April 28, 2010
posted by caroline picard
what follows is an excerpt from Woof.
Tattooed Mom’s I.
At first it’s disorienting inside, Tobias holds onto Anna’s hand, “Hold on to me,” she said because the door was packed with people and it was difficult to squeeze through, especially with his bags, the duffel which kept getting stuck behind him. It reminded him of the movie with the migrating geese, one goose got stuck to a long string with a weight attached and the goose kept getting stuck places, he wondered the whole time how come the camera people don’t cut the damn string off the goose’s foot it’s not like it’s natural either way. For the first time it occurs to him to leave the bags behind but then then then he thinks about how that’s all he’s got and he’s come this far and so on and so forth if the strap breaks then he really will leave it but it doesn’t and they manage somehow to cut through the crowd, many apologies later. They manage. And it smells like refried beans and it smells like something sticky, it smells like salt and sour mix and stale hops and underneath those smells it smells like moldy summer carpet and over those smells it smells like cigarettes.
Tobias feels drunk as all hell but Anna leads him deeper back into the train car restaurant. They pause at the farthest portion of the bar, surfacing amongst Gitonga, the messy Sheryl girl he lives with, Cash, Gemma—her hat even more askew. Gitonga: talking about being an artist in America who actually came from Jamaica he doesn’t understand that politics, he says, even though people include him in them. He is not African American, he says. He doesn’t like to be called an African American painter. He’s a Jamaican painter if anything, but really he doesn’t want any of his paintings to be described in any particular way. Good art stands for itself universally. He shakes his hands often. He sweats and his teeth are very white. They’re all Tobias can look at.
“I’m the same way,” says Sheryl, “I hate it when people talk about why my work is about being a woman. It’s not about being a woman, it’s about making work…Still, you don’t mind showing during African American month. Gitonga always gets shows during African American month.”
Cash has his shirt unbuttoned. Tobias keeps glancing at the text, cursive, tattooed there but can’t see it all. Lets it go.
“Where are the others?” he asks. Changes his mind and reaches for Cash’s chest, pulls the shirt back like a curtain, Christina it says. “Who’s Christina?”
“It’s a joke. Don’t worry about it.” Anna pulls him away from those others and farther back and farther back to the table of faces Tobias remembers from before the Dead Prostitute’s house.
“He has Johnny Cash on his back, also,” Anna says. “A giant Johnny Cash. Like one of those Hispanic Virgin Mary Saints but Johnny Cash is modeled with shadows and cast shadows and highlights.”