Synonym For Masculinity

He has the habit of wetting his lips with his tongue.

Art by Sarah Sunshine Scott
Poem by Marz Sappler


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
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,
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
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
products have formed into a
solidity, which I must enter. I know it isn’t lethal. Still I am befallen
panic as I brace myself to be immersed. The
presence of their
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
economics, and
“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

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.

About the Artist

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.

(Her tattoo flash was shared earlier in this issue.)

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