Chapter 4: Twenty Minutes Later

Sabine had gone to the restroom after Tracy’s lecture. They didn’t go in there to cry. Sabine was almost 30. They could handle criticism although Sabine knew that Tracy and Severin were the lifelines by which their career as an artist was able to stay afloat. They couldn’t afford for Tracy and Severin to get bored with their work.

Sabine had gone to the bathroom because they just needed a couple minutes to themselves. They didn’t want Tracy to know that her words had cut so deep. Sabine had only painted Home in the first place because they had to get a piece placed in the Art Crawl. Sabine knew that Severin operated on far more patriotic nostalgia than they would ever let on. Home was guaranteed money, and Sabine had helped make a sale with Tracy’s help.

Sabine had resented the implication that they didn’t care about Home. The piece had ceased to be just a business ploy the moment they placed the first brushstrokes on their canvas.

Sabine hadn’t been back to the home their painting captured since they were in high school. Home wasn’t a surrealist commentary on the bewildering, incomprehensible beauty of nature. Sabine hadn’t painted a landscape as literal as this since their art school days. Home was Fae. Sabine knew that was why Severin had wiped away their tears when they’d seen the painting. Sabine knew it had been so much longer since Severin had seen their home, and Sabine knew that it was likely that Severin would never get to go home again. They were Divise. They were exiles. Home was Sabine’s ode to the land of their zaza and the rest of the Divise stuck here on Earth.


Orchid

Vol. 1: Overture

By Dawn Saas and Nic Frankenberry

Powered by the Apocalypse and the work of D. Vincent Baker

as well as

Urban Shadows by Andrew Medeiros and Mark Diaz Truman

Microscope by Ben Robbins


Content Warning: Depictions of Anxiety and Gender Dysphoria. Considerations of fascist and anti-immigrant violence.


Sabine’s mother was human. Paulina Almeida had been born in Pittsburgh. She went to school in Pittsburgh. She had been one of the most beloved prosecutors in the city for decades, and now she was the city’s top criminal prosecutor. Sabine’s other parent, though, was Fae. Their zaza, Jocelyn, had died when Sabine was very young. Their mother didn’t talk about Jocelyn much, and Sabine’s only strong memory of their zaza had been of a day trip to the Kohler Conservatory when Sabine was barely four.

Sabine remembered going to the Orchid Room. Jocelyn had picked up Sabine in their strong, muscular arms and held them close to the flowers. Sabine kept a yellow orchid in their apartment with Melika. Every time the flower bloomed, Sabine would stop to catch its fragrance, and they would get chills and feel their zaza‘s arms wrapped around them.

Sabine’s defenses of Home to the contrary, they knew their art wasn’t where they wanted it to be and hadn’t been for a long time. Sabine couldn’t focus. Every day was a bombardment and their mental health was the fire radius. Fascism and white nationalism was ascendant across America. Sabine was smart enough to know that neither had ever gone away, but they’d also been alive long enough to know that adherents of those ideologies hadn’t been this brazen in public in decades.

Sabine was a citizen. Their mother was a second-generation Puerto Rican immigrant. Paulina had tried her hardest to root Sabine in American values and an American education. It never took. Sabine was too proud of their Puerto Rican heritage. They were too fascinated by their Fae lineage that their mother refused to discuss. Sabine wanted nothing to do with American imperialism and capitalism, but they lived and worked in an America that reminded them every day that people that looked like them weren’t welcome. They lived and worked in a toxic nation that had shown its true colors to Hispanic immigrants trying to flee the crushing poverty that colonizers like the US had inflicted on them. Sabine felt guilty every day that they could go home to their comfortable bed and work on their art when so many folks like them were being turned away from this nation in droves.

Sabine was heavily involved with socialist organizations in the city including the bigger Marxist-Leninist groups. But Sabine didn’t think they’d ever feel like they were doing enough unless the Rev finally came and they knew that was never happening in their lifetime.

All of this was taking a toll on their work.

Sabine got themselves back together emotionally in Terre‘s restroom. All of the restrooms at Terre were gender-neutral. Jardin as well. The Fae didn’t have a concept of gender or, at least, not one that matched easily with cisheteronormative understandings of the term. Being a single-sex species tended to confuse more binary-oriented humans.

Severin put in more labor than Arsene to pass. Putting on a masculine glamour made Severin’s job easier. Arsene put in labor to smash cisheteronormative understandings of gender to dust. Sabine preferred Arsene’s company, but they hadn’t partied at Jardin in months and it had been months before that.

Paulina had raised Sabine with as much of an agender perspective as she could muster per Jocelyn’s insistent request. However, when you’re nb and you’re AFAB but your name is Sabine and you’re pocket-sized, toxic masculine perspectives have a habit of infantilizing and dominating you whether your mother or deceased Fae zaza likes it or not.

Sabine had identified as a woman for a while. It was a conscious decision when Sabine was a teenager, but as Sabine got to know the Divise in the city while they were in college and as they met other genderqueer and transgender human beings (with whom they shared half their DNA), Sabine realized all of the expectations and realities of “womanhood” fit them like an overlarge potato sack. Their existence was a testament to the anachronistic absurdity that cishet mediocrity was all we could hope for.

Sabine really wished they were stoned. They did not need to be having deep, semi-panicked thoughts in the pisser of the art gallery. This was not college. They had their shit together. Sabine had heard so many of the focused breathing mantras Dr. Zhi had taught Melika over the years. They were reciting them to themselves and attempting to stay calm.

Sabine felt the tension wash off their shoulders. The Divise had helped Sabine out in so many ways, but Sabine also knew they’d probably be dead if it weren’t for transaffirmative psychiatry and the daily coping mechanisms the field had gifted them. Sabine wasn’t looking to party at any point that evening, but they could consider the possibility of leaving their bathroom stall.


Twenty minutes later, Sabine left the bathroom.

Sabine scanned Terre for Melika. Sabine was grateful that their girlfriend was so tall. Sabine’s view of the world was almost crotch-level. Melika was their towering lady of arms. Sabine just wished Melika could see herself that way some days.

Sabine felt bad about leaving Melika by herself. They knew that she was still not great with crowds, but Melika had insisted on coming even as Sabine had told them it would mostly just be an evening of politicking and schmoozing. Sabine loved Melika. They were so in love with Melika. They wished Melika knew she didn’t need her to push herself so hard. They knew how much she loved them.

Sabine finally spotted Melika near Colin’s columns. Melika was standing motionless, staring at her phone. Sabine’s breathing slowed. They had studied Melika from afar at enough parties, just checking on her to make sure she was doing alright. Melika was always on her phone, but she was also always walking. Sabine knew that Melika kept moving because it gave the impression that she was engaged with the world around her enough to be mobile and still be on her phone. Melika’s face was frozen except for her bulging eyes.

Please not tonight, Melika. What have you seen now?

Sabine zipped across the gallery floor, ignoring an invitation from Severin to meet the youngest Cochran daughter. They stopped in front of Melika who immediately looked up at them.

“I… I… I… we… we…”

“Let’s go. Right now.”

Sabine attempted to lead a hyper-ventilating Melika by the hand towards Terre‘s exit. In Sabine’s haste, however, they misjudged their turn back towards the gallery’s doors. Sabine’s shoulders swung into Colin’s hollow papier-mache instillation and the five faux-marble columns came crashing down, spraying plaster and paper into the gallery.

Melika had stopped breathing. Sabine thought she might pass out if she didn’t start breathing soon. Severin was radiating astonishment and frustration from across the gallery floor. Sabine thought Tracy was doing her best not to laugh. Melika was starting to turn a little purple.

“Oops. Sorry about that.”

Sabine gave a little half-hearted wave and grabbed Melika by the hand, and the pair ran out of the gallery.

 

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