after Edouard Leve’s Autoportrait
& Chelsea Hodson’s I Could Live Without Speaking
It is pretty to believe, as my ex-lover does, that the body’s cells regenerate every seven years, and that he, then, is on his sixth. It is pretty to believe in safety. It is pretty to believe that every time I finger comb my wooly hair, I am playing a harp. It’s true that braids are a love language. It’s true that fruit is a love language. It’s true that the shooting star emoji is, too. The gay indie porn that my friend retweets, his wide-armed trust in his desires on display, a love language. There is a language developing between me and the new person I’m seeing, and we share it through our spit. Given our schedules, I get to say ‘disco nap’ often. Often, I make plans to people-watch, and nearly always overestimate my ability to disappear in public. At an open exhibition in Oaxaca, I saw a baby swaddled in white cloth, lying on a white pallet bed and I thought for a moment that the baby was art. I saw who I presumed to be the child’s parent pick up the baby, who remained peaceful, and I immediately began to cry. A stranger once asked me at an art gallery in Miami what I thought a painting “meant.” I was devastated. I don’t miss movies, or museums, or shows, so much as I miss paying a cost to observe. I paid three dollars’ admission, eagerly, to watch the livestream birth of a woman I don’t know. She moaned and screamed and spread and pushed until a head bloomed. The midwife helped ease the baby’s body out and lay him on top of her. She shouted “oh yeah!” and cradled the baby to her chest, calm in the red water. I cried with the baby. I cried hearing the word ‘need’ on a Zoom call. One summer, I decided I needed a job that was physically demanding, so I became a maid. We frequently had what were called divorce cleanings, wherein we deep-cleaned empty houses following a disunion. The phantom relationships I felt in the houses made me feel connected to something that understood me, and are to date the closest I’ve been to a paranormal experience. I lived my life as a person with herpes for more than five years before I learned the first test was a false positive. Herpes pushed me closer to myself. When I cried over the results, it was because I’d felt as though I’d lost a friendship. My primary friend group used to be young white spiritualists, who would sing and swirl incense around their altars, and then me. It was their way of covering me in protection. I miss attempting to be anima alone, but I did not, do not have the luxury of not being my Black body. Somewhere on the internet, there is an article about me, perhaps talking about my herpes. Attached is a photo of me cradling several potted plants. When I first posted the photo, I captioned it “worm food support group.” Hearing my friend Valerie say “I’m ready” about nothing in particular unearthed my will to live. I have a friend who changed her name to Mars. When she moved to Colorado after falling in love with a woman she met on Tumblr, Emma and I flew out to see her. She picked us up from the airport and drove us straight to her favorite vista in the Rocky Mountains. We took turns shouting, then shouted together. While texting a suitor, I told them I’d walked into the door 126 seconds ago, because I feel sexiest when I’m specific. Obsession, I’ve found, is my favorite form of self-expression; human desire is second. I used to hate sex so much that I had it solely because I wanted to hurt myself. I used to oscillate between an uncomplicated hypersexual object when partnered, then a complicated hypersexual object when unpartnered. I have retired from both and miss them occasionally. I don’t remember what year it was becoming when midnight struck and “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” started playing at the bar, or whether it felt prophetic, but I will never forget the choice. I am soothed in knowing that, the last time I avoided death, I was unaware.