THERE ARE DAYS WHEN she wants to feel protected against the cold air. Days when she wraps up in thick sweaters, scarves, and pulls on her tall boots. Those are days when the clouds hang low and her breath is all ice. When her emotions need to be padded and wrapped up. Despite the softness of his feelings.
Other days she opens the wardrobe and picks out a flattering dress to wear. Days when she wants to bare her shoulders, her legs, her skin. When she wants to be touched. When she is open and bold. For him, those days are easy.
Some days she flicks through the clothes hangers but finds nothing to wear. She doesn’t find it because she does not know what she is looking for. She picks out a silky shirt and dark trousers. The garments feel all wrong. Clothes that don’t quite match, trousers that don’t quite fit. Short of time, she leaves to meet the day, meet him. He says she’s beautiful. His words are ill fitting too.
At night she sleeps wearing no clothes at all. In her sleep she is not afraid to expose her skin. His touch and the warmth of his body a cure for her loneliness. She no longer spends the small hours of the night flushed by acid emotions. He wishes her days would be peaceful like her nights.
At times, she wakes and picks bright joyful clothes to put on. A sky blue skirt and a cream sweater. She feels happy, content. Light-hearted and loving. They collapse in tangled embraces. He feeds on those moments.
Those days rarely last long. Soon she’ll wrap herself in layers of sweaters, shirts, and scarves again. She covers her body with garments no one cares turning their head for. Jeans and sneakers. Wearing those items she feels comfortable, self-contained. Ready to simply get on with her life. Hiding behind his sunshades, he watches her walk through the door.
Stills from Robert Whitman’s performance piece ‘Flower’ performed at 9 Great Jones Street, New York in April of 1963 and featuring performers Trisha Brown, Simone Forti and Mimi Stark, among others.
Alexandra Cronberg is a London-based writer.