.”
“But you just said, like, a second ago, that everyone loves Jay—Z.”
“I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t know.”
“It was because I was doing a bad job!” she insisted, “It was because I was doing a bad job, like, of rapping! Why aren’t you eating anything?”
“I am,” he said, “I was eating the entire time you were talking. Look at the food. It’s gone. I’m so full now.”
She didn’t look at the sushi; she looked at Baden. He wore a Jays cap and horn—rimmed glasses, and that was all she saw of him. She could see any white guy in the world wearing a Jays cap and horn—rimmed glasses on the street or at a party two weeks later, and she’d think he was Baden. But if she saw Baden without his Jays cap and horn—rimmed glasses, even three seconds later, she’d have no idea who he was.
“I’m thinking, now,” she said, “From now on, I want my art to be mostly about death.”
She frowned, and looked at the food. There was a shrimp left— she ate it in two bites, and accidentally ate some of the tail.
“No,” she went on, “Not mostly about death— exclusively about death.”
“That’s morbid,” said Baden.
“Yeah,” she said, “About death. That’s what morbid means.”
“I’m going to go smoke a cigarette,” she said.
“You smoke?” he asked.
“Well, yeah. You saw me smoke about a hundred billion cigarettes the other night.”
“I thought it was because you were drunk.”
“I’m drunk right now,” she said, “But it wasn’t.”
Men loved it, the picture of a woman smoking a cigarette, the cigarette a prop, but they couldn’t understand: it was never just that one cigarette. It was eighty thousand cigarettes a day, every day, the promises to quit that come with it, waking up in the morning, smoking on her stoop before she even ate, her ponytail nappy, her mascara fallen, her tongue dry, her lips dry, her Blistex lost under her bed where it rolled after she dumped all her shit out of her one purse and onto her bed which was also a table, also a chair, her chartreuse—checked GapBody boxers and ill—fitting t—shirt, her body in the shower, wet, dry, her good bra, her bad bra— it was never just that one outfit, how good her hair looked—
She was her own pyjamas, her own terrible gym clothes.
Outside, the air was heavy like grapes about to burst flat open. The weather that morning was perfect, but the Weather Network said it was going to rain, there were alerts and everything, and every time someone said “It’s so beautiful out” someone else had to go and say “It’s supposed to rain tonight,” as if for whatever reason the other person wasn’t allowed to just enjoy the beautiful weather for what it was at that moment.
She spread a flank of cardboard over the gap between the stone and the dirt and regretted wearing shorts because there was a cool to the dirt she could feel through the cardboard. She lit a cigarette and saw a woman.
Immediately, she saw the woman not as the picture of the woman but as herself telling her sister about the woman on the phone that night— “She was a middle—aged woman, just some dowdy middle—aged woman, maybe single, but probably not— everybody gets married— and she was wearing a beret— like, ‘Get over yourself! It’s not cold out!’ But the real kicker was— she was carrying a baguette in her bag.”
“Ew!” she imagined her sister saying.
“I know, right? Her eco—friendly tote bag. Like, honestly, this is not Paris! This is Toronto! Deal with it! If you honestly wanted to get to Paris that bad, like, you probably should have done something to get yourself to Paris, instead of just walking around Toronto like the most pretentious fuck of all—time, like, Ooohh, look at me, I’m so Parisian— like, NO! You’re not Parisian at all. You’re a sad idiot from Toronto Ontario, wearing a beret and carrying a baguette in your eco—friendly tote to communicate to the world, AKA Toronto, that you’re so cool— like, cool, how cool of you, middle—aged woman— ‘Congratulations. You act like people act in Paris.’ Like, everybody knows that about Paris: everybody’s always carrying around a baguette all the time, and they wear berets. But, like, what pisses me off the most is that, right after I, like, damned this woman for being such a loser, the first thing I thought was, ‘Well, maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe she just happens to be wearing a beret on the same day she just happened to buy a baguette,’ and, like, that was not me! It’s like, I’ll affect the moral tone, of, like, some churchgoer, and I’ll judge myself for thinking a judgy thought. You know what I mean? Like, yeah— it’s fine to buy a baguette, but either way, it’s hokey to wear a beret, and if you’re wearing a beret, maybe don’t buy a baguette that day. And honestly, if you live in Toronto and you’re buying a baguette, you’re probably just some idiot rich person and honestly… honestly... I hate everyone. And I’m tired of hating myself for hating everyone, when I’m actually fine with it. I’m not indifferent to her, and I don’t like her— I hate her. I think she’s a loser, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence, and I hate her for it. And I’m okay with that, about myself.”
She exhaled some smoke in Baguette Lady’s general direction to punctuate her hatred, and Baguette Lady waved it away, which was not out of line. She grabbed the tip of her baguette— to protect it?— and stopped cold in the street, sniffing the air, figuring something out: she decided Yes. She turned to face Sam and snapped, “Didn’t you get the memo about how smoking kills?”
In the future, Sam regretted not spitting back, “Didn’t you get the memo about not being a judgmental bitch?” but it was still only then, so she hadn’t thought of it yet. It was weird, she thought— she hated Baguette Lady, and Baguette Lady hated her too. It came naturally to both of them: they were enemies.
Sam looked down at her cigarette, and almost laughed at loud— the idea of her cigarette killing her made about as much sense as being killed by a pen—lid, or a quarter.
She cracked her knuckles, and Baguette Lady walked away. She found her phone in her bag; Mitch had drawn something in Draw Something. She watched the video of his finger drawing what she correctly guessed was a sombrero, and drew him back a terrible rendering of what was initially a seven—armed octopus, a heptapus— she added in a hasty eighth at the last second.
“Drawsome!” said her phone.
I want to kill myself at this sushi restaurant, she texted her sister, Hey do you know of any iPhone apps where you can record your voice? Like a walkie—talkie or whatevs? Her phone changed whatevs to whatever—
“Whatever,” she thought, “Whatevs.”
The sky was mulberry, it was a bruise, and she pouted at her face in the black of the back of one of the chairs at the table closest to the window. She wanted very badly to be the kind of person who would walk away and leave him there, but she couldn’t do it— if she did, it would become gossip, and she didn’t want to deal with that. She went back inside, and ended up throwing down $40 on a sixty dollar tab. It never rained that night.
Laura Jane Faulds is a Toronto-based writer of French-Moroccan descent. Her work has been published in Storychord, Shelf Life, The Fanzine, and Cal Morgan's Forty Stories; she also co-runs Strawberry Fields Whatever, a thoughtful and rabble-rousing blog about rock and roll music. Her favorite Beatle is John.