I just moved here. I carved my initials (MC) into a tree. I took Ambien and joined a walking tour of the 9/11 memorial. Two teenagers were taking a photo with the Freedom Tower™ in which one sat on the ground and the other angled the camera to give the effect that the building was a large and metal erection. An innovation to the more classic bolstering of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, maybe. I started thinking about the sexual nature of architecture. About that woman who married the Eiffel Tower. I wondered how their relationship was going, if she nagged the Eiffel Tower about doing the dishes or whatever their equivalent was, if they respectively worried about aging, in their own way.
If not memorials, what else can’t we sexualize? Is there anything left? Children, maybe. Should we try? Just for fun.
I took Ambien and joined a waking tour of the city and that’s how I met Gabriel. He was peering at me coquettishly, backpack straps taught, while his parents photographed the Freedom Tower™, not like it was a looming penis but with reverence. Awe-struck. So much so that they lost track of their son, if only for a moment…
What else can’t we sexualize? Animals?
Gabriel had this Golden Retriever. Loyal dogs, sure, but this one was unlike the others I’d encountered—the way she peered at me coquettishly on those sticky summer nights, betraying the boundary between gender and species...
What else can’t we sexualize? Terrorism? Great atrocity? Loss of life? The revolution cannot be sexualized.
I take Ambien on a walking tour of Warsaw. I’m stuck on a sexually-charged tour of the Suez canal. I’m on a militarily-funded waking tour of Bagdad. I drink Absinthe and consider the erotic curvature of Chernobyl. I marry a labor camp. I’m domestic partnering with the Liberty Bell. It never does the dishes.
I just moved here and I’m reading this story at a bar called Honey’s in Brooklyn, still early on that sticky summer night, now known for the Honey’s massacre. One in a series of massacres that summer, that year really, so many acts of brutality that this one barley garnered media attention. A few local papers noted, “The Honey Pots’ Run Dry” or “Guess You Catch More Murderers at Honey’s” but this was different in that it wasn’t racially or politically charged like the others. It was a crime of passion or lack there of. “Stop writing, you perverts!” shouted the assassin before hacking at the Honey’s literary audience with duel butcher knives, swinging lethally but artfully. One might be impressed if not preoccupied with bleeding out. Now the Honey’s audience is gaping at me in horror. I’m carving them up like my initials (MC) in a tree. I knew it was coming. I even updated my life insurance policy before the reading. I have really good insurance because I work in marketing. My children will want for nothing.
My children take research chemicals and go to the abandoned rubble that was Dime Square. The discarded husk of Clandestino. They pose in front of fallen Chinese street signs. “What is the past trying to tell us?” they ask. They read the signs. Because they all speak Cantonese. The signs, they say, T-shirts 2 for $10. It’s profound. It’s prophetic. Our kids take the words with them as they join protests over clean water. “T’shirts,” they shout, “2 for $10.” “This is what our ancestors wanted!” Not health care nor economic stability (the rent is too damn high but so are we!). No, they wanted—well, we wanted—T-shirts from Chinatown. T-shirts saying, “I’ll be there in a New York Minute.”
We’re on a walking tour of mars HQ. We’re 9/11 last responders and everything looks like it worked out over here. We were watching the birds and now the birds are watching us, peering at us coquettishly, in a way that betrays gender and species. We are not our past. T-shirts are 2 for .5 ETH. There are no trees to carve our initials into. We breathe through ventilators and want for nothing. I am giving a routine reading that proceeds without incident. Everyone at Honey’s gets home safely, enjoys themselves even, lives to an old age.
What can’t we sexualize? The elderly?
The way an old man might peer at us in their hospital bed, a look in his eye that says, “I’ve committed unspeakable war crimes and my aging body has fallen out of the public’s sensual favor, but I’ve known love in ways you’ll never understand, a love that mimics time in the way it builds and blossoms and rots and repeats and before I flatline and the nurse runs in here and says ‘we’ve lost him’ and you weep over my prone body, please know that the future is not what happens next. It’s an elastic projection of the past.” Then he flatlines and the nurse runs in and says “we lost him” and you weep over his probe body and what else can’t we sexualize? Time?
How it moves not forward nor back but another secret third thing. How it coquettishly cozies up to space. Father Time. Daddy time. I’m on a waking tour of time and a Chinese family are hawking T-shirts, 2 for $20 because Time inflates currency like his own fickle ego. Time is like the MTA after hurricane sandy; it doesn’t always go in the direction you want but you’re stuck on it anyway. You weep over the prone body of time like, “Daddy time!” but time doesn’t listen, time changed their pronouns, time is buying a t-shirt that says “be there in a New York minute” which is so funny to time because New York doesn’t own the minutes! Time owns the minutes and seconds and hours and eons. I guess it’s not ha ha funny but kind of funny all the same.
Madeline Cash edits this magazine.