DISAPPOINTMENT IS ALL I GET FOR FREE by Naomi Falk & Mina Hamedi
Originally published in slightly different form in Unpublishable (Archway Editions, 2020)
N: On the commencing day of this month’s period, as I was digging my nails into my pelvic muscles and rolling my fists at other people’s gods, it occurred to me that each cycle of my bleeding comes with the understanding that I am nearly older than my mother was when she gave birth to me.
M: Scars and marks seemingly fade from the body, but I don’t believe this to be the absolute truth. The skin, the muscles, the bones, they absorb everything. Every scratch and impression becomes a part of you. You carry them with you the next morning, covering the red and purple, the raised skin, in the armor of your choosing.
N: And in bleeding, I lose part of myself, something I search for until realizing it is gone and that it will never return. It is the case that we are constantly turning into something new, acquiring and shedding. Mina says we come together and fall apart.
M: She goes through this all the time. Am I the same person when the sun rises the next morning? Is she? The blood gets thicker, the marks deeper. Sometimes, that is what we want.
N: To say a woman is diminished by these things that change her would be an egregious error. And how to know if I slept and awoke as the same person if I reached my hand over to the pillow beside mine in the slant of morning light and found that there was no one there? I only dreamt there was a witness.
M: And if there is someone to reach for; blankets in waves, four pillows that never end up where they began, how much of me is left behind after each metamorphosis? How much have you taken in return? I’m not sure there is a simple, “me,” anymore. I surrendered her a while ago.
N: In surrendering her, I abandoned my will to contain the feverish landscape of my mind to the confines of my body. I am hungry to be the thought that punctuates the days of my captors. I snake my arms through their rib cages as they sleep in and press my face into their spines until I see stars before my eyelids. I gaze into the saintly realm beyond the moon.
M: Bodies are elastic to everything we ask and seek of them. I’m losing sight of the lines that distinguish where I begin and he ends. I’m told, over and over, to exist in the present. Maybe I can only do this when there are no layers left to discover or to destroy.
N: But it could never be the case that you will become unexplorable to me when you breathe more expansively than all the windows in this corridor down which I stride. Recite any minute that has composed your life and I kneel before the altar.
M: You remember details I used to pride myself on being able to recall first. The way a gaze becomes fixed or broken. How everyone has their own way of sliding fingers through hair. I am trapped by my thoughts, too. Sometimes they escape: a fist against the wall or clawing at empty spaces.
N: The transcension of thought into impulsive action is like an old friend by now, though I somehow remain surprised at the shadows I cast over a future I have no choice but to approach. Sometimes I wonder at the insignificant and uncontrollable circumstances that, in retrospect, define the shape of our lives. What might the other versions of me have thought about someone like me?
M: I dream of another world where words spoken in the ecstasy of anger never hurt. I don’t belong to my home an ocean away or the same blood ties. My tethers vary. I can stay in this new space forever, quenched by the lights down the avenue, the harsh sunsets and sanguine daybreak. I can see the world as my mother does, not focusing on the little pains of every day.
N: Our atmospheres shift us into new designs. Daytime’s isolation leaves us wondering what it is that we’ve missed while we were consciously slumbering through the lunchtimes and the morning commute. The world turns into the beyond as we adopt the palette of midnight. On snowy sidewalks made fleshy by neon and fluorescence, we’ll stumble down the street ceaselessly flashing cameras in each other’s faces, texting all our friends as we wonder how they, too, might be faring in this nocturnal kind of life.
M: We have our vigils. The sounds we play that make us come alive, the smoke wafting up toward exposed lightbulbs, that familiar taste in small glasses. If even for a few seconds that night, all versions of ourselves move as shadows do. But I don’t sleep. I close my eyes and wait for a few hours to pass. This exhaustion, there is no reprieve. Oh, but we love it.
N: There was a moment in which I turned around and did not recognize her, my best friend. I saw her moving as a stranger, an undefinable form in the orbish haze of emerald in the room. Here was a life so affected by my own. And as I say it now, it is hard to imagine it happening, to have seen myself as a stranger from the familiarity of my own skin.
M: I pull apart the stitching of those I love and seal myself inside. I walk my best friend’s path to work, I taste the water, feel fingers on paper, legs aching with greater strides. The faces talk back at me. Perhaps I feel the keys of a piano, guitar strings, the soft fur of an imprudent cat. I quiet the voices down. Then I emerge and lay beside them.
N: Beside them in this room, this room in which I am endlessly alone with them but cradled by them.
M: Maybe we are not done yet at this time and place. With this changing and shedding. Maybe, there is more to collect.
N: The focus of an eye as it traces the edges of a sculpture, an arm’s stretch to grasp a book from the shelf, the lift of a heel to kiss a lover’s face: these ephemeral gestures, these changings and sheddings, hypnotize us into the meaning of our lives.
M: I try desperately to see into the future, to anticipate how the days will unravel, what I will feel, and more importantly, how you will feel. I try to find words to alleviate my best friend. They feel hollow: we cannot control anything.
N: There’s always the sense that certain revelations take you too far. Though, by ignoring what I know, I build a crypt for the acquisition of truth, forgotten only until I rest my ear against the earth. I hear it drift through the soil. For just a moment, it sounds like a story, like someone else’s desolation.
M: Significant things have been brought to the surface; smaller things remain. Aftershock earthquakes. Tremors in the ground shaking loose truths and fictions. I’m starting to doubt whether my truths will stay the same. Will yours?
N: I want to believe that the course of life is a continuum, that what I’ve lost along the way can still belong to me.
M: If I can hold onto even the smallest piece, the nights will be enough, the scars will remain but they will not hurt, and you will tell your stories the way I’ve been telling you mine.
Naomi Falk is a writer, editor, and book designer. Her work fixates on art, intimacy, and the ways in which we engage and disconnect our sensory perceptions. She works at The Museum of Modern Art, is co-founder of NAUSIKÂE NYC, and editor at Archway Editions. She lives in Brooklyn.
Mina Hamedi moved to Manhattan from Istanbul in 2010. Her work attempts to unearth the things that bind dreamspace and reality and to understand what defines an individual’s relationship to family. She is a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates and co-founder of NAUSIKÂE NYC.