Jessica Baran

1. Here are a few things you might not notice: a thin wire bent and pressed to the wall, resembling a pencil mark. A wine stain. A house key. You were sick, and a fever raged and broke twice in the night. In the morning: coffee again, mixed with cream and sugar. No more hotels, no more sensate planets. The still-life, instead, depicted lunch. And you held your chin in your hand like that, glancing out the window, pretending not to hear when your name was called.


2. The picture just wants to be kissed; it’s not interested in your feelings. See it bulging from the TV set—balloon-like, glossy lipped. The kind of adult who, after work, mixes a cocktail, retires to the darkroom. He takes artful pictures of what he sees in his life, what he’d like to kiss, maybe. A large black cat, the new gift shop employee. Remember the picture in the museum, the one considered by the protagonist of the last novel you read. It was hanging in the Prado in Madrid. You’ve been to Madrid but you don’t remember visiting the Prado. You did, though, visit your museum in town. There, an exhibit of pictures making real life look like a series of theater sets. You’d taken a picture that looked like one of the pictures in the show, but less massive, less dramatic. It was a picture of your real life, which has nothing to do with museums. Where you’re from looks like a place to be driven through irritably; this is how you see it. Light on gravel, light on a window sill. Light lends an abstract quality, and abstraction feels pacific. Downstairs, in the living room, you hear the channels change, and the wind roars like a zoo panther.


3. A woman died in a bed next to yours. Starved herself in the night. The next morning, slowly trudging limp circles around a gymnasium, we tried our best not to over-exert ourselves. You watched as they penciled in a regimen. Not for her but for you. Comedy hour – a pile of noontime sitcoms on VHS. Everyone gets together to watch. Approved normalcy, like the smell of medicinal swabs, wiped-down stainless steel. Pet the therapy dog, hand-make moccasins. There are right and wrong kinds of abrasion. You take a moment to consider where to place yourself.


4. Important life event; emotional rupture. Documenting vs. fabricating our stories. You heard it on the radio: “The perfect directive for our times: self-curate or vanish.” Fabrication can come in the form of organization and selection: pile all of your stuff together in a massive heap and then sort it into more stylish parts. Red bricks with red helmets; yellow cups with yellow kerchiefs. Shit with merde. As you read this, someone is curating their bedside table. Someone is curating their lunch. Someone had something terrible happen to them, once, or twice, in childhood. It provokes little scrutiny until it’s placed in the right pile and looks good next to blue. Blue book with blue drawer with big blue watery bottle, like a planet rendered plastic and inflatable and floating lightly across your floor. It and something terrible goes with the twelve other globes.


5. You once worked at a celebrity hotel. Red couches, white linens, native flourishes. Loft-style Japanese minimalism in decor. Remember those times as good: mojitos and sashimi, Paris Hilton stooping to tie her stiletto, Harrison Ford worrying over the rescue of every wife. One day. Crossing police barricades to enter; your manager wearing a cloth mask. How can I help you? The British director offered a limo ride. The Canadian  watched from the reception alcove. 10 p.m., 21 years old. The sound of ice clinking on crystal is a kind of alarm clock other people listen for.


6. Coming-of-age is a film staring Germany. The blond actor zips up his letterman jacket, aligns his collar with his chin. Walking slowly on the highway outlining the valley's ridge, construction crews can be heard devouring the hillside. He thinks; he says very little. Industry encroaches on nature – a great Modernist trope. You don't disagree. This is the 70s. He arches his eyebrows, and you always say too much. This makes you resemble a great character less. Growing-up happened over three decades ago, sometime before you were born.


7. Your autobiography is less interesting than when you read or hear about similar life-events taking place in other peoples’ lives. You see it in a coloring book. You see it in a flea market photo album. You see it on the movie screen and it strikes you as authentic. That never happened to you. The color of the sky was raw. You wandered beneath it, on the shell-strewn beach, at the ridge of a high bluff, looking for no one in the unrelenting Mediterranean sun of the Antonioni film. It makes for a palpable memory – that empty sunburn, that cinematic light.


8. Decades collapse. The wall of VHS cassette tapes does something similar: it leans into hope.  Somewhere, a piece of A/V equipment is buried, one that plays all the old media and can still attach to your TV. Does this really matter? City buses choke past your window; a group of kids pantomime hard-core club dancing in a mirror-glass storefront window. Sirens, sounding like big toys, twirl in the distance.


9. Q-tips and dental floss, your files of old Post-It notes, trivial likes and even less consequential dislikes. You track the disposal habits of squirrels; charts analyze the rate of exchange of vinyl for digital. Someone's terribly ill: you discovered it in the dataset. Consumption levels are off, but there's faith in that desire for quantification: you are what you consolidate. You read yourself in a list.


10. Change is good. The new electrons are looming. A launch is planned this weekend. Legal services are a burden, but it's a burden to be shared by taxpayers. Do you know anything about the loan system? Stop and frisk. Realism is for realists. Fundamentalism comes in many colors. Influence is an industry you're fortunately not qualified for. You're encouraged by the headlines. There is a cure for this, this hurt. The private sector now has space to retire to. Like a small crying animal, these slacks should be taken in.