Small Talk

Girl Walking

(this writing has been fictionalized)

K: I actually sat here and ached in a universal-human-experience kind of way for a good seven and a half minutes—at least three of which were spend directly on the aching, and then another four on a subsequent mental wandering and reflecting on the experience of ache—right before the productive last part where I realized that both aching and wandering are superficially unnecessary here because it’s 2012 and we can edit this shit out of this thing with the low investment of a few deft keystrokes and the world will be none the wiser. We are in perfect control. Ergo, I don’t have to start with the perfect opening, or even really with a tone in mind, although I’m convinced at some level that tone is pretty likely gelled over within the first few paragraphs of the first draft of anything and we’re probably already committed to longwinded mindless sentences that are slated for deletion. That is fine. I’ll take responsibility. But I want you to know I did first ache/reflect and then just decided to get on with it, and that while I’m not married to the above as an opening sentence, we may just find ourselves in a place at the end of this where the beginning was never the point of it anyway. The point is how it ends. A beginning is merely a point of comparison.

Do you remember what you wanted when you entered porn? I don’t. I don’t think I even had wants in mind in any significant way. Everything else just paled in comparison as far as options went and porn seemed like a fine bridge of sorts while I figured it out. That was the problem though. There wasn’t a lot of feeling in me, yet somehow all of my emotions felt turbulent in their moments of immediate hindsight. What are the lyrics to that song that already said what I’m saying? I was chasing a feeling. Maybe it was less than that. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t personally huge. It’s probably just that I was twenty and at twenty a job that pays you to do literally all the things you are already doing, on top of paying more than the real-world jobs, on top of only requiring bi-monthly attendance, on top of turning shopping into a tax incentive—oh and also a job that outwardly kisses your ass and makes you feel special and pretty and soft and strokable and sucks the metaphorical dick of your twenty year old ego—I think any job that presents itself to a twenty year old in this way will have a hook. I can look back at myself at that age and I didn’t have the layers that I have now. I don’t think I even had the shell. In a few more years I’ll probably be saying the same thing. So it goes. Looking back though, it’s actually very likely that I was just a bot at that point in my life. A half-sentient widget at best. I could have been anything, as strangers derisively remind me. But the thing was, I didn’t know anything—much less what I wanted. I didn’t know what I wanted because I didn’t know what I felt. The feelings were all twirling around inside like some storm trying to touch down but never quite gaining the speed. I look at eighteen year olds entering college and committing to a major by twenty and pursuing that education for another 2-8 years and it’s baffling to me that they’re even within range of what they want by then. I think they’re not in range. I think by then they’re just too committed. How many people are really that much of a force on the world to have already found their best path before they’re even legal to drink? How did they know how much they’d change? It’s like firing a bullet in the wind.

Today I woke up with the person I would most like to be waking up next to in this entire world at this point in my life, maybe forever—though wouldn’t it be femme of me to say that. I grabbed a coffee and went to my horse and pet her on the nose. Pressed against her belly, I could hear the bubbling and gushing on the inside and then the rain fell while I contemplated it all. Sometimes I stop in awe and I think, I am here. Eventually though the baby kicked me in the head as he readjusted and I snapped out of it. He made some more bubbling noises and something that sounded a little bit like the sonic communication of a dolphin. I tried talking to him so he might recognize my voice, considered sonic squealing too. I am the expectant father, a mostly unnecessary aide who orbits and frets around the mare. She needs emotional support. I don’t know what that looks like. Instead I feed her carrots. From there I drove home in my well-loved car to my well-loved home and spent a few hours writing as I tried to tie fragments into larger themes that dealt with the grays of morals and purpose. It was what you might call “good enough” while I’m on my way to something. While it will very likely turn into nothing as the metrics go, the practice is necessary. Then I started writing you. But right before that moment—somewhere in the 7 and a half minutes between aching and reflection—It occurred to me that if I could be current-me into the body of bot-me at twenty I would look forward at this day and say yes, yes, this is what I want. I was going for this the whole time. The storm just hadn’t touched down yet.

How does your want-trajectory compare?

 

C: You’re aching and agonizing, I’m learning how to drive and running my

car into trees… Perpetual teenagers, we are.

I do remember what I wanted when I started porn—it was a woman. I saw her and I thought, I want to have sex with this woman. As far as signing up full time goes, I considered the supposed drawbacks and decided they were small, or not actually drawbacks. Porn sounded fun. The decision was literally that simple. My therapist says that I carry my emotions in my vagina.

Aside from showing up on time and remembering to shave the necessary bits, I didn’t even begin thinking about porn as a job until after that first big Vegas convention. Porn was just a super fun adventure. When I was a little kid I wanted to wear sparkles and high heels, go to every interesting place and explore every interesting thing, and make peoples’ brains hurt. All of the above happen on a regular basis. It appears as though my want trajectory followed the same path as yours.

I wonder about those people who go to college at eighteen and finish at twenty-two as well. I wonder if they are actually happy, or pretending to be happy, or just haven’t bothered to think about it because they’re told they’re supposed to be happy because that is how it looks. I also wonder whether I’m projecting. But I’ve watched people I know disappear for overtime at 9-5 corporate jobs, the suburbs, let their passports expire and their hair fall out. I’ve known some older people who followed that path and ask me about my life with envy, like they feel they missed something. I wonder if it’s a case of the grass being greener. I’m happy with my grass, but I wonder how I’m going to feel down the line.

The more time I spend out of that world the further it seems I have to

reach to communicate with, say, my stepsister’s social group. It’s

like they speak a subtly different language—like watching the

BBC fifteen years ago before all their slang and our slang blurred

together—everything is pretty much the same, but there are so many

small differences that it’s not factually the same.

Speaking of gray areas of morality, what do you think of the theory that the human brain does not fully mature until twenty five and the last areas to cook are the parts that let you actually consider others views/feelings and see things in shades of gray as opposed to black and white?

 

K: I think all things follow evolution on an endless scale. In the womb we’re a cell then we’re two cells then we’re a funny collection of cells trying to work together then we’re a little bit tadpole-y like we just might climb up on the shore and next thing you know we look four-legged then we grow a full coat of hair then we look like monkeys then we shed the hair then we’re born and we’re given a name and we’re awarded the rights and classification of a fully developed human. Viola! From there we want only comfort as it relates to our immediate needs then we want to experience the world with our mouths and our assholes then we want to interact and manipulate things with our fingers then we want to fight with sticks and rebel and break free and individualize and then we want to debate and comprehend and finally, finally we find that humanity that starts to account for the other hearts beating around us. Sounds like the social evolution of our species as well. Twenty five sounds good. Yes, I think twenty five. Then twenty six is when our bodies stop growing and start dying. It’s like the movies, where we get there in just the nick of time.

There was a theorist we studied when I was in school who had created a moral scale on which the highest-functioning people were those who saw everything in gray and the lowest-functioning were those who saw everything in black and white. Personal evolution isn’t guaranteed.

I wonder about what I’ll feel down the line as well. I’m told I’ll feel differently than I do now and I can’t imagine changing so much that this perspective right now becomes unrecognizable, but then again I remember being four years old and making faces at the kissy scenes in movies, and my mother said to me, Someday, you’re gonna like boys too. Boys are gross, I said. And sure enough, there I was the next year trying to kiss boys.

Does it make you angry when people assume your mind will change? Coming from most people, I take it to mean they think they know better and I’ll eventually catch up, or that my reasoning is flawed in some way and theirs is not—that they’re in on a secret that I am not. Maybe I’m a late bloomer on the outsider-perspectives track. Maybe my growth is stunted. The fact is I like my grass too and I’m sick of being told that I don’t. The other fact is we all can’t help but change. It’s common enough to find that the conclusion wasn’t wrong, just the reasoning that landed it there.

And I do see that the longer I’m in porn the more I fall out of touch with the pace of the rest of the world. There are the simple things, where I won’t be aware that it’s Monday as wonder aloud at the traffic, and then there are the larger things, where I forget that it is not OK to thoughtlessly and delicately brush my fingers over a man-friend’s crotch as a show of endearment within view of the public, or his girlfriend. I forget that pajamas are not outerwear. I forget that most people remember how many people they’ve had sex with, along with accompanying details such as names and dates and alleged personal qualities. I forget that in other parts of the world someone might have tried to cut off my clit, or my head. I forget that I’m female. Whether that makes me infantile or ahead of the curve, I don’t know. Regardless of the answer I will argue it.

What shocks you about the way you’ve changed and the secondary effects of the job? I thought I’d weighed every potential negative consequence that might come from tying myself up with the stigma of sex but I’ve learned there are things you don’t think of. It’s that bullet in the wind.

 

C: I still like to experience everything with my mouth. I licked the wallpaper at a restaurant in January. The place is owned by a guy who kind of single-white-femaled Willy Wonka. I couldn’t stop staring at the wallpaper. It was covered in fruits and since this guy was trying to be Willy Wonka, I wondered if it was flavored. I felt left with no other choice but to try it. The truth is, he failed here. There was no flavor. There should be flavor in unpredictable places. I wish the world would make more room for me.

I don’t usually have the energy to get angry when people assume. I do find myself disappointed in them for trying to take away my development process by pushing their things that they know onto me. Things like how to work the post office or cook eggs… sure, I’ll take that knowledge, but inflicting unsolicited opinions about huge life things with an air of ahead-of-the-curve or more-evolved-than-thou annoys me. Some artists are celebrated more for their process than their actual work. People have a desire to see and know how things happen. The cause is as important as the point. I want to experience my life, I want to actually *feel* my feelings and be confused and figure things out on my own. Advice is great, the thing that I take issue with is that certain tone of voice that implies that I think wrong. People don’t think the same. If someone really doesn’t like the way that I think, I prefer they go away so I can spend more time with the people who like the way I think and think in ways I like. Speaking of thinking, I think I’m saying the same as you with different words here.

I think it’s neutral or even good to be a late bloomer on some things. The people who seem to have the most fun are the ones who haven’t grown up yet in one or more ways. The great thing about kids is they haven’t been put in a box yet so they just think freely rather than trying to think outside of it. Spontaneity and irresponsibility look the same if you squint your eyes. So do cunty and refreshingly blunt. One woman’s constructive criticism is another’s scathing rebuke. There’s a concept in there somewhere, triangulated by this paragraph, the concept of people’s best strengths being their worst flaws.

Most of the people in my life are artists, freelancers, and other performers… the rest have faded away unless we’re related by blood or marriage. We understand each other’s schedules, we get it when plans have to be cancelled last minute, when what was supposed to be coffee at 8 turns into hopefully dinner at 10 but more like drinks at 2:30 am because things just kept running longer than expected, or when we practically pass each other in the air but don’t manage to be on the same coast at the same time for a year. Pajamas are outerwear now. I read an article in last month’s Marie Claire saying so. I feel like most women read Marie Claire and accept what it says as truth.

I have this feeling in my gut that infantalism *is* ahead of the curve. Base desires, drives, and whatnot.

What shocks me most is the fact that people seem more concerned if I’m not active online for six days than they are if I don’t have a movie released for six months. I’ve always been pretty open and public, I just had no clue I’d end up with this much public watching… caring… sticking around when month after month I say something graphic about my genital parts or failures in hygiene or inability to engage with more basic modes of society. What shocks me is the inability of strangers on the internet AND people who spend large amounts of time with me on a weekly basis to look for a fucking date/time stamp on an article or an interview before they judge me-the-current person based on me-the-blue-haired-lunatic-child. Some things, especially the big things, are still the same. Maybe the ideas are more refined, more focused, but some things are different. Would they judge a fully-integrated-into-the-real-world person on a paper from their freshman year in college?

 

K: With regards to fans holding the now-me to the old-me, I’ve been lucky. The change was necessary though. I was a bot, for christ’s sake! I was twenty. I’ve said dumb things. I’ve changed political parties (thrice!). In some of my early interviews said that the very things I enthusiastically dive into today are degrading, which is like humor looking down a hall of mirrors, because the degrading part is exactly what I like about it, and being told that I can’t have it because outside forces think they know better than myself about my sexuality is the only truly degrading factor in the whole situation—and the only point where control is actually out of my hands.

At twenty, I was obsessed with Ayn Rand. I had two extra fans because of it. These days I think she’s kind of an asshole. Not completely, but let’s just say evolution would have swallowed up her mode of thinking pretty quickly. Meerkats have more empathy than this woman. The two aforementioned fans have quit me. I will live with that loss. Besides, I didn’t pronounce her name right anyway. I probably still don’t. In the beginning I said I’d never do a BBG scenes (lies) and for a good year I wouldn’t let people come on my face. Why? A lot of reasons, probably, and all of them extended from immaturity and lack of confidence and I can pretty well narrow it down to the fact that I was too weak to shrug off these stranger’s opinions. Yes, that’s come on my face. No, I don’t know the name of that gentleman in the picture. I have sex on camera for fuck’s sake. One day I just woke up and realized we all needed to deal with it.

I’ve jumped ship on three porn contracts, I’ve changed my name, changed my look, my style, my preferences, my barriers. In some cases I’ve changed my beliefs. I had to learn how to be in this world in this industry. I have adjusted to it. In politics, it’s called flip-flopping. In the real world, I think it’s called growth, regression, or some point on the circle. Maybe infantilism. Either way, like yourself, I’ve had to make my mistakes in the shadowy public known as porn. We stand as proof that you cannot fuck up a porn career.

But for all of the things I’ve learned the hard way and for the amusement of bystanders-as-audience, I can’t help but mention specifically what I’ve learned because of/in spite of/thanks to this industry. Courage, for one. I don’t think I’d ever displayed any sort of courage like what it took to push through my first set. The scene was with Manuel—the same Manuel whose bed I’m always leaving in the morning. Dream Manuel, if you will. Don’t call him that, of course. He would change his name. But that’s the ending point in this particular story anyway, and not what we need to be getting into just yet. The starting point was this: I remember that whole day as being traumatic. I’d never seen porn, never seen a porn set, and most immediately I’d never seen a Porn Dick, as we call them. At this point I’m only talking about the bulge in his pants. Then we started the scene and he pulled it out and right away I realized we had a mechanical issue. In a college biology class we studied speciation and the methods by which new species arise. Sometimes it is geographic, so that two populations are separated by, say, a mountain range, for so long that they evolve differently enough that they lose the ability to interbreed. And then there’s specialization, where competition for the same resources means maybe some start eating the shorter grass and some eat the longer grass and before you know it they have different teeth. Bam. New species. And then there’s mechanical speciation. An example would be giraffes. There are different species of giraffe. Most people don’t know this because they all look the same, but it’s true. Mechanically, in the wild, they cannot breed. The smaller species cannot hump the larger species and the larger species cannot hump the largest species. I remember when Manuel came at me with his dick and I tried to get my mouth around it and it wouldn’t go, kneeling there on the floor, twenty years old, a room full of people and I’d never even seen a porn before, much less shot one, all I could think about were giraffes and how Manuel was a big giraffe and I was a little giraffe and in the wild we could never interbreed.

Ok maybe courage wasn’t the word for it. But it’s true that the things I learned in this industry are the things I actually needed to learn. I was great at school. In that realm I showed up, I did the work, I pulled the grades. School was comfortable and directionless. It was the real world I was failing at. Porn taught me quickly that the difference between catching the bus and being coated in the dust it kicked up was human interaction. I was shy and couldn’t speak in public and then suddenly I was expected to speak first, speak strategically, to always keep perceptions in mind and to network and speak cleanly and— most notably—publicly. But probably best of all, what I learned was how to speak in a way that was honest and saw value in letting the mess hang out. Porn is a crash course in the smeary details of human interaction. I can think of nothing else that can shove one faster into a mindset of everything-is-gray and everyone-is-just-doing-what-they-can-with-the-tools-they-have than this industry. That mindset is at the top of the chart if you ask the psychiatrists. Call it another mirrored hall of humor.

What thematic revelations have you stumbled upon?

 

C: I am going to take a moment to fully experience how much I love that giraffe specialization is what was going through your head during your first hardcore scene. Now everyone in the coffee shop I’m typing this from is wondering why I have a goofy smile on my face.

On my first porn set, I made it through an all-girl scene, and then my first boy/girl scene with no problems. I was traumatized on the third scene—not by the talent—but by the whipped cream they put on his porn dick right before I was supposed to put it in my throat. I was vegetarian at the time, mostly eating raw foods. My system hadn’t seen that much processed junk in years and I had a meltdown over the fact that I was going to gag and be foiled by canned fluffy garbage. This was before I figured out that gagging, choking, and crying mascara tears goes over just as well in porn as it does in my personal life.

I’ve learned that everything falls into place and works like magic when I just listen to my gut and am really being myself. I’ve learned that the scariest things are the ones that are most worth it in the end. If I share as much of my feelings as I do my interior anatomy, people actually respond in an emotional and positive way. The things that get quoted the most are the times where I’m not censoring myself, not worried about seeming odd. The concept that people don’t expect absolute perfection and know that people have flaws and are accepting or even appreciative of them was a huge one for me.

Ayn Rand… it seems to me that everyone truly great at what they do is kind of an asshole. Jenna and Sasha, Ghandi and MLK…

I’ve taken almost a week to reply and I still don’t really have anything to actually say. I don’t have an opinion. I’m either too aware of my lack of wisdom or too apathetic to care. I’m not sure which. The only thing I’ve really learned is that my brain is stupid and my instincts are usually right, but I think the Improv classes are what brought me to that realization. Sometimes rain does this to me.

Right now I’m performing a solo show at a bar in the city. No one (including myself) could remember the specifics of my routine, so I winged it. Winged? Wung? It was much better the second night. I want to do it over and over three times a day every day for months until I get it consistently perfect. Then I want to better the show. All the above talk about realizing that absolute perfection isn’t required, and I still have this driving hunger to push towards it with things that I care about. Everything is a contradiction and people are messy. I’m messy. Metaphorically messy and actually messy. Someone put their grubby vodka-cranberry paws on my hair when I stepped off stage. I kind of want to wash my hair but not enough to locate shampoo.

 

K: Contradictions are inherent in everything. It was better for your hair not to wash it anyway, though maybe it was also better for your hair that some man not stick his uninvited filth there. I think it’s winged, although in time it may very well become wung. I love the evolution of English. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. They say that’s why Latin died—that it couldn’t evolve.

Do you pay attention to American politics? Do you care? I’m in Spain right now and everything is so organized and quiet and there are something like six different recycling subgenres on every street and I can’t figure out which one my plastic bottle goes in, the blue bin or the green bin? The pictures all look like variations of what I’m trying to throw away. As a logical extension of this Spanish binning, all of the streets are really clean—and somehow in line with, but not necessarily extending from the fact of those bins—the stray dogs are cuter, cleaner too. It seems that someone must own these dogs. I imagine a single, all knowing, laissez-faire master somewhere out there who at six pm will set out their dinner. All hours of the day these dogs just wander into the cafes and plop down at my feet and take a load off.

Today my sister sat with me at a table outside a café. She’s in a place that makes her hesitant to move. We saw the crowds come and go and then the sun go down but it was Spain and no one thought anything of it. The same woman who served us lunch came back to bring us dinner. We’d each brought a book to exchange with the other, but when we pulled them out, they were the same book. I am in love with the idea that there is a person this close to me.

My sister has a boyfriend here too. He’s putting 100% of his energy into school because the government is paying him to. The country works for him. He’s mostly broke, but he’s got education and transportation and healthcare, which the majority of Americans still don’t have after we’ve paid all the bills. The city has a biking system where you pick one up from any location and drop it off at any other location with the access provided by what is, essentially, a library card. Those bikes are how he gets around, and I’m sorry to admit the bike system took me off track—It’s just wonderful, really—but anyway he fell off the bike and scratched up one side of his body. He has what is probably a bruised a rib and won’t go to the doctor. That’s beside the point though. The point is, he could—go to the doctor—because his healthcare is covered. I’m just saying, three cheers for Spain. America is found wanting on most scales, despite the publicity campaigns.

What are the things that get you worked up? When can you not keep your mouth shut or your open palm off a wayward cheek? I could imagine the two of us working together, each screaming out our beliefs while we stand back to back against the imaginary transgressors encircling us. We’d need a studio name. You could scream about the process and I’ll scream about the policy.

 

K: Where did this go? I found this document in the trash on my laptop while digging for something else. It’s amazing what four years will bring. I read through this twice and then a third time and felt a little confidence stemming from my clearer ability to detect grammatical issues I didn’t catch back then. It’s good to see I was on the nose with this giraffe thing, though. Just last week it was in the news that we haven’t been dealing with one giraffe species all this time, but four. The math added three more species to the endangered list. Every time I see an oversized cock now you can pretty well assume there are four giraffes dancing mechanical circles in my head.

Do you remember why I was in Spain back when we were writing this? My sister doesn’t date boys now. She dates girls, and sometimes girls on their way to being boys. Her ex is transitioning. They did the top surgery. My sister stopped shaving on account of nothing is inherently femme. That doesn’t explain why here hair is green and she keeps potted plants as pets, though. Since Spain I haven’t been able to separate the manifestations of her evolution—and maybe I shouldn’t—but I can’t help but believe that she harbors present-day facets that were always inevitable, and then there are those other facets that she wears like symptoms of the night she drove to Spain.

I’m not the same person either. I have a child now. Every morning Manuel and I wake up to find her in our bed. She is the person I want most in the world to wake up next to. I’ve had a good run. Four years ago it was easy to play with the idea of infantilism as a mode of being if for no other reason than sport. I liked politics for the sake of trashing it. Who knows what I might be getting up to now if I were the me of then, what with this presidential race, that overt spray tan, the drama of the rivaling crowds like so many football fans. In June I was in Denver on location and Trump held a rally in the building adjacent to my hotel. As I walked by I read the signs swarming above the heads of the people on the streets. They said, “Enough of this shit.” They were right. That’s everyone’s political stance these days. The trouble lies in pointing out the shit.

You weren’t into politics back when I asked those four years ago. Maybe that’s why this conversation died on the vine of my desktop. Maybe my sister just came into the room again shaking with those tears she’d been riddled with all that week. I’d had a lot of things started that are still left undone. That baby horse came out of the mare and was unfortunate enough to have been born female, too. I gave her away, and then the mare. Back then I was always hoping for men. Maybe it stems from to the issues I’ll always have with my mother, or maybe it’s the issues I’ve always had with mares, or maybe I just needed a daughter. It’s enough that the world is best played under the influence of testosterone. They say the top CEOs in the country all harbor the characteristics of a psychopath. In spite of it all, we named the project The Children’s Crusade and put it together because I liked that you were outlying enough to at least consider infantilism and you liked that I could work a spreadsheet, a tax loophole, ward off the banking fees. Then you got mad that I was a capitalist and I thought you were an infant. So it goes.

I like earthquake retrofitting, platinum insurance plans, IRAs. It was wrong to say I didn’t know what I wanted when I came into this industry. Maybe all I did was forget. But I wanted stability. I’d tried getting it on my own by buying property in Sacramento. It was 2005 and the lender ended up selling me a scam and opened a string of utility accounts in my name. I don’t know who I’d thought I was. I was a stripper with a shoebox filled with bills rolled up in hairbands. I remember the day I saw a hit show up on my credit for cable at an address I’d never lived. Next came a gas bill, electric. He bought a car. I thought my life ran out with those meager savings. The housing market crashed and I let the properties that were supposed to be some sort of future foreclose while I moved away. Nineteen. What did we know then? We knew how to meet boys and their trouble. To this day I keep my credit frozen, I scan the bank accounts daily, read the fine print, the news, watch the market. I own gold—not as a stock but as a physical metal in a physical place. I came into porn because the real world had shown itself to be a murky system of gears and pistons that I couldn’t work. Porn was a haven. From where I stood it always did what it said it would do. The checks always cashed and the language was clean. I know your experience was a nearly perfectly balanced opposite, though. Porn snagged you on fine print and you never bothered with credit on account of the mountain you saw build on top of your parents. Their decisions cost you the college education you undoubtedly deserved.

In learning how to financially guard myself against the world, I learned how the world works—at least that part of the world that is predicated with dollar signs. I always valued your friendship because I felt there was a deep understanding between us. The day you relayed to me that you understood that my jumping on the financials of your personal situation was the way that I showed that I cared was one of the few times I’ve felt a personalized sense of being known. It’s true. I show I care by pleading and pushing and arm wrestling the people I care about into making the decisions that protect them against the world. I want you to have credit. I want you to be more aggressive with your taxes. I want you to have more health insurance. I want you to dump $5,500 a year into a self directed IRA and then turn around and use the money to purchase commercial real estate on a nonrecourse loan at a tax-deferred return of no less than 20% on your money. I wanted you to change your royalties contract when you had the chance. I’m not for the system of blatant capitalism, but I’m for not getting eaten alive by it.

I’ve sensed a growing tension between us as we tug the project towards our separate centers, but we started in a common place. We wanted to scream at everyone, and then scream that we told them so, that it’s all gray, that the language must change. We were the girls with the vulgar notions and straight face who tried relentlessly not to show that in the cracks there was laughter. We were out to be heard. We were only ever successful in spite of ourselves. You tried to start a conversation with the outside. I tried alignments from within. What might we have gotten up to if not for that endemic story—and then him. Eventually we both backed off and just tried ride the wave of that feeling you have that your gut is usually right.

And maybe it is. But since December you have been like my sister. You have changed, as people invariably do, but the manifestations of your evolution are divided, for me, and when I speak with you I can’t tell what was inevitable and what are the symptoms of a woman still working through the experience of rape. My sister was one person until a stranger drug her into an alley behind a train station, and she has been a shape shifting version of that person ever since. I had to fly to Spain to bring her home, but first I had to wait for those weeks while she stood under the shower trying to wash it off, while she cried it out, while she wandered the streets of Barcelona looking for something that she could see with the same perspective she might have seen it through before.

It took telling the world what happened to you for you to look at what happened to you, too. Then began the process of reaction, your changes in the face of it. For you there were no showers. There was whiskey for liquid. Your voice was pale and your tears weren’t hot. On the phone I could hear you chasing the four walls of the room off the hall of the place I couldn’t follow. There was static on the line, and then there wasn’t. It sounded like the biological pop and thread of cells knitting and then not.

Now we are here. You haven’t responded to me, though I don’t recall the last time that you did. Some things are more constant than others. In all honesty I’m still hoping you’re just behind the curtain working on something you will say before we laugh. I miss the way you spin stories. I miss the tales of your bathing lapses and the way your shirts were never opaque—the way you turn it to funny, poke at society, make norms blatant and plain—but even I have grown wary of spin. Even I have washed the gray off of the story. There is no slant. I keep embodying the silence that ensues the crash.

Lately, I can hear you distantly fiddling the language. There is always a public for the woman ready to talk about her rape. My sister would say that hers looked like nothing. He looked like the night in the alley. He was cinderblock. He came from the other side of her eyes. You though, you will patch up the English to cage him, force it to integrate with the change. In print somewhere it appears that He is not my rapist. Pause. I don’t want him. Pause. And then I understand that the line cut off and someone went home.

I don’t think it’s funny to brush my fingers against a man in endearment. Pajamas aren’t outerwear, they never were. I’d just ceased to let go of a feeling left over from a week long ago in my childhood. One day we wore green for our sport. One day was backwards. Pajama day was a Friday for school spirit. I liked that day. I liked the feeling that the constructs had been random all along.

The problem lies in the lessons we teach. It’s that bullet in the wind. My sister brushed off an advance at the train station. The mare didn’t bond with me how I’d hoped. The foal was antsy. You touched a man that wasn’t him. We were screaming that the castles were made of cardboard, the wallpaper will never have flavor, the politics don’t fit. We were screaming and laughing and temporary.

One day, I want to tell my daughter a single thing that’s true. Something that will remain true tomorrow. I want to tell her something true and lulling.

But when my sister visits she brings books in genres we don’t read. She speaks of authors I don’t know. She came this week but didn’t hear me. I just wanted her to hear me. Last night I stood up because I thought I could force her. Her hair was green and she was reading. She had her feet on the couch. The boots she wore were men’s and old with holes. They made me hesitate.

I’ve found the problem with lessons: it’s that you can never know what lesson someone learns. The best you can hope for is maybe you’ll be the one to teach it. I wondered if that man knew that he was the one who taught her to wear those shoes. Did he teach those books to her too? Or had she been evolving away from me all along? And so I screamed. These days, I’m not trying to teach anything. I just want an answer. I couldn’t tell you if she heard me—not even eventually—although I screamed until my breath ran out. I screamed until I had to breathe back in just to stand. Maybe the answer is coming. But for the moment, she turned a page. She kept her eyes down. The world echoed with the crackle of that page.

 

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