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In Memory of My Feelings by Genevieve Oliver

Jasper’s painting landscapes. He’s painting yearning as though it were physically manifest and the space of it green and flat and infinite beneath seething clouds and divine light. Jasper’s painting landscapes spread out vulnerable in a liminal flux like your lover and their moon eyes just waiting. Jasper’s name speaks to things it is not and it is not the name with which he was born. Jasper’s name makes you think of Johns and the stacked flags but it is not that and I am no Rauschenberg and I do not know the name he was born with not that it matters and I do not know if even he remembers it any more. Jasper’s painting landscapes like he once looked to me and not only to me and I am washing dishes and getting déjà vu.
     Jasper’s painting portraits and they are not of me or in fact of any people who could be real and I am reading Dennis Cooper’s Closer and then I am reading the parts that scare me over and over and Jasper is painting humans like Ensor’s with skeleton faces with mask faces with no faces with faces that decompose and give way to space, to cosmos, to nothing, and I am reading Closer and I am thinking about looking at people on the street who are beautiful and not like me and they walk and move and I think about their bones and I think about mechanism, about ligaments and joints and muscle in red cords and I think I have never ascribed humanity to any beautiful person, only mechanism and thus the gorgeous inevitability of its failure. I certainly have never ascribed any humanity to Jasper but he doesn’t count and he is not beautiful any more anyway. These people come out of space fully made. They walk out of the sea. They are not like me.
     Jasper’s developing photographs in the bathtub and I am looking out the window and it is raining and the street is flooded and there is no power and Jasper is in the bathroom naked developing photographs of I don’t know. I’m melting candles over the wood floor making wax patterns to summon demons and I think of Jasper in one of his first movies blindfolded and with no chest hair and with the bodiless hand always the bodiless hand that pours the wax over him first colorless then white and solid in instant transmutation and the little candleflame that sears yellow and he’s screaming into a red ballgag and every red cord of every muscle pulled tight; he was sixteen and still pretty and already cold and I felt as though it meant nothing and perhaps there was no pain. The wax on the floor is melted from seven candles all of different colors and scents all bought or made for me by other people as measures of maybe sympathy or love.
     Jasper’s rolling out butcher paper on the floor and scooping out paint in cleaned beancans and squinting at the blank white flat of it standing on his toes with his shirt tucked in and I’m making tomato sauce and  telling him Jackson Pollock didn’t like to have his picture taken while he was working because he thought it would take his talent away or something. I’m making tomato sauce and garlic bread and long wide yellow noodles and Jasper layers black paint and red paint and white, the white in a familiar and pornographic way on top in a loose abstract splatter then on his hands and a fleck smudged just below his mouth.
     Jasper’s editing video and telling me he’s going to go to the Met and deface a Picasso and I’m smoking a cigarette and telling him, whatever dude. The video piece is self-portraiture in which he is naked and dresses himself intercut with images of bodiless hands violently slicing ripe fruit with the silent leakage of juice onto the cutting board and the knife against it sounds very loud. I’m biting my nails and saying I liked his Ensor phase because it suited both his personality and my perception of the current social climate and he’s telling me he’s going to steal a car and do a Robert Frank thing and I’m telling him what’s the use doing that because Robert Frank already did that thing. He gives me the look that makes the scar on his face look deep and fresh as though I have just made it and it has not yet begun to bleed. I’m smoking cigarettes and not laughing and thinking about the Americans and the long road that dissipates in haze and the faceless people behind the flag in the high window and Jasper undressing, that was what he did in the reverse-action equivalent memory, undress, and I edited, and Jasper’s painting all the walls black and pouring darkroom chemicals down the sink.
     Jasper’s burning all his work in a trashcan in the yard at night with the neighbors all screaming and he’s prodding at it gently with a stick until it evaporates and I’m sitting crosslegged with smoke blowing acrid in my face absently throwing stones at empty beer cans and I can’t make them fall over. Jasper puts the fire out and goes inside and there’s a siren getting closer but I do not go inside and I’m thinking about what I will say to them and what they will say to me and I’m thinking about what I will say to Jasper and what he will say to me and I’m thinking about a long time ago standing above him and saying, It won’t hurt. Don’t you trust me? Those days I yearned like Christina for the house on the hill that was empty.
Genevieve Oliver lives in Seattle, where she’s trying to figure out what to do with her first novel Dust Rules Everything Around Me. Her short fiction has appeared in Digital Americana, Wilderness House, decomP, and Crack the Spine.