Picasso was an artist and not one I like very much. I appreciate his art. I hate Demoiselles D’Avignon, but I understand its importance to art history or whatever. There’s a few pieces I like. One titled Little Girl. It’s a tiny piece of paper, beautifully torn into the simple outline of a little girl in a dress. The story goes he made it in a café one night, while talking with a friend. One of those late-night cafés the modern artists would hang around in France. Probably while it was raining outside and the windows were fogging up; they would sit by the fireplace and drink coffee even though they knew it was too late for another cup and they would never get to sleep now; they would read the newspaper left by someone that morning.
That morning: a lifetime away.
They say Picasso was a beautiful artist and a terrible father.
My own father: everything he touches crumbles to dust. He must like dust because he keeps touching everything.
Likes to blame me when it crumbles.
I’m seventeen, driving with my father. The car ahead of us has a bumper sticker that reads “a woman’s place is on a horse.” I’m just learning about this feminism thing. I feel absolutely suffocated by everything in my life. I am Picasso’s son after all. I’m a closeted transman.
“A woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be,” I say into the nighttime noise of the car.
My father explodes. He’s tired of being told how to talk. He’s tired of the girls in the feminist literature class he took in college going on about how awful men are. He doesn’t need to listen to this shit.
When we get back to my grandmother’s house, he gets her to back him up. Women have made so much progress. How dare I feel trapped in life? How dare I try to claw my way to freedom?
I’m twenty years old and sitting in an art school classroom, full of white walls and big windows. The professor, a woman I wouldn’t mind having as my mother, tells us about colors. She’s a painter and she wants us to know how they work on a canvas and how they work illuminated on a computer screen.
“Magenta is a brain color,” she says. “Between blue and red. The longest wavelengths and the shortest wavelengths. When you mix the two together, your brain has to make up something to fill in the gap.”
I think I know what she means as I straddle a boy in a dark photography studio and wish he were a different boy. He’s lying down on a bed we created and I’m playing a monster in his own head.
I want to tell the girl taking our pictures to never stop because I think he has a boyfriend, but dammit I can smell him and this is as close as I’ll get to the boy I’m wishing he was.
I’m trapped here. It’s snowing outside. A bona fide blizzard. What passes for a blizzard in this shit coastal city. My friends from California are mesmerized and the ones from the interior laugh. Even the ones from California have seen snow up at Tahoe and make fun of this city for grinding to a halt when confronted with a problem it’s not equipped to deal with. The city just doesn’t have enough salt or enough snow plows. The people here never see snow like this. They never learned how to drive in it.
I straddle the boy on the bed we made up. I don’t even let myself put my weight on him. I don’t let myself think of other boys while I’m sitting on top of him.
I’m always thinking of the one other boy. Underneath me. My hands in his hair. Sinking my teeth into his neck. Listening to his breath get all high and shallow and turn into gasps.
I think of the words from one of the songs I’ve been listening to over and over, as I figure out what the hell I am. How we wouldn’t need to even fall in love; I just want his skin in my mouth.
I feel trapped in the vastness of some uncaring cosmos. I want to scream at the gods. I want to burn Bibles.
I am magenta. Too much and too little and a made up in-between.
My made up in-between feels safe. There’s nothing at all here, the space I’ve carved out for myself at school until I can figure things out. I keep telling myself I’ll figure things out. I’ll wait to cry until I get home. I’m driving up to my mom’s house and I scream so loud and harsh it feels like I’ve torn my throat. It’s been a long time since I’ve screamed like that.
As a child, I screamed that way. I screamed and screamed at my parents and they didn’t know what to do with me and they would scream back. Everything would make me angry. Nothing would make me angry. I can’t remember it very well. I didn’t like to for the longest time and now that I’m trying I just can’t understand. I remember it blurry, like most of my memories from before two or three years ago.
Maybe it was my father. I don’t want to blame my mother. Though I know she didn’t know what to do either.
My mother likes to find solutions.
My father likes to plant gardens and let them go to hell when he loses interest. He likes to talk about buying new chickens for years and years and never go out and buy them.
I’d like to think I’d be a gentle lover. I’d be a good boyfriend. But I don’t think I really would. I’ve been told I make people around me feel bad. I don’t understand how. I know I feel bad always. So much red and blue—too many long waves and too many short ones.
“Do I make everyone feel bad?”
That’s the last thing I want to do.
I want to straddle a boy in a blizzard and trace the lines of his face like I’m painting him. I want to sit with him in a café late at night and watch the rain pour down. I want him to love me like I’m a man too, like we’re too much red all pouring out together, too long and warm and burning and without any blue left in us.
I want to scream too. I want to scream until my throat is so sore it’s bleeding and gushing red and I want to understand why. I don’t want anything else blurry: I want the most painful, vibrant clarity you can imagine.
That’s a lie. Sometimes even a nod is a lie.
I want to tear the little sides off the little girl so he can be free and forget what his father made him.
I never want the things I touch to turn to dust.
I want them to fucking burn.
I nod and I’m not any closer to the rain or the snow, to one side or the other.