Gemma Cooper-Novack


In the conversation that made us friends we were painting rouge onto green cheeks
of a four-foot-high head and fashioning dragon scales
from soda cans. You were leaving your tailored phase and your pants
were those wide-legged flowing ones, black fabric waterfalling off
the edge of the seat.  Back then everything I wore was either
fuzzy or shiny, but it was a build so probably I
was wearing shop clothes, shredded jeans and I was skinny then so the octopus
t-shirt would have legged itself around my ribs. Fifteen
years later on the last day of your abusive job we spent two hours selecting
the leather kneelength skirt, the cummerbund, the mint-green
presidential blazer. I took photographs of you to send
to your partner. For every opening night until I gained
too much weight I wore that black and lavender corset, sometimes even
that black skirt bordered with tulle cloud, and at the gallery
reception I said I wanted to outhipster the hipsters
using only my hips. The night we went clubbing like grown women and I picked up
the British blues musician on the three a.m. train I don't remember what we wore
except I had that hot pink miniskirt and pedestrians thought us hookers
while we waited for the bus. The first time I wore the orange
Dior blazer my housemate took a picture for you, my hair
spinning off wildly; when it was long you
buzzed it off, leaving a strip of curls dangling down the middle of my scalp, strongly
suggesting I keep it. Years before at the library I found you with a bandanna
over your head and tight against your ears; it’s shaved under here you said and
didn’t show me. In your apartment that was a ballroom we wore gowns
for the apocalypse, ribboned dance cards to our wrists. You had layers
of lace overlay fanning across your shoulders and I'd ripped the zipper from the back
of the black velvet gown and replaced it with red satin ribbon
laced down to the base of my spine. I wore cutoffs to the seed-bombing party;
you had a purple manicure with glitter to remind myself you said
that I am living in contradiction. You bought a cardigan with elbow
patches to dispatch you back into academic work and now I buy almost
all my cashmere sweaters from the men's section at the thrift store, though
I still wish I could find necklines that dive down to the tops
of my breasts. For me an outfit doesn't work unless
it gets my breasts; for you it's the line from waist to shoulder, its shifts
and angles. I gave you a bracelet made out
of a butter knife. You are fibrous, embroidered,
knitted. I am silk and linen. Textures shift into years between our fingers.

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