What is it like to lose yourself in the every day? Do we find solace or servitude in our cell? In "Pink," writer Jessica Rowschandel's protagonist envelopes herself in the shades and photographer Cheeky Ingelosi's artwork captures the missing link of everyday life.
Pink by jessica rowshandel
The magmatic sidewalk pulled through her soles to suck her down. They brought her to the memory of a book she once read that took place during an early-19th century summer. The book wasn’t that interesting so she never finished it; she couldn’t remember the title or what it was even about. Fiction. Some men coming over on a steamboat, probably from England, and once they got there they complained about the very specific feeling of New York City in August -- a disgusting, soupy humid.
As she trudged, she looked up at the buildings: no matter what the stone, the dirt was slathered on them in thick greys and browns -- a sinful hell mud eating them alive. She breathed only shallowly to mitigate the presence of street urine in her lungs, along with the molecules of sweat flooding off body after hurried body. She almost couldn’t breathe at all, surrounded by the fast, collective human anger set on fire by summer that keeps even the buildings straight spined and on their toes.
And it was because of these summers that the homeless shelter residents sat together in a rainbow of lawn chairs on the curb of West 45th Street, across from the Davenport Theater, heckling the Broadway goers -- shucking their seams like corn and poppingtheir cherry red guts with laughter. They yelled things like “I don’t get to go to the theater to forget my problems,” and “Homeless people don’t get vacations from poverty.” Ramona was neither a shelter resident nor theater goer. She was a shelter social worker heating the inside of her nostrils with laughter and cigarette smoke as she walked toward them to start her shift, hoping to ignite herself this way, to combust with the chemistry of rubbing sticks together.
“Hey you all,” she shouted, “you can’t be sitting there like that. The rich people who live next door are gonna complain to the community board again and try to close us down.”
“But it’s too hot inside. Get some A/C then. You want us to melt? I got asthma. It’s more humid in there than it is out here, and I kinda gotta breathe” he said spraying himself with his little pink plastic misting fan.
“Man, these people don’t care if we melt. They only care if we hide inside like little roaches in the kitchen. All they care about is their reputation” another resident responded.
The lawnchair squad folded, got up, and their rainbow slid into a nearby puddle of grease off the curb.
“Thanks! Don’t forget, shelter rules -- you can’t hang out in the building either, not that you want to since it’s so hot in there.”
“Then what are we supposed to do?”
“This is New York City. There’s always something to do, and a lot of it is free and with A/C!”
With a social worker’s salary, Ramona was particularly good at free. Her favorite free was the pink place where she goes to die after her long days of desperately trying to convince people that her shelter residents are human.
She found the pink place years ago after a college art professor once told her class to go to a certain address. He, however, would not tell them what was at the address. “It’s a surprise” he said, “Just trust me.” He warned them to wear clean socks. “It’s a pretty unknown place called the Dream House, and that’s all I’m saying,” he toyed. “And try not to be on anything your first time there!” The class erupted in laughter.
Intrigued, after class Ramona immediately made her way downtown to find this place, the address fading quickly from her sweaty palm. She passed a little roasted pig with maraschino cherry eyes, passed knock off purses that hung like a village of slain monkeys. She winced dozens of times when she passed her faded self as she hurried by store windows.
Finally, there was the brass door, almost secret like Narnia’s wardrobe, that opened to a pencil thin stairwell. She went up and took off her shoes and placed them near another pair that clung to each other beneath a wooden pink bench. Then she went inside.
It was a big room with carpeting soft like rabbit fur that extended throughout the entire space. Everything was pink, even the dust. The air, a thick brick pink in every shade. Electric lamps in the walls and ceiling shined pink light onto every centimeter of the room. It was otherwise empty, except for a circle of large, fat pillows in the center. And except for the sounds. It was as if someone collected the world’s vocal cords, dipped them in brass, hung them like curtains throughout the room, and struck them with mallets at the same exact second, over and over. The sound vibrated every fiber in Ramona’s brain like a harp, which sang to her, pulling out all bodily and emotional tension.
She moved her head down, slow in this thick fish tank pink, and there she was, eyes closed, breathing deeply and steadily, bending to her knees. Air is not invisible. It’s misunderstood, Ramona immediately thought. There are a lot of stories that go on every day between our skin and the air that we are immersed in like walking piranhas. She lay down on the floor, on her back, inside the circle of pillows, trying to stretch her ears further into the air, past the air, as if they were being pulled by her own fingers like pink bubble gum.
As she did this, the pink air told her stories, stories that held secrets like... Do not be afraid to die... This reminded her of what her dentist once said to her, and in response she thought, Neither me nor my teeth are immortal.
During her last checkup, her dentist looked into her mouth, poked around and said, “Your teeth look great! You are not prone to decay.”
“Oh, good, heh” she giggled, almost inaudibly, distracted as she discovered her reflection in the dead lightbulb above her face, shut off just moments before. You are not prone to decay. She lowered her eyelids as far as they could go before shedisappeared completely. You are not prone to decay. When her eyes opened, her face was a pale grey in the plastic moon above her. She lay beneath the grapefruit head of a man removing his nosey latex fingers from her mouth as he finished checking for white spots and tumors.
You are prone to decay and that’s okay-- a rhyme she thought up that day at the Dream House. She hummed it, holding it behind her lips, dragging her tongue across the ridges of her teeth. She imagined each cell of her body withering away until she disappeared, pink.
Ramona was grateful for the end, not only for herself but for her shelter residents, for humanity. She was grateful for her pink death, all of them, but especially the final... and how that death will reap and hoard every pink shade of her, yes of her viscera and flesh, and will patiently catch all of her atoms as she comes undone, one by one.
But on that day, the myriad pinks wrapped Ramona into themselves until she became a cell in her own body, pink.
She was the vast pink unending light and just one tiny cell, a part of her own body with millions of other parts that hid inside of and built upon each other like nesting dolls, or mountains.
She was the sequins on the pink blouse that dressed the disco. She was the best pink she could ever be and that she ever was. And this pink in all its nuanced flecks of light, light that shone light into light, was held together by a glue in her ears -- sounds that never changed, that Dream House vocal chord chorus, a gripped bundle of threads folded and flattened, folded and flattened again.
They flattened every crease in her forehead, ate every crust in her organs, every black tarry thought that shook her bones. One day they will eat her completely.
And on that day, she will climb into the pink mouth of the sounds, pull in their lips within her own, kiss them and suck them down like oysters. And they will climb into her pink mouth, pull in her lips within their own, kiss them and suck them down like oysters. And she will climb into the pink mouth of the sounds, pull in their lips within her own, kiss them and suck them down like oysters.