“God I… This website is so cool. Looks nice. I wish I would have done something like this for my website. Instead I can’t even finish these four petals I'm working on…”
There was some kind of regret or disappointment in her voice.
Llano swiveled toward her from an office chair, taken from the apartment of a friend-of-a-friend who had already left the country after graduating and saw no need to bring most of his things with him. It's not like the apartment complex was going to hunt him down and tell him he left the apartment a mess--plus, free stuff for us!!
“Hey, what do you mean? Everyone has their pace.”
“No… most people have their pace, and everyone else has something else.”
“Well… she probably hired some guy to help her with some of that.”
“She probably did. and still.”
In her mind she gestured toward herself. Or her worktable. ‘And still. Here I am, not having collaborated with some guy to 3D render me a cool nighttime moonlit rubbley metal frame of a building scene with lights reflecting in puddles.’
This feeling surprised her. She didn't often feel jealousy, and especially not for things like this. She didn't even care much for the website in the end. She just wanted it to be in the air that she felt kind of shitty for not having a stylish and pristinely coded website, and because this fact mostly means she’ll probably be taken less seriously or looked down on in some way.
She slipped out of the chair and crossed her legs, now sitting on the ground. Her workspace was a small corner of the office; a big drawing board given to her by her sister flat on top of a low and wide plastic storage bin with an old laptop, old prints, old credit cards… old stuff. Two triple-tiered rolley carts sat on the left, between the wall and the worktable (drawing board). All kinds of thoughtless substances and materials and tools and paint and styrofoam and things collected from walks and such were bagged and bottled, or just strewn about in some semblance of categorization. Feeling sorry for herself for a second felt annoying and she was quick to come back and keep working on the pink Mexican evening primrose. Unable to win in court (court being her brain) defending the case for continuing to color tiny branching twigs bright red to drape wet glue-watered tissue paper on, she decided to draw on the rest of the flower veins with red sharpie.
She thought about how shitty all the documentation of her work was. There were hardly any photos anymore in the first place, thanks to her laptop disappearing. And every piece of art she’d ever made that wasn’t flat was gone, in a dumpster, in a landfill, who knows where. Hopefully not in a landfill. There’s never anywhere to put that shit when people don't want it and you’re not living alone, thus unable to decorate however you want. And moving every year makes lugging it around less and less appealing anyway.
Then she remembered her trashwater series. It wasn't meant to be a series, wasn't intentionally a series. But she realized for most of a semester, her work was just lots of things you could call trash (it was just easiest that way, and more encompassing of what the materials would be to people seeing them, but she was sure some people saw the use of the word as a gimmick) all stuffed into water and let sit.
First was in sculpture 1, where she haphazardly made a cube out of plexiglas with a wooden base that was not as sealed as it should have been, filled with a few objects and just some moisture--chunk of cauliflower, some metal pieces, twigs, etc. The moisture, coupled with the protective film on the plexiglas that she had forgotten to remove, made the inside a little foggy and hard to see into. She was so happy with the comments she received-- people saying they smelled something odd, but not bad, but weird, and that it looked like a cube that had the essence of a leftover construction site. That was funny since none of it was constructed very well--after caulking the inside seams, she taped over all the edges on the outside because her confidence in preventing leakage was low. ‘As long as rotten juice doesn't seep out the bottom during crit, I should be fine…’ she thought.
Second and third she couldn't decide on. ‘was it… that tall one I did? Or…’
Fourth was a favorite. She had glued test tubes of liquid and things onto parts of a cheap plastic fish tank after spray painting part of it white. She also put some concave plastic domes around, and spray painted the rest so the only parts of the inside of the tank that were visible were through the domes. She couldn't remember what she put in the water but it was good. There were never any pictures of that one, even though it was the best, in her opinion…
She spoke to Llano again, compelled to share the next one.
“Y’know, I used to have a series going that I just called trashwater series. I just put trash in water and let the stuff do its thing. But I would use cheap plastic fish tanks because I tried making my own tanks and it was Hard.”
Actually, it's not that hard, she thought. It just takes a lot of perfect measurement and placement, and I don't care for that sort of thing.
Llano agreed. “Yeah, it is.”
“What'd you try to make a tank for?”
“Well I wanted to make a tank for a project but I couldn't find a way to cut glass”
“You coulda just used plexi instead of glass”
“Well, Yeah I hadn’t thought of it”
“It's still hard anyway”
She kept working on her petals, zoning out a little. Then she remembered.
“There was this one I did that had oil and water so you could see them separate, and I left it outside and forgot about it. Next time I saw it, there were SO many flies in it. Like, Big flies.”
She gestured with her thumb and forefinger at the size of the flies.
“Why were there so many flies?”
“Well, I guess they saw the weird water and wanted to get in it but didn't realize about the oil so they dove in and probably got all clogged up with oil. It was crazy though. So many of them did that. It smelled really bad, it was like a horror movie. I should have a picture of it somewhere”
Actually she had made it into a pattern file to use in Gimp, but same thing.
The next few were nicer, made with help, encouragement toward more pristine looking tanks. Last was a small glass cube w the top open, and little circular rubber feet on the bottom. That one had held the outcomes of different accidents with resin and and scraps from working on other projects. She had recently bought a label maker and put one of the billion sentences ringing in her head as a sticker along three sides of the outside of the cube. It felt annoying and far away at that point, the concept did. This last one was boring. But the label maker was exciting. In an application to something, she wrote about the label maker as being her newest foray into incorporating ‘technology’ into her work. Looking back at that now was very laughable. Now she knew that it wasn’t the sudden electrical thing that made it intriguing suddenly--it was the writing. And now she was on the other side of having written a short story for a residency.
Then she got to thinking.
“Hey, Llano, hot glue is… hot glue is water repellant, right?”
She swiveled again.
“I mean, Yeah. It definitely is”
And at that she grabbed an old clear plastic sign holder, the kind you slip a paper into to be a sign, and she started hot gluing two sides.
‘Fuck it’ was the inner monologue, ‘I'm gonna try to bring back the trashwaters’
It was a sloppy job, but she did it quickly and thoroughly to ensure no open spots. Through the left side, now rotated to be the top, she squirted clean water from the toilet with a pipette into the open crack. She had decided on toilet water because it was already there, ready to use, and if she turned on the sink to fill something with water it'd cost money. The toilet water would get flushed either way.
She then sat back down and watched the water’s surface form a thin line inside this narrow area. She put in small fossils from a recent trip, ‘Gotta get the stuff that's noticeable but not the most pretty’, she thought. ‘I at least want one where the ridges are very clear, so there's not a question whether it's just a clump or not upon closer inspection.’ The thought seemed a little over involved--there was great possibility that no one would ever see this, much less get up close to it and let out a sucked-teeth noise of understanding after seeing tiny radial lines on the ends of a half-centimeter stone tube.
She then found some old vitamins in the storage bin of rocks and bones and exoskeletons. Two were different sized versions of each other, at least in appearance; they were translucent golden casings filled with liquid and squishy but with enough resistance to hold shape. Scanning the table for the dirty razor blade, she pressed the smaller golden vitamin drop between her thumb and forefinger. She dropped it when finding the razor blade and sliced into both dropules, letting the juice bleed out in the lid of a jar that was lying around. The yellow color of the liquid seemed almost neon. It was sucked up with a pipette and spat out into the water with the fossil pieces. The vitamin juice, which was actually oil, floated on top of the waterline, separated by a twig that was stuffed in earlier. The casings laye together in a different jar lid, the anticipation of using them for something welling up whenever her gaze sat on them in passing.
She wondered about the medicine bottle of sludgy orange-brown clay picked up months ago on a walk, and mustered up the courage to open it and look inside. There wasn’t much to see-- foggy water the color of clay. To her surprise, the smell was almost exactly like fresh rain.
“Smell this! It smells like rainwater!”
Llano took a whiff and nodded.
A passing thought was the outline of a future where she could use this scent for art in some way, maybe in a perfume. ‘All these smell chemists are designing their perfect chemical compound of fresh rain scent and here it is, slapped into this dark green pill bottle. I guess this wouldn't be marketable or allergen-free though.’
She screwed the cap back on for use in some other thing of the future.
Realizing she'd gotten distracted with the clay, she began pulling out plastic organizer trays and looking to see what to add. She ended up cutting some of her pubes (the hair is darker and shinier, i.e. More noticeable), and using tweezers to stuff them in. The vitamin that had powder instead of oil was poured in, and its color and interaction with water reminded her of the agar agar powder she had, so she grabbed that and added a pinch. In a plastic bag of leaves and things, she found a loose root, tangled in itself in the shape of a circle. That got stuffed in. After some looking, grabbing, thinking, stuffing, thinking, looking, etc, she realized everything was some kind of brown. The root was leaning orange, the powder an almost sweet beige, the twig some slight green version of mauve. For a second, it passed her mind to call it ‘A Study in Brown’, and then chuckled to herself at how old school that sounded. Do people on the ‘cutting edge’ even use titles like that? Probably they do, to posit it against the content or something. Eh, whatever. She didn't like that it was all brown, but it was sort of nice.
It occurred to her to put some seeds in, to see if they'd somehow sprout and add a little color but also just to see if they'd sprout.
“Llano, would you mind if I used some of your seeds for this thing?”
“No, it's ok.”
“Do you want me to go grab them for you?”
“Nah nah I know where they are, just thinking… So which seeds do you care the least about?”
“Ummmmmm… I’d say probably the wild mint?”
“Oh really? Why’s that?
“Well I already planted a bunch and a lot are sprouting, so…”
“Well, ok so if I were to use like All of the seeds would you be ok with it?”
“Yeah that’s fine”
She wasn't going to use all of the seeds, it was just a way to figure out if Llano truly did not mind her using them.
With seed packets in hand, she walked back to the office and to the bathroom, peeing while looking at the pictures of flowers printed on the packets and inspecting from the outside what the contents of the inside were with fingers.
Around 10 seeds were dropped in, maybe more. The image of little sprouts curling out of the tiny pinprick-sized seeds played in her mind, eventually taking over, or just popping out and dying, weird tiny shapes floating around (or sinking?) in the water between the plexi. A record of dead time. From that, her mind wandered to wondering about where this piece would be in the far future. Would it be weird enough that it had the right mix of things to get crystallized or stoneified? Petrified? If this thing were under many layers of rock, what would happen to it?
Without looking anything up, she continued pondering the far future of this object. What will plastics be? Oil? Will these stones still be the same sorts of stones? Will this pocket of stuff react uniquely to pressure and warmth?
What about in the near future? Will this just be in a landfill? Recycled into a new piece? Hung somewhere on a tree?
The thoughts reeled through her mind in some sort of endless rhythmic flow.
Everything was starting to feel too flat, too brown. She expected for some variation whenever time did its thing to the components, but wanted to give the variety a little push until that did happen. A short snip off of a new spool of bright neon green string was shoved in.
And then when putting it in, and backtracking brain-wise, she realized she didn't have much in there to allow for any rotting or interacting to take place. So she went out to Llano’s plants to see if anything felt right to use.
The plants were spread out on an old dirt crusted lawn chair that belonged to the landlord. Scanning over the different sized pots a few times over made it clear that this wasn’t going to provide her with what she really wanted, but she grabbed a little clump of wet dirt anyway.
Inside there was a cup of seeds saved from some dried chiles Llano had used for mole. She grabbed some of those.
Once sitting back down at the low worktable, she inserted her findings. Things were starting to get a little clogged up at the entrance, which was unfortunate since the next thing she resolved to put in was more hair. Tugging lightly at the chihuahua’s neck hair easily provided a few light honey brown hairs, and Llano offered a long string of their own. Lastly, to add something a little fun and different from the rest of the shit, she threw in an old nose ring belonging to Llano, with permission of course. (Llano’s nose holes had closed up for the millionth time and they had given up on trying again, anyway). At this point, all that was left was to add in more water and seal up the rest, and so she did.
Because things like this, done on so quick a whim, usually never worked out as intended (something she always expected—life is always a collaboration with everything she does and doesn’t know, anyhow), she leaned the panel of stuff-in-water on the wall on top of the sink counter, so if the top wasn’t actually sealed well, it wouldn’t leak out. And there it stayed for a few days, turning fuzzy white in some spots and creating crusts at the water line and around the swirls of hair.