He ran one pink hand over his coarse, red beard and tugged. The steam from shirtless men and glistening women created a fine mist around his twirling, rotund body and fogged up his black horn-rimmed glasses. A few feet away, I danced in place, closing my eyes and spinning once, twice. Joaquin, my dance partner, kissed a tall guy. I didn’t know what time it was or when I last felt this good and sweaty. Someone licked the side of my face, tried to pull me towards them, but I pulled away laughing. I felt hands caressing the curvy small of my back, hovering over my butt. I kept my eyes shut as I grooved to the bass beat. When I finally opened my eyes, Red Beard jumped up on the stage. He twirled and gyrated to a blood thrumming drum beat. Two women joined him. They danced behind him like back-up singers, bodies swaying in choir-like synchronicity, their meaningful focus on Red Beard and his graceful potbelly jiggling in harmony with the red and silver flashes of light, conjuring the spirits that kept everyone moving, laughing, and embracing in the dark, cavernous space. Slick bodies rubbing harder against me. Glowing faces turned up. I didn’t know where I was or who I had become. I pushed my way to the enormous unisex bathroom with its long corridor of mirrored walls, ten sinks on one side, tall gilded bodies leaning forward attempting to balance on 7-inch heels, applying lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, and one brave Queen gluing caterpillar eyelashes on, and a sweet, cherubic middle-aged man holding her other set of eyelashes in his hand. I pushed door after door until one gave. And as collapsed on the toilet, I pulled my phone out of my bra. The face of it lit up with an incoming call and my finger hovered over his name.
An earlier version of this flash titled “Therapy” was published in APT (Aug 2016).
If you have formed a Circle go into it, go into it yourself and see how you would do. – William Blake
In a rented studio on Fillmore Street she worked on her obsession colossal circles like the ones she used to draw as a child symmetrical radiating facets in white hues of reds and browns against a black background paint piling multi-dimensional transformation a sculpture rising from a flat plane she worked in a white lab coat and cotton gloves chipping away the dried crusty oil paint sipping brandy smoking Gauloise cigarettes watching a rock strata emerge from the endless depth of her circle.
“First exhibited in 1969, The Rose was taken to the San Francisco Art Institute, where it was covered with plaster for support and protection, and finally stored behind the wall of a conference room. Legend grew about the painting, but it remained sealed until 1995, when Whitney curator Lisa Phillips had it excavated and restored by a team of conservators, who created a backing strong enough to support the heavy paint.”
Photo Credit: Jay DeFeo working on The Rose, 1958–66 (known at that time as The White Rose), San Francisco, 1960–61.
They drank green cocktails with cucumber slices, ate hotdogs on buttered buns, and listened to an a cappella version of “Lilac Wine” sung by a young man with pumpkin orange hair.
“Drink up, sweets,” Ramona said. She punched her boyfriend’s shoulder. His bald head glistened under the bar lights.
I felt the knot on my forehead. Yesterday, she caught me with my back turned. I didn’t see the book coming at me.
Tonight, she wanted her boyfriend drunk. “Sweets, do you want me?”
Pumpkin boy was now singing “Tainted Love” with a fake cockney accent. He clapped two beats before singing the refrain and I jumped to his clap.
The barflies watched my small titties bounce.
Ramona didn’t scare me. She thought she did. She didn’t understand that I let her hit me.
I chose to stay with her. I chose not to jump out a window and feel the pavement scratch my heels.
Tonight, I’m her best friend. “Not my daughter,” she told me earlier as she plucked her eyebrows in front of the bathroom mirror. Eyelids caked with black eyeliner, she turned to me and said, “Blow on them.”
From a WIP vignette collection by Gessy Alvarez.
Featured Image: Frank Habicht’s fifth-floor rooftop in London’s SW5 district served as his “favorite open-air studio” and “was a melting place for exuberant parties on mild summer nights,” he writes in his book.