Kirsten Kaschock

from confessional sci-fi


In three years, I will leave my husband, my three boys (aged 11, 8 and nearly 6) to move into the Divine Lorraine Hotel for the three months prior to its scheduled demolition. I will have very nearly completed my second PhD by that time. My professors will think I am diligently dissertating. My husband will assume I am having an affair with a street person. He will import numerous relatives to help him cope with his three sons. I will not know what my children think until they discover it decades later in therapy and accuse me.


Lorraine will have been nearly completely salvaged. Her beds will be dismantled and removed, only the filthiest mattresses left on dust-drenched shag. Horrific swags of flocked metallic wallpaper, stripped from her walls then framed as souvenirs of urban blight, will hang in a thrift shop four blocks west on Fairmount. When I tour this thrift shop, before entering Lorraine, I will blush for her. I bring one duffel bag. I enter her on a blue April morning. I will wait until April, because there is nothing to keep me warm inside Lorraine. The entire process (I blush for myself) is like cutting—a bodying forth of the internal shameful. I will enter the Divine Lorraine because she is the only divinity I will allow myself to enter. I will enter the Divine Lorraine because I will not have allowed entry to myself in nearly a year. I will enter the Divine Lorraine looking for something to save. It is not me. Already, it will be too late for that.


Time is a quality of movement. This will be the second chapter of my dissertation on feminist avant-garde choreographic practice. Inside Lorraine, there will be no movement. No time. I have never meditated, but inside Lorraine I can sit for hours. My legs will not fall asleep. My creatures (I will refuse to call them demons) will not attack me with bathtub claws or broken bottles. For Lorraine, time will have lately been to sort and to remove. All the old radiators in one room. Toilets in another. Fireplace fronts propped up in one long hallway before they are carted off for selling. I sit in one of Lorraine's twin penthouses as part of this, my last resort, and I re-move around my inner things. In one compartment I will place my loves. My flaws will flood the adjacent, the surrounding rooms, but not with blood. The Divine Lorraine is one love. She is as far inside me as I am her. I will look across—above the dark courtyard—to the other penthouse room. Lorraine must sit inside me over there. We are not unlike The Shining, only we are better. Here we are immurderous, and not snowed in. Instead, pre-mourned and be-loved (loved beside) we wait in passive voice amidst a brotherhood of filth to be taken apart and taken down as words uttered from a deathbed used to be. Ask anyone.


When the doctors removed my first child from me, by allowing me to push (it was necessary that I be allowed), it got very cold. A sudden dry cabinet was in a space I had up until that point not recognized as space. The cabinet grew. When, in three years, I walk into the Divine Lorraine, her emptiness will greet me like a daughter.


I will, in one auditorium, an old ballroom, find god. God's name will be on the wall stylistically above a domed window, painted there decades ago by a devotee of Father Divine. God will be sprawled far beneath god's name, licking itself with one leg jutting into the air of the large room like a weather vane. I will never have understood how to use a pronoun to refer to god, especially at those moments when god appears as a diseased alleycat whose searching face obscures the relevant anatomy. Despite certain similarities to Lorraine, I do not contain a place where dancing was, and after dance was not, cult revivals.


I will have come to the Divine Lorraine to have an affair. It is the same reasons. It will help that her name is a drag-queen's. What clothing she will have left in neglected closets resembles this also. I will feel daring when I enter Lorraine, full of conquest. She is an old beauty. I will know it to be an oxymoron as I think it. I will be stabbing my husband, at least, I will be pulling out a revolver. He will have had his head inside his microscope for years when I enter Lorraine. Everything has looked so small, that is to say its actual size, except for the cells. When I move into Lorraine, I will be aware of her as a mass, a tumor. She is disease, her cells at the wrong place or time, which are only measurements of one another. Lorraine is situated in error at some juncture, which makes me hope, if she is all I think she is, she will find a way out, or back. This will not be a ghost story. It will be pornography. As I push her head into the pillow under the confocal and squeeze her breasts, I will wonder if she was born with them.


The body is the first box the soul is placed in, to stifle it. Surplus soul, if overflown the body, dances. Architecture is the second box, built to contain the dancing. When there is no dancing, what do purposeless arches and walls, fenestrations and corridors do? When the soul begins to shrink—the spaces within the body—what wanders them then?


The first night I spend in Lorraine will be a relief. All day I feel comforted by her falling grandeur. Especially the flaking paint will calm me. I have hours picking from her these hermeneutic scabs. I spread them across the floor like continents to discover Lorraine's geography. She is, I might have guessed, a sailor. She set down here for a time only to be wrecked. All cities, she will confide, and not simply Manhattan, are islands. She knows shanties. They will pull me into sleep on this first night, along with the motion of her emphysemic breaths. Her pain will lull me. I will fail happily to dream, held from those waters by her utter and lovely lack of expectation. Sleep is its own and only ambition.


The event that will send me to Lorraine will be trifling. My eldest will forget that I am a writer. My husband will fail to introduce me to a colleague. My desire, all of it, which has been drying up, will be finally dust. I will look in the mirror and see only this want of want, which rhymes with— quaint. When I announce my plan to live inside this fortress on her deathbed, I will laugh along with my husband, who will ask me if I need to shave my head again. I will shave my head again. There is less harassment of a bald woman of my size. The runt may be diseased. The funniest thing inside Lorraine is how large I can be, shorn of so much I'm not.


I do not mean to imply that The Divine Lorraine is a spaceship. I mean to state it. In three years, I will be abducted. I will be taken into her dying bosom like a child ransomed. What I may begin to understand is how alien we are, Lorraine and I, and how wondrous it is that she has had a woman's name but is nothing like a woman. Lorraine is vessel, country, nature. She is first apartments for the (industrial) nouveau riche, then a four-star hotel. Eventually, she is desegregated by Father Divine who believed in civil rights, temperance, and long skirts. Finally, Lorraine is deeply empty for many, many years, but nevertheless bought and sold at fantastic profit. When I am taken into Lorraine, I will hunt for the levers and buttons that may lift her up again, above my head, and ultimately, into my unbreathable aether.

Kirsten Kaschock and writes in Philadelphia. She is a doctoral student in dance at Temple University, and her first book of poetry, Unfathoms, is available from Slope Editions.

These pieces first appeared at Negative Wingspan.

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