You asked me what I was writing about. Is it strange to hear that I am writing about you?
We walked in the Ana Mendieta exhibition, and sat on the floor, and lay across the raised platforms that were covered in carpet the same as beneath our feet. But as we writhed about to the sound coming out of the slide projector – as blood gently dripped down her face, into her eye, down the crux of her nose where it met cheek and into her parted lips- I felt the burning of fibres against my silk shirt heating my skin. So we talked about it, about how our skin contains us; one big, bloody organ holding our bodies inside and I watched as you held yourself across the belly, revolted by your own physicality, your own impermanence as you began talking about removed belly buttons – he was literally detached from the root of his life – about Something About Mary and the zipper incident. And I was amazed how it always returned to the penis, that crotch centred anxiety like Freud’s little girls’ armpits, and so reached for a story about dildo sizes and small men from Sex and the City, reminded about how I had fallen in love with you in part because of the ferocity with which we both approached American dramas and made them, somehow, crucial.
-That rent-controlled apartment on central park is a wet dream.
-Yeah. Yours, mine and Taylor Meades.
-Hey. I just wanted to say good night:…’goodnight’. It was lovely being with you tonight Sara. I’m always delirious when I realise how easily we seem to make the night/the world our own.
The message I send in response reads: ‘the next man I fucked was a cop. I insisted that what I wanted most was that he pierce my throat as far as possible and fill it with slime.’ It was Kathy Acker because you were writing some sort of horror philosophy; speculative realist stuff (that Eugene Thacker all alien otherness that we had spoken about over your meatballs and my carrot salad in Edmonton IKEA) and I was reading about sailors fucking and could do without the romance. Your body had been decorated with hickeys – pockmarks to the ex-girlfriend that would not convene when you’d once talked about leather, and I’d realised in that moment that it was our bodies that let us down. It was our bodies that humiliated us and defiled others. It was our bodies that carried the echoes of trauma.
Kathy Acker once said that when two people have sex they partially become each other. I wondered what that meant for those one-night stand-ers, the booty calls, the affairs or the swingers. With every person we fuck do we lose a bit of ourselves and gain a bit of them, the sweat an exchange that clings to the skin like ambergris.
When we have sex with someone we partially, momentarily become them. When sex is forced upon us, we desert ourselves. We abandon our body. It becomes the prosthetic and we stand outside of ourselves. The body remains, doll like, and suddenly we are practicing ventriloquism.
It was the hybrid vegetables, the night walks, the sit-ups and Abramovic re-enactments in Rothko exhibitions. It was the reading out loud, the book shops, the zero-fat-frozen-yogurt-ice-cream, the stroking of women’s faux fur on public transport and the dipping of faces into thick snow on car windows. It was the rap. It was the light dancing in kitchens. It was the John Cage diet. It was the ever-refillable cups of lingonberry juice on late night IKEA trips that made us piss purple like some failed Yves Klein experiment. It was the basketball, the hay fever tablets, the noses found on sides of buildings. It was the love of Kathy Acker, her narrated masturbation scenes with Alan Sondheim that made us, sort of, horny. It was the over use of hyperboles, the noise, the delirium and the constant distraction. It was the skating videos, the fear of balding, the palpitations and the inflated throat glands. It was the automatic drawings of plump women compressed in silk and the hair covered men that sat beside them. And it really was the writing, the experiments, the swapping of paper across the sticky train table. It was you telling me that you would always be a ‘dick’ and me finding that idea impossible.
“Why do you do this to yourself Sara? To be honest, I was absolutely astounded to see you communicating at all. You know that every time you meet you end up like this.”
I meet Molly in North London. I’d forgotten how gentrified this area had become with Carluccio’s and Waitrose Mini on the corner beside Pound World; even their shameful bargain shops in competition with the norm. I tell her what I am writing and she warns me not to descend into those 7,040 messages on Facebook. I tell her how I have realised ‘so hard’ that you were the first person I truly fell in love with, despite the fact that my father thought you were a clinical narcissist, despite the fact that you riddled me with anxiety. You were the first person removed from that unfailing ability of mine to project romance and desire into the idea of a relationship. That in the face of this failure I had begun to question everything else.
On my walk home I remembered something Judith Butler once said. That love always returns us to what we do and do not know. So we have no choice but to become shaken by doubt, and to persist with what we can know and when we know it.
The truth is that you returned me to my body and I still haven’t decided whether or not I hate your for this.
-Being the girlfriend of you in particular however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. It challenges me beyond belief. Our similarities become suffocating sometimes because neither of us can understand that the other is actually agreeing, just in a more lucid way. We are both defensive, both proud, both fucking stubborn and it’s a ball ache.
-Look, we’re in everything together. I have so much love and respect for you it’s overwhelmingly unreal. Like I said before, and like you’ve said so, so, so, so many times, we’re building a life. All things are reciprocal. We shouldn’t weigh ourselves against each other, because I really believe that we are doing these things for each other, making work, and connections and possibilities. I’m so proud of you Sara, as terrible as that sounds, I’m so happy that I have the most incredible girlfriend, it’s kind of daunting at times.
-I really love you. I feel mad alone without you. I miss you so much. You need to listen to that mix I sent you. Not having you around to wrestle with just feels wrong. What Wiley are you listening to?
-Listen, we should spend the weekend together. I could really do with some intense bed time with you. Let’s pull sickies. When I spoke to Rose earlier, Tom kept recommending excuses for calling in sick, like pebble dashing the toilet beyond use.
-I am practically vomiting my laughter.
-I just want to be in a park with a bug bottle of cloudy apple juice, a basketball and you.
We know only that our varied musculatures have developed out of pain. We know our bodies through their markings. Mine was the heavy weight dragged around with me. The half lung, fractured limbs, scarred flesh. The legacy of a mania. Yours was the over-squeezed, over-observed; bone-perfect but with a mouth full of mercury.
I had abandoned my body in Africa. The puppet hanging over the precipice, breath held. Nimble legs touched ground again in the back of my fathers car once home. Lungs inflated but numbness remained like some sort of full-bodied root canal.
Maybe it’s that muscle memory thing that athletes refer to, the body holding on to injury as points of insecurity. Our skin remembers touch. When two bodies fit together it feels somehow intentional. But the body carries the echoes of trauma that will reverberate until they are settled. Pandas build up a slime in their body that makes them depressed; pink slime, like panda colic. It sits in their gut as a pellet and then they vomit it up one go. They evacuate badness from their body.
You returned me to my body but sometimes in touching me, I remembered. So I kicked you out of the bed to the floor. And you fell hard but didn’t know how to talk to me about it. And as I slowly understood, I would explain, hoping you too might understand because I had shared my body with you, because each of our musculatures had been marked by the proximity of the other’s memory of pain. But you couldn’t understand so you talked, but not to me. And in sharing these truths with another, you shattered me. Suddenly, the body I had slowly been re-inhabiting was dispersed and the badness of the act that made me abandon it in the first place, threatening to infiltrate.
You revealed me and in doing so, ruined us.
Love is masochistic. Our commitment to it is challenged through the pain it can resist. Ours was a love of many people. It was B.S.Johnson, Danil Kharms, David Foster Wallace and Bruno Schulz. It was Kathy Acker, Chris Kraus, Judith Butler, Kate Zambreno. It was Bataille, Diedrich Diedrichson, Hito Steyrl and bloody Zizek. It was Helen and Colin Board, Heather and Ivan Morisson, Pil and Galia Kollectiv and Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball. Our love was translated through the dialogue of others. Through Riff Raff’s golden chains, Nicki Minaj’s ass, Ice Cube’s progression into a nice old man. Through the Robert Crumb documentary we watched on our first date, through The Ramones, Danzig, Sonic Youth, Ultrademon and a hiccupping Lil Wayne. It was a love translated onto space, our walks articulating the streets and now haunting my entire geography. It was a love of fervency, not once did we look back, there was always more. Ours was a love shared with people, friends, housemates; with stories of others, of families, pets and band mates. Ours was a love of many people yet it was always our love. A shared skin.
In breaking my trust you ripped us apart.
You were my love and I will love you forever.
But right now I am shedding that skin.
Emily Beber is a writer and performance artist based in London and currently studying Critical Writing in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art.