PARTS OF A CONFESSION
After Carmen Giménez Smith
1. All your heroes were men.
2. You believed being a feminist meant the freedom to be a woman who was also a man.
3. See: The weeks you showed up to the dinner table with your hair twisted up and tucked beneath a pinstripe fedora purchased at the thrift store, a pencil-thin moustache eyelined above your lip. You told your parents to call you Esteban. They laughed as though you weren’t serious.
4. You did not differentiate ontology from desire. Wanting became being. Being because you wanted. Wanting because you were.
5. Only an apple a day keeps the hips away.
6. All your style icons were men, too. Before Rivers, it was Marcello making dork glasses cool. It’s called sprezzatura. You did not need glasses yet, but some day.
7. In public you wore dresses. As disguise, as armor. Little girls stopped to ask if you were a model. Who else would be wearing red lipstick and heels at Walmart in rural Western PA? You didn’t feel pretty at the compliment, just successful. You passed.
8. Years later, talking about your band, you mentioned that there were three other guys in it with you. Your friend gently reminded you that you were not a guy.
9. Around that same time, on tour in D.C., the soundman asked if you were with the band. It’s my band, you said. He said, Smart. Bands always make more money with a girl in them. That night, your band made $7.
10. It wasn’t until you were in your 30s that you realized you had your own internalized misogyny. You were a feminist misogynist. You expected women to be nice and felt betrayed when they weren’t. You expected men to be dicks and felt devotion when they weren’t. Or sometimes even when they were. You felt no shame in saying you were a misandrist. You had always been self-loathing.
11. At a girls’ night one night you asked your friends if they considered themselves girls, or women. You felt ‘woman’ was a title that had to be earned, and you hadn’t earned it. But you didn’t feel like a girl, either. You always checked that box, but you felt your pronoun should be it or you.
12. And yet, if pressed to confess, there are nine girls inside you. None of them are you but are the you you wish you could be.
13. There’s Magda, who tangos with strange men and breakfasts on champagne. She tried out for Rock of Love but didn’t make the cut; the producers said she was too classy.
14. Delia never left New York. For a summer she squatted with a few of the members of Jonathan Fire*Eater and then started her own post-punk band. Instead of singing she gargles fistfuls of gravel and garbage from Avenue C. Karen O cites her as an early influence.
15. Woodward, your darling, ran off to the high desert plains. She waitresses at a roadside greasy spoon and catalogues thunderstorms. Her mason jars are vintage, purchased from flea markets.
16. Brielle loves love and reads literary fiction only for the romantic subplots. Cupcake froster extraordinaire.
17. Misera dances in the cage at The Castle. She wears her scars like bracelets and knows how far she can spit blood. Kathy Acker cited her as an early influence.
18. Belulah believes her father didn’t believe enough. After leaving Virginia she headed west to Kentucky, where she was born-again. She’s handled snakes 47 times now and hasn’t been bitten once. Craves the taste of strychnine.
19. Simone headed even farther west. Marfa, Joshua Tree, Big Sur. She wears palm-leaf and cornflower print caftans, drinks wines from several of her lovers’ vineyards, affects a continental accent, quotes Ram Dass. Only when she knows who she is will she know what is possible.
20. Guenievre, Queen of Wands, crown of twigs and cackling heart, lounges in fields of sunflowers.
21. Frankie tries the hardest of them all to be something else. She’s the one who buys land in New Galilee, buys the coveted ’67 Lunar Green Ford F100 only faintly leprotic with rust, and hangs out at the Front Door Tavern on the weekends. She’ll never know love but can hit trip-19s like a sniper.
22. You have no men inside you. Your mother’s relief, your saddest failure.
I carry around these small glass columns
containing water I’ve collected from you: sweat,
spit, tears, droplets squeegeed from your limbs
post-shower. How else can I archive what once was
and will never be again?
I wish I could show you the golden hour sun
lasering through the bougainvillea bush three
streets over or make you feel the way night ignites
the primeval in me. I never believe in anything
as strongly as I do after the world goes dark.
You once asked me what I think of
when I touch myself. I said, Nothing. A lie. I think
of trees and farmhouses, fields of fallow
land. You wanted names, scenarios, a cacophony
of touches. I want stillness, space, potential.
Shae Krispinsky lives in Tampa, FL, where she fronts the band, Navin Avenue, whose sound she describes as Southern Gothic 70s-arena indie rock with a pop Americana twist. Her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in Connotation Press, Thought Catalog, The Dillydoun Review, Vending Machine Press, Sybil Journal and more. She is currently working on her band’s second album and a novel.