8.03 / March 2013

An Imaginary History of Performance #3: white glove

Wear latex gloves. All day, all night, one week. To Rainbow Grocery, the Amnesia Bar. White, too pure, preferably. Let them believe that your hands, if outed, would suppurate yellow sores. It’s 1995. San Francisco. You ridiculed the plans for your neighbor’s helicopter pad: a bulls-eye or a medcross on the undraining roof. You followed Thom Gunn down the hill each day, his leather jacket growing bigger and bigger. The counter-lady with ribboned pigtails would not touch you. Any change from your banana muffin? A waterfall of nickels. Air as barbed wire, as mason-dixon, as moat.

That evening, the family of possums funneled through the kitty door, ate an entire twelve-pack of butterscotch pudding. You threw rolls of toilet paper; the father did not flinch. Rotten aim, declared your beloved. The gloves clubbed hand into flipper, too clumsy to contour your weapons. With a broomstick, she whisked out the possums, banished. Crashing through the backyard jasmine like a bad breath.

Thanks to your theatricality, said your beloved, the possums know we’re softies. You took a shower. Still you refused to abandon the gloves. Their touch deposited talc on zinc counters, the ceramic frog that cerberused the gourmet cheese shop. Miraculous as barium dye, illuminant of hysteria: a syphilitic noise, a tapeworm writhing on a toilet seat. How to fight history? you asked. Ephemeral markers. Your beloved toweled herself off, curled into the couch. No sex, she said, until she could see your hands.

You stacked bricks over the kitty door. Mopped butterscotch off the linoleum. Why wouldn’t you explain? You wore the gloves for your brother, comatose for years, now dead, whose boy palm print had been imprinted onto clay, spray-painted gold, now framed on your office wall. Perhaps, your relationship nascent, you had summoned your pet gargoyles; had deliberately spilled gas on your boots; had begged for the diaphane-winged mechanisms of her recoil.

Drowsily she stumbled into the kitchen. You set the mop in the sink, unrolled the gloves. Could she suppress the chemicals of impending flight? Yes. She kissed the inflamed pink band of your wrist, the two veins that merged and diverged like tweezers, the jostling bones; that part of your body, after the knee, voted most likely to fail.

Robert Glick is an Assistant Professor of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the prose editor of the Amsterdam-based literary journal Versal. His poetry and prose have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review. He likes to break glass and ceramic tiles.