Winners

I believe you, I totally believe you

Lee Lozano. 1970, Ballpoint on paper. 9 × 11”. Photo by Barbora Gerny. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth. © The Estate of Lee Lozano.

go to a dinner for an Upper East Side gallery. “I’m not clever, I’m creative,” says a woman in a red felt pantsuit. She squints, and I wonder if she’s squinting at me like, This woman is in polyester mix. She has orange lipstick all over her teeth and a very rich and famous father, which I like, because it’s very artistic.

“Don’t get me wrong, I like to fuck,” she says, when I ask her about her love life. “I believe you,” I say. “I totally believe you.” I keep repeating it in my head, even after we stop talking, sending positive, cross-generational vibes to her. I believe you. I believe you. I imagine her aura swallowing my good wishes like a water-soluble vitamin that converts food into energy. Like biotin for the soul. I imagine her aura growing healthy little nails, like a 12-week-old fetus. Like all uninsured people in the gig economy, I have a really good imagination.

In line for champagne, an artist tells me to shut up about astrology, her patron is coming over. She thanks the patron for her patronage. “It was life-changing,” the artist says. Red blotches begin creeping higher and higher up her neck. “It was absolutely a talent-based decision,” says the patron, patting the artist on the shoulder. Everyone was being honest, I wasn’t judging them at all.

I ask what sort of feathers are in the patron’s headband. “That’s such a good question,” she says. “I hear you’re talented for a 26-year-old.” I ask from whom she’s heard but everyone looks up, like they’re looking for the bird that just shit on them.

“This word gossip comes up a lot lately,” says the patron, after a long pause. “Gossip,” the artist says, nodding, “I’ve heard that word.” A blotch crests her chin. It’s all very brave. That’s what my friend Sam says whenever anything happens at a party. “Well, everyone is acting very brave tonight.”

I started saying “This is all very American” whenever I went to a house party, but people kept disagreeing with me, so I had to stop.


know a waitress who, pregnant at 26, got to marry into the Calder family. For her 27th birthday, her husband hired an entertainer for each floor of their four-story brownstone, which was being renovated to accommodate the baby. A young Asian woman sewed herself into the hallway, like a spider. It took a long time. She kept having to untangle her hair.

They rented a shaman for the living room. It was very smoky, because everyone was smoking cigarettes and the shaman was burning a bunch of stuff. Paper, branches, sage. There was construction tape everywhere. A woman post-holed through the floorboards in stilettos and had to be carried out. She kept throwing her head back dramatically and tucking it back in when she came to a new doorway. She really rose to the occasion.

The shaman was conducting a ceremony by waving his hands back and forth, pressuring random guests to hold hands. By the time I figured out what it was for, I’d married a banker-turned-art-dealer by jumping over a dirty stick with yellow ribbons on it. A week later he tried to have sex with me in his bathtub. It was very hard to get out of the bathtub, it was so big, and the jets were running. I flipped over the side like a seal, spilling water all over the floor and bruising my knees.

“That was weird,” he said, and stayed in the tub.

I stole all the European cigarettes from his fridge and ran for blocks in heels through SoHo at 7 AM. I sat on the stoop of SoulCycle with the girls who had paid $34 an hour to work out. It was so bright, my heels didn’t even hurt, I was saving so much money.

The guy from the Calder family who married a pregnant 26-year-old waitress has a son from his first marriage who records odd sounds all over New York, just like the narrator’s husband in Dept. of Speculation. He went on a date with a friend of mine, and as they walked around Chinatown he pointed out the sounds he could record. Like: “I could record the men hanging up those pigs.” He’d just graduated from Bard.

My friend asked if I could introduce her to the boy’s father instead. His name is Sandy. We imagined all the texts she could send him:

“Beaches are sexy.”

“I want you to put sand in my hair.”

That’s all we came up with besides “I love your family’s real estate” before we stopped being friends.

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