Photograph courtesy of Global Pillage.
At least I wasn’t getting gang banged. Just smeared with cake, although it looks like cum, sort of, which I’m sure was the point. Funny thing is I never fucked that photographer. I fucked one of his friends though. They were all my friends.
“Hey, Paula! Wrap this snake around you! It won’t strangle you, I promise.”
Ok, I said, a reptile on my shoulders, a strange man who owned the reptile sitting with his back against the wall, tense.
Later, I ask. “I want you to take a photo of me with a gun up my cunt.”
I just tried to take a picture of my tits, sans holding a cake. A selfie for my ex-boyfriend. No face in this one. We’re all naked now, all over the internet, the clouds, the devices of friends and enemies and strangers. Somewhere annoying on the internet I read that Frida Kahlo was the grandmother of the selfie, or something like that. You know what? She was a fucking artist. A great one. And that, my friends, is enough. More than enough. In fact, it’s a miracle.
I’m glad someone took a picture of my tits before nursing two children and losing too much weight and getting fucking old ruined them. I’m glad I let some sleazy photographer throw a cake at me. God, I loved vodka. Still do. But what’s sexy and outrageous when you’re twenty just gets sad by your late thirties.
When I think about my relationship with cake, I know I loved it, but I was raised to never have the most, that gluttony and greed were sins. It was called Church on Sunday. And then there was pride – also a sin – but the pride of giving, of having done the right thing. Here, here is cake for you. I’ll take the smaller piece.
And yet I remember seething at my mother, who later I emulated, as she ate the hard end piece of the bread, her brown eyes wet with wine, betraying her words. “No, I love the end piece,” forever the martyr, while we guiltily tongued the soft, sweet airy middles of the loaf.
Maybe either way, we lose. If we humble ourselves, deny our desires, or if we grab at them, insist on the most cake. Maybe winning is a lie.
It’s funny how images of what seems like joy and genuine abandonment can actually reveal despair and desperation and misery. Patheticism: a word only in the Urban Dictionary, sadly. But this isn’t so much irony as duality in my mind.
So: pathetic, exhibitionist, self absorbed, truly wild and abandoned, lustful, gluttonous, drunk, out of one’s mind. Here it is, here I was. Here I am, just a shell of what I once was to you, with my thinning hair and jowls and sad, worn eyes. But what if I look away from the camera, like I did then, in the image? Then what would you see?
Paula Bomer is the author of Inside Madeleine (Soho, 2014), the novel Nine Months (Soho, 2012) and Baby and Other Stories (Word Riot Press, 2010). Her first non-fiction book, Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, is forthcoming in the fall of 2016, as part of Ig Publishing’s new series, Bookmarked.