“Touring Exhibition” by Tim Livingston

There was a dirty man asleep on an uncomfortable looking bench. I walked past, turned around, and took a photo of the old man with my camera. The girl walking with me was upset that I photographed the smelly man. Based on her reaction, I discerned that she would have preferred me to have walked past the filthy man (who had a bunch of flies flying around his head) and not have taken a picture of him. I told her that I thought my photograph of the near-death man might win me an award it was so good. She grabbed my hand and told me that if I won a photography award I would have to share the prize with the wheezing man, whose skin was so dry it looked reptilian, and not in a sexy way. I told her that the reptile-man would probably be dead by the time the photography judges concluded their months long deliberation, and that even if he wasn’t I wouldn’t want to share with him anyway. She called me a bad name and yanked her hand away from me. The man, whose pants were likely soiled, turned his head to the side and vomited onto the sidewalk. Then he rolled off the bench and landed in his vomit. His face smashed into the concrete sidewalk. He made some weird noise and I couldn’t believe it. I took a photo of the face of the girl who was walking with me. She saw the whole thing. We scampered off and rode the bus to my apartment.

I took the film to a store to be developed. I told them I wanted the photographs to be printed real big. The fat woman behind the counter told me to come back in one hour. I bought a box of popsicles and a magazine from a different store to pass the time. The magazine was about cars. The popsicles tasted like colors. I ate two popsicles and my mouth felt too cold to eat any more. I gave the box of remaining popsicles to a group of kids who immediately dropped the box and ran away from me. One of them yelled “nice phone, faggot!” at me, which didn’t really make sense because my phone had been in my pocket for the entire duration of our interaction. The popsicles melted on the sidewalk and attracted a lot of ants. I can’t say for certain that the popsicles melted and attracted a lot of ants because after the kids ran away I walked across the street to a car repair garage, but I think it’s a fair assumption to make. Ants are attracted to sugar and that’s all popsicles are really, or maybe corn syrup actually, but I don’t think it matters to ants.

In the car repair garage I tried to impress the workers with all of the information I learned from the magazine. I asked them if they had ever worked on a G-70 engine. They told me that there was no such thing as a G-70 engine. I laughed and told them they were all stupid for thinking that. They looked at me angrily. I questioned their manhood. I informed them that both their intelligence and sexual ability were found inadequate by women. One of them grabbed me by the shirt and threw me against the wall. He had an oval patch on his shirt that had the word “Carl” stitched into it. I yelled “Carl’s not even a real name!” which caused him to look confused. I scampered off. I tripped on the curb and scraped my shins. All of the mechanics laughed at me from the garage. “Shut up, Carl!” I yelled.

I was thinking and acting really erratically and I can’t really explain it.

I took my girlfriend to see the exhibition of my photography. It was in an art gallery. It was written about in the newspaper. The guy who wrote the newspaper article about my exhibition said that my photographs “somehow manage to articulate the ineffable psychoses of our era.” The picture of my girlfriend’s face was described as “hauntingly beautiful.” A short piece of fiction based on the photograph of my girlfriend was written by some author. The author didn’t know my girlfriend at all but saw the photograph I took of her and was inspired to write a short story from her vantage point. The short story was called “Moments of Disquiet” and it was published in a literary magazine that I had never heard of but apparently is popular with people who read literary magazines. I read the short story and thought to myself “The author did a pretty good job.” I knew it was good because I got angry at my girlfriend for something the character that was based on her did. It’s not like I got incredibly angry at her, but I probably said something to her that was ruder than it needed to be at some point during the week after I read it. Good short story.

I got some money from the author, who was successful financially. He wanted to use my photograph for the cover of his book of short stories. The author wrote me a letter that contained the sentence “it is the responsibility of the artist to not only attune themselves to the discordant frequencies that shape our history and still rattle our spines, but to transcribe these reverberations, to publicly reveal the shared portions of ourselves falsely assumed to be private and unmentionable.” I couldn’t remember the last time someone sent me a physical letter and I thought of the phrase “literary affectation.” I also thought of the phrase “decadent realism,” and I thought of my grandpa, who was born many years ago. I went out one day to try to find the disgusting man I had photographed, but I didn’t see him anywhere. He wasn’t in the bus terminal and he wasn’t in the park and the photograph I took was hanging on a large 20 x 48-ft. banner outside of some museum, cropped so closely that the eyes of my girlfriend took up its entirety, her eyes staring outwards at other buildings, at cars and buses and trees, staring at all the people walking past and all the people inside of cars, inside of buses and buildings, staring at the birds inside of trees and the bits of garbage inside the cracks of the sidewalk, staring as things fell to the ground and blew off in the wind and as people, without thinking, put their hands in and out of their pockets and touched the back of their necks. Maybe he got his shit together and stopped getting fucked up on cheap liquor during the day, or maybe he’s dead. Maybe he regained control of his facilities or whatever it was he needed to regain control of, or maybe he’s just dead. I took another picture of something and kept walking places and thinking. Eventually the day pretty much ended and I went home to eat dinner with my girlfriend in our apartment or at a restaurant, and no one would ever know.

Profile: Tim Livingston

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