This is a metafiction piece that is mocking the worldy aesthetic on art in general. Two male lovers are torn from each other due to their fetishes of collecting 'bad art,' which isn't, exactly to say, bad art.
By Shiloh Slaughter
The day is dark, in both my room and the Earth’s. My eyes soft, against the stench of love in our tattered comforter, unwashed, watching the lumpy figure next to me, hiding my insecurities in her shadows, I rub them harshly with my fists. The concern of age left me a long time ago, and now I treated the flesh harshly, for it had no authority over me, over us. The constant humming of the alarm clock buzzed next to the lumpy figure, drumming dreams into that lovely head, cursed with curls and luscious lips that pursed when I would ask her about them. She would then lie, and say she was dreaming of me, but I knew she never did. I lay there in my dark day. The walls, painted red. The carpet, a deep red. The hollows of empty wine bottles lined the borders of the red walls. The bathroom door was cracked open, with even darker secrets, in a pitch black room. I forgot everything until I remembered. These memories I released into the grey plaster sky, looming above a white sill, with peeling red paint, holding cigarette butts and a dusty vase with a dead dandelion in it, that Marc had given me.
The stench of love was fairly new. It rooted deeply in female luxuries, but the stench belonged to this woman. This woman particularly stunk. Her body was much older than most of them, but much holier. I had found her in the library. She was new, for Monday afternoons on the brink of winter those long December nights brought me to the whispering streets, with winter’s migration. The winos, whores, skaters, gangs, and children fled to their respectful shelters. Winos fled to rehabs and abandoned buildings, whores fled to motels and bars, skaters fled to their momma’s basements, and gangs fled to burning trashcans and family head quarters, children went to school. I fled to libraries. The scent of a woman was most strong in libraries, mixing with the smells of old paper, new paper, dust, and coffee. One would think not so, that perhaps a woman’s scent would be in the kitchen, in bed, in the clothing aisle at some department store. Those were not women. Curiosity made a woman. The walls were filled with realities too afraid to be lived, so people wrote them. People like us lived these realities. These realities, merely mature curiosities, encouraged us to do so.
The lump turned over, so that a lively head of curls peeked from the covers.
She was lying on her stomach now.
The stench seeped through the newly parched comforter, as her arm jet out, hitting the headboard of my bed.
I waited for her to wake. She did not.
The same stench had come to my nose, entered my own bodily canals, and mixed with mine, last night, when I had been reading a book of poems, thinking about something else. The words were there, all arranged in proper order, to be identified and communicated to my mind, but they were lines and dots. The something else was by far more interesting. I was thinking about the last time I had been with a man, and how long and pointed he had been in every way possible. He was by far too tall. I could not kiss him without effort of tippy toes. His step surpassed mine, so that sauntering was an effort for him. I was too soft, too slow. I was meant to watch the dark days. This thought encouraged me forth. The stench arose when she switched legs. She had been wearing a comforting plaid skirt in the warm hearth of the library, but I knew she was foolish, I knew the Earth’s relentless breath chilled her there, I knew, because I was once foolish too. Her pretty foot bounced, decked in black platform boots with white socks. Her whole get up made me laugh, so traditional, as common, both in her own chosen identity, and as my prey, if you could call it that. The crow’s feet besides her eyes were pretty ones, and the lines bunching above her nose were young also. She was too old for the skirt, however. She had a clean white sweater on, and was reading a book I had forgotten the title of. Maybe I never knew. But the binder was falling off, and that was attractive. Those same luscious curls and lips were crowned in the head of hair. A back pack sat on her side. She was another student. I watched them all the time.
I turned over onto my side gingerly, so as not to wake the beauty. I forgot her name as well. I forget everything. The scene now was so common. I, with my hairy pot belly hanging on the side, poking out of my yellow stained t-shirt, with my fat thighs, soft in the dark, melt in the light and dirty socks covering the ugly feet, with curling yellow toenails crowning crooked toes. The room was dark on purpose. Not that I think myself ugly, I just know other people do, and I respect that. I hadn’t shaved in quite some time, but through my years, had learned that I had a good face for the rugged look. My teeth were straight, and my lips thick, but not greasy. My eyes are bright, bright blue, despite all the living I had done. They were gems in a twisted valley of smiles and frowns, frozen in their rightful graveyards upon my face. They crinkled with pleasure. Maybe it was because I still allowed myself to laugh. My hair was a shaggy mess of silver and black. It looked good, because I was Mexican, and every Mexican man looked good with silver and black hair. It was silly for a Mexican man to die his hair black, because everyone knows. I, the man, watched her, the young woman, sleep. What was not so common is the fact that I did not sleep with her. I just wanted to watch her. I wanted to add another scent to my bed, to my room. I receive much deliverance of the burdens Marc left me from that dismal window sill and the dead dandelion, but nothing like this. Nothing like this.
Women in the library, especially students, were curious about everything. They even looked at us old men with tired, inquisitive eyes, as if they wondered how we got to be this old, how we got to wear so many badges, and how it is that they haven’t stopped staring at us yet. Truthfully, I find female students more interested in older men than we are of them. I had waited maybe thirteen minutes. She lifted her pretty head to see what it was I was reading. I then looked up and smiled. I had been wearing grungy torn blue jeans with a simple black hoodie on. I had just come from work. I work in an auto repair place, where most guys want to work or have worked at some point in their life. I never liked cars, I never owned a car. By choice. They pollute the Earth greatly, making her greyer. She asked me what I was reading. The last name of the poet was on the top of the page. I had been reading Shelly. I read to her Shelly. Shelly was romantic. I liked Shelly after all.
A fart disrupted my yesterday dream in today. The stench became new. Her foot wiggled, and her leg arched to its side, hitting my knee. A slight moan was muffled in the pillow. She was becoming ugly. They always became ugly. Her curls were not free anymore, but messy. Her skin was not soft, but cold. Earth was ugly this morning. Earth would not allow anyone else to be beautiful if she could not be. A cold rain tapped the window. I knew the rain was cold. I knew the rain was cold from experience, just like I knew she was cold, from experience. I turned over onto my other side, and stretched my arm down to the floor, where a half bottle of wine was, next to a box of wine glasses. I poured a glass. She would wake soon, and I wanted to forget all I had been thinking about. She would regret. They always regret. I was a bad case though, because she didn’t even get any.
I had to go to the bathroom. Why? I drank my wine. The harsh dry taste of cheap wine coated my tongue with bad art. That is all wine is, is art. This was bad art, which I favored. I stared at the pile of girly clothes in the corner of the room. My bowels were large. I eased up out of the bed, removing the covers. The mattress squeaked. She was awake. I knew she was awake from experience. They always woke. The bathroom was no better. One candle still burned. My clothes were piled in a far corner in the room. Mirrors reflected me pissing. I stared at my ass. I really should work out.
My home was full of empty rooms, which once held bad art. Marc and I had lived in it for years, a common life of an uncommon lifestyle. He was a fashion designer, I was a painter. We made pretty things, like the naked portrait of my mother, whom he caught once changing into her nightgown. The picture hung at the foot of my bathtub. I stayed in the bathroom for quite some time, staring at my mother, deciding what to make for breakfast. I had a massive kitchen, with only boxed foods and a microwave. I decided not to cook this wench breakfast. She could cook me some if she wanted to.
“Where are you…Hey…I don’t know your name.”
What’s in a name?
“I’m sorry, I must have forgot.”
“Oh my God, I forgot to set the alarm, I have class in twenty minutes!”
Crashing of furniture and thumping sounded from behind the walls. The clinking of glass and minor shattering also sounded.
“Do be careful. Those are some quality dollar store wine glasses.” I shook it, zipped it and sighed. It has been a long day since I had seen another besides my own. I slipped it in the shadow of my boxers.
“What is your name?” Her voice was bitter. The chocolate coating that the wine had enveloped her voice in, to give it that raunchy, dirty, sound, had melted in her mouth, and revealed it to be the sour kind, not more chocolate, not cherry, or even coconut.
I watched her petite, naked, white behind peek from the short skirt, shading her shape of both cheeks and the valley. She was not a woman after all. A woman is bad art. Marc was always disgusted by women and their easy sexuality, how they threw themselves everywhere, and sometimes were thrown. I thought them funny creatures, sort of like puppy dogs, or stuffed animals. We named them and gave them personalities. They seemed to enjoy it. I gave her the belly, which was mostly flat, soft with indulgence, the kind most college girls get into, like wine, coffee house bread, such as muffins, bagels, and scones, pop tarts, ramen noodles, all that crap. She wouldn’t know how to cook. I gave her the curls, which she bounced for me, bobbing over her chest, as she fumbled to snap her bra back on. The whole scene was humorous, satire. When one tries to beat time, to skip a moment, it is always humorous. As for me, I look outside of time. I stood there in my boxers and yellow t shirt, with my belly hanging out, full of many indulgences, very proud. If she was lucky, she would have this many indulgences in her lifetime.
“My name is…Paul.” I lied.
“Paul, can I have a ride?” Her voice quickly coated in chocolate, but it wasn’t from the wine. It was from the secret stash of real chocolate women keep in their back pockets from childhood, which they quickly devour when speaking to their elders. She smiled, almost too quickly, sucked her lower lip in as if she could taste it, and even shook her curls slightly. The girl was ridiculous. I knew she couldn’t taste it. What she didn’t know is I had my own stash. I didn’t need her sweet nothings.
“Can you cook?”
“I don’t have time to cook.”
I laughed at the four words. No one has time. They use it. “I am talking about tomorrow. I am inviting a friend of mine over, another artist of some sort, I think you will enjoy.”
“Put your pants on.”
“See, now you understand. If you are nice to me, I forget to move, and I don’t use time. Because when one is comfortable where they are at, why should they move, do, be, anything or anyone else?”
I left the room and quickly put on a pair of pants. I don’t know why I moved so fast. Maybe to make her feel better. Maybe because I am uncomfortable. I am always uncomfortable. I know where I need to be, what I need to do, who I need to be. The earth is dark. She is hiding him from me. I am choking in a world inside a world, among wires and time.
“I think your light bulbs are blown.”
“My electricity is off.”
“You can speak. I don’t like electricity. You see all the candles.”
“What about the microwave and the clock?”
“And the car?”
“Belonged to…a friend of mine. I can give you a ride. We’ll catch one with my neighbor.”
“How do you get by?”
“Love.” I threw a hoody over my t-shirt and wrapped my arm around the girl. She was so beautiful because she knew nothing. All those years in school, taught her how to get more tangled in the wires and worlds. Earth is so far away. The sun, so very far away.
“You are strange.” She turned her body towards me, and kissed my rough neck with her soft lips. “Do you like me?”
“Not in the way that most men would enjoy a woman of your age. I fancy you. I fancy all young women.”
“Why do I like you so much?”
“Well, it’s simple. It is because I don’t like you as much as you like me. I don’t need you.” I felt her small body stiffen against mine. “Don’t be so sad. You didn’t tell me your name either.”
“My name is Marie. I dreamed of you last night.”
Sara opened the bent screen door in her open bathrobe, with her hair done up in a velvet towel. Loud pop music blared from her living room. Gym shorts over sandpaper skin wrapped tightly around toned legs, with withered breasts contained in a sports bra. Sara always looked happy, and this dark day was no exception. She made me sick. She had been alone for much too long. I had only been alone for a month now, and couldn’t stand humanity. She embraced it. Her face was clean, her fingers were painted right, and she was still in shape. Black hair was pulled behind in a tight pony tail. She insists she doesn’t dye it. Whatever. The woman was over fifty. Her husband had left her before I had moved in next door. The house went to hell, but Sara stayed pretty. In the summertime, Marc and I used to clean her house for her cooking. Marc hated how every cooking appliance he brought in the home I threw away. But he loves me. Love is as love does, and I didn’t do cooking appliances. In fact, all of Marc’s cooking appliances we gave to Sara, who loved to cook. They were stacked up right now on her porch.
“Paul? Is that the name? that is such a boring name. What about Fabio, or Roberto.”
The girl was tapping her foot.
“She needs a ride to school.”
“Hmm. I suppose. Give me five minutes.”
Sara was out on the porch in less than three, with a hot pink jump suit on, matching pink Nikes. She bounced with the energy of Marie’s sadness. Sara blinded both our eyes, her hot pink among the grey day. I didn’t like it. I turned my head.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sara jumped in the car, and started it. “Come on now. Where do you stay, child?”
“My name is Marie.”
“Marie. More exciting than Paul. Where do you go to school?”
Marie gave directions to Sara, and afterwards, we sat silently, until Sara began asking questions, because that is what Sara always does.
“Where did you two meet?” Sara grinned too wide. Her lipstick was too bright. Who wear’s lipstick when they work out?
“We met at the library. He was reading Shelly, my favorite poet.”
“Shelly? Ooh…la la!”
Only Sara could make me blush the bad kind of blush, the one that adults gave to you as a child, the blush that I first used to get when Marc and I got caught being ourselves.
“Is this the friend that I am going to cook for?”
“Cook? Are we friends now, Pete?”
“Paul. Paul, its paul.”
“Give me a list. I said, are we friends now?”
Sara slowed down, to maybe ten miles an hour. Her car made me dizzy. It was too smooth, like a woman. It was a tiny red sports car that still had the smell of birth out of the lot in it. The whore did this every time someone didn’t listen to her. The car was too bright, like her. I remember one time Marc and I threw a bucket of mud over the car, so it would fit in with the ugliness, with the Earth.
“Are we friends now?”
“We always have been.”
“Good. When is dinner?”
“Um, tomorrow night. I thought we could use your kitchen.”
“Because you don’t have one?”
“I have a kitchen.”
Sara turned around to face Marie, whom had been staring at the woman the entire time. “Have you seen his battery operated microwave?”
Marie nodded her head, and laughed.
“We’ll do dinner tomorrow then.” Sara confirmed.
“Marc is coming.”
The car now completely stopped.
“Are you mad?” Sara screamed.
“I HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL!” Marie tried to open the door, seeing that we were only a block from her school now, and we were moving maybe a block every four minutes. The doors were locked.
“Very well.” Sara sped up to 65 mpr quickly, and stopped abruptly in front of the school. We all jerked forward. Marie made it to school on time, according to time.
I had already done too much for this girl. I gave her beauty a purpose, I read her poetry, and got in the same car with Sara. Now she would have to deal with Marc. Marc was always on my side. I sat on both my hands on the way home, afraid I might touch something. I don’t know what I would have touched. Everything is so smooth, dust clings to it.
“Stop that!” Sara smacked my hand. It had been doodling in the dust.
“Can you guess what it is?”
“Wait til we arrive at the stoplight.”
A couple of minutes later, at a stoplight, Sara turned her head. “It looks like a bunch of sticks.”
“It’s me and Marc...naked.”
Sara flipped her baby pony’s tail.”I know what you’re doing. I’m inviting myself to dinner.”
And that was that. We drove home in silence. There were no real women walking the streets this morning, only self indulging females, running. Always running. Much too thin. There were no real men walking the streets this morning. Real men would be sleeping. Real men would be with other men, cheating on their wives.
“Wait, wait, slow down!” the silence was interrupted. Marc was walking his dog. I didn’t know he had a dog. The dog was a tiny thing. I wanted to step on it, but that might make Marie, and whoever comes next, sad. One day someone would ask if I had ever killed anyone, and I would have to answer yes. I watched marc walking, and then jogging. Jogging! The nerve!
I bolted out of Sara’s car, and she drove out, screaming out of her toy car about dinner and to be there, in between cussing words. This glance had given Marc a few extra miles. I ran. Automatically I realized my pants were too tight, and I had to pull them up. My shoe laces were untied. I had to tie them. The tiny dog was pissing in Sara’s lawn. I smiled. Running with all my might, which wasn’t much, for I wasn’t very mighty, I catapulted into Marc. His sweat was new and old, like a cigarette. Both I had quit.
“Hey, do you have a cigarette?”
“What? Get off of me!” Marc was lying underneath me, tangled in his dog chain, with the dog whining in the corner of our small world. He sat up. I sat next to him. He was wearing the green gym shoes I had bought for him a month ago for his birthday. Birthdays were important. “Hey, I thought you quit smoking. Hey, is that my hooded sweatshirt?”
“Well, do you have one?”
Marc reached into his black gym shorts and grabbed a crinkled pack of lucky strikes. “Here. I don’t have a light, though.”
“Would you like to come in, for a moment?”
Marc and I both stared at the ragged house of Sara’s, that seemed to be sinking on one side. Marc, in his short gym shorts and long john shirt, me in my jeans and hoodie. Marc, too, was Hispanic. His uncle had gotten me the job at the auto repair place. Marc was skinnier than I, and he always wore tweed suits, even in the summer. He enjoyed ice cream cones from Mc Donald’s because they were made of low fat yogurt, and he never ate in front of me. I knew he liked the ice cream cones because he never ate the best part, which was the bottom of the cone. We were a sad sight, if one had seen a better sight of two men sitting on the lawn of America’s successful woman. Sara was successful only because she was happy after the divorce. Her sharp head was peeking between the pink curtains. She stared right at us, as if we were the shit the dog had taken. Then, her face disappeared.
“I guess I have no choice.” The door knob was wiggling.
“You didn’t ask me if I allow dogs in my house.” I did allow dogs in my house.
“It’s my house.”
He wants me.
He held my hand, with a strong grip, but not strong enough for me to judge. They were soft, and made the grey day a shade lighter. His voice spoke words but I don’t remember what they said. He was smiling. This was so much more important. His fingers curled around my waste, making me feel smaller. I was in his world, until he came into mine. The walk to our front door was a long one. The walk to the bedroom was longer. I never knew what ever happened to that small dog of his, but he never returned. Accidentally we locked him out, and we made love for hours, or maybe minutes. I don’t know. Time slowed down, instead of us. I laid on his chest, listening to the irregular heart beat. His skin was smooth, much smoother than mine. He was the beautiful one.
“How many did you sleep with?” Marc stared at the collective wine bottles.
“Many. You?” I lied.
“Were they good?”
“Women or men?
“Two women, one man. It is difficult to find a good man these days.”
“You’re telling me. I missed you.” I touched his lip, which stiffened. “One of them is coming to dinner. I told her you would come.”
“You don’t have a kitchen.”
“Sara does. Will you come?”
“Dinner is so casual, so boring. I would rather catch a disease from you.”
Marc moved in the next day. It was a very easy job. It was his paint supplies, canvases, and appliances which I threw away over the fence into Sara’s yard. All his stuff had never really left. I’ve been wearing his clothes and sleeping in his bed for a month now. The house became bad art, and the bad art made Marc exquisite. We danced in the living room to no music, arm in arm, to a song that leaked out of Sara’s window. It was a Brittany Spears song, the sad one. She was dumb, and that made it good art. It was lovely. I was lazy. I was comfortable. Instantly, Marc needed to be fed. He needed his hair cut. I couldn’t take it anymore. The man was too skinny. It was my duty to offer food but make sure he would never eat it. It was my duty to say he was getting skinny, and have him shrug it off. If he took my advice, he would be me, and that would just not do. I needed beauty in my life, I did not need to be beauty. Marc was so sad. I don’t want to be sad. I would rather him be sad, than I. Therefore, I shaved his head in the bathroom, because his head was a good shape. I put him in one of his tweed suits, and shaved his jowl. Fabulous, just fabulous! He has become a cliché! We walked hand in hand to the library afterwards, to find girls to take home. He was better at it than I. There was a dinner party, and Marc needed a date.
“Tis a lovely day…” Marc’s voice had lightened, his head tilting and turning as if he were stirring the air, a spoon I have licked many times.
“Stop that! You have never been that pretty to make such a judgment. The day is ugly, the day is dark. Remember that.”
I had forgotten the colors my love uses to paint the day. My days are dark. Our days are so colorful. The grey in the sky is a cookies and cream frosty, the cold wind is as a wet nose from a happy dog. Indeed, it had been a good day. When I looked up, for the sidewalk and I had become roommates on this earth, there were buildings with people, and cars going places. They were slaves to time. Me and my love, we sauntered between the drifting leaves, moving backwards, crawling into our beds, when women were devils and men were angels, when no one hurt me, when I was safe. The smells of those women crawled from beneath the bed of leaves, from the wet soil, from the compost, from wild flowers, from tame ones. No, that was just her.
Marc tugged on my hand, which had been sweating love, uncomfortably. I had to move. Nothing to my right. Nothing to my left. Steadily, there was this body connected to my hand, weighing me down, anchoring me to this ugly earth. I was a few steps behind. He was so tall. I was so short. His steps were long, and mine were too many to give. He was blocking my view of the future, what lay down the road. A woman. She had on tight blue jeans with a round behind, and a short blue jean jacket with straight black hair. She was shorter than I. Her smell was store bought, with a slight film of bad art. Her hair was too straight, and had been flattened on purpose. When a woman was done on purpose, she then becomes uprooted.
“No. She’s so feminine.”
“A woman is feminine.”
“No. Art is feminine. A woman is ugly.”
We argued under our breaths until she stepped into a taxi, and then argued above the city’s breath until we reached the steps of the library. The colors faded away, and the library was ugly. The elder woman, with silver snow hair tied in a messy bun, spectacles dangling down her pointed nose, always pointing towards noise, had become grotesque to me. She asked me if I had finished reading Shelly. I told her to leave me alone. She smelled like my mother, and that was something I had forgotten. That woman was Earth itself, and I had been resurrected from her belly without a choice to save Marc. She used to hold me, the way the librarian held the book, on her fat lap with a blanket underneath. It was I whom was the anchor now. I had been comfortable. I tugged on love’s pinky finger, but he was scattered among the mature curiosities. They pulled him in their limited aisles of the eye, and limitless musing of the mind. He never did make it to dinner.
I will not see Marie again. Sara and Marie chatted about colors and cooking, among other not-very-important things. I sat in my dark day, dripping into a puddle at the bottom of their feet, reflecting the earth, returning to my mother. I watered the dandelion and tucked Marie into bed. I hope Marc’s uncle forgives me for not showing up yesterday. I am a Bad Art collector, and just a plain bad art collector. What do you expect?