Whang-od Oggay is a tattoo artist from Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines. She is the last practitioner of mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattoo) from the Butbut Kalinga Malay Peoples and at 100 years old is one of the oldest working tattooists. Her ink is composed of a mixture of charcoal and water that is tapped into the skin through a thorn end from a Calamansi or Pomelo tree. When naysayers challengingly ask what a tattooed person will look like when they grow old, Whang-od is living proof that the answer is fucking beautiful.
Hyperrealistic portraits rendered in graphite and charcoal on large sheets of cartridge paper by Arinze Stanley
We spent an afternoon in Paris, it was Dylan’s first time there. We had our phones off to avoid roaming charges, we didn’t have anyone local to help us with anything, and we hadn’t yet changed our money. The day was insufferably hot, there were thousands of tourists trudging everywhere, you couldn’t get away from them, or the heat. Dylan got all pissy and loudly complained about the tourists, the weather, everything. He ignored the fact that we were tourists too, and that the intense heat could technically be blamed on nobody. Hours later of trudging under the relentless sun and a lot of total misery, we boarded a train and I by that point resolutely stopped talking. We rode that train in an obstinacy of silence heading south of Paris, eventually lost consciousness, and fell deeply asleep. A railway worker woke us at the end of the line, we had entirely overshot our destination, we were the absolute last two left on the train. The railway worker walked us long and down along the tracks away from the last station back to the world without saying a word. He spoke French, we spoke English, our interaction was for the most part simple hand gestures and silence. I was still annoyed with Dylan for having been such previously ill-tempered and unpleasant company, Dylan for his part held himself stubborn and aloof. As the railway worker lead us quietly away, Dylan stopped in his tracks and in a shocked and shuddering voice he said, “I can’t believe she left us!” “Who?” I said. “Nunich!” said Dylan. I looked long and hard and deeply at Dylan. “I’m Nunich!” I said. Motherfucker’s lost his mind, I thought. I gazed at Dylan with more dismay than has probably ever shown on my face. Dylan’s face expressed an equal consternation. His eyes were blank and wild. I pretty much had to slap the guy several times to bring him the fuck back. Dylan challenges the accuracy of this account, who fucking knows what he thinks went down. All I know is it’s crazy when the person you’ve loved for years suddenly looks at you and passionately honestly doesn’t know who the fuck you are. Love. Sometimes it blindsides you by being holy shit strangely seriously unsettlingly surreal and fucked up.
I am feeling that feeling, it’s a big feeling, it feels something like a hand over your face that stops your breathe, something large and eternal and enveloping, like it fills up the whole sky, the whole galaxy, all of space.
An infinite hand bigger than breathing and bigger than space, when I see her there and I catch her looking, I approach slowly behind her, and slip my arms around her waist. She has not let me in, she won’t let me in. Why won’t you let me in? I ask her. You don’t want in, she says. You want around, you want near, you don’t want in. There are two hundred forty seven ways to have your heart broken, she says, and I have felt them all. We draw closer for a moment.
Why won’t you just love me, I ask her. She says it’s not possible to make someone feel something. Even yourself, she says. Even if you want to feel it. Things go backward. And then, one day, whatever it is we had, it’s gone. It won’t come back. We both know it. Whatever it is she let me have, she has taken it away. Whatever it is when two people agree to briefly occupy the same space, agree to allow their lives to overlap in some small area, some temporary shared region of the world, a region they create through love or convenience, or something more uncertain and elusive, whatever it was, has collapsed and closed. She has closed herself to me. I don’t even know if I want her back, I only know I can’t make her stay.
She turns around, she turns away, the world stands still by turning faster. I feel her sadness with every step, and then, just before it ends, she smiles. She is remembering us, the happy moments we had. I am standing alone thinking of someone I once loved. I don’t know if I am her thinking of me, or if I am me thinking of her, or if maybe, right at this moment, as in all moments, it doesn’t matter, there is nothing left, and so there is no difference.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Actually it wasn’t dark or stormy at all, it wasn’t even night. It was a beautiful summer afternoon bright with sunlight. I was at the dungeon provocatively attired and dominating the shit out of one of my slaves with my signature negligent attitude of abstraction and detachment. I was equal parts bored and enjoying myself and everything was humming along fine. Suddenly the doorbell rang which greatly startled both myself and the slave.
“What the—” I said.
The dungeon was an elaborately renovated beautiful old Victorian home clear on the other side of town. Externally, the place had a look of stately grandeur typical of the houses in the neighbourhood. No one would ever know that this house contained many uniquely converted chambers gorgeously interiored to completely accommodate all manner of BDSM sessions and scenes. Mistresses booked meetings at the house in advance so there would never be a conflict of timing or use. The privacy of the clients was paramount so discretion in all details was strictly maintained. A sudden doorbell ring in the middle of a session therefore was highly unusual and extremely unexpected.
The doorbell rang again. The situation felt ominous. I was concerned and briefly worried it was some crazy convoluted scenario perhaps involving firemen, paramedics or the police.
The slave jumped up naked and terrified and ran maniacally about the space. He was doing the my kingdom for a place to hide thing. No doubt he also worried about the police or maybe an enraged boyfriend or husband come to hurt and kill him. Who knows what in a situation like this runs through the mind of a slave. At any rate, I was confused and concerned while the slave was scared shitless.
I exited the central dungeon room and approached the main entrance door teetering a bit on my 6″ black spiky shiny ultra death heels. It was difficult both to move and breathe clad as I was in such skyscraper challenges and a black corsetted waist cinched demurely down to a perverse 22 inches.
Cautiously I put my eye to the peephole. There was Dylan warped comically by the peephole glass but with a grim look of ruthless business upon the face. I’d never seen that expression before on Dylan, I wondered what in the hell he was doing there, plus I didn’t know he even knew the address of the dungeon in the first place.
I opened the door a crack.
“Darling, what the fuck are you doing here?” I asked, keeping my voice low. “You didn’t come home so I thought you were in trouble,” said Dylan.
We gazed at each other. Behind Dylan I could see his little red BMX bike had been humourlessly flung into some bushes nearby. Then I noticed Dylan was carrying a big sawed off metal bar on a thick string. He was in a state of evident readiness to brain somebody.
“I thought you were in trouble,” Dylan said again.
He tried to peep behind me over my shoulders into the darkness of the entrance and house, I hadn’t invited him in. In a flash I realized I forgot to inform Dylan that the day’s session was a long one. Most sessions were for only an hour so since several hours had passed and I hadn’t returned home to gaily share with him all the entertaining details of the day’s affairs, Dylan thought some terrible shit might’ve happened. He then apparently with purposeful quickness grabbed a suitable weapon from off our bedroom weapons wall, hopped onto his red BMX and biked across town to kick some serious slave ass and save me. I was surprised, amused and confused.
The thought of Dylan bashing somebody with that big metal thing for my sake was touching and disturbing. The slave back in the depths of the dungeon meanwhile was trying in vain to disappear by pressing up hard against some wall and hiding pretty much in plain sight. The subsequent thought of this shivering idiot being at all capable of harming me or ever even wanting to was highly entertaining.
“It’s a long session,” I said to Dylan in a ventriloquial whisper. “I’ll be home later. Everything’s fine.” I accompanied my half-smile with a reassuring facial squint as I with firm gentleness prodded Dylan to leave. Dylan looked at me levelly to assess for himself sufficient levels of certainty. He tried again to peer into the dungeon behind me. “Go darling,” I said, “I love you and I’m fine.”
Poor sweetheart. Imagine.
I grinned to myself and returned to the business of dominating the shit out of the slave. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I asked in a loud rhetorical voice and added with punishment in my tone, “Get back into position, you knave.” One of the perks of the job is getting to use words like “knave” seriously in spoken conversation. The slave cowered happily and hung his stupid head. I gagged him to stop whatever excuses he might stutter to offer and also just to cut out all chances for him to bore me with his bullshit. While I punished and abused that useless man, I thought about Dylan and smiled to myself again.
Marriage. For it to work, you gotta keep things fun. And fun might mean biking clear across town to potentially brain somebody with a sawed-off metal weapon in an ill-advised and superfluous effort to heroically protect your woman. Jeez. True love right. You gotta keep that shit tight.
Mixed media collage by Jesse Draxler
The world is both light and dark, and darkness is half of everything. You must accept darkness, and yet choose to live in the light. Consciousness is the gift of that choice. Every day, and at every moment, you can make the world darker or brighter. You alone are responsible for that decision. Every day, and at every moment, you deserve either the credit or the blame, depending on what you do, the actions you take, and the choices you make. Darkness and light, at all times, at every point, you have the power to make a real difference, and the responsibility to make the right choice.
Seated on a stage edge at festivals late at night outdoors in extremely cold conditions, I often shove my freezing hands with heedless familiarity deep into and between Dylan’s thighs in order to steal there what warmth from him I can. This action usually works and casually comforts and soothes. I performed this maneuver automatically one consumingly cold late hours festival evening. As I sat there huddled gazing obscurely about and listening to the sounds of the music and the night, it occurred to me in a way that was both gradual and sudden that something was different and strange, not normal, and not right. Absently I moved my hands between the warm thighs searchingly upward in propulsions that changed from casual interest to confused concern to outright panic. I felt deeply around the V-shaped recess with a wondering insistency as my trepidation grew. No balls. No balls. I looked up and aghast at the owner of the borrowed thighs and it wasn’t Dylan. It wasn’t Dylan at all! It was some tiny stranger festival female that was fully not my husband. She gaped at me thunderstruck as my offending hands below froze in their previously blind and utterly urgent balls-seeking endeavours. In that suspended moment, I don’t really know whose face registered more speechless horror, hers or mine. Once I could wrench myself out from the paralyzing spell of the shared shock and our mutual stare, I flingingly withdrew my provocative hands and fled. Life. Christ. Who knew marriage would be such a minefield of molestation and mayhem.
Three questions I always get asked are what do I look like without make up on, how old am I, and what is my sexual orientation. Of the 4 or so billion Asian people on Earth at present currently not wearing make up, I probably look exactly like one of them. Whichever age is the nicest and most awesome age to be, I am that age. Whoever is intelligent, original, brave, beautiful, or cool, I’ll be interested. Sex has nothing to do with it.
We all have the potential to leave other people better off than they were. Even something as simple as smiling at someone can make their whole day. Every person has the power to make a change. We all have it in us to be able to improve the world, to make it better and brighter, for ourselves and for each other. The question is, will we? Love is what makes the whole thing matter. Receiving love makes us brave, and giving love makes us beautiful.
I’ve written another book! It’s a carefully compiled short stories collection concerning the topic of what it’s like to be a wife in general and what specifically it’s like being married to Dylan. Help me publish and promote my work by becoming my patron. You can pledge as little as $1/month and you can change or cancel your subscription at any time. Thanks! I love you guys.
I told Dylan that overnight my arm got all crooked rammed beneath my head and pillow, lost proper blood circulation, and went horribly to sleep. “Yuck,” I said, “I hate that. It feels real awful, like when I bonk my funny bone. I flung my arm away like it belonged to someone else but the arm could just be flung only so far.” “You know what I do when that happens,” said Dylan, and he made a loose encircling gesture with his hand that I was soon to learn was fairly masturbatory. “It’s called ‘The Friendly Stranger,’” said Dylan defensively when he caught my expression. “I’m surprised you didn’t know that,” he added. I continued to look at Dylan and that look was meant to convey all manner of messages. The friendly stranger. Shit. What planet is this.
Photo montages by Laurent Chéhère
How you express love can make or break you as a human being. Work hard always to shine your brightest and do your best. Choose love over fear. Never lose your faith in yourself, and do not lose faith in each other. Never lose your faith in love.
You always hurt the one you love/ The one you shouldn’t hurt at all/ You always take the sweetest rose/ And crush it till the petals fall/ You always break the kindest heart/ With a hasty word you can’t recall/ So if I broke your heart last night/ It’s because I love you most of all
THE MILLS BROTHERS You Always Hurt The One You Love
MADE IN HEIGHTS Murakami
KING KRULE Easy Easy
BLUE HAWAII Sierra Lift
SWEATER BEATS Feel Me (Falcons Remix)
XXYYXX Northern Lights
NICOLAS JAAR I Got A Woman
REGINA SPEKTOR Fidelity (Morgan Page Remix)
THE CLASH Straight To Hell (Moby feat. Heather Nova Rework)
GRIMES Human Once Again (Four Tet Remix)
ELECTRIC MANTIS Flips And Flops Drips And Drops
RIHANNA Stay (Branchez Bootleg)
COLLIE BUDDZ Young Girl
CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS Tease Me
CHOPSTICK DUBPLATE FEAT. MR. WILLIAMZ Wanted
BEARSON Pink Medicine
SAM COOKE I’ll Come Running Back To You
ILL.GATES FEAT. THE CLASS OF 808 Is You Is
BANX+RANX FEAT. KONSHENS Anyweh
MITCH BRADY FEAT. LIONSOUND Eclectic Endeavour
BAAUER & RL GRIME Infinite Daps
YAN ZOMBIE I Don’t Wanna Be Numb Anymore
AVALANCHE CITY Don’t Fall Asleep
Photography by Sophie Gamand