Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
One festival night after his set Dylan was immediately surrounded by fans. He accepted compliments, told jokes, took photos, hobnobbed, hi fived, smiled big and grinned. Then one young fan apologetically suddenly said, “Sorry man, I just came up with a new nickname for you, but I’m not sure I should say it.” “Well now you gotta,” said Dylan gamely. “It takes a lot to offend me, so go ahead.” The fan sighed self-consciously and stalled for time. Then he said, “Over-the-hill Gates” in such a muttering tone as to be almost inaudible. Nonetheless what the young fan said still managed to be heard loud and clear by everyone near. I stifled a laugh and turned my head slightly away. Dylan’s face darkened as he scowled. This is a sight to see since Dylan’s default facial expression is happy-go-lucky if not outright zany. Dylan was annoyed. “Sorry dude,” said the young fan, and he did look sorry, even though all of us were trying hard pretending to not be laughing. Later we told Bil Bless what happened and he also got a good laugh in. Nice to see Bil Bless laugh as he usually seems depressed. Months later at another festival, Dylan was smiling grand and effusive hanging out after his set feeling fresh. He chatted contentedly with friends. Out of the blue a guy came streaking by, leaned into Dylan and hectically said, “Over-the-hill Gates” and with a worried face he scurried away. Dylan’s face darkened as he frowned, he looked quickly left and right, but it all happened too suddenly and the culprit fast disappeared. Then Dylan spied Bil Bless nearby in the shadows chuckling. You could tell he put the kid up to it. “Wiseguy,” said Dylan with eyes like slits, and he shook his fist at all of it.
It seems because I am of unknowable age, background, orientation, classification, type and identity—and possibly also because I am reasonably attractive, outwardly mysterious, unboxable and byzantine, people are always asking me questions. They won’t stop with the questions and they tend pretty much to believe anything I tell them for answers. People believe literally just any old shit that I might feel like saying. Especially when I pull the inviolable Asian Card, people motherfucking don’t bat eyes.
I told a guy while we smoked outside some small city club that I was the girl in all those incredible Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon tavern fighting scenes when I was just seventeen. He gaped at me and did the sputtery version of blinking. “You were amazing,” he intoned, all hushed and whispering. Wondering then what in the Sam goddamned Hill I was doing slouching about in a nameless city at some no-account bar, I said, “Field work.” As in I was researching the role for my next Asian stab at sensational cinema. All excitement and reverence, he glowed with understanding. I gave him my smile that is exactly like a wink but with no winking.
Many people believe too that David Suzuki is my father. They are every time respectful and awed. I tell them he may be a famous environmentalist to the world at large but he’s just plain old dad to me. Another person another time said I looked incredibly familiar. I said, “Ever heard of Miss Saigon.” Guy stared at me flummoxed and gobsmacked both. Casting my eyes demurely half away down and in a voice that is synonymous with a shoulder’s shrug I both tuneful and dismissive said, “No biggie.”
The best though is this whole my feet getting smaller and smaller thing. I used I swear to wear size 7 and now I’m barely filling out a size 5½. When I raise my bare foot high and people gaze perplexed at my living proof truth of this, I tell them it’s the complex work of genetic ancestral memory. I love to throw around the term “genetic ancestral memory.”
My elaborations go like this: “My Eastern rising sun genes can sense that my feet were never manually bound, so now genetic ancestral memory is just sort of kicking the motherfuck in. My genes are doing the binding for me. Amazing, right?”
People maintain their intent faces of captivated interest and careful astonishment but reveal usually still a strain of confusion. Timing it perfectly I gaze chastely forward into the future and declare, “It’s an Asian thing.” The collective expression upon all those beneficent faces goes, “Oh!” and all is understood, believed, swallowed beautifully white people whole and everyone wins. They’ve learned still more fascinating wisdom of the East remarkable Asia type stuff and I’ve amused myself once again to my usual highly improbable always extravagant often unforgivable degree.
Collage art by Eugenia Loli
Look for the light in others and treat
them as if light is all you see
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own experience.
I dispense this advice to you now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. You will not understand this power and beauty until they’ve faded but in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you, how good you really looked, and how wonderful you really were.
Don’t worry about the future. Worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4PM on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Do not be reckless with other people’s hearts.
Don’t let others be reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people don’t know at 22 what they want to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds still don’t know.
Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance with enthusiasm and energy on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance, same as everybody.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own. Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old. When you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Be careful whose advice you try, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth…
In Bangkok we went to get a couples massage and had trouble finding a place that was legitimately for straight up massage and not for anything else. A few places we passed seemed immediately seedy or suspect. One place had the girls dressed beautifully in matching blood red Asian silk robes, they stood huddled close and frozen like a careful still life in front of the shop in the darkening night. The girls were exquisitely arranged close together group gazing straight ahead as though they were posing for an eternal picture that was always just about to be taken.
The women at these places called demurely out to prospective clients but when we approached they fell silent. I took this to mean these establishments were not meant for us. The girls at all the parlours looked beautiful, sweet and vague, some of them looked painfully young. I tried my best not to overthink the moment, not to gaze too intently or to judge. I of course still did all of those things.
We eventually finally found a place that seemed like it might be legit. The women there treated us with courteous welcome but with some reservation. Maybe this was because Dylan and I were foreigners, we looked and seemed strange, maybe it was because the place was actually for sex not massage but the workers were humouring us, naive innocent unversed obvious tourists that we were.
The place itself was pretty, clean, calm and nice. The atmosphere was soothing, dimly lit, and hushed, with small sparsely interiored bamboo chambers containing long thin floor cushions laterally arranged. Each space was divided from the next by simple thin curtains that could be silently moved aside. We were led into a chamber by two girls who looked sixteen. We were motioned to lay down next to each other, we smiled and held hands while the girls set about their tasks with a degree of professionalism and poise that was remarkable considering how young they seemed.
The girls conversed freely in soft tones while they worked. Dylan’s girl slowed a bit as she felt and considered his skin. When she got to his forearms and his hands, her amazement and wonder apparently became uncontainable. She made loud exclamations in excited rapid fire Thai. My girl weightlessly hurdled over my prone form and rushed to see. Massage girls from all the neighbouring chambers came crowding around. All the young women started gingerly touching Dylan’s skin. They caressed it reverently and made low murmuring sounds of appreciation and surprise as they marveled. They looked at each other in wonder as they petted and stroked. They made “Oooooooooooooooh” sounds. The girls couldn’t believe Dylan’s skin could be male and real. Such softness and whiteness on a man was beyond them. The girls stroked and conjectured and made “Oooooooooooooooh” sounds. Finally I cut in. I snapped my fingers and said brusquely, “Ladies. Please. My massage.” The chastened girls flew back to their posts at once, sheepish and still murmuring. Christ. What’s a woman gotta do to get a decent massage. Jeez.
And so the massage girls went back to their workaday lives. Collectively they recalled the dreamlike softness of the pale male foreigner’s delicate silken skin already like it was a distant and beautiful memory, a story to tell their grandchildren, even though Dylan was still right there. His massage girl set about to concluding Dylan’s massage with the greatest reverence. There was to her every motion immeasurable focus and exquisite care. My girl was okay but much more perfunctory. Also, as she was so young and tiny, I felt her maneuvers were a bit too jabby and poking. I suppressed comment and tried to relax. My face at times did the not comfortable brows furrowed thing. Dylan meanwhile laid all loungingly out at an apparent height of repose. There was a totality of effortlessness to his contentment. I scowled. He grinned.
I was basically relieved when my massage was over. Dylan claimed his was the best massage he ever got in his life. He surely was overstating the case. Mostly he was probably just proud and stoked to have his preternaturally soft womanish skin be so loudly exclaimed upon en masse in a Thai massage girl frenzy of elaborate appreciation and ecstatic notice. I told the whole story months later to Matty when he visited. Matty listened calmly with his habitual attentiveness and laidback ease. When I finished, Matty mused a single beat extra, stroked his chin slowly once, gazed into the infinite future and declared, “ill.GATES: Softer Than a Woman.” His was the voice of finality and conviction while I rolled my eyes into the limitless horizon of Dylan’s smile.
Dylan and I don’t ever really publicly display our affection so sometimes people don’t even know that we are together. Out at clubs, Dylan spends much of his time socializing, mingling, schmoozing, and chatting to fans, often he leaves me to my own devices. He knows that I can take care of myself and handle business, so he’s not exactly spending all of his time keeping an eagle’s eye guarding and protecting me. Usually shit runs fine but every once in a while I get bothered or harassed by any number of boring clueless desperate annoying persistent aggressive guys.
One time, me and my girls were all dancing and having fun. Suddenly some dude barges into our dance circle and starts drastically imposing himself. Some guys seem to think that if a girl isn’t handcuffed and chained to a man, she isn’t spoken for, and is thus fair game. These guys never seem to consider that the girl in question might not at all be stoked or interested, regardless of her current relationship status.
Anyway so this guy drunkenly and aggressively dances into each of us girls. He dances at each of us in turn, lewdly, suggestively, and unpleasantly. My girlfriends moved quickly from casual amusement to being distressed and upset. We gave each other disrupted and annoyed looks and glared at the guy. The guy kept thrusting into each of us under the apparent assumption that we couldn’t get enough. My girls and I were displeased. Dylan meanwhile was chewing his face off high on ecstasy and dancing like no man alive could be happier or more carefree. “Dylan,” I said to him in an undertone, “That guy is bothering us. Do something.”
It took me ages to get through to Dylan, so complete was his joie de vivre. Finally, I used my foot is being put down now voice, and Dylan snapped to. I explained the situation all over again in the gravest tones. Processing badness and untoward behaviour is hard to do when you’re Dylan, especially when you’re Dylan and you’re high on E.
Finally the husband understood. He puffed up his chest, widened his eyes, and smartly tapped the shoulder of some guy that had nothing at all to do with anything. Shoulder tapped random guy turned toward Dylan. All of us girls stood in a semi-circle watching. Dylan slow motion pointed at each of our vaginas with exaggerated emphasis. After each vagina had been accounted for, Dylan made a flourishing “NO” symbol by balling his hands into fists and crossing his forearms firmly forming a giant X. He accompanied this strong “NO” gesture with a slow single head shake that covered a wide distance from left to right and left again. Innocent random guy gazed at Dylan. His dude what the fuck face was truly great. Then wrongly accused innocent guy walked away.
“Fucking Jesus Christ, Dylan. WRONG GUY,” was what my facial expression tried to say. Dylan meanwhile reentered at once into his state of ecstatic joie de vivre, and returned to dancing, confident in a job well done, like no man living had ever done a job better, and like all life and he himself could hardly be more charming, perfect, pleasing and fun. The confidence of a happy husband. Fuck.
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
“There is a little darkness, a little risk, in any real life. Homeopathic doses of murkiness must be taken if people are to find themselves. Traces of that dose are revealed whenever someone grows up and leaves home, or reinvents themselves. Whenever people fall in love, there is always a touch of manipulation, a little imperfection. A life entirely without shadows cannot be real.”
Sushi Cats by Tange & Nakimushi Peanuts
ROSTAM BATMANGLIJ Doc’s Song (End)
BROKEN. An End of the Beginning
NEW BASEMENT TAPES When I Get My Hands on You
LOW ROAR I’ll Keep Coming
LOW ROAR Nobody Loves Me Like You
MADE IN HEIGHTS Skylark Interbang
CHAOS CHAOS Do You Feel It
CLAMS CASINO Cry For Me [Unreleased]
FEVERKIN Dance With Knives
DIMOND SAINTS FEAT. YAARROHS Stay
CLAMS CASINO Back to You (Instrumental)
SAM COOKE & THE SOUL STIRRERS The Last Mile of the Way
PHYLLIS DILLON Don’t Stay Away
MAX COOPER Arc
WILLOW BEATS Alchemy
CHVRCHES Empty Threat (Big Wild Remix)
WIZ KHALIFA Black and Yellow
WHAT SO NOT High You Are (Branchez Remix)
FAT JOE FEAT. ASHANTI What’s Luv
NORA EN PURE You Are My Pride
CHOPSTICK DUBPLATE FEAT. B LEVY Answer Like A Soldier!
MAJOR LAZER FEAT. WILD BELLE Be Together
SIZZLA FEAT. V S The Formula (Liquid Stranger Remix)
CHRIS MARTIN Paper Loving
ILEMENTS Can’t Be Me
ANDREILIEN Spun (ill.GATES + Plurthlings Remix)
PROKO Make It Work
SYLVAN ESSO Play it Right
MITCH Give Me a Call
ANTHONY B FEAT. KONSHENS Beat Dem Bad (Freedom Fighter)
ILL.GATES & MIMOSA FEAT. BLOCKBOII Nitro
TROYBOI 7th Sense
SKRILLEX & DIPLO FEAT. KAI Mind
MATT HAROLD Disruption
NIGHTMARES ON WAX 195lbs
HENRY KRINKLE Stay
DENNIS ALCAPONE Spanish Amigo
ELLIPHANT FEAT. MØ One More
ZELLA DAY Compass (Louis The Child Remix)
NO DOUBT Settle Down (Baauer Remix)
LOS GHOSTS Go Low
WHAT SO NOT Get Busy Y’All
TANYA STEPHENS Welcome to the Rebelution
BOB & MARCIA Learning Things About You
MENTO Reach Out
SAMO SOUND BOY Save Wait Time
EMBRZ Slow Down
MACHINEDRUM FEAT. DAWN RICHARD Not Above That
DJ ZINC FEAT. MS DYNAMITE Wile Out
SIZZLA Champion Sound (Dov1 Remix)
JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ Step Out (Remix V4)
THE PIXIES Dig For Fire
YELLERKIN Tools (Louis the Child Remix)
DIE ANTWOORD Where’s My Fukn Cup Cake
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