“Elizabeth Bishop is like a much prized, plain-spoken, pleasantly idiosyncratic maiden aunt.” —Charles P. Elliot, Life, 4 July 1969
A man pees directly to my right, the murky puddle adding texture to the landscape that so far is free from liquid or any non-solid. He stuffs his dick into his jeans. Maybe this is a sign of respect. I must look French enough to not warrant any embarrassment on his part. Would it be rude to completely ignore him after he was kind enough to shake the piss off like the jingle of a tambourine in front of me? Thank you, I could say, I just arrived in, and it’s difficult to find people you feel comfortable around and vice versa. He runs towards a group of bushes, presumably to jump in or over, so I decide to leave him alone and head to the apartment I’m renting.
Inspired by the casualness of the piss man, I walk in the pouring rain until I’m completely soaked. The manager of my apartment is pleased, I can tell because he asks if I’m single. So you’re a writer, he says. You know who I like? Anna Phillippe. And I’ll bring a new tea pot for you tomorrow. Last guy told me it was broke. Recycle the old one. She’s on Youtube, her first book—amazing. She’s kind of crazy. Comes from a Belgian family, a wealthy family. See I just need a screwdriver to fix this fan, it will only be a minute. She’s not very attractive. She dresses like a witch, all black. She’s quite ugly. She wears the hat, he says and gestures to make the shape of a triangle on top of his head. He then says two words I don’t understand with the inflection one would say kiss, kiss so I laugh a little and smile. He’s leaving, but his head is still partway in the apartment. CLOSE, CLOSE he says louder, pointing to the locks on the door.
I sit crossing Evelyn Waugh off my list of women writers on Modern Library’s One Hundred Best. How was I to know. Twelve becomes nine. Nine books that is—Edith Wharton has two and Evelyn Waugh had three in my delusion. Eight writers. Eight percent.
I have a meeting with a man who, after I sit down at one end of a table, sits at the opposite end of the opposite table. We are now facing each other about fifteen feet away. Maybe twenty. He tells me I have small town diction, after reading a few poems of mine silently. Focus on other-ing, move from the singularity of your grief. I look out at the view of Paris from the large windows behind him. I eye Notre Dame. He sits away from them, away from me, alone on his own isle. We ready ourselves for destruction by man, the buildings and I. What kind of cigarettes do you smoke, he asks. I hold up my pack as a response. Come find me later, I’ll need one, he tells me in the nicest tone he’s used. A tone I invite, as I open up my windows in the early afternoons to hear the man above me plugging in his guitar, the laughing chatter of the women across the way, the tinny overtures of cooking.
CUNT she’s a CUNT the man screams at the passersby. I wouldn’t give him a cigarette. I should clarify: I also wouldn’t allow him to smoke the remains of the one I was smoking. He’sthorough; not just informing me of my cunty-ness, also informing those around, as well.
And it’s true. The criticism of pedestrian, the patronization of pain.
The criticism, patronization of cunt. The cunt of cunt.
For who among us hasn’t stolen away to a quiet garage
caressed the handle of a shovel with
ambitions of the earth’s core
or those buried within.
I’m a cunt. I’m the cunt of cunt.
Melissa L. Amstutz is a writer, musician, and bookseller. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Ohio Edit, Smartish Pace, fog machine, and The Collapsar; her music videos have appeared on Interview, Nylon, and Bust. She received her MFA from NYU and resides in Portland, OR with her wife and animals. Her online home is melissalamstutz.com.