I am walking around my neighborhood. And oh, I am absolutely drenched in sweat. I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a skeleton riding a motorcycle on it. I’m wearing a binder that’s meant to flatten my tits out and across my chest; this is the part of me that’s the sweatiest. I wear a binder all the time. Unless I am sleeping or have just woken up and am lying flat and warm in bed scrolling through instagram. I know this is a bad habit.
Once, a boy called my binder a “compression vest” before he peeled it off. This made me feel like Andy Worhol. Andy Worhol wore a “medical girdle” forever after Valerie Solanas shot him and his surgery got botched. A “medical girdle” sounds kinda sexy, kinda campy to me. I do not think binders are sexy. Is that fucked up? Worhol said his held him together. It kept his organs from moving around inside his thin famous Polish torso.
This morning, on Instagram, I saw a photograph of a shirtless young man reclining on a bed sheet spread on white sand. He is surrounded by picnic fixins. He has tattoos on his arms and shoulders and hands and hair on his belly and legs and face but not on his chest. He has a bandaid on his finger, pointing at the camera.
At first, I thought today must be his birthday, except the caption said; dear N, im shaking and sobbing as i write this. i can’t believe it’s been a year. sometimes i feel you next to me. is that strange? everyone always talks about you. we will never let you go.
Everything on my street is humming and dripping and one of my nipples is pressed flat against my sternum and the other is almost in my armpit. N is tagged in the photograph and his account is public. There are 188 photographs; N naked beneath a black stone waterfall, N lost in tangle of limbs and damp beach towels, N posing in the sunlight on a twin bed, N wearing a Stetson, N with a downy buzzcut. An old photo of N, scrawnier and wearing a pair of child-size angel wings.
N, patron saint of trans boys.
I am obsessed with finding the last post he was tagged in while alive. I am obsessed with finding out how he died. I Google him and find a GoFundMe for bottom surgery.
I appreciate GoFundMes for what they are; fucking artifacts.
For instance, two years ago, I was kissing someone and they paused to ask me what I liked and when I told them and they thought I was joking. That person just posted a GoFundMe for top surgery. His ex-girlfriend chipped in $25.
I wonder if N died from a botched surgery.
“I doubt it,” says Josh when I ask him. Josh is a genius at gay history, also at finding the names, addresses, and family photographs associated with the married men he fucks.
I am used to seeing Instragram posts about dead gay people. HIV/AIDS memorial Instagram accounts lay them out like a quilt, like a vision board, like a diner wall crowded with signed headshots, like Grindr. I feel hypocritical and debauched when I scroll through these men; some of them look healthy and some of them look like shit, really. This is how I feel when I walk through the neighborhood stippled like fish scales, or like pixels. I’m moving through it, them, piecemeal. It slices you up the same way a mandoline does, quickly and imperceptibly until you’re standing at the kitchen counter with blood in your coleslaw. Take the coleslaw to the beach anyway, someone will kick sand into it and no one will even ask about the bandaid on your finger.
I forgot, I have a nectarine in my front pocket. I pull it out and find it’s bruised all over, it’s soft and curled. It looks like shit, really, I can be so picky.
Josh can’t sleuth how N died and neither can I. N is tagged in the same five photographs by a hundred different mourners. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you. Right now, I am simply filthy. I am slinky. I am leaving dishes next to the sink, but not in it, so the cereal milk or soup or whatever I was eating hardens in the bowl and needs an overnight soak and I just don’t care. I am Lou Reed, or that’s not quite right, I’m Kurt Cobain? Wrong city. Whatever. I’m careless. I’m David Wojnarowitz. I’m nobody, that’s the point. I’m footed in a reflection of myself, thinner and longer legged like a late afternoon shadow.
This nectarine is just too gross to eat.
I walk over a bridge with flexible cement seams that flex under the traffic. The treetops beneath are the ocean floor and the city park invisible below them is Atlantis, dark and teeming. I let the nectarine drop over the railing. It revolves as it falls, the same dark, prominent bruise disappearing and reappearing with each rotation, like an eye rolling back over and over, until the leaves close around it and it is gone.
Silas Jones is a writer and farmer from Arizona and Washington state. Their fiction has appeared in Foglifter, Hobart, The Account, in the Icefloe Press Pandemic Love Anthology, and elsewhere.