I do not know who I am, but I do know where I am going. I remember a physics joke, fuzzy and indistinct in the back of my mind.
As I stand outside the theater the raindrops run down my hair. From my hair they run down from my face, cold and cutting then settle at the collar of my shirt. If I stand out here much longer I'm afraid the rain will eat me alive.
My eyes turn to the bright off white display of the movie theater. Someone has placed black letters on the marquee behind the glass, and I can only assume these are the films playing.
This must be an art house…
I talk to the attendant only as long as I have to.
"One for Gauze Doll."
The theater is empty.
I let my finger trace along the seats as I walk to the middle aisle. The red velvet is soft to the touch, and even more so to sit on. When the curtains part there is no one else in the theater. There is the buzz and sputter of the projector starting. The count down rolls, and there is a ping with each digit.
Inside the screen is a round room with white walls. There is a central escalator I can hardly see. This is because the room is filled with junk. Mainly strange pieces of fabric. Long drapes hang from wrought iron structures and everything is chaotic. The film is either stop motion or the frames have been deleted, because everything seems to twitch and spasm.
The camera pans to a long sheet of gauze hanging from a coil of brass wire. When it zooms in there is a small pan serving as tray near by, and a copper pipe that runs past it. There is a red figure painted on the gauze.
She is a simple figure, much like the silhouettes painted on restroom doors. She has round eyes and an "O" shaped mouth portrayed through negative space. Her figure is flat and there are no indications of her features. I simply know, that like I, she is a woman.
When I study the scene again I have a strong sense of a medical environment. There is a growing sense of dread as I realize this. The pan is to hold tools, and she herself is somehow being held in place.
The gauze begins to flutter and I find myself nauseated. There is a soft moan from the screen and a knot settles in my stomach. I can not see below her bust, but I sense there is something terrible happening off screen. There is the sound of something wet ripping as she continues to whimper.
When the shot widens I can see she has been sliced into strips below the waist. I feel a strong urge to cry for her, but I can not.
To the left of the junk pile is an unclear figure. It is almost as if he is back lit. In one hand he holds an assortment of gauze strips, some tinged red, and in the other hand a pair of metal scissors. I am reminded of my mother's sewing scissors.
Seeing this man makes me pulse uncomfortably.
He has no mouth or face but speaks.
"I cut her to ribbons, you see."
His tone is flat and uncaring. The mutilation of the gauze doll is neither passion nor pain to him. It simply is.
The scene changes slightly, and he is feeding the slices into a machine. It almost resembles a sewing machine, except the strips are being further shredded. It is very hard not to think of the gauze doll.
A woman is besides him, and she too is a shadow. He points to the not sewing machine.
"You're the one with a license."
He places his hands over his chest and adjusts for a moment, and he turns pale except for a black bar around his groin. I am vaguely aware of the idea that everyone in this place is a doll.
The three dolls are now gone and the camera is now zoomed in on four objects crammed next to each other an a gravel road. White words flash across the screen.
I am aware of an innuendo to each word but I am far too unsettled to think on it. I leave the theater, disgusted and lonely.
I am going home. I couldn't tell you how to get there, but I'll know it when I get there. Some things can't be lost.
The rain has softened and I decide to smoke, hoping the relief of the nicotine will clear my head. I stand under the cover of a bus station. The feeling of smoke in my lungs is sharp and raw, and for a brief moment I wonder if I am a smoker at all.
The silver lighter is engraved and the cardboard carton seems dulled from use. There is a lipstick stain on a cigarette that has been crumpled back into the package.
When I press my lips together they are distinctly dry.
A blonde woman at the bus stop smiles at me. Her hair is in a handkerchief and her lips are bright red.
She is all flesh and no shadow. Even just looking at her is like a beacon, pulling me from my discomfort. When she asks for a light her voice is just as sultry as I imagined. I nod and hold out my lighter as she purses her lips around the cigarette.
She surprises me, pressing the tail of her cigarette against my own. The ember spreads to her own. She looks up at me as she inhales deeply, her eyes wide and striking. She is close enough that I can smell her hair, rose perfume and nicotine. In that moment I want to hold her even closer, and tell her she doesn't need to get on the bus, wherever it's going.
Then it's gone. She pulls back, the cigarette well lit. She smiles at me.
She sits back down and I walk away. I am suddenly nervous again. Something about her smile was like standing at the edge of a cliff. I could have so easily fallen. I happily would have even, but can not. Into her arms, into bed, into trouble, but never in love.
The tension of being so close to another person is fading. Some part of me is still in the theater, transfixed and repulsed. The dripping of rain is too much like the parting of scissors. My shadow is too much.
The woman in the theater thinks of the gauze doll and the woman in the rain thinks of the stranger at the bus stops. I plunge her from my mind along with the theater. They are ghosts from another time. That was then. This is now.
I get home and the key matches the door. I graze the ridges over my fingers after I remove it. Once inside, I lock the deadbolt behind me. I am relieved by the familiarity of the place, so unlike the claustrophobic outside world. Everything out there is strange and stifling.
I take the lighter back out of my pocket. G. H. I assume they are my own initials. The apartment is small, and the main room is dominated by a desk. The desk is crowded with projects and crafts, seemingly sorted by purpose and intention.
Metal scissor, fabric scraps, needle.
Brass rings, copper wire, electrical tape.
I open the desk drawer to put away the lighter and my finger brushes against something thin and wet. I can not look at what it is. I think I might cry. A head ache sets in. The pounding is terrible and overwhelming. I stumble towards the bedroom afraid of falling.
I peer through the crack in the door way, clinging to the door knob. I can see there is someone in the bed. Someone I do not recognize. I am shaken. Who am I? How do I know this place?
I slam the door behind me and sink to the ground. Then I close my eyes.
I am gone. No gauze doll. No shadowy man. Just me.
is a young writer living in the NY Metro Area. They write strange tales with queer lenses and poetry that explores how landscapes, emotion, and memory translate into each other. They have been previously published in Collective Fallout
, a zine of queer speculative fiction, which can be downloaded for free.