Elizabeth Sheehey is 22 years old. She was born at NYU Medical Center alongside her wombmate William. She popped out of her cake of a placenta, though, not ready to move on or out, her brother was pulled by the right foot. He swiftly peed on their doctor in protest. She imagines him laughing as he does this, but he was almost certainly crying and pissing with the knowledge of being existentially fucked, for he was not alone, as he knew he would die. Elizabeth attended New College of Florida and received a degree in humanities. She lives in Detroit and @3u48e.
Maison de Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo became terribly hungry around mid-afternoon when the sun was often found beating loudest, but today it did nothing at all. He thought this was quite lazy of the sun, to hide when there were things to be seen, so he threw open the curtains in his mother's living room and slammed his fist once, very, very hard, against the glass of the window. Victor Hugo stood there staring at the purplish hole that the sun had left. A few moments passed and were measured by his progression from absentmindedness to forming spit bubbles between the open lines of his thin lips. It was then that Victor Hugo realized that he was no longer hungry, but rather he had become incredibly depressed. Sitting on the couch whose armrest he had once woken up to find himself licking (he was dreaming of the fleshy haunches of an unidentifiable pachyderm), things stopped feeling shiny for him. A porcelain nativity scene arranged on the mantle above the fireplace where a log gently burned and mostly smoked turned into a series of animal and human-shaped assholes and mouths, dusty ones at that. His face sunk into itself. A pain started in the crook of his right arm, but his left one felt too heavy to do anything about it, to rub it or knead the pain gently, and the rest of him was too unoccupied to kiss it or kick it to create comfort where there wasn't any. He lifted his leg to the nearby coffee table and touched a sockless foot to the screen of his cellphone: 1:46 am and one text message. Victor Hugo placed all of his toes on the screen and, using his sweat to adhere these extensions of himself, he dragged the phone to the edge of the table until it was teetering and could be grabbed with the first and second toes of his other leg and foot. He let his leg fall to the ground after acquiring the device. This was more out of necessity than anything else as his hunger, though forgotten, still simmered acridly in his gut and rendered his body most useless. Realizing his weakness and strength, Victor Hugo thought of making himself a ribbon declaring this fact: “#1 USELESS FUCK!” written in silver on blue satin. He had won. He felt most certainly like a winner as he waited for his cheering audience to die so that he could take the pensive pause before he began his acceptance speech which would undoubtedly start with "wow" and would be followed by a smile and a thoughtful glance
around the auditorium, but his pride was interrupted by a sharp light invading his vision from the floor. Victor Hugo noticed that he now had two text messages. The first text message wasfrom his seven-year-old brother Ralph who had just been given an iPod touch for Christmas that enabled him to send texts with available wifi. Victor had sent multiple kind and amusing messages to Ralph, but none that had received any reply. He opened the message: "k". He was disappointed by his brother's seeming lack of interest in developing a meaningful relationship, but Victor Hugo reminded himself that Ralph was young and perhaps couldn't formulate a suitable SMS to parallel his own. Victor opened the next message. It was from his mother who had been out of town and had allowed him to use her Paris apartment for three weeks now. Victor had sent her multiple messages, too--one asking how things were in Panama City Beach, another asking how to clean the toilet bowl that had since acquired rings of pink and black mold where the waste water exposed itself to the open air, and a few others reminding her of his feelings of affection. He received one text message from her last Wednesday: "IM A LILDURNK HONEYy cn thiss wait???" and the other just minutes ago: "lol k".
Victor Hugo stood up and put on his coat and boots. He walked down to the rez-de-chaussée and exited the golden doors of his apartment, heading south towards the 24-hour Monoprix grocery store--the only thing open in the entirety of the district at this hour. As he walked, he saw something glittering in the gutter before him. He looked down to find a pile of shit covered in half-melted snow, glowing purple. Victor Hugo smiled.
He continued walking down Rue Mesnil. Remnants of frozen fish and iceberg lettuce left by the vendors of Marché Saint-Didier crunched beneath his feet as he walked under the metal bars erected to contain the green? blue? awnings that were normally here in the daytime. Victor Hugo couldn’t remember what color they were. He could only think of the word “aubergine.” There was hardly anything else in his head, just the street before him and the letters and sounds that composed the word repeating over and over. He started saying it to himself after looking around to make sure he was alone. He was alone.
“Aw-bear-gene,” Victor Hugo whispered.
“Oh-beer-vagina.” He didn’t mean to say this. He got embarrassed and stopped making words. Even though he didn’t want to, he started thinking about what a beer vagina was, or what it would look like. In the dark and the dirt of the city, the thought was particularly unpleasant to him: was the metal opening instead composed of pinkish flesh? Would it still have a tab, and could he still play that game where you flicked it back and forth with the alphabet? Victor grew really disgusted with himself and with the beer vagina, and instead tried to think about his grandmother getting torn apart by wild dogs. The image of her saggy, wrinkled, and bloodied flesh was his go-to whenever he was working as a figure model at the École des Beaux-Arts and he felt himself growing hard beneath the students’ eyes. It was quite possibly the worst thing that he could think of, but sometimes it didn’t matter either way, and sometimes he would be asked to leave because he couldn’t keep his composure. There was a girl in the beginning drawing class this semester that always provoked the most disastrous reaction from him. Because of this, the professor had dismissed him with a scornful nod twice now, and if it happened again he would no longer be a figure model. There was something about her mouth as she drew, as her tongue curled around her young lips. He shook his head. He had half-forgotten where he was going. Victor Hugo looked up and realized that he had been circling around Place de Mexico for the past six minutes.
He shook a little at this realization. He looked up to the sky, not as a means of reorientation, but to remind himself that there was more than what he was experiencing at this very moment. There was nothing but smeary purple clouds that looked as if someone had started to paint them, but then couldn’t get the highlights quite right, their shapes finally being too obvious, slightly too cloudy. Victor Hugo sighed and checked his watch. It was 3:50 am. He couldn’t really figure out how that much time had passed since he had last wondered. But, thankfully, he was now on the right street, and if he walked a little faster, he could see the white and red Monoprix sign and the stack of black baskets sitting outside in approximately eight seconds. He, of course, walked faster.
As Victor Hugo passed through the automatic doors that graciously whooshed a bucket of lukewarm air upon him, heavily, he really had forgotten what he was supposed to be doing. A young cashier caught his gaze and gave him a nod, one of the ones where you put your chin up instead of down. She had very nice and smooth skin from what he could tell at this distance but two dark holes for eyes. The bags they carried looked as if they were full of plum marmalade. His stomach growled! He had remembered.
He slowly changed his position, then made a volte-face, retreating from the girl down the aisle farthest away from her where they kept the pain de mie and pudding cups. Victor Hugo grabbed one of the bagged loaves with a certain nonchalance. This was due to the fact that he had never seen anyone buy bread in one of these short plastic bags before. He knew that he was not an anomaly because the shelves were sometimes only half-stocked, indicating that others were interested in this product as well, but Victor Hugo didn’t even like this bread. He really wished that he could have a yeasty baguette, or a fat loaf from a boulangerie like everyone else, but recently he’d been having a hard time getting out of bed before the one near his apartment closed. Victor Hugo did not see this as an indication of his overall mental health.
His leather shoes squeaked as he walked across the laminate floors. Maybe they were not laminate. He tried to walk a little differently in order to get the noise to stop, but he just felt like he was limping instead, which was not preferable to the sound, even in the nearly empty magasin. He really only needed bread and toilet paper, but he squeaked to a stop in front of the gourmet foods section. Here, there were rows of rubied and oranged jellies, boxes of crackers peppered with seeds from faraway, honey from the countryside. Victor Hugo picked up a jar of honey and began to read: miel de lavande fine.
“Sa texture est onctueuse.” An old woman had found him here, examining the goldish jar.
“Je suis désolé, je ne comprends pas.” He didn’t understand her.
“I like that honey.” Victor Hugo knew that she hadn’t said that the first time but smiled and nodded anyway.
“Oui, je pense qu’il sera tres delicieux. Merci pour la recommandation.” He continued smiling as he said this, but she had not moved since offering her thoughts on the matter.
“I know who you are.” This spat from the woman’s mouth with tangible pauses between the pronunciation of each syllable. Victor Hugo did not know who this woman was.
“Ah, oui? Qui suis-je?”
“You are,” she spoke so slowly this time that he couldn’t look at her and focused on the honey in his reddish hands. “Victor Hugo.” He didn’t understand how she could have gathered that information just by looking at him. He ran through his memory, trying to place this woman’s features elsewhere. He looked down at her short blond curls as he did this, and they appeared magnificently unaltered by the passing of time or as if they had been recently placed there. Victor Hugo thought about his brother, Ralph, and his surfer kid haircut that swooped across his eyes like a falling wave. Ralph had been watching quite a bit of American television and desperately wanted to be a skateboarder, or a surfer, or a snowboarder. Something with a board. Victor Hugo thought of this as admirable. At that age, he had only wanted to be a writer but was an avid reader and avoider instead. Ralph could not skate, snow or surf board in Paris, so he had, however temporarily, abandoned the city for someplace in California. Ralph had stolen his mother’s credit card in order to make the trip and was now living with a group of sandy-haired twenty-somethings that called themselves the Point Loma Loamers. Ralph shared a bunk with the eldest of the group, a thirty-six year old lawyer turned hippie. He always made sure the fridge was stocked with apple sauce and french bread for Ralph.
The woman was smiling, revealing a truly beautiful and capable set of chompers. Victor Hugo didn’t know what to say. He said he was Victor Hugo.
“Bonne chance,” she said, bowing and then grabbing her full black skirt in a curtsey.
Victor Hugo swallowed hard, feeling now as if someone had peeled off the top layer of his skin. His membranes were permeable. Holding the honey and bread, he had a biblical desire for milk. The fluorescent lights made lilypads on the floor from which he could jump in a winding path to the jugs of dairy. He took large steps instead. Peering down each of the aisles as he passed, Victor Hugo stopped at the cereals section. He was disinterested in any type of sugared ball of crunch that would only leave him hungrier. He paused because he saw a lacy pair of women's underwear, clearly soiled, just lying there, waiting to be gazed upon. Feeling the attraction of repulsion, he walked slowly towards it as if approaching a wild animal, or like the woman that once occupied them. He was not proud of this, but his shame could only go so far with no one around him. He grew closer, nearing them and the oatmeal, and he was overwhelmed by the smell of cardamom. Victor Hugo was perhaps one foot from the ball of cloth when a young girl accompanied by her young father turned the corner and began rattling down the aisle. The man carried a box of Spot laundry detergent in his arms, clearly mountain fresh scent by the air’s delicate shift, and the girl pushed a gingham pink baby carriage with a broken wheel towards him. Victor Hugo thought she was pretty, but what he was doing was very ugly. He picked up a box of instant hot cereal and pretended to study it, pretended that the underwear near his boot was neither his nor someone else’s, was not underwear at all, was refuse as ordinary as any pamphlet turned palimpsest. The little girl clicked her tongue against her teeth as she walked past him, making a tune this way rather than humming. She was very pale, and he wondered if she was nocturnal. Her father paused and bent down to retrieve a bottle of maple syrup, sirop d’erable, from one of the dustier bottom shelves. Victor Hugo read somewhere that all food had to be kept at least six inches from the ground in America. Ralph said that in California, it was illegal to eat a blood orange in the bathtub.
The girl realized that she was being watched, or at least that she was in the presence of Victor Hugo. She, too, curtseyed at him, but with one eye craned around the misshapen head of her father and most of her body hidden by his black coat. Her pink skirt matched her baby carriage, but not the rest of her, which was covered in green and orange fabric. She had on just one glove. As the two came closer, Victor Hugo quickly placed his boot on top of the panties and slid them closer to him. He wasn’t sure if this was a possessive or protective gesture, but regardless it put him a little more at ease. Trying not to seem too eager, he waved the jar of honey and bread at the girl. She pushed her carriage lovingly. Peering down into it, he saw that she was taking care of not a doll, but a slab of meat wrapped neatly in clear plastic.
Victor Hugo straightened, then bent down to the bottom rows as the man did looking for something sweet. Victor Hugo moved his boot. A green leaf seemingly charred around the edges had adhered itself to the underwear, which he thought was sweet, too. He wondered if there were cameras in the store and if it were possible that someone was watching him at this exact moment. Blushing, he moved again, going swiftly towards the refrigerated aisles.
Victor Hugo purchased the milk and the honey and the bread.
It had gotten colder and golder since he had entered the store, but he made it home without any issue. The clouds had cleared and the sun was starting to rise somewhere. He wondered if it would snow. Victor Hugo had a vague feeling that it would, though it was January and it hadn’t snowed so early in the past few years if he could recall correctly. His house was warm when he entered and for this he was grateful and more excited to be alive. Taking off his heavy boots that were caked with a peculiar mix of grey and brown, he left a pile of muck on the wooden floor beneath him. Victor Hugo unraveled his woolen scarf from around his neck and peeled off his also woolen socks. They were slightly damp and for this reason his toes stuck slightly to the wood as he padded across the entryway of his apartment over to the kitchen. He plugged his phone into a set of speakers in the kitchen and put on a Beach Boys song to enjoy while he made himself breakfast, or a late night snack, or an early morning snack. He took out a small silver spoon snaked with leaves and bumblebees that his mother had purchased precisely for moments like these, when one wants to enjoy the richness of what’s before them without being too pretentious. When Victor Hugo wanted to be pretentious, his mother told him to look in the fourth cabinet from the left, in the cherry wood box for her special set of plates and forks and knives and cups. She had been gifted this distinguished set from her eldest of friends, who had recently died and left her and Victor and Ralph quite a few useless things acquired during her years of high society mingling. This particular set was handcrafted by fabricators working beneath a once famous but now cliche artist living in the 5eme. It was made from semen and blood, the artists own. Victor Hugo had never and would never open the box, fearful for any diseases it may have held between the fibers of its purple velvet lining.
Victor Hugo was smearing honey on the mediocre bread, using only the light from the speaker system that kept asking him if it would be nice if he were older. He didn’t think that it would be nice if he were older. He went to switch the song to something more fitting, and saw that he had a text message from Lucille, one of his few friends. He thought that she was up rather early for a Sunday. He left the song playing and opened the message:
“hi victor. do you want to get breakfast or something? i want to talk with you. i miss you a little.”
Victor Hugo was happier than ever. He hadn’t spoken to Lucille in quite a few days, though he had been trying to contact her in the same fashion as the rest of those closest to him. Victor Hugo thought that Lucille was quite fantastic. He had met her through another friend, Alex, a thirty-year-old drifter sort who did not adhere to the usual noir et blanc standards of Parisian dress and always wore faded leather cowboy boots with a pointed toe and a royal blue military coat with bell sleeves. He also had red hair. Lucille played with Alex in a band called Birdie’s Heart, named after the life-sustaining organ of Alex’s little white dog. Birdie was always so dirty, especially in the slosh of winter, and thus he smelled like the sewer grates his nose frequented and the trash his paws could not avoid. Once, at a party, a particularly disagreeable girl who found Birdie to be particularly disagreeable as well attempted to throw his small body in a bath full of tepid water, stopping just before she realized that a rogue hot plate submerged in the tub would have electrocuted him immediately. Birdie’s Heart sounded exactly like The Residents.
Victor Hugo tried think of something nice to say to Lucille, something that would guarantee that their meeting would go well. He remembered that she had once said that she had a strange dream: she was presented with a cake made of pork and baked beans in the middle of which was an aborted fetus that was half hers and half one of her uncles. Victor Hugo had tried to subvert the incestuous nature of the dream, but she had insisted that, to her, the symbolism of the dream contained precisely those urges that she had certainly not just then realized. “Mon oncle est si mignon!” she had said. She had shrugged and taken a long drag of her cigarette, blowing smoke into the mass of her wiry black hair. He thought that this would be something to remind her of their closeness.
“i’d love to,” he typed. “as long as you don’t try to bake me into a cake!” Victor Hugo pressed send.
He regretted this decision immediately.
He arranged his, now certainly, breakfast on a cedar cutting board upon which his mother usually presented a block of melted Raclette, small potatoes, and various dried bits of jambon and viande when she was having friends over for aperitifs after dinner. Victor Hugo felt as if he missed her a little. He dragged his feet across her ancient-seeming Persian rug as he walked towards the window, carrying the platter with one hand and the jug of milk in the other. He set both on the floor in order to once again fling open the silk curtains that had before made the apartment seem incredibly dreary, dark, and quite honestly dank as he had been leaving trash and steadily procured food scraps in a heap in the middle of the kitchen for fairly too long now. He was only vaguely surprised to find that the Parisian sky was now splattered with the smallest of white flakes, falling, dipping, dropping and collecting on the tin rooftops and on the storefront signage and on the ceramic shoots erupting from the landscape as little trees frame a countryside. Victor Hugo shot his hand out of the open window, trying to feel the cold and the wet. The snow melted promptly upon touching his radiator-warmed skin. He sat on the ledge of the window and positioned his meal on the iron railing that circled the length of his apartment. Leaning over to once again grasp the fleeting evidence of winter, Victor Hugo felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He moved quickly to retrieve it with such eagerness that he had ill regard for his body and sent the board and the jar of honey and the loaf of bread and the milk pouring onto the street below. Victor Hugo smiled.