He has the habit of wetting his lips with his tongue.
Art by Sarah Sunshine Scott
Poem by Marz Sappler
SYNONYM FOR MASCULINITY
He has the habit of wetting his lips with his tongue, too much so, and using the back of his hand to dap his mouth, to relieve it from some of the excess moisture, lowering his head and casting overconfident glances to those around him to see if anyone saw, or understood, what he was doing. Every part of it insecurity. It has a certain endearing quality, reminded me of a little boy cleaning his face after eating. Will he stop, or will he, as an old man, should he live that long, still rub his chin with this helpless movement, undirected, unrhythmic, smutchy, smarmy, dragging movement? I haven’t touched him in about two years, yet, I know how his fingers feel, his chin and his lips, I remember it, and so I know what he feels in himself in this gesture so intimate and weird and unshareable. After seeing this motion time and time again for a year back then when I was still a woman, I have only just recognized it, noticed it even. A tiny part of him lay naked before me, when I had grieved for ages that there was nothing more to uncover. Scent and texture of nine almost identical hair products have formed into a solidity, which I must enter. I know it isn’t lethal. Still I am befallen by panic as I brace myself to be immersed. The presence of their hair products impresses more on me then the presence of the people. When I draw my first breath of air infused with the hairspray I’ve woken up so often smelling, I expect to die. When my lungs respond, it feels like a resurrection. Most of them look up when I approach the table. My mind looks for a
sentence to think. I try not to touch anyone. Why did he invite me to a party consisting only of boys sitting around a table without moving, listening to the one boy, whose voice quivers under the weight of the other’s attention, talk about programming, women, economics, and drugs? “Hey, who puked out of the window at that party at Ivo’s again? Me, right?” “This is shit music. Turn off that music.” “No, I think it was Jayson.” “I think it was him.” “I wouldn’t know, I don’t remember, complete blackout. But it was me right? I think it was me.” “It was both of you”. “This is shit music.” Abrupt laughter. Then silence. The question of whether I’m trans that I have been pondering has lost relevance. I have not been missing anything. I’ll stay. He eats pizza with his eyes cast down and slow, deliberate motions that seem to me a marker of unbearable sadness, and I feel so sorry. I wonder how he sees me. Either cold or horny, I talked a lot and only told him I loved him when people were listening. He was scared to explain things to me although I wanted to know. I forgot things and he didn’t. He gave me chocolate because his mother gave him chocolate but he didn’t like chocolate. This was when he was seventeen. Surely his mother would have known by then that he didn’t like chocolate.
About the Author
Marz Sappler is a Germany-based artist and writer of narrative and conceptual literature and the co-founder and editor of the international literary magazine The Open Sewers Collective. They can be found on instagram @marz.vic and @opensewers.
Sarah Scott is a multimedium artist who spent decades in social work, seeking community healing via art, before pursuing a new career as a tattoo artist. She’s merged these two career paths, by founding Balm, a tattoo studio that is focused on healing-related tattoos, which often means working with scars or old ink that the client has outgrown. Sarah is currently studying to be a death doula.