spit them out, these wasted days and wet-green nights rising up from your esophagus to greet against anyone’s will your
lovers and your sisters and your friends and your parents make them
worry for you but never too much just enough to catch a whiff of the smoldering
human brains on stone tiled floors where
cold gets in so easy feel it creeping up the carnage contaminated by the time
it grabs your feet and legs to drag you under
i’m okay, i’m okay — you’re shoveling shouting reaching out to grab hold of whatever’s in reach
creamy rose pink with green sparkles dribbles thick makes you feel
safe watching feel the grip slip this is how we
fight our wars with pink with glitter with ooze like
crying all that bile from your eyes the sticky
worms running playground drills up and down your throat
red rover, red rover, why don’t you come over?
red used to scare you always creeping in or up
more often out
that drip drip down your shaking knees that
seeping out the gashes in your stomach like a watermelon past its prime now just remember– don’t eat the seeds, you can’t afford for anything to grow inside you, and neither can the anything– that environment is uninhabitable
for living things
send some more pics of your
stumpy pink dick while you
hold it at the base with your
unwashed sheets and empty
walls in the background and
the the tv tuned to some
sports channel that
shit gets me so
wet i just
i’m sorry. you know this can never work.
je suis désólée. tu sais que ça ne peut rouler jamais.
jeg beklager, men du ved, at dette ikke kan gå.
ho sento però ja saps que això no pot sortir.
lo siento pero ya sabes que esto no puede salir.
it’s been years. have you forgotten?
ça fait du temps. t’as bien oublié ?
det har været år. har du glemt?
que fa anys. has oblidat?
ha sido años. has olvidado?
i hope that you get some daylight in
that you listen to heartbeats, eat sausages made from
pigs you met, stuff your face into big fluffy
hope you squeeze tight
whoever you’re squeezin
squeeze ‘em good like
you used to squeeze me
(but not better)
hopin on hope you eat shit that you ripped from the
ground with your hands and stay dirty
if just a little
hope you’ve come as far,
and as much,
and as many times
as i have
(though of course
i doubt that
i did love you,
bien oui que je t’aimais, quoiqu’il étàit bref
jeg elskede dig, selvom på det forkerte tidspunkt
jo t’estimava, però no prou,
te quería, aunque por sólo un momento,
i could never lie about that
read the back of the
label: it will tell you
your sins for the day
but there will be no
advice for repenting provided. do
it yourself with slimy digits
coughing over the toilet. be
discreet: the sound of a
splintering facade is harsh on
young ears and of course
apart from slim you must
also be strong.
Vienna. Wien. Wiener. Ha ha.
A pulse in the dead heat. Espresso with cream.
Who are you reading? (Hustvedt and Foer.)
Gothic churches, pointed spires, Flak towers that fired 8,000 rounds a minute at Allied forces, including my paratrooper grandfather. Did you know, he would say, that I went up in an airplane twenty-one more times than I came down in one?
Wind. Lots of it.
The fading gloom in Fabian’s massive modern office-turned-flat and his cologne, clearly he has spruced up. He talks of schnapps, good for a stomachache.
A dim, colorfully lit Hungarian café, a nude female mannequin wearing the head of an unknown antlered mammal with eyes on the wrong side of its head — “probably some art piece,” says Fabian, and shrugs.
Onion soup and tea and a seconding of the schnapps notion from the owner of the restaurant (did I ask?), a thin, dramatic woman with spiked bleached tips and a long brown skirt. Fabian drinks three beers and uses Facebook on his phone.
Café Kafka (real), Café Jenseits (smoky 1920’s), Café Sperl (just old), Café Europa (three levels, each one murkier than the last — here Fabian orders a Frankfurter, tells me to “punk up” and drink more Fernet Branca), Café futurgarten (predictably trendy, as a name without capitals will always indicate), Café Phil (for sophisticated hipsters), Café Espresso (a dim bar packed with cool chainsmoking millennials: all seats taken, so Fabian decides to lean up against the doorjamb. I make eyes with a fella in the window. We watch each other, then he watches me walk away.)
Fabian, now drunk, launches upstairs into the swanky wine-and-cheese event of an elite facial reconstruction academy. It is quite small, private, a suit-and-tie affair. Fabian bursts in, raincoat dripping, and shouts (in English, for my benefit) about wanting to eat their “tiny breads” (appetizers.) I am behind him, an actual homeless person. The man who chases us out wears a beige paisley suit worth more than any dwelling I might ever aspire to own.
Hi, I’m Viennese. I study architecture. My grandparents were Nazis, but I’m a vegan socialist. I climb mountains effortlessly, speak English fluently, and my university is paid for. Now you decide, who won the war?
For those too ill to eat:
Sobriety: an unreasonable choice.
Jägermeister: a solid choice.
Fernet Branca: a safer choice.
Averna with lemon: a poor choice.
Café Kreisky and vomiting discreetly into the bright red toilet, Café Bukowski with Charlie himself gazing out from all angles, daring me to do it again (but this time with gusto!) Hey ladies, I think perhaps we should take a cab home. No worries, I’ll pay for it! I’m fine, just going to the toilet. Just real quick.
Small red flecks in the water. Scheisse.
Only one night in the Wien ER (Wiener. Ha ha.) I have become an avid hospital tourist. Thricely stabbed before anyone can locate my artery, as usual, then the waiting room until I’ve been bleeding backwards into the empty IV bag for a while. I sleep in a chair because my friends have to sleep in chairs. We’re there from 1:30 to 5 AM. Stomach virus, Gastritis, the docs tell me. Non-fatal, in spite of the blood in your vomit. Take some carbon. Where shall we send your bill, Miss Worley?
A couple of shows: DOA, a handful of unknown Viennese punk bands at Venster99, Midnight Priest from Portugal way out at Erdberg, me jogging through the industrial district to catch the metro before midnight as I’m still too ill to crash on an addict’s living-room floor. Sometimes I still feel like a phoney — not dirty enough, certainly not a satisfactory alcoholic, sometimes I walk into vintage stores — sometimes I even buy jeans at H&M. Gasp, don’t tell the punks that. But look, I gotta buy pants somewhere and fitting this ass ain’t easy.
One failed departure from the city leading to a short campout at the Westbanhof station and a re-assesment of my mental capacities (Westbanhof is not Hauptbanhof, whether or not you speak German, you scheisskopf.) So back to the house I trudge, and as I am “well” it is high time for a drink — make that three beers — during a Quebecois film about two lovable virgins aspiring to bone each other in public places — 3x4cls of Jäger for 7.50€ (bargain) on the steps of the Volkstheater with Lia and her lipsticked Viennese friends — then one last café to top it all off, tucked under the Gurtel, blacked out on all that Jäger, a couple hours of Actually Dancing to an American swing playlist, and a trek home that I do not remember.
I catch a ride out of the city the next day with a sculpture artist and an atheist physicist Syrian refugee who’s into heavy metal. We listen to the Cypress Hill Black Sunday album on repeat.
That was my Vienna.
“Life is too short to learn German”
A frigid night in Lyon. I lay in the routine position: awkwardly inclined like a sausage propped against a toaster, neck strained forward, sweating into my body brace. It’s the nightly ritual: a wistful trail of martini with lime (affordable and effective!), google searches, flight scanners, sound clips and calendar dates. I haven’t travelled since I made it to France and promptly broke my spine. Mobility lurks in the distant future, and in my fervent, drunken dreams I seek vengeance for lost time: travels awaiting, work to be done, things to be lifted, reckless thrashing at concerts, less-awkward coitus.
A second martini, a third martini, a realization: I am in an optimal situation to make a bet with myself.
Buy a ticket somewhere, make yourself go. Come summer you’ll be able. Pick a place.
The place is Copenhagen, the challenge an eight-day music festival, camping on private farmland, a very eclectic setlist (see below.) I’ll have no friends, no contacts, maybe even no tent (will I even be able to carry one by then?) The ticket price isn’t bad; this month I can skip meals. I hardly eat anyway, too depressed. It’s December. The festival is in July. I am four martinis deep. I buy the ticket.
Alone on a train crammed with day-drunkards lugging cases of beer back to the plots of land they had fought to stake off a day in advance. Other festival-goers were traveling in close-knit social groups and possessed advanced technology such as human food and beer coolers. My mission: infiltrate a group. Gain its trust, gain a patch of its grass to sleep on.
Niko was chubby and slouched back in a blue folding chair. His camp, notably playing decent metal, had regurgitated itself into the staked-off walkway between blocks of tents. At first I thought he might be dead of alcohol poisoning, but he reached out to me as I passed with my pack, slurring in Danish and throwing up bullhorns. I stopped for a beer. Danes speak beautiful English and carry beer with them everywhere.
I pretended to look for a different spot to pitch my single tent, then came trotting back to Camp Niko. “Guess I have to live with you guys,” I shrugged. Didn’t give them much of a choice.
Potential expansions to this blog post included:
Planking every morning for my back, much to the amusement of other campers.
Peeing in my tent accidentally – trying to aim into a bag?
Almost tipping over an employee trailer, from the inside (employee was present.)
The time I woke up with a video on my phone of an uncircumcised penis wearing sunglasses and laughing — no recollection of this being recorded.
Names — Niko, Lasser, Chris, Christina, Bender? The one always wearing overalls with no undershirt, what was his name? Biscuit?
Spoke at length with Chelsea Wolfe and Amalie of Myrkur, nearly peed myself a second time.
Camp Red Warszawa was a camp of female punk rockers and their pleasantly drunken male cohorts. I stopped in and noticed Dunner immediately. He was nearly seven feet tall, had crappy tattoos, was wearing socks and slip-on sandals. He held a water fountain on for me while I rinsed the salt/dirt/beer/urine from my face.
I taught him how to pitch a tent properly. He had propped it up, damn city fool—what did he do? Poles inside the tent? Man, if that whole ordeal wasn’t to become a really effective metaphor. He gashed his hands open on the metal stakes, I tasted his blood in my mouth, tasted his mouth on my mouth.
Eight days. Survived.
August 5, 2015
Kristina, smexy red-haired hot-blooded sugar mama waitress wonder woman, booked us a night in a swanky hotel called The Phoenix where all of the highbrow employees didn’t even bother to hide their confounded staring — what the fuck are these muddy brokeass chicks doing in our establishment? We got stoned, delineated The Friend Zone, shared our ex-boyfriend histories start to finish and fell asleep to late-night Danish television: documentaries on hawks, strange compilations of sleeping people dressed as animals, surveillance videos of empty hallways. There are so many questions about the Danes that will never be answered.
Sick in the shitty hostel: Lame efforts to get out (invent a tolerable mucus metaphor?)
Not worthy of further elaboration.
this is why I haven’t written about any of this
Dunner’s apartment took me a bit aback. I hadn’t expected a 35-year-old seven-foot Danish metalhead to be so neatly organized or so devoted to such a strict color scheme (purple and orange — how thoroughly metal of you.)
We had agreed to one (1) weekend visit. By that I mean we were both drunk in the dark in his dilapidated, bloodstained ten-person tent on Night Eight Of Roskilde and I straddled him on the twin inflatable mattress and said, “Can I come visit you when this is over? Just for a weekend,” to which he (presumably) agreed.
But the weekend after the festival, the flu set in. Everyone said it was due to over-inhalation of the piss-dust for which Roskilde Festival is particularly notorious, which might be true. I spent the one (1) weekend visit collapsed on Danish Dunner’s Danish furniture, blowing chunks in his Danish toilet, sliming up his purple Danish shag rug. When the weekend was over, he headed down south with a group of friends, a trip he’d had planned all year. I bought a bus ticket to Berlin. He left the apartment, lingered down in the stairwell blinking up at me, wrapped in a blanket in his doorway.
My entire three (3)-week stay with Dunner was to be an eternal series of us saying goodbye for the last time, once, twice, three times. I repeatedly intended to leave, but was repeatedly too ill to go. Week One I passed locked alone inside his apartment, without a spare key to leave or go buy medicine or food. When he returned he found me red-eyed in a blanket fort re-watching his downloads of The Simpsons, having subsisted on canned tuna and corn for three days. On Week Two, he made me an offer: he’d cancel his family vacation if I canceled my bus to Berlin. We started Game of Thrones. Life was free and air-conditioned and Dunner cooked a good deal of dishes involving bacon while wearing nothing but his boxer briefs. On Week 3 he drove me to the hospital, where I was curtly informed that the antibiotics I needed were impossible to acquire in Denmark. We explored the Danish countryside, the harbors, the farms, the flatness, the city — through the remains of the destroyed Youth House in Norrebrø, in and out of squats, over public structures and playgrounds and cemeteries, where the trees smelled mysteriously of semen. I limped around and he limped with me, just to make me feel better.
When I was well enough he dropped me off in Copenhagen, his eyes rimmed with tears, pressing his spare apartment key into my palm for “just in case.” He told me he loved me. I told him I was late for my bus.
Ferry, København to Berlin
August 22, 2015
Yesterday I received my Spain placement. In IBIZA.
IN MOTHERFUCKING IBIZA.
Perhaps this is some kind of sick joke from the higher powers/malignant forces of evil in the world? The exact last place I would have chosen. Nasty tourist rave-kid madhouse in summer and a total ghost town in the winter. Mallorca (the bigger island) is covered in mountains, a cycling paradise, good climbing rocks. Ibiza is covered in used condoms, discarded bikinis and probably AIDS. Do I have to get a Brazilian now? Will they even let me access the island without one? I will trade my post with someone, if possible. Otherwise… I don’t know, I’m so conflicted. Who am I to moan and groan, homeless as I am? Beggars can’t be choosers, and at this point I’m only a step away from beggar. Might as well get the visa and see where it goes from there. Going back to the US is not a viable option. It’s not what my gut is telling me to do, but my gut is also not feeling Ibiza.
More good news — French debit card has been shut down, I just got a text that my phone usage rates have gone up to 3€ a minute, my bank login info is stuck on my computer, which is still in Milan — sometimes I am a dipshitty, rookie traveler. Another white kid with a backpack. I brought too many clothes and the wrong type of shoes, gave up on my only pair of pants too early (although the thigh holes have been giving me rashes and I already failed at fixing the shorts.) I’m too grubby-looking to avoid being surveyed with considerable distaste in public but not nearly grubby enough to be taken seriously by other hobos. I feel an urgent need to somehow turn all my shit a darker color, maybe sprout a couple of natty dreads for Street Cred. Darken my sleeping bag so I can’t be found so easily at night. Urban camouflage? Dirt is not dirty enough — I mean what can I use, like actual shit?? Certainly not DYE. That costs money and requires washing services (those cost money too.) Now I need a shit phone with some breed of prepaid plan. I’m the fattest I’ve ever been and my fucking back aches like a shitty ole bitch.
Tired fatty just wants to lie down.
The stories are clawing at my insides.
I’ve been on the road for months now, haven’t paid rent since May. Been living out of a sack, the same peeling yellow plastic bag of crumpled clothes that still smell like air-conditioning vents and jaundiced summer subway air and the sad empty space under hostel beds no matter how many times I’ve managed to launder them, at least until I discovered the indispensable trick of stuffing a sack of espresso grinds in my pack. Keeps yeh fresh.
The backpack pockets are crammed with paraphernalia of the deliberately homeless, essentials built up over months of wandering: a watercolor palette, crayons charbon of different hardness levels, an emergency thermal blanket and a roll of duct tape, a pack of band-aids, a rather rag-tag assortment of crumpled condoms, a glue stick and sewing supplies, four or five dirty kitchen spoons – I collect spoons wherever I go, the way most people collect accidentally stolen pens — a torn Ziploc sack full of pennies and two-cents and Danish kroner and Moroccan dirhams, my loose bus/café fare.
In the top of my pack I have clipped the spare keys to Dennis’s apartment in Ishøj, Denmark, which he insisted I take just in case I decided to come back. “You know that’s not possible,” I told him. “This is it. I’m sorry.”
Still, he insisted. I guess some folks just need something to hold on to.
FIVE MONTHS AGO, the end of April in Lyon. The sun was beginning to make appearances from time to time, people blinking sluggishly up as if in a state of mild surprise: « Qu’est-e que c’est ? » I had just turned twenty-two on a brilliant rainy day with a double rainbow smeared across the sky. The wind was turning, getting warmer, buzzing with a hint of electricity, a hint of change.
School was not going so well, mainly because I was giving up on it. Spending more and more time in the real world instead of the classroom, traveling instead of studying, speaking French instead of taking notes in it. I had bombed a final already and suspected I might blow a few more in the coming week. My mind had been made up; I was not going back. I watched idly as the other study abroad students packed their suitcases and figured out their flights home, made plans with their families for their return, registered for classes in the coming semester. I had decided to move to Spain and teach English and was waiting on my formal acceptance letter. In the meantime I searched online for volunteer jobs across Europe; tutoring, gardening, painting, repair work, childcare, whatever I could get. I wasn’t sure where I would travel, only that I would.
Camille and I met on the 30th of April. We had matched on Tinder, which I had downloaded that morning on a whim, and scheduled a date for the same night without hesitation. I rode up on my bike, tires slicing lines on slick pavement, and found him next to the fountain at Terreaux in Lyon city center. He had arrived early. He smiled at me. His eyes were a fiercely glowing blue and we were both wearing flannel shirts.
Our first date lasted twelve hours. Our second, over forty.
Within the week I had found a job bartending at a dingy little pub in the center of Rue de Sainte Catherine, Lyon’s most notoriously filthy and unscrupulous pub street, under a tightly-wound, beady-eyed little Frenchman with a temper like Mount Vesuvius in Year 79. His name was Tom. On my first night, Tom approached me and said curtly in his dreadful thick French accent (for, although we conducted the interview only in French and he knew I was fluent, refused to speak French to me): “Gessica. You must clean ze farst bathrhoom. You go to ze middle of ze bar, you find ze glove, you pick up ze vomit and you trow it away. You do not trow away ze glove. Okay? It iz ze only one we have-uh.” I approached the bathroom with a deep breath and an open mind, C’est que du vomi, can’t be that bad, to find a partially-digested pound or so of what appeared to be a rump of ham artfully deconstructed and spewed into the men’s urinal. Scooping out the chunks with my single preciously-gloved hand, I was soon fishing out handfuls of pubic hair and unidentifiable slime from under a small lip in the bottom of the urinal – quite possibly more pubic hair than vomit, of which there was plenty. When I asked my coworker when the urinal had last been cleaned, he looked at me like I was insane. “I dunno,” he said with a shrug, “Not since I’ve been here. You don’t clean the urinal. Takes too long.” Silly me.
Later, Tom informed me that the customers were not allowed to bring cups into the street – not even plastic ones. “Oh really? Okay,” I responded with a nod. In ten minutes or so he came back and demanded, “Gessica I must see you outside, NOW.” The bar was swarmed with customers and I had an entire row of pints filling, but my coworker urged me out. “Run, run, go go go! Don’t make him wait!” In the street Tom started shouting and throwing his stumpy little hands about. “I do not want your o-pinion,” he said hotly. “When I say somezing to you, you do not respond Oh rheally? OH-KAI. If I say somezing to you you say Yes sirh, yes Tohm. Nozzing elze. I do not hire you to listen to your o-pinion. UNDERZTAND?” He was a head shorter than I and I was acutely aware that I would be able to break his nose with only a minimal amount of effort. “Yes, Tohm.” A growl through tightly clenched teeth. First night of many, folks.
YET IT WAS WORTH IT, every second of it. Cam and I had fallen in love perhaps the moment we met, then a little bit more every passing day. He was raised between Grenoble and Côte d’Ivoire in Africa and had taught himself perfect English through punk rock music. We could talk and joke for ten hours without noticing the time, bouncing between French and English, learning from each other. He was a world traveler, a constant nomad, loved camping, hiking, trail running, cycling and good beer. He looked like a tattooed lumberjack and, just like an Oregonian, he refused to use an umbrella in the rain. In short, he was perfect, and though I was wary, I let myself fall.
It was late May when I received my placement in Spain, in the Balearic Islands. I was working a private party at the bar, got the e-mail, went through the rest of the night in a daze. At home I woke up Cam to tell him, stammering, unsure of how to approach the subject. There was stillness, silence. We were both stunned, though of course we’d known it was coming. Perhaps we’d thought it wouldn’t happen, that reality would never set in — but there it was, inconveniently, as reality tends to be.
It was fast, all so fast, and then he was slipping away before I even had a chance to make a decision. He would not ask me to stay, because he knew better than to try and hold me back, but was unwilling to stay together if I left. Cam does not believe in the possibility of long-distance relationships, and a year ago I would have agreed with him wholeheartedly. Now, I’m not so sure.
I’m willing to try. I know it will be hard. Mais je ferais n’importe quoi, pour toi.
He was a nihilist to the core, embittered, chasing the life he believed he was supposed to have. Done with all that now, he said. Much like his predecessor, he now wanted stillness. He sought routine. He hated France, but felt he had no choice but to anchor himself there. I could taste his nomadic soul, like the other half of my own, but he said he didn’t want to be wild anymore. Said he didn’t own anything, no house, no car, no nine-to-five grown-up career. It was time to settle down.
“Then this can’t work,” I told him. “If you’re looking to settle, you’re not looking for me.”
He was mine, and I loved him, and I might have been the one to tame him. But I let him go.
In early June I applied for a position at a children’s arts camp based in Rovereto, Italy. I interviewed over Skype the next evening, and the program manager told me she needed me to start in four days. In a whirlwind I packed all of my belongings, scrubbed my apartment from ceiling to floor, and rode around the city like a madman tying up loose ends. There was no time to be heartbroken. I hopped a bus for Pavia, crossing the Alps away from everything I had come to know and with absolutely nothing left to lose, for I’d already given it away.
Ca va aller.
-TO BE CONTINUED-
And for those of you who are interested, here’s a low-quality video of me being a high-quality employee at the pub in Lyon.