Back to Issue Forty-Seven

G told me to get out of my fucking ivory tower


which was the top floor of a factory that made hardware
for cabinets and drawers. four of us shared one giant
space, cut into quarters long before I answered the ad
in the village voice. our kitchen was makeshift. the walls
did not reach the ceiling. no heat in the building
after factory hours, so we stapled sheets of plastic
over our windows and kept space heaters beside our beds.
a dream come true. it was early spring. it was supposed to
get warmer. I was just out of college and had picked up
the phone because G and I interned together. we worked
for almost free making videos for hip hop artists, who also
worked for almost free. this was the time the skin on my face
fell off, nearly all of it. the doctors at mount sinai called it
a perfect butterfly spread, the way my whole cheeks
bubbled over and connected across the bridge of my nose.
everything was raw, even my freckles disappeared. I was
spared blindness, but the staph took my body and made it
still, made my eyes seal shut. I floated in a bath of sleep,
submerged in pills and solitude, for two weeks or ten,
six months I lay there, it was april and nixon was dying
on the television in my room, my eyes opened and shut
in his coma, his swollen head a thing to hold. my face
stuck to the pillowcase each time I woke, my flesh
golden scab. my mother had sent the tv at christmas
and when spring came I begged her to come to new york
and put food in my mouth. I was swollen. light flickered.
she declined. two of my roommates sometimes helped
with groceries and cigarettes, maybe soup. the third
was absent until that spring, when he came back
and built a counterbalanced sculpture of corrugated
steel that filled one half of his quarter. he made me tea,
explained that in new york he was only one, but in japan
he was four together, and I did not know what that meant
until later. his work hung from the ceiling and, when
touched, moved counterintuitively. once I could walk,
I walked to whatever place it is in Brooklyn that you ask
the government for help. I stood in line for half a day
hiding my face in my hood and when I got to the window
the woman on the other side was tired. we shared
a stillness. she stamped my papers and I had my photo
taken and a card made and with that card I got medicine,
the same way everyone with nothing scrounges
for care, and I took it, and after that I bought
chicken to fry for my friends if they came back.

Ambriel Floyd Bostic lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. She designs objects, spaces, and color fields and loves working with her hands. Ambriel founded The InKind Project, a nonprofit that facilitates community theater programs where children and artists collaborate.

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