"body/Horror:Yours/mine" by Lyric Seal
soundscape by BED DEATH
video documentation by kbytesThe Center for Sex and Culture 2014
Let me tell you something. I didn’t mean to be like this. I meant to grow up. Before I had ever given head or kissed horizontal under leaves or even touched my own lips- lips face or down down down, scalpels had made new orifices in me. Before I could say yes or no or know that yes or no could be mine to give, surgeons and nurses slipped fingers and tubes and titanium spores into my tiny body and said,
Here is what we’ve got for you now live if you can.
There is a difference between agency and consent. One I have, the other I do not have. In surgery, art, and sex, much of the consent is implied. This surgery, this last one, was the only elective surgery I have ever gotten. I have choices, not consent. My body’s trauma and recovery has no awareness of what I did and did not choose. The temporary psychosis that is produced by seeing your own flesh turned purple and green, loosening not only at the edges, bleeding from what might be pores, or new ports, is not alleviated by the words,
You asked for this.
The narrative you’re looking for is illusive/elusive. You can search anyway, you will not be alone. Every self-assured man I have had will be right there with you. He felt entitled to who he is, but now he is worried about his body. He keeps looking for the story, the reason for his shape in the canals and caves of me.
This is a love story, but there is no triumph. It is a ghost story, but the ghosts are tangible bodies that have entered mine.
There is this: the queer problem. I did not grow up. I keep coming undone! It’s possible that I grow, but laterally, and snaking. This piece is a hole you can look into. It is a wet chunk of me. I will flay it out to you. I am not sure what will stick, but, open your skin, open your mouth, swallow, rub it in. I prefer to tend to myself, after.
This takes place after I became myself: a wet,
that this body
it deserves pain or love or any sensation at all.
I wait in the cave of
myself. I look and feel
around for all the years.
I recoil from texture, a presence, a lack.
I cannot recoil. I am already inside the body I fear. I am in that flat little bed with its funny architectural embellishments. The black, curved, almost corkscrewed guard rails. Clever design. This is the day of every surgery. This is every threshold. We are living in the future. My cyborg body has fallen away from linear restrictions. Consent to incisions never existed for me. I am totally autonomous, in control of myself, and this control leads me to what is good for me.
Here: obedient to knife love.
Someone who might be my lover is here. He has touched parts of me which will be altered today. I wanted him to. Blood and milk and hope can come out of the things he touched. Does this make him my lover? My mother is here. I am followed around always by how boy lovers can and cannot see my body, how they can and cannot touch it. By doctors. How they can and cannot and see my body. How they can and cannot touch it. How they will anyway. By my mother. What she has loved of me. All of me. Muddy broken parts too. What she has witnessed that I wished she did not have to. The humiliation I felt in her seeing me not know myself while the others touched on. What she has worried I would never alter. I ask them all to fuck off. I ask them all to tell me that I am alive and that I am okay. I ask them, but my mouth tastes like anesthesia and vomit and silent clouds and, the nurse asks,
Any other surgeries? This is a list.
Four others yes…
Are you different now?
I’m different, yeah, I’m different.
And are you whole? Any other lovers before this? Any other wounds? Can you still feel where they entered you? And how long did it take for them to close up? Do you have any[metal][thing] left inside of you?
The night before this surgery- I cry like I’m dying. Like I will never be empty. This lover who is not my lover- he spoons me like there is no spoon and we are just a line on a curve. When I don’t stop him, he holds tighter, breathes on my neck. I soften, my sobs quiet a little. Then his hands are my ribs, I remember my ribs. Then his hands are my breasts, I remember he will be the last to touch them as they are. Even though there are new kinds of breath with my crying, I am still crying. He rubs and pulls on my nipples, and I dip into this. He has calloused hands and stark blue eyes which make orbs of an earnestness I don’t know how to fake, so I believe it, and am grateful.
I think it’s gonna be okay…he calls into the mouth of my cave.
Surgery always reminds me of surgery. Sex always reminds me of sex. Surgery also reminds me of sex. It feels like being fucked, not consensually. Not nonconsensually either. I am reminded, I am reminded, and yet each time it is horribly new. I asked for this. I wanted this. And yes I even want it as it is happening but parts of me are asleep, and in the room with us are all the other things that have happened and other others too. I know horror and ecstasy all at once and yet I do not know them.
There is this: a dangerous hope as the digits descend. There is this: a hole, a cave, a cut, and a wave bringing those digits home to wherever home may be. There is this: a great risk. A great longing. A great chance that everything will get wet and stay wet and never be dry again. There is this: a gasping as sleeping parts of me awake. And after: I am altared in this permanent and important way. I have tasted bliss and come or anesthesia and experienced a loss. I have waned.
Let me tell you something, I didn’t mean it to be like this. I meant to be whole. I meant to fix myself. Grow. Up. I melt out and down. I roll. I erode. I am penetrable. The tape, the sealing peels back, I see myself, undead, and I scream.
Every time I have sex I remember what I am afraid of. This one, he had freckles on his shoulders. Like a snicker doodle. Every time he kissed me he punctuated it with a moan like I was this real hot thing. He fucked with his mouth open the whole time like awe and crying. Afterwards, I showed him my scars and asked, Do they look crazy?
I mean yeah, they look kinda crazy…
Sex with someone who doesn’t understand or even completely want me is so normal it’s reassuring. I have loved to let cis-boys fuck me. Pastries I craved but feel unsure about, after. Sweet ones that don’t want to feel vulnerable but believe that they are very sensitive. I can avoid myself this way: my body and what it wants
to receive, to give.
My very real attraction to
holes. This is a kind of inertia.
I sit naked in the cradle of my recoiling from myself. I cannot bear to look and I count on my lover not to see. It is alarming to be sought, and it is so scary to want. There are haunted swamps hiding in my holes. Even if you think you want me. You might regret it. You’ll find secrets I haven’t touched in years.
Sometimes he does not touch the scary parts that I tell him are okay to touch if he wants to. Because he does not want to. He does not want to touch those parts of me. When he wants to I am also burning. It is like being burned a little. I show him the places that used to have ripe chunks missing the places that were green for a time the places I thought I would lose forever, if they were ever mine. He looks. Like a scientist. Or an artist. Runs his fingers down the short curve of my torso so that in my head I might be an oil painting. He doesn’t think I’m dry yet. He kisses my mouth and smirks.
After this beautiful boy fucked me I tried to scrub my skin off. Every one of my pores looked filled with some thing. I turned the shower up as hot as it could go, and hoped I would pass out. I only hyperventilated. I asked my friend to examine the angry red skin of every nook, cranny, and hole as I turned for her, a modern dance. Is this scabies? Is this scabies? Is this? What is wrong with me?
You have hysterical scabies. They’re honestly just as bad.
Having consensual sex is not supposed to make you feel horrible a day later, the sex posi kids tell me. Do you ever look down at yourself and remember that you are at sea? What sort of material do you wish you were made of? What sort of vehicle, vessel, are you? When I fuck I remember the endless wound of me.
After they make the wounds to remove the weight in my chest that I did not want, I wait. For the feelings. It is not that I am entirely lacking now in feelings and sensations in the land called my chest but they are harder to identify than they were. I cannot feel much on the outside surface of ⅔ of my breasts and yet I feel more inside expelling itself like shrapnel and shit and vomit and declarations of love than I ever have. I always imagined the root of my wings to be in front, not back. There’s this stirring there, a vibration. A solidifying of sound. And memory. My blood falling down. My nerves wandering, lost.
In order to enjoy body horror, one must be able to relish the adrenaline rush to be found in a brief loss of control. Enjoying a horror movie is like playing dress up as a child. Imagining a love affair between you, sweaty, young, pulling the straps of your tank top down in the back seat, and Death. But you are a tween, and you do not imagine what a love affair with Death would really be like, so you make it up. And it is very scary, and a little dangerous, and pretty messy, and also pretty nice. You see everything slowed down as the instrument descends. You can freeze that moment forever, if you want. You can replay it. You can screen capture. That is why indulging in horror is like a love affair with Death.
The first time I really looked, looked at, looked into, looked up and down and checked out what terrified me, I registered arousal. I think they were the red soles of a strange boy’s feet. Or my own strange curves. Or zombies, lips a tapestry of welts, falling a part. It is a manic sort of arousal, a hyperventilation. So much hot air along with my wetness. How do I calm down? Where do I become whole? Where, not when, it must be, since being queer means that I forfeited time a long time ago.
I did not mean to be like this, I said, to my own shaking and pooling. These vibrations are where sound becomes solid, body becomes leak, and my sense of my own proper place becomes taffied.
The potential for transformation is in our own squeamishness. Our own bravery, compassion. When you watch a horror movie, or indulge in looking at the horror that is the healing process of your body or your lover’s body, do not think that becoming desensitized means that you are brave. Compassion is the really tough stuff. To squeam is to return. A boomerang, yet a destabilization. To squeam is to occupy uncomfortably, and with difficult joy, a place of living death. To squeam is to reanimate. You zombie. You sexy thing. With this type of squirming there is the potential to deepen your relationship with your own holes. With your lover’s holes. Forget about light. Forget about surfacing for air. Forget about Demeter for a minute. To squeam is to look into your lack, in relation to a normative standard of wholeness, and to say, “Yes” to that horror. And “yes” to the possibility that you do not need or desire to be sealed up. Squeamishness is a moving shape in a static space. A different kind of dance. You are committing to the body you occupy, or the body you have given your attention. Allowing it to turn you, turn your stomach, turn you on. Move you around. Pull you down. Pull you in. Deeper. Make you come when called.
Let me tell you something, you don’t know how to worship me.
You don’t even know how to want me. Each time I become altered, I also become altared, a new landscape for you to reckon with. You can place consent on me somewhere, tell me to look to back at it. It disappears. There are foreign objects held in these holes. Ghosts of doctors, digits, desire, men. People with phobias of being penetrated and who cut me open easily. I’m not saying that you know how to worship yourself either. It is a mobile act.
We meant to grow up. That’s not how bodies grow.