Dissection #2: A Confessional in Nail Polish Chips

Jude Saint leaves behind a snail trail of blue nail polish chips, as they move sideways in transition.

Every day I work, I spend at least ten minutes using a scalpel to pick at my cuticles. I don’t know what this means but it feels important to disclose – I do not understand my own intentions with this action but I refuse to pathologise it. I have more respect for my desires than that. I am under dissection. I’m resisting the urge to dissect myself in front of you. I don’t think it’s productive, or conducive to constructive relationships. I’ve become skeptical of productivity. This isn’t an original thought, but a conclusion either way. I work retail and I sell art supplies – it feels subversive to exist in the world with others. I inherited a restlessness from someone back up the line of time. This is the longest I’ve stuck with a job.

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been quiet but I’m learning to reconnect. I’m wrapping my little fingers around a glass, around a gallbladder, I’m learning to be loved. I’m not good at this. I’m sorry, I want to learn. I want to be a part of something but it’s uncomfortable. I love to be unknown, unknowable, unlovable, unlearnable, undesirable, but I wore my best shirt tonight.

I’m learning to sit next to someone in silence. Parallel play, making jewellery and enjoying someone else’s company. It’s all so much easier when I am home. I don’t have to confess anymore.

I love to be unknown, unknowable, unlovable, unlearnable, undesirable, but I wore my best shirt tonight.

I don’t want to make sense anymore. I want to convey something bigger than what I can through words or ideas. I want to piece together the incoherency of feelings to share. I fear this is my role. To piece together an incoherency, to debase myself, to share something. I’m in the confessional, confiding my love for the world in the pieces of blue tailing me – but the priest doesn’t know I’m transsexual.

It feels gauche to put it so plainly but it feels urgent to give my confession. Testosterone is the only way this could happen. Had my body not shifted under its influence, I would never have reached a truth that transcends skin. I’ve spent my life distracted by the vase given to each cissexual at birth – skinning my knees on the broken pieces littering the floor.

There’s a video of children being asked their greatest wish – one says that she wants to crawl inside your head and eat her way out. I wouldn’t mind that. The world is crawling inside my head and eating its way out. I’m being chewed down like snails on paper. The world has left snail trails across my skin, connecting me to the beautiful wet pavement I watch on my walk home.

Something always comes from nothing.

What I’ve always wanted but never articulated is to be seen as a boy – a man even. But it ruins the fun to disclose. It’s intimate for a person to look at my girl-gendered body and understand me as something else. Articulation has become a game and my desire for eloquence violates a taboo of interaction. The non-normative figure is not meant to be articulate, because to do so necessitates an understanding from others that is abrasive to social structure.

I’m learning to be with people.

I’m sitting on the floor of a room from a distant childhood. Unmemorable walls, soft carpeting, and a strong wooden table in front of me. On the table are all the tiny pieces of a vase and 15 tubes of super glue. This is my task for the rest of adolescence – to piece together a vase with no instructions and 15 tubes of super glue. At least the vase is pretty. At least it’s blue.

Maybe when it’s built, it can house every flake of nail polish I’ve left in my wake.

I’ve always craved understanding. I think it is the byproduct of embodying misunderstanding. It feels comparatively effortless to connect now. I don’t feel the pressure of disclosure or coherence.

I’m chewing off my nail polish. My hands smell like perfume and taste metallic.

I’ve spent my life inside a television. I imagine myself: the dream version that exists in my notebook sitting in a deep indigo space, watching the world through a lens. I’ve always existed like this, buffered by those blue walls. The walls have become my body. The blue has thinned and now my skin is permeable. The world is entering me, and I, it. I am being penetrated, but it is oh so pleasurable.

Transition is an illogical movement – it’s a lateral transition between ideals. A wormhole leading to a truth beyond illogicality, for me, at least.

It doesn’t do any good for Trans (sexual/gender) rights, to think this way. To be illogical and undefinable is dangerous. I’ve upset the foundation. But recently I’ve found that the fun of existing is the comfort to be nothing and anything; to transgress and take the pronouns out of my Instagram bio. To force others into the discomfort of gendering me.

As I’ve been forced into confession in each new interaction, now I force others. I watch them squirm to look over me with my high voice, Adam’s apple, not-yet-flat chest, but broad shoulders. They don’t know where to place me.

I want to be a streetlight.

Essential but unseen, part of the landscape. Beautiful in the dark but not often thought about. I want to be up high, covered in snails, watching everything. I want to become a part of the sky.

Living is the most confronting work I’ve ever made – curating my life for pleasure. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything worth something through logical articulation. Articulation only counts for something when it makes something good. I’ve been so focused on making sense with the perfect political articulation. I desired a digestibility that I lacked in my personhood. I must emulate an Instagram infographic with my work. This must be reproduced, disseminated. This confession goes further than the priest. It has meaning because it is Important Work. My life is meaningful because I make Important Transgender Work to better the political landscape.

I am a Transgender Artist and I make Important Political Work.

I will dissect my body for the comfort of my cissexual colleagues.

I don’t think I’ve made good art before. Now I am completely devoted to my task – not that it is often successful, but it becomes a way of living. My curation is meaningful if only because my life becomes more beautiful. The more I fill it with beauty, the more meaning it has, the more pleasure it has. Living is an art of eroticisation. I have eroticised each task.

I’ve become a body beyond skin, I’ve become one with everything that is bigger than me and there is no longer time. It’s dilated. A body is a fluid mass and we don’t have pores anymore. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. I’m stinging from exposure to the world. I’m stinging from being cradled in the salty fingers of a well-meaning stranger. Everyone I love is a well-meaning stranger. I like the sting because I feel it and I feel it because I am a part of something.

I chew off my nail polish before I chew down my nails. I paint my nails because the color is safe and I hoped to stop my restless teeth. I was afraid of what it would mean to eat nail polish – if it would kill me. But I want to be consumed by blue.

When we moved house, the gap between my now ex-partner’s bed and the wall was filled with flakes of blue.

There is often nail polish in my teeth. I hope I look like Michèle Lamy. It leaves a little trail of blue behind me. When we moved house, the gap between my now ex-partner’s bed and the wall was filled with flakes of blue. I see the chips of it next to every seat I’ve sat in for the last six months. Somehow they are never cleaned away. Blue between the wall and a comfort. I feel like my treasured snails, the ones I see on the wet concrete walking home in the winter. We leave pretty trails together for the next day to witness – an art from living.

I’ve been too focused on legibility to see beauty. Nothing fictionally logical is as interesting as something illogically real.

I want to disclose everything, and experience more. I’ve said this too many times but I’ve just become conscious at the age of 21. I’ve woken up out of my frozen bed and I’m ready to start the first day of my life. I’m writing so incessantly now, and not just facts about my life. My girl body was the barrier between me and everyone and everything and disclosing that was terrifying. But I’ve broken through and I can feel the tips of my fingers again.

The snails have trailed through me and connected me to the pavement you walk on. I’m below everything. I’ve become one of those little snails you step around. I’m a part of everything now. I’ve let go of everything that held me in place, that stopped me from communing with others. Defrosted my separation – I’m moving laterally now.

I’ve become nothing so I can become part of everything. It’s more filled with beauty than I could have ever hoped for.

I’m moving laterally, I am so big now.

Painting by Jude Saint

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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