My Healing Journey
I’m on a healing journey. Step one is I will force the world not to deny me. For a long time I thought there was a kind of woman who could just get away with taking, and she wasn’t me.
What I mean is, I have an inherently suspect look. I am not a small or delicate girl. Nobody notices me except to regard me with unease. Not like I get followed around stores or anything but the clerks try to be helpful because they assume someone like me doesn’t know what she’s looking for, and that’s the type of customer that can get hairy or second guess.
Puffy black jacket and legs like pins bobbling down Houston, facing me, menacing. When I met Suki she taught me how it was done.
The shopping district in the morning feels illegal already. Metal front buildings you feel the weight bearing down from. It’s like being in an engraving. It’s beautiful, and so apart from us.
We don’t have anything in common except that once I walked into Eliza’s housewarming party and somebody thrust a pinched-shut purple balloon into my hand and there she was, looking for somebody to have something in common with.
She has rich girl skin, shiny but specular, like it’s not slick to the touch. Can’t tell if her nails are glued on crooked or if her finger bones just grow that way. They’re always moving, you wouldn’t catch it unless you knew her well.
We meet for coffee and I dress loveable because I want her to love me. The drinks we order are sweet and barely caffeinated. She plucks at her paper straw. She is the most elegant person I’ve ever met.
Suki Suzuki has no parents and no real ID. She doesn’t vote. I think she’s from New England, somewhere doable by bus at least. She smells like a department store.
We’re huddling against the shelves of a clearance section and there’s a mural of all these dead starving women lined up and they’re staring us down. I can’t bear to look them in the eyes. Suki is toiling in the far corner, deft work. This is how it starts for me.
A standard haul in textures: resinous and pink with gold leaf flakes encased. Opalescent, smooth like stone. Frosty matte that catches upon grazing. Amber glass and cheap twine, miming old medicine bottles. Gauzy palm-sized bags with fraying pull-strings. Fake pearl. Fake painted metal. Waxy and camphorous, sinus-burning. Fake hair from Delancey. It’s a beautiful life scraping along from the speakers overhead.
We steal because we deserve nice things. She says the phrase even more than I do, girls like us, like us, like us, who live like we do, who come from where we come from. I have no idea where Suki is from and doubt she remembers a thing about me except that I’m characteristically along for the ride.
I grew up far from here, if you care to know. We used to go out into the woods and just scream. Nobody could hear. Like ahh.
With her I disavow my past selves, treat them unkindly even, drown them in the fountains. She laughs like she can’t believe something and I’m disarmed. She looks at me like she’s just waiting for me to lie to her. She always takes a beat to respond like we’re trying to stay in character and she’s thinking through a Suki phrasing.
“Money is so silly. The way it can come to us just because we act like it should.”
Suki talks like she turns tricks sometimes but I get the sense that if a man actually dangled cash in her face and told her to spin she wouldn’t know what to do with him.
Boys: Suki has dwindling patience, I gather. Women like her get treated like rare birds sometimes. She hates that shit! She has a low threshold from people who want her beneath them like that. Her aims are always undifferentiated, beside the point entirely. The logic of her desires null.
You don’t need men to like you to be a winner anyways. “Women like us learn how to be resourceful in ways that most people can’t imagine.”
Resentment, which I once thought was bad for me for some reason.
I learn that there are stores Suki can’t go into anymore. She waits outside for me when I pop in and do what she expects of me because she expects it. It’s breathlessly romantic, retreating into the cold air and her.
Suki doesn’t act so impressed with herself. She’s matter of fact, which beckons you to fill the gaps. Knowing her feels like it makes my brain grow a few sizes to hold all of her, stay alert.
She mentions that she used to have a cat. (Mentioned like maybe she had killed it.)
We meander the aisles of Makeup Store and she taps and chides at the tonics and salves, “Nice little things,” like she’s greeting children the only way she knows how, her put-on Mid-Atlantic.
We have to book it around the corner and down Broadway because for a second it looks like they decided to chase this time, and her hair looks like ribbons unraveling while she runs. Once we’re gone enough, I’m sick in the street.
It was remarkable how few people we had in common. Then I met someone who knew her from somewhere. Her rube sort-of ex had met Suki on a lesbian dating app looking, friendlessly, for somebody to housesit for her. So Suki with a different name applied hoping to make off with what she could and disappear again. She got bored of the place and the cat she was supposed to be feeding (ah) turned merciful and dipped. Too late for the cat though. And she did make off with some bathroom odds and ends and silverware. No stipend though so she came back and kicked the recycling bins over outside the building and screamed and ripped her hair out like a pissed kid.
Suki who was Suki when I met her. But now just seems sad.
Each clatter of plastic we finger and pocket must be intentional. Everything must scream, Welcome to our world. Each object builds up our pile, the overly furnished hovel our characters will retreat to at the end of the day. I doubt if she has space to sleep. I’m not allowed to see her apartment. I wait for her to ask if she can see mine but she never does.
I’m running out of shower space from all the scrubs and gels and oils I wind up with. Orange sludge creeps and coagulates along the bottom, absorbing all the stupid shit I let her convince me I am owed.
I’m in the dressing room beside her one time and nothing fits. Yeah it’s easier to layer under my own top, I tell her, it just doesn’t fit.
“YOU, the biggest size they make? Someone needs to exorcize the designer.”
She is a sadist and I am a masochist.
Suki’s so mean when she drinks, and we’re running out of places in the shopping district where she can drink. Weekdays it’s worse, and we have to walk even further out of the way to find somewhere that will still serve her. She burns bridges like it’s nothing and then what am I supposed to do about it? Walking starts to make her even meaner.
She’s drinking pink wine like it’s water today, to pace herself through the late afternoon. We stroll and stroll down the same streets and I wonder if she’s ever worried about being recognized by a cop or cashier or security guard.
Sometimes I just want a fucking change in scenery. Or for her to talk to me differently. The light shifts from golden to bruise-blue. My hands are cold and I want to go home, the thought never occurs to her.
The bender is often transcendent with us. The bender is the means by which we commune our true selves and I can suddenly stand her again. Our edges slumped against one another, then gone entirely. But it’s not transcendent at all this time, and hasn’t been for a while. She can’t hold her booze at all, especially not on an empty stomach. Anything unclear makes her maudlin:
There’s a part of me that I only meet when I’m wasted the part that feels pure unadulterated unabashed joy and like I’m a child but like I’m not going to get in trouble for feeling good and also I meet that part of me when I take other stuff too I guess and I wish it were me when I’m sober I so wish I could feel that way sober and I think it’s all because of my parents –
We realize she left her bag in the booth, and it’s probably gone by now. She’s sick in the sink like I was sick in the street. She’s so upset about it. It thrills me to see her look stupid with her mouth occupied. I’m suddenly so full of love for myself. What to do with all the spillover…