Vol. 2, Issue #3 March 2nd - March 15th, 2007

I, Object -conclusion(3 of 3)
By: Gregory Stapp
Illustrated By: K. C. Green

People were to come in and piss in the face of a white man – that was the art. Interactive modern art, more about the idea and people’s involvement with that idea rather than a picture on a wall. It was really that simple despite the amount of elaborate work that went into it. People from all over the world who had political or personal issues with a white man could come piss in the face of one. It was retribution and restitution for a long-standing history of white men dominating the world. I never agreed with her politics on this, but I was just the face – hired to sit still and let people piss all over it and not say a word to them. I didn’t think that many people would be interested in doing this, but I was wrong. The first three days, I might have had a break here and there as interest was still being generated by word of mouth. Once the word spread, it was a steady run of people from eight in the morning till eight at night. Every day. One after another. Pissing and flushing. Pissing and flushing. I was surprised, not just by the number of people interested in doing it, but also by the number of people able to do it. I know I’m one of those people who never would have been able to do it, because any time I’m in a public restroom, I dry up as soon as I know someone else is in the room. I don’t know, I guess it takes all kinds, right? The numbers were of some interest on their own, but I was more surprised to find out how many freaks and pervs there are in the world. And I don’t mean to say that everyone who came out to Twiggy’s art showing was a freak or a perv by default. There were plenty of those who just came in and did their business and left, just like they were on a break from work. Hell – some of them probably were on a break from work. But the freaks and the pervs that came in, seems like every third one or so, wanted me to do all kinds of things for them and to them. There was even one guy who wanted to fuck my face while it was in the toilet. Seriously, he tried just about every angle he could manage but he came up short.

Anyway, they came in droves and I suffered them all. Day in and day out, suffered not only their bodily fluids but their infuriating personalities as well. None of them were the kind of person I was likely to suffer in regular life, but, of course, I had to as long as I was in the toilet. Every day they came and every day I suffered them, just as I promised I would. And every night Twiggy would come and help pull me from the bowels of her art and take me back to my room.

I had nightmares in the beginning. Strange fluid dreams of color flying about, incessant itches of ants crawling all over me, and sudden waking like finally surfacing from the bottom of a cursed lake. I was left to my own doings when I was out of the can, nobody came near me. Whether in the can or out of it, I was left to figure out on my own the issues that came up from being in there, mainly staying clean and keeping my mind occupied. Since she wouldn’t get me a TV, radio, or any other form of entertainment, I came up with ways to annoy Twiggy during the few moments I shared with her every day. Just little things to see if I could get her ire up. One of the best ways I found was to refer to her art project as “the can”. It made her neck all splotchy and red every time she heard me use that term, but it was one of the ways I could keep my mind occupied and deal with the situation.

I suppose I could go into all the gory details of those nine months in the can, but the truth is I’ve blocked most of it out. And I’d do whatever it takes not to bring any of those memories back. I just wanted to get through it, take my money and move to somewhere remote like Wyoming or something. I doubted if I would ever be recognized on the outside, but I was sure I’d recognize every single person who’d come in to that stall and I would not want to face them. I’d seen just about every kind of person come through. It was a fresh and random sample of the world population – so basically the entire world had pissed in my face. I even had a few different religious leaders come my way. And so many people said roughly the same thing to me, and so many said something unique, but I can’t remember much of it clearly.

What I remember are the ones who really got a sense of vengeance from pissing in my face, which was fewer than you’d think. Most people, it seemed to me, were just joining in the fun of something new and exciting to do and missing the point entirely, but there were some who understood and used it like a tool to relieve themselves. This one preacher in particular sticks out in my mind. A Free Will Baptist preacher, he said, who looked like he was about ninety years old. He came into the stall swaggering and his shoulders hunched, his face pressed and grim. The look on his face reminded me of my father when he was getting ready to break a horse – something that had to be done, but that he hated doing. The preacher swaggered over to the edge of the toilet, unzipped his fly, and pulled out his pecker, gripping it in his hand like he was trying to choke off a hose or something.

He looked down at me and said, “Son, it feels like I’ve been waiting forty years to take a piss, even though it’s only been about two days. But I’ve been waiting nearly forty years for this day to come.” His voice was deep and gravely, and he had to keep clearing his throat. He wanted to make sure I understood him. “I’m from Mississippi. I was at church one morning, when I was a boy, when a couple of fellas from the Klan decided they’d toss a couple of hand grenades into the congregation. We were right in the middle of ‘I Walk in the Garden’. It was considered fortunate that only two people died.” His grip on himself tightened and I flinched. “It didn’t really make the news since the death toll wasn’t that high, we were a small church, it was a small town. It’s just that my parents were the two that died. Of course, those Klan fellas were never discovered. They went free to do what they wanted and I devoted my life, right there with my mother’s bleeding arm laying over me, devoted my life to God and searching for answers. But I always got answers I didn’t expect.” He looked up briefly, as if calling to God right at that moment. “And now he has answered me again in the most unexpected way. You see, this is an opportunity for me to release all of my bitterness on you, and your kind.” And with that, he released himself of his death grip and his stream of piss struck me with the force and bluntness of a hose. It felt like a vengeance powering it, if that’s possible. It lasted longer and came with more force than any I can recall before it or after it.

Man, I thought he was never going to stop. I was about to gag, because I had to hold my breath while they were going, and it was really about to make me sick, until he finally stopped and I drew a quiet gasp. He just stood there, staring at me over the end of his pecker for the longest time, until he said, “You fucking redneck,” and he spat in my face. He turned away then, and left the stall saying, “God Bless You, my son,” so that everyone outside could hear him.

I had a little button down by my left hand so that I could power flush after a person had gone, especially when they had elected not to flush at all. I was still flushing when the next person came in a few minutes later, but I couldn’t get the red out of my face.

There were many such days when I felt the shame of my ancestors and other days when I remembered that all of our ancestors, at some point, had behaved shamefully, and I was proud to think that they had not passed on their shameful ways to us. But, it didn’t matter how I felt. I was strictly forbidden to speak, especially in response to or defense of what was said to me.

Some woman came in once, I swear to God wearing nothing more than a very skimpy pink bikini. Man, she was gorgeous. I mean like supermodel gorgeous – messy blond hair, a glowing tan and a face that would make any man long to look for her when she was gone. The first thing she did was to look over the rim of the can and smile at me just like we were sitting at a bar and she was interested in chatting with me or something. I smiled back in a small, meek way, but held back because I knew there was something in the contract about eye contact not being allowed either. Next thing you know, she’s pulling off what little clothing she came in with and standing over the toilet fondling herself. She got pretty worked up, and it was certainly interesting to watch from my angle. She stopped right before climax, then looked down the length of her body at me and said, “Did you enjoy that?” I couldn’t answer, but my face turned red again, an involuntary response. She turned and sat on the rim, pressing herself as far as she could into the bowl of it and stopped about an inch from my face, as she reached down to start rubbing herself again. She started to moan and gasp, and said something like, “Oh, honey. Lick it. Lick it for me.” I wouldn’t have even if I wasn’t bound by contract not to. I wasn’t going near that. I just squeezed my eyes closed and pursed my lips and hoped she’d go away. She came. She stood up and cursed me. The whole thing seemed so pointless. So many people had come through, all of them with a score to settle with a white man. I guess I couldn’t blame them.

I thought I had at least figured Twiggy out, but it seems like I was pretty wrong about her. I mean, the fact that she had set the whole thing up in the first place, led me to believe she hated me, or at least hated what I represented, the same way the people she drew to me did. But one night, about seven months into the thing and everyone could see that I was getting pretty worn down by it all, she followed me to my room after helping me out of the can and didn’t turn around to leave.

I was getting ready to shut the door when she put her hand up and stopped me. “Wait,” she said, not looking at me. She stepped in and closed the door behind her. Looking around the room while I stood there looking at her and wondering what was up, she was nervous and kept biting her nails. Finally, she stopped and locked eyes with me. “I can’t stand seeing you treated this way anymore. People can be so cruel.” She stepped closer to me and took my hand. “Even though I understand why they’re here, it still pains me every time another person goes in the stall.”

Unsure of how to answer, I stared back at her and watched the dim lights from my kitchenette reflecting in her eyes.

“I can’t do much for you,” she said, walking past me now, pulling me behind her. “But I’d like to care for you, make you feel better.” She took me up to the bathroom. I kind of let her do whatever she wanted. I was too drained and weary to argue about anything with her. Unzipping my wetsuit, she peeled it from my shoulders and pulled it down to my ankles, tapping each leg as she was ready for me to pull my foot out. She left me standing there while she ran a hot bath and then guided me into the tub. The scalding water stung my skin as she pressed me to lie down and submerge myself. I relaxed, laying back and letting the heat absorb me, and I imagined that with each string of steam that rose from the water, another strand of my singular depression went with it. For a moment, I lost myself in that thin fog that lifted my troubles from me, and I felt invisible for the first time since I’d arrived there. I felt like I could be myself again – a ghost in a fog feels right at home, I guess. And I think, by that point, I was ready to be a ghost and just coast away never to be seen or heard again.

Twiggy knelt beside the tub as I came up and gasped for air. She unwrapped a new bar of soap and bathed me from head to foot, slowly and gently, taking extra time on my face, trying to wash away not only the piss, but the smell and the indignity too. She washed me twice and rinsed me with fresh warm water. She helped me out, toweled me off and led me back to my room. I felt like a child, but I let go my hesitations. It felt good to be taken care of. She tucked me into bed and put out the light without a word. I thought she was going to leave then, but she started taking off her clothes, from the sound of it. Then she pressed herself into my bed, lying right up against me with one leg over mine and her arm across my chest and as naked as I was. We lay there inside each other’s warmth, listening to each other’s breaths.

She spoke up about an hour later, saying she had some things to attend to. “I hope you feel better,” she said, kissing me on the cheek and pulling away from me. I lay there the rest of the night wanting more of the heat that she’d left behind in the covers.

From that night on this was our routine, our ritual. I would take her hand crawling out of the can, covered in piss and miserable, and she would follow me to my room. Every night she would cleanse me and renew me then comfort me with her warmth. And she would leave me to the cold night.

After several weeks of this, I got up one night, right after she left, intent on following her to her room. I waited to let her get a few yards ahead, then went out after her. In the darkened stillness of the gallery, everyone else was already asleep. Only Twiggy and I were awake. About half way there, I realized that I had become so comfortable in my skin that I’d forgotten to get dressed before heading out.

I looked out across the darkened gallery, imagining, but unable to see, all of Twiggy’s artwork hanging out there in the dark. I got to her room pretty quickly, and knocked on her door, even though traditional manners never seemed to apply here. She didn’t come to the door, and I wondered what she’d had to do. Maybe she had to go out for something.

I heard an unusual noise from across the gallery. I looked out across the floor and spotted a flashlight swinging in the darkness, nearly on the opposite side of the floor. I figured it must be Twiggy. I went over to her, following the swaying light, to see what she was doing, to pursue her, and I found her embracing a sculpture of a woman breastfeeding her baby. She was lying across the back of the woman, still naked, still providing that warmth. She cupped the woman’s exposed breast in her hand and laid her head on her back. She didn’t hear me walk up, so I simply stood about ten feet away and watched her. For a moment, Twiggy became a part of the sculpture and I couldn’t tell the difference between flesh and stone, until she finally pulled away.

She noticed me finally, and seemed a little embarrassed, though she moved on to her next work without saying a word. A giant flower made of a Paper-Mache of some of the most terrible headlines in world history – she eased her body into the flower and lay in its interior. She rested there, curled up like a fetus among the pistils, until she was ready to move on to the next one. Eventually she interacted with every piece in her gallery, and I assumed she had done so with the rest while I was still in my room. And each time, as I followed her around watching, there would be a moment where I could not tell the difference between her and the artwork. She transformed into her artwork, a moth the loved art instead of light. I began to really understand what all this meant to her, and, for the first time, I wished I could stay around and just be another work of art in her gallery. I wished it wasn’t closing in two weeks, and I wished I could have that night with her every night.

The crowds began to pick up by huge numbers over the next two weeks, and I was about at my limit as to how much more I could take when the two weeks began. But every time I thought about quitting, Twiggy’s face and body and warmth haunted me and gave me the reassurance I needed to keep going. And every night she came to my room and made sure I wouldn’t forget that during the day.

When the two weeks were over, I laid in there just trying to count off the seconds to eight o’clock, and listened to the disgruntled voices of the crowd being told they weren’t going to get to see the work live, and was so damned glad when I heard eight o’clock chime.

As I was prepping to crawl out of the can, Twiggy came in to the stall. I was startled because she was avoiding eye contact with me. I wondered why she wasn’t by the trap door in the back, getting ready to help me out of this thing for the last time. She was wearing a mini-skirt, and she soon showed me why she wasn’t waiting for me. She hoisted her skirt, slipped down her panties and sat on the toilet seat.

I wasn’t sure if she even realized I was still in there. I was about to call out to her, but then I knew she knew I was there because she hesitated for a second after the first few drops fell, and then she let it go with as much force and aggression as the most vengeful of those that came through there. I cringed and held my breath and shook with rage. The water around my face trembled as I shook. I couldn’t believe she was doing this to me too, that she felt so much contempt for me too. She knew the truth, the behind the scenes truth, that I wasn’t even close to what I was supposed to be representing. But she pissed on me anyway.

When she was done, I spit at her and cussed at her and flushed as much as I could. She simply walked out of the stall like I wasn’t there. She just walked out.

Ariel came in a few minutes later and, also without speaking to me or making eye contact with me, took several pictures of me in the can. Then she went around the outside and helped me crawl out through the trap door. As I stood up on the platform she signaled me to be quiet. “Twiggy wants you to pack all of your things, but insists that you not take a bath.” We both kind of looked over my body, covered in piss and Ariel realized my dilemma. “You want me to help you?”

I nodded and we walked back to my room and packed my things. She clapped her hands together when we were done and started for the door. Ariel had managed through the entire ordeal, to make me feel more at home than anyone else, even though we had not been allowed to speak to one another, or to interact in any way. She turned and blew me a kiss as she went to the door. “It’s been nice working with you,” she said, though I couldn’t imagine in what ways she thought it was nice. I smiled a masked grin and wave her off.

Sitting on the edge of the bed dazed and dozing, I waited until Twiggy knocked on my door. I told her to come in and she did. She crossed the room and stood before me, but I couldn’t look at her.

“This was never this awkward until now,” she said.

I didn’t respond to her, and that unsettled her. She folded her arms across her chest and sighed, and still I couldn’t look up at her. I just stared at the wall behind her. She stamped her foot and unzipped her dress, letting it fall to the floor. She unhooked her bra and let it fall. She stepped out of her panties. I stared now at the pile of clothes on the floor instead of the wall.

She stood there again, arms folded, and I could tell she was shivering but I wouldn’t look at her. I couldn’t. She reached out for my hand, and when I didn’t respond, she grabbed it and pulled me up. I stood reluctantly before her, broken by her, stooped and incapable of facing her.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I had to know what that had felt like for everybody.”

“Of course,” I spit suddenly. “And now you know. Now you’re happy. You’ve had your vengeance.”

She shifted her weight from one foot to the other and then back. “Don’t be bitter. It doesn’t suit you.”

“Very few things do any more.”

“Stop it. Why won’t you look at me?”

I looked at her then with all the fierceness of a man who’s been choking back tears his entire life and is doing it again, but having a harder time of it. A broken man has a hard time holding anything back. “What happened to your stupid fucking rules?” I asked, looking away again. “All that bullshit about the art not getting hurt?”

“I know. I know. I shouldn’t have done it. But can’t I make reparations now?”

“I thought that was what the half-million bucks was for.”

“That was fair compensation. But I wasn’t prepared for the damage this was going to do, for the damage I was doing. So, to me that means that I need to make reparations to you for what I’ve done to you.”

Keeping my gaze downcast, I focused on the toe ring on her left foot. I could think of nothing else to say.

She pulled me closer and wrapped her arms around me – a hug I couldn’t respond to because it would only hurt me more. She pulled away from me, trying to get me to look at her, but I couldn’t. She moved toward the door, throwing her hands down in frustration. Stopping at the door, she looked back at me. “I suppose you understand now,” she said. And then she left.

On the plane somewhere over North Dakota, I did my best to clear my mind and just stare at the clouds. I pictured my boxes of things moving on a truck below me toward the same destination, my new house in Montana.

In my new house, I often found myself staring off out a window, across the fields. I found myself thinking about family and friends that I would never see again, because I couldn’t bear to face them. Not having to work any more, I found things to do around the house. I fixed the little things that broke and made some of the older things newer and better. I found that no matter what I did, I couldn’t quite shake the memory of what I’d done, or what was done to me. I found myself taking on bigger projects, and fixing things that really didn’t need it. Anything to keep my hands busy, to keep working. I was born to work. To do something. To be somebody.

I, Object (part 1 of 3)
I, Object (part 2 of 3)

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