as though her body had been pieced together in the dark

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(4:19 PM) Paula: wutup over there?

Caitlyn’s neighbor, Paula, seemed to be either always at home or always online. She was leisurely pursuing a BFA with an emphasis on Painting at Pratt Institute. And even though she only registered for two classes a semester, Paula had managed to convince her parents to pay the rent on her Astoria apartment, instead of buying her a car to commute between their home in Douglaston, and her classes in downtown Brooklyn.

She promised mom and dad she’d get a job and pay back a percentage of the rent every month, vowing her success in the art world would be the ultimate return on their investment.

In order to perfect her craft Paula insisted she needed her own space, and claimed that maintaining a lax schedule allowed her more time to absorb and implement what she was learning. Her mission was to spend as close to a decade in school as possible, “learning the rules, playing the game, and perfecting the techniques of less motivated and more talented students.”

What it really came down to was Paula never wanted to drive in Brooklyn.

(4:19 PM) Caitlyn: the usual shit.
(4:20 PM) Caitlyn: boss came by with some assignment, hit us with one of those extra motivational “jump higher” comments. she sounds so ridiculous i swear. that’s why i try not to talk when i’m here.
(4:20 PM) Paula: y? u afraid of sounding stupid?
(4:20 PM) Caitlyn: u know that saying…
(4:21 PM) Paula: yea and now i know the truth
(4:21 PM) Caitlyn: ?
(4:21 PM) Paula: u care what other people think! ur human like every1 else
(4:21 PM) Caitlyn: now yr talkin cray
(4:22 PM) Paula: hahaa ur just like everybody else!
(4:22 PM) Caitlyn: what about u? u dont care what anybody thinks…
(4:23 PM) Caitlyn: oh well, guess we can’t be friends anymore

Paula’s obsession with her medium, with visual stimulation, was the basis of her life-long experiment with her personal appearance. She adorned the canvas of her skin with adequately spaced, memorably sized tattoos and altered her complexion with an occasional spray tan. Her dark and dingy brown hair was often bleached, braided, colored, cut, and pressed to suit the theme of whichever live art installation Paula fancied to inhabit for any amount of time.

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Neither athletic nor curvy, Paula was boney and awkward-looking, as though her body had been pieced together in the dark. She had an exaggerated S curvature in her spine (the result of years of deliberately poor posture), protruding shoulder blades, and a pair of breast implants the exact size of red grapefruit.

Either despite, or because, of her unusual physical presentation, Paula was – according to Paula – fascinating and undeniably alluring. Her extreme commitment to accentuating her features in varying degrees of absurdity, she once revealed to Caitlyn, was what attracted people so intensely to her that they couldn’t help but want to be near, and have contact with, her. She was unbelievable to less inhibited people, she’d said, because she was conscious, live, human art.

(4:23 PM) Paula: u don’t get it
(4:24 PM) Caitlyn: i guess not…
(4:24 PM) Paula: im only ur friend bc i’m here to help u be less human
(4:24 PM) Caitlyn: clearly…
(4:25 PM) Caitlyn: what r u up to?
(4:25 PM) Paula: about to go meet ant
(4:26 PM) Caitlyn: fun
(4:26 PM) Paula: NOT EVEN

Paula’s drug dealer, Anthony, used to deliver until she’d decided he was banned from her apartment, and the building, last month. Apparently he’d hit on her “in a super creepy, aggressive way.” She hadn’t provided details, which was just as well since Caitlyn didn’t really want them.
Still, Paula’s idle nature meant she needed a frequent supply of coke and kush. And she’d decided it was safer for her to meet Anthony at the park.

Paula was friendly and entertaining.

Caitlyn found her interesting but she’d never experienced the same compulsion for contact with her which Paula described so many others – Anthony included – as having. Caitlyn presumed she’d developed a tolerance to her neighbor due to overexposure.

(4:27 PM) Caitlyn: well good luck with that.
(4:27 PM) Paula: thx bitch
(4:27 PM) Paula: i’ll prob call ur desk if i feel like i’m gonna be raped.
(4:28 PM) Caitlyn: i’d hope u would 
(4:28 PM) Caitlyn: cause i care just like the rest of the humans, u know
(4:29 PM) Paula: yeah okay.


 


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