The Artist, by Kat Morris

By Kat Morris

 

What is it about washing blood off of things that makes one turn suddenly introspective? Is it the feel of the blood? Sticky, clinging, suffocating, grasping at fibers, desperate to remind you that it was once moving and vital and not running headlong down a drain. The rushing water?  Clear, cold, cleansing, mesmerizing, fresh. The way it makes everything new and takes your secrets away with it.  I get lost in the scrubbing every time.

Obsessing over getting it out of the cracks and crevices in my hands, the cuffs of my shirt, out from under my nails (especially from under the nails), washing that life off of my hands with every soap known to man. I’ve yet to find anything that works better than good old Pears – and maybe a couple dozen Clorox wipes for good measure. Can’t be too careful these days.  Nothing can raise suspicion you know – too many soaps or cleaning products and people start to ask questions. The always-awkward “Whoa. Your bathroom is so clean. You must spend a fortune on products!” is my favorite. That’s why I’m down to just Pears. No one questions Pears…it’s a chick thing. No one questions that shit.

Too much time thinking. Snap out of it. My hands are definitely clean. I feel like Lady Macbeth sometimes. Scrubbing my hands like a crazy person.

Shit, I totally missed some under my pinky nail. I have to pay special attention to the hands – especially the nails- everyone looks at my nails. My hands are in people’s faces all day every day, so I need to be careful about my hands. Maybe I’m just more aware of them now. The length of my fingers, the cracks and pores and texture. My father called them “artist’s hands”, if only he knew. I’d often thought about wearing gloves, but the feel of sweat under the powdered latex, gives me the heebie-jeebies. Makes me nervous. How crazy is that, clammy hands in latex gloves make me nervous. Maybe it’s because I like the feel of that life in my hands, the trust, the color, the heat – you can’t feel that through latex, not the same. It’s funny, if a guy tried to use that line on me about condoms I’d punch him in the throat, but it’s different, right? Yeah. Right. So different. It’s a chick thing. No one questions that shit.

I’ve never understood why people stare in the mirror when they do inane things like brushing their teeth. What are they looking for? Examining their fat asses, fretting about cellulite and thighs that touch? Those spider veins that appeared out of nowhere when you turned 28? Probably. I don’t look in the mirror anymore unless I have to. I know my thighs will always touch, I know my ass is a bit on the bigger end of the spectrum, and yes, I know that if I’m wearing makeup that it’s probably a little smudgy. It’s supposed to be. I can’t look in the mirror these days.  I don’t have time for that shit.

I’m always this way after a shoot. A little bit tense, full and chatty and bursting with anxious glory.  Wanting to talk to someone (anyone) about what I did and how I did it and show them the progress photos and take pride in watching them squirm and get uncomfortable…that’s how I know it’s good.  I used to measure it in terms of my mother’s reactions.  The more extreme the reaction, the better the execution.  If you feel awkward around me after you see my work, that’s all the kudos I need.  To me, that’s standing in the Colosseum while a thousand throats rip themselves raw roaring for me. I kill people for a living, I cut them, I make them cry, I fuck them up, I rip them to shreds – and I do it well. I do it with color, with makeup, with latex and toilet paper, with string, with silicone, with wax. I kill them and I maim them, I position their corpse just right, I tell them that they’re beautiful…and then I take photos of them, and throw some remover and baby wipes at them and tell them to clean themselves up.

At least, that’s what I used to do.

I’ve always thought that artists should grow with their work.  That we should strive to do something different and unique with every shoot and not get stuck on doing the same style of eye or same lip color every goddamn time.  My own work was at a plateau.  I was hitting the limitations of what colour, latex, and tissue could do. It was frustrating, infuriating, and I admit that I had some very dark days where I drifted through depressions and fits of self-loathing – thoughts that my career was over, that I was a hack who would never do anything different, that I was stuck.  Stuck with blood that was “too red” (always too red) or wounds that didn’t look deep enough. My darkness lasted weeks. I stopped shooting my own work; I cancelled countless carefully pre arranged collaborations with other photographers and artists.  The liquor store clerks exchanged knowing looks behind my back as I bought another box of wine, another bottle of gin, another giant bottle of whatever was closest to the register. In answer to their raised eyebrows or barely audible chuckle at my purchases, I would mumble something about a bad breakup…no one questions that shit.  They just look at your reddened eyes and let you go with hollow supportive sad smiles. It’s a chick thing.

I was desperate for a breakthrough, a metamorphosis – a purging of my former self.  It all happened by accident. That one day where I had a shoot that I couldn’t cancel – it had been put off for too long. And I needed the goddamn money. A simple job, some “cutting wounds and sad eyes” that same bullshit “finding myself” photoshoot that every model with a few tattoos wants to do to show how edgy they are, how wounded their soul is. It was all so routine. Glue down the appliance, sharp scissors to tear the “flesh” but then I did – a little slip with the scissors, some broken skin, profuse apologies, the model swearing at me as she hopped around the bathroom scene. Not so badass now. More soothing words from me (they had to come from somewhere) some Kleenex to clean up a little – and then I took a photo.  It looked good. It was beautiful. The colour. The texture. Everything was perfect. It was a shot of heroin, that little wet, red mouth of a wound. It made my best work look like the latex and Kleenex covered in colour and minty flavored blood that it actually was. I was devastated. I was thrilled. I had to have more. I had to get creative.

Really. Fucking. Creative.

I spent the rest of that shoot in a fog. The photographer arrived, took the shots, hugged me a little too lingeringly at the door as per usual, and he was gone in a cloud of bad cologne and hair product residue. The model tucked money into the front pocket of my jeans, tugged on my braid affectionately and muttered something about her not telling anyone about “my little cut” because the work was so good and she was “so excited about the shots.” My wan smile in return as I pressed a fat joint into her hand, gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her she was “perfect” and “so brave”.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that cut.

I was frantic. Excited. Thrilled. On a high I couldn’t describe or come down from.  I had to have that perfection. But I had to do it carefully. I didn’t start right away. I had to prepare. There would be no more crowing about my accomplishments to close friends, not that I had many anyway. But still.  I spent those endless weeks cutting my ties, changing my numbers, getting rid of that goddamn Facebook page for good this time, re-vamping my company, and making myself a little less me.  Makeup artists can get away with a lot, freedom of expression and all of that other bullshit they feed you about “following your passion in life”. But there was no way I could stand out now. I threw out or donated bags and bags of clothes, shrugged at friends and said I had “grown out of that phase”.

I lived in black clothes.  Nondescript, devoid of detail – I was an amorphous black cloud of mystery – and it was phenomenal. Sure, I got flack from my friends, but I was changing. I didn’t care, and after a while, they stopped calling – and I stopped giving out my new number. Co-workers didn’t notice. I was working graveyards; no one pays attention to the weird girl on graveyard shifts. Change the hair, change the clothes? It’s a chick thing. No one questions that shit.

Changing myself and re-working my business plan was the easy part – but I spent what felt like an eternity planning out my first shoot. Endless storyboards and scenarios, each one more complicated than the last. I had to start simply; otherwise I knew that I would hate it. Makeup, styling, photos, everything done by me. No helpers.  No “assistants”. No outsiders. No confidantes.  But most importantly – no evidence.

Finally, I was ready. It was easy enough. An anonymous ad on Craigslist looking for art models – yes, I paid them. A hotel room rented in a different part of the city, a place that takes cash and doesn’t really look at your ID. They exist; don’t pretend you don’t know a few. I’ve always known that the best way to get faceless people in a big city to do whatever you want is to wave some cash in their faces, tell them they’re perfect, just what you’re looking for, that there might be more money where that first few twenties came from. A drink before we start to “loosen them up” and help them relax: “the makeup takes the longest, shooting is fast”. I know all the lines. I’ve been saying them for years.

My first – what a mess. Arriving two hours late, a skinny guy on disability with bad teeth and a hungry look in his eye that wouldn’t be sated with the sandwich I offered him was exactly what I was looking for. Late models put me on edge. He downed my pre-poured and laced cocktail quickly – they’re so quick to take what’s offered, like it’s expected, all models are the same – demanded another, and then demanded his cash as I hovered over my makeup station. By the time he’d slammed down the second cocktail, his eyes were glassy with the drugs I’d laced it with. Quickly metabolized sleeping pills were a bitch to get, and I may or may not have had to sleep with a pharmacist to get them, but that’s what it takes to make art like mine.

I led my “muse” to the “set”.  The cheap motel carpet was peeled back revealing an equally cheap plywood floor with exposed carpet nails and a few dead cockroaches. I didn’t mind the cockroaches, they add personality. A chalk outline waited for him, it would be a comfortable position, I thought. He rolled his pale bloodshot eyes, slurred something about me being a “fucked up chick” and then giggled to himself, and muttered something about my tits under his breath. Mental note made to up the dosage in my cocktails – I hate it when models are chatty. I started as I normally do, laying down latex, drawing out lead lines for my wound shape with color, the basics. I always start with the basics, they calm my photoshoot jitters. Even after all these years I still get jitters before a shoot. Little nagging thoughts that I can’t do it, that I’m not an artist, that useless blah blah self talk that ruins weaker artists – but not that day. I was a mountain spring that day. Clear, cold, determined. I had a plan, and it was working. Right down to the veining. Enhancing hollows, adding shadow, creating nuances and uniqueness, building on the natural patchiness of his skin, tracing veins with darker colour to make them stand out, adding to the track marks and sores I knew had been hiding under that dirty sweatshirt sleeve. A quick check to make sure he was passed out – eyes rolled back – perfect, I actually preferred that look. Good.

Like my father had always taught me, measure twice – cut once. And I did. A moment’s hesitation, blade pressing into flesh, that delicious elastic resistance, a resistance that almost begged me not to do it – and then commit. It was beautiful.  So beautiful. The organic way the blood flowed into patterns that I’d studied for years. Patterns I’d tried to achieve for years with different mixtures of cornstarch and color, always lacking…but this.  This was perfect.

Until he started to scream.

Oh god…it started thinly first, just a whine, like a dog – I loathe dogs, like I loathed this man, this caricature I’d made. His hollowed eyes, paler than before, bulging in panic as his dirty fingers scrabbled at the beautiful wound I’d made.  No. No no no. That awful whine rising to a loud gasping groan and then a choked scream, as his eyes started to focus and take in the scene I’d created: the razorblades scattered on the floor, the pooled blood, the cockroach I’d placed so carefully on his inert form.  He was ruining everything!

No.

In the most Zen-like state I grabbed for my scalpel, and moved swiftly, slicing into that scream and letting it course across his chest with his last breath, catching the first arterial gout with my fingers – can’t have too much mess left behind, now can we?  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Scalpel. That was me. Now what? He’d ruined my scene with his fish flopping stupidity, and now I had a body to deal with.  I hadn’t planned on a body. Fuck.

Who had heard him? What would I do if someone pounded on the door? Hide? Where the fuck was I going to hide in my “crime scene”. Fuck, it wasn’t even an air quotes crime scene anymore – it was a real one. Fuck. My. Life. And his too, really, but that wasn’t his concern anymore. Now he was my problem. I kicked my muse soundly in the thigh. Asshole. Your fault. Tantrum. Rage Face. I squished a roach with my boot heel. Now what? Now what the fuck.

Cigarette. Think.

No sirens. No pounding on the door.

Nothing.

I waited 30 minutes. My knee jittered endlessly. Endless butts in the ashtray.

An hour. I stared at nothing for an hour.

Except – that pooled blood was starting to look so perfect. Dark. Thick. Just right. His eyes, starting to glaze, watched me. Watched the wheels turning in my head. 

A fat fly was sketching lazy squares in the air above my model’s face – so close to landing – so close to… 

Got it.

No need to waste a “good” seedy motel room and my first set up. Focus.  Reposition the model, add a bit more color to the spots he’d rubbed away with his useless flailing, deepen the veins in his track marks with the scalpel…why the fuck not, right? That darkening pool of blood looked beautiful under my lights.  Add a blue gel like one of those asshole photographers trying to add some “gothy feel” to the photo.  It takes one to know one. Now. Now it was perfect. I was terrified. 

Flash. Flash. Flash.

My fastest and longest photoshoot ever. My heart hammered in my chest throughout the cleanup; I was a fucking super maid at cleaning that night. I got to the pool of blood before it was fully congealed, dumping some of that no-name Cola on it (trust me) and letting it fizz while I moved my model to the bathroom to set up his swan song. Now, originally, I’d planned to clean up, and ditch my muse with his face in the toilet and no one the wiser. But now, now I had to actually PLAN this fucker’s last moments – and they couldn’t involve my fingerprints. On went the nitrate gloves, my victim propped up on the broken toilet, dirty sweatshirt shoved back down over his dirty torso. I was thankful for the dirt and the stink of him now, to clean off the makeup would be too obvious, and he’d stink of alcohol – the wrong kind.  I assisted my model in widening the gape in his windpipe with one of the razor blades from the photo set, using his hand of course – fingerprints. Drug-induced suicide?  Why the fuck not?  I’m pretty sure I was safe in assuming that his life was shitty enough to warrant it.

I rolled the carpet back into place, it was lumpy to begin with, and no one would notice a few extra bumps.  I swept away all trace of myself, the sandwich remnants, the half empty thermos of laced cocktail, which I had plans to chug back as soon as I got home.  Most things went into my duffel bag; the important stuff – including his expired ID – went into my backpack. Brushes and knives, my new tools of the trade, packed together like twin sisters in their sheaths.

I was not calm…not at all. I’d like to tell you that I was stone. Granite and hard and unflinching, but I wasn’t. I was a soft, pale, clammy, sweaty mess. I was terrified that I’d be discovered. That a security camera would catch my ashy gray face and hollowed nervous eyes (mercifully, no check out needed at this place, just drop your key in the faceless box on your way out); that the police would come knocking on my apartment door, looking for the “Goth chick with all the bags”. I won’t lie that I cried on the L-train, praying that no one would notice. But it’s a big city, and no one wants to start a conversation with a sobbing stranger oh the train in this city, especially one that looks like me.

I was going the opposite direction from my apartment, but that was purposeful. I’d never take the L otherwise. I picked a random stop, and hunted for a dumpster. I flung my duffel bag into the first one I was able to get open and high-tailed it back to catch the last train back to my end of town. I called in sick for work that night. Drank the remainder of my sleeping pill cocktail and watched the sun come up, hugging my knees. Waiting to pass out, or for the cops to come. Whichever, I didn’t care what happened. Full of death and judgment, my cameras stared at me from the mantle over my bricked up fireplace.

I spent three days like that. Awake, watching the news, stealing my neighbor’s daily papers at 4am when they arrived. Nothing. No mention. I’d done it. Holy shit.

HOLY SHIT

I waited another few weeks before I even thought about touching my cameras. I went back to work, waited for the nightmares to stop. I was expecting nightmares, but not nightmares like this. They weren’t about the blood, or taking a life.  No way.  That shit didn’t faze me, or my subconscious apparently. The nightmares were about being caught. Stormed by a SWAT team in the middle of a shower, a weird twist on my equally weird and recurring Psycho shower scene fantasy. Taken down in the early hours of the morning while I was walking through the lobby of my apartment building coming home from work. Or, God forbid, on the subway platform with all those people watching – my mother would flay me alive – I’m more afraid of my mother than any SWAT team.

They’d talk about me at high school reunions. On Facebook. Everywhere. Fucking social media. I could see it all now… Endless posts about “I knew she was fucked up back in Grade 9!” “She hit on me once at a party, gross, could you imagine?!?”.  Old boyfriends: “Yeah, she was always weird, collected weird shit, wanted to be a makeup artist.”  “She was more into horror movies than any normal person should be…”
Great. Just fucking great (shut up brain). I don’t give a shit if people talk. Just, not about me. No one can know that it’s me. Ever.

Download.  The.  Fucking.  Pictures.

Months after I started the accidental planning of my first foray into “Tantibus FX” -that was how I was planning to label my work now, it’s a work in progress, fuck off – I downloaded my digital shots. I was blown away. Literally shocked by how beautiful, how visceral, and how graphic my work had become. Instead of being a caricature of death, a mockery, I was enhancing it. I was bringing life to death…that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? My makeup work, instead of illustrating death was making it deeper – I had felt this corpse, moved it, created it. Instead of creating it with powder and crème and brushes, I had created it with my hands. I can’t even tell you how delicious it was, seeing those first photos.  I felt like a pagan God.  Like a mother expelling her firstborn. I felt like Martha Fucking Stewart baking her first perfect pie. It’s a chick thing. It has to be. Creation.  It’s the only power we have left.

I took my time choosing my edits – 2 edits. No more. Editing was a quick process. I didn’t need fancy filters or added grunge or any other fabricated effects. Just the rawness of what I’d created. I posted a teaser online – a crop of the first still – and then I waited. No social media blitz, no “buy my shit” flogging. It was just there. If someone were looking for it, they would find it. The “right” person would find it.

I’d decided that I would only sell 2 of each set up. No digitals. Only prints. I’d turned my second bedroom into a darkroom last year as part of a nostalgic hipster-y experiment. But it would come in handy (so handy) and no one would touch those photos except me. Ever. No accomplices. No witnesses. No evidence. Just me.  It’s a Leo thing. If you want something done right, do it your goddamn self. I’ve always been that way about everything.

After that first shoot, it took me a little bit of time to get my feet back under me, but I was itching to shoot again. My storyboards were stacking up, and they were getting darker and darker with the passage of time. Each one a push farther, a step down, a step away from the last. I was ready. I could do this.
I posted another Craigslist ad – art model needed – PAID.  I had a candidate in the first hour after posting, then another, and another. It was time to choose. I grabbed for my stack of drawings and shuffled through, looking for something that caught more than my eye. There was so much to choose from, some ideas were trite and overdone, some impossible (for now) – THERE.
She would be a vision. MY vision.

I had seen something similar in an art piece online when I was in makeup school, saved it on my hard drive as “Inspiration”. It seemed so long ago now that I had found this piece moving and disturbing, and now I would take it so much farther. I took the train and then a bus to another anonymous end of town, wandered the streets looking for a hotel that would rent for cash, give a cursory glance at my fake ID and throw a key at me. My third stop was it. A motel with broken neon sign and fly spot covered ceilings. I paid for three nights, and called my model. The hunger -always with the unspoken hunger- in her voice as she asked about the payment. So easy. I took that first day to set the scene, arrange a rigging in the bathroom that wouldn’t show in the final photo and would allow me to position my angel perfectly and seamlessly hovering above the stained and broken tile.

The second day was shoot day. I’d learned my lesson with my first model. A cocktail – laced with WAY more sleeping pills this time – in the thermos clanking at my hip, a fresh sandwich – I’d laced the mustard too this time, just in case – and my gear. I was set up and waiting when she arrived, as usual, about an hour late. Her long hair was not clean, neither were her hands, and she smelled like bathtub gin and her face and arms were covered in sores. An aging bruise marred one prominent cheekbone. I thought for a fleeting moment that she once would have been beautiful, the “hot girl.”  Maybe in high school, before she met the first wrong boy in a string of wrong boys.  She was perfect, and I told her so. Maybe a little too eagerly, but I didn’t care. I offered her the sandwich, the drink. She declined the sandwich, but went straight for the drink, asking me nervously if I was a cop, and when I shook my head to the negative, she casually pointed out that I wasn’t her type, but if I paid enough she might be inclined to “help me out” after the shoot. My fake laugh – we’ll see.  I’ve had to use that line at shoots more often than I’ll freely admit too. Drunk models are always my favorite.

I wandered to the bathroom under the pretense of washing my hands before we got started, leaving her to the thermos, which she’d been drinking greedily from since she snatched it out of my hands. She was already swaying on her feet by the time I got back. She couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds soaking wet, so my cocktail was definitely hitting her hard. I’d have to make another “trade” visit to my pharmacist friend – these pills were good. I suppressed a shudder; I’d worry about that later. I sat my model down at my makeshift makeup table – and started on my usual banter: “The makeup takes the longest, shooting is so fast, but it’s all worth it. I like to do as much as I can with makeup, less Photoshop is always better…blah blah blah.” She nodded at me like a drunken doll, her head lolling at crazy angles, grinning vacantly.
Almost time.
I started the way I always do – lead lines, colour, add depth, shadow – play up the hollows, enhance the jaundiced shade to her skin, I didn’t need to add much to the bruising already present on her forearms and wrists, even the placement was exactly what I needed.  It’s like her dipshit ‘boyfriend’ – the one I’d heard yelling in the background of my first phone call with her – had known exactly what I needed. No twinge of guilt, just a wry smile. I’m the Angel of Fucking Mercy, saving you from that, and you’ll be beautiful again.

And she was beautiful. Once I’d finished the bruising and mottling I needed, I laid my model on a plastic sheet for the real work. I checked her more carefully than the first time – deeply under the spell of those sleeping pills, her eyelids barely fluttered when I made my first cut.  Precision. I was cutting shallow this time, with a different knife, one I hadn’t used since I was a teenager living the country life. Feather light my knife flashed, my fingers working quickly, I had to work quickly or it wouldn’t look right.  I took a few photos of her on the sheet, her throat, her ribs, wrists, and calves.  I lifted her gently; I was right – easily less than a hundred pounds, like a bale of hay, but in this case a bale of bones and a half-lived life. I carried her to the bathroom, long – quick strides, and got her into position. Bound her arms at the wrist, legs at the knees, the wire noose on its rigging – and engaged the rigging.

My Bound Angel. Her bloody wings spread behind on the bathroom wall painted with her blood in my own handprints, my signature, the only piece of myself I put in my photos. She was perfect. 

Flash. Flash. Flash.

Another month, another teaser image posted to my website.

It was 3am and I was locking my apartment door when my phone buzzed.  Not my actual phone – that phone, like Batman’s red phone.  The one with the 1-800 # attached to it.  That phone.  It goes straight to voicemail, because no one gets to hear my voice – ever.  I pressed my face to the door listening to the phone vibrate on the desk beside my computer.  Silence.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.

Another jarring vibration.

Voicemail.

Oh.

God.

I fled to work and spent my shift vibrating like that goddamn Nokia “pay as you go” phone, jittering behind the counter, gnawing at my knuckles. Watching the clock like a heroin addict waiting for a fix. A voicemail might mean a sale. A sale might mean the end of fluorescent lights at 4am. At the stroke of 11am I was gone. Fuck the train. I ran home like motherfucking Forrest Gump. It took everything in me to slow down to a walk like a normal human being for the last block or so. The last thing I needed was questions from my mostly absent landlord about why I’d careened into the building and almost knocked over the planter in the font entryway that I always seemed to bump into. Fuck that particular Peace Lily.

Safely inside, dodging a neighbor who likes to ask me when I’ll just give in and admit that I’m a lesbian: “It’s your hair and the tattoos, dear.  I’m not the only one who thinks it, you know” I stare at my desk.
No phone.
I drop my backpack in terror, reaching my desk in four big strides; the heels of my boots thudding on the hardwood almost as loudly as my heart thundered in my ears.  Instant panic and cold sweat – the absentee landlord had decided to break in with his skeleton key and took my phone like he used to take my underpants – No wait. That was the last apartment. Breathe.

“Fuck”

I heard a muffled vibration. Holy shit. The phone had vibrated itself off my desk and onto the carpet behind. I had seven voicemails. Seven. Fucking. Voicemails.

Simple requests, email addresses and short and to the point “Purchasing on behalf of my client, here are the details” messages. Some voicemail left with accents, one entirely in Korean. My first sales were nothing short of magical. The callers received an encrypted email confirmation for an electronic funds transfer. Payments were made to an anonymous electronic bank account. The first two prints sent from two different post offices in different areas of the city. First come, first served. Always.  I believe in that shit. Those who waited too long to pay, were sent an email with directions to watch the website for new work and a promise that it would be coming soon.

And it did. Slowly at first, as I experimented with my lights, working new setups, scouted new locations, traveled a bit, and gradually became more creative with my subjects. I will always feel a thirst to improve and I won’t deny that I push myself to it.  Newer, more shocking, more beautiful. My greatest creations are still to come, and I have so much to give, and so much more blood to shed.

I don’t know who my clients are, but I’ve seen my, carefully fuzzed out or censored, work on the walls of an MTV Cribs episode or two; seen it mimicked in the newest torture porn to hit the silver screen – you’re welcome, dick – and even badly done in an awful, and banned, indie movie. I suppose I should be proud of that, but I don’t do this to be noticed. I don’t have time for that shit. No time for kudos, no time for ego. I do this because I can’t do anything else. I can’t sling coffee. I can’t smile and bag groceries. I can’t suggest the next trend for fall makeup. I. Just. Can’t.

All I can think of is my next shoot, and how to get it out of my head.

Someone had the balls to leak the full versions of some of my photos online a few months ago. How, I don’t even want to know, but the effect was immediate. I hate social media. I’m approached by models all the time – boring beautiful faces looking to add something “dark” something “edgy” something “Goth” to their portfolios.  They come to me with their trite concepts, their bullshit “meaningful” metamorphic stories. They gush about how much they “love my style”, and think they could be my newest muse. But I need my muses to bleed for me – really bleed. My muses can’t have 13,589 fans on Facebook. No, no. I’m looking for…undiscovered talent.

No one looks for my muses; no one cares. Just another John/Jane Doe from a shitty end of this shitty city in a shitty hotel. It’s barely a news story these days. Who notices the death or disappearance of another faceless drain on society? I’m the only one who tells them that they’re perfect, that they’re beautiful.

I make art out of the castoffs of humanity. I’m up cycling. It’s a thing. No one says shit when a designer takes some brutal 80’s sweaters and makes dresses out of them, now do they? I’m doing a public service, and creating something beautiful each time.  I give my muses a value they never would have had in life. I’m inspired, I’m creating.  I know that I will never hit the limitations of my materials, because nature has no limitations, and neither does my imagination. I’m learning all the time – exploring new techniques, teaching myself new and better ways to achieve things others have only imagined in their darkest nightmares.

My pharmacist friend is quietly upset that I’ve started to pay him with cash instead of my body, but I have to draw the line somewhere.  Especially because I’m stockpiling now.  I’m thinking it might be time to relocate – a bigger city, more clients.  More art to be made.

My hands are definitely clean now…maybe one more rinse. Meeting my own eyes in the mirror for once.  Maybe I don’t look in the mirror anymore not because I’m afraid of what I’ll see, but because it’s more than liking what I see – I revel in it.  I like to imagine that people fear what’s in my eyes, because I don’t.  Locking eyes with a handsome stranger in the street – I’m a sucker for dark hair and light eyes – do they know that I’m seeing them starring in my next photoset? Can they tell that I want to know how their blood feels on my fingers instead of how it would feel to fuck them?

Or maybe I’m still waiting for that SWAT team to crash through the door.