Chelsea Bayouth

Chelsea Bayouth is a poet, writer and artist from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. After graduating with a BA from CalArts, she began making puppets and sculptures and has been featured in art shows at Pehr Space, iam8bit, The Hive Gallery, The Daniel Rolnik Gallery and at the Brewery Artwalk in Los Angeles. While in college she was heavily involved in creative writing and was mentored by the likes of Douglas Kearney, Maggie Nelson and Anthony McCann. She has performed at Beyond Baroque, The Last Bookstore and The Levitt Pavillion and her poetry was recently published with Literary Orphans. She is inspired by monsters and aliens and she owns a lot of wind chimes. When she isn't writing, she is creating terrifying animal masks that she is running out of room for. Her art and writing can be found on her website- chelseabayouth.com

 

Life in the Snack Lane; living with Shaqjizz (October, 2014. Issue 47.)

When I first became friends with Camille we were working side by side at an FX warehouse in the industrial district of Boyle Heights. There were bullet shells on the ground, and the air no matter what time of day, smelled like farts and hot garbage. At one time a semi truck barreling through the narrow streets took out a parked car and proceeded to drag it for fifty feet. All of us stood outside and watched, of course. I like to think our friend ship began when I was staring at her left armpit. In reality it began just a bit before. (I think while I was nursing a Chardonnay hangover with a head full of accidental cornrows.) But one day she interrupted herself while talking to me as we did our work.

"Are you staring at my arm pit?" She asked. My face instantly flushed.

"Yes." I said, facing the issue head on. "It's something I do." To which she laughed uncomfortably and said,

"Well stop...It's freaking me out!"

And I tried to stop. But really, I never stopped. And as long as I am around Camille I will always, always stare at her pits. It isn't because she has exceptionally different pits. I stare at everyone’s pits. Any one person male or female who has exposed armpits will ultimately be a huge distraction for me. It seems so private, just out there in the open. Like dog butts. Whenever a dog passes, I absolutely cannot, not stare at their asshole. Doesn’t anyone understand that those buttholes are all just out in the world for everyone to see?

Anyway, despite me being odd and a creep she still invited me out. Now, at this point in my life I was down and out and living at my Mom's house. I had moved back home when I was 24 because I couldn’t pay rent. But it was like the universe knew I would need to be around for my family, because three months after I moved in my parents decided to 'separate'. On Christmas. And then everything was underwater. While all of this was happening everything seemed to come to the surface of my current relationship. So naturally I broke up with my absentee boyfriend the following month. (They say these things come in three’s.) At this time my mom decided in a whim of insane post partum that the bathroom connected to my room had to be redone. The bastards taking out the tub cracked through my wall and all of my shelves came tumbling down. The spring following the break ups, my parents and my own, I watched every season of Ally McBeal in the dark cubby of the built in bed in my childhood room while drywall from my broken life lay on the floor. For months crusty bowls and cups thick with old juice cluttered my room and my headboard. I was steeped in the metaphor of it all. Everything was crumbling around me. And that spring continued to be pockmarked by a string of desperate bad choices; Random blow jobs at parties. Waking up on hardwood floors.Bottles of wine. Last minute lovers rendezvous at hostels in Brooklyn. One morning I showed up at my Mom's house from a party the night before with my hair teased into a Marie Antoinette puff (I drunkenly found a bottle of aerosol hairspray under a guest bathroom sink and turned the place into a full blown musical montage of teasing and make up.) with a large sharpie mustache on my face.

"What the HELL." My brother laughed at me as I walked in. My eyes were still closed.

"I can't,” I said. I held up my hand and blindly found my way to my room. I had just been broken up with by my 40 year old puppet teacher because I wanted a finger in my ass and I was eating about three to four of Tina's frozen bean and cheese burritos a day. (Those two are not related.) Not to mention any grubby old snack I could get my hands on. And then summer rolled in and I had come to work at the FX warehouse where there was at last, Camille. Enter any of the songs from Fleetwood Mac's, Rumors as she walks in slo-mo through the shop to her seat next to me. Hand stitched Harley Davidson tank top, American flag push up bra, tight high-waisted pants, her long crimped weave blowing in the AC.

I knew from the time I met her a year previous that I wanted to be her friend. Now this has only happened a few times in my life but when it happens it comes on strong. And it’s weird and creepy. Usually I will know the instant I have met someone that I want to be their friend the way Camille and I are friends. But it won't come to fruition for a while. Most of the time before any friendship begins I am observing them from afar. Figuring out the way to best approach a friendship. Like a crush, but worse. Because crushes come and go, but friends! Well, friends can be forever! So I sit like a weirdo and observe and keep my secret tucked inside of me like a folded paper until the right time. And this summer was the time.

Camille is like how my alter ego looks. If a biker gang, a box of vintage furs, a convenient store, Lana Del Rey and a country cook out all had a baby, it would be Camille. That and with all the gracefulness of a doe, fucking Taurus. But the thing I remember and maybe even love her most for are her nails. Camille has incredibly long, womanly, amazing fingers that are wearing an untold number of turquoise rings with impossibly long nails that grow naturally just like Barbara's (Streisand). But the thing I love most about Camille's nails is that she takes horrible care of them. The hands I have in mind from our first meeting have ten uneven, scary, black paint stained nails with chipping polish. And to boot she makes puppets and automatons of bums and transvestites digging through trash cans in lingerie. She is romanced by gutter punk chic and mentally ill vagrants, charmed by deformed animals and lost, punch covered children in Food-For-Less. She has big blue Kansas eyes and to my delight, is a real live felon. A year later when we sat next to each other at work her nails had the tiniest remnant of Sally Hansen’s Nail Effects on them in the pattern Cheetah. And one of her pinky nails was really, really long. Longer than any scary gypsy man you may have met in Venice whose pinky you are unsure of is a guitar thing or a coke thing. That long. Just one. And she invited me out.

Getting ready in my drywall blasted room in Woodland Hills I texted her,

"I look like Catherine Zeta Jones from Entrapment." And she responded,

"I look like a lumber jack prostitute." I knew it would be a good night and I drove to a shabby house under the freeway in Silver Lake to meet her. When I arrived, she and all the boys in her pack were sitting in plastic chairs on the driveway around a black pick up truck and a mixed mutt named Xerxes was running around getting yelled at. Soon we were in Downtown and drunk. For some reason we ended up being more people than could fit in the car back to the house so Camille and I climbed in the truck bed with a bunch of lumber and some rolling around marionette bodies. If my life were a movie, that moment would be the end of the first act. Camille and I drunk and screaming in the truck bed watching the city go by in reverse, like we were up in the sky looking down. The beginning of things looking up for me. A moment where I'm like, Hey, things aren’t so bad after all huh?

When we got back to the house everyone was winding down. I was standing in a bare carpeted room with a mattress and a bunch of hanging pizza puppets. Clark, Camille's husband had found some old ecstasy rolling around somewhere and we decided to chop it up and snort it. How do I explain Clark? Clark is the product of small town Kansas meets toxic avenger. He is a charming, bowlegged, mullet-hawked Aries. The inside of his head is filled with visions of early 90's infomercials melting into a neon sludge of pizza and sun warped VHS workout tapes. And he was chopping up an old hairy ecstasy pill with his credit card. This was following a large period of drug abstinence for me, but after the truck bed I just felt so damn good that dammit I was going to snort some ecstasy. After everyone had their share I went into the bathroom to look at my boobs in the mirror. I pulled down my shirt and then watched my pupils get wide while I smiled like a freak to myself. When I walked out into the living room everyone was gone except for Camille who was sitting on the couch, inert from drugs or beer or 12-hour workdays, probably all. Someone came in and took out a vinyl (a vinyl) of 'Butterfly' by Crazy Town and soon it was blasmdmating off behind her so loudly that the glass in the windows rattled. I was immediately over come by the tightness of my clothes and the ecstasy in my head and the lyrics to that stupid song and I began to dance in front of her like a stripper, like I love to do. In my head stage lights were rotating around me as I lithely moved and whipped my hair and I mouthed the lyrics to the song while keeping eye contact. I was a real life Pussycat Doll. After the song ended the room was deafened by the quiet. Months later I remembered this and asked her,

"Hey do you remember that one time we snorted ecstasy and I danced like a stripper in front of you?" To which she replied.

"Yeah. That was really weird. You freaked me out. I was like, who is this girl?" We laughed but I secretly wondered about how many other times I had done that on dates and thought it was sexy, and what they must have really thought. Still, the night was young and Camille and I decided to take a leisurely walk down Sunset at 2am to talk manically about sex and fashion, swapping stories like children’s toys. As we cornered the street upon returning we heard shouting and saw flashes glowing bright into the sky. When we sourced the commotion we discovered that Clark and his band of mis-fit toys had overtaken a hipster gathering across the street where a lonely fire acrobat had been unknowingly waiting for their arrival. Clark and his friends had delighted her by letting her teach them the art of hula hooping while juggling flaming bowling pins. Everyone was shirtless in the middle of the street and their faces glowed orange as the pins were tossed into the air. Camille worried that Clark’s mullet would catch fire but I had a really good feeling this was the start of something wonderful.

That summer Camille and her husband had been sleeping in a pile of breakfast jack wrappers on their friend James' couch while they looked for a new place. She spent most of her breaks on her mini laptop looking for apartments and houses on Craigslist. One day she came in all-sly with a smile and told me they had found a place, which they would be moving into with James. She told me it was a large yellow carriage house with four bedrooms in Korea Town. I asked her if they had extra rooms and we both paused and thought. Did we dare? I moved in that weekend and promptly painted all four of my walls with black chalkboard paint. I drove back and forth from Woodland Hills to Korea Town in my white For Taurus Wagon, with the off-alignment bumping and shaking all of my crap. I didn't even put anything in boxes. I took the drawers right on out and shoved them through the hatch back. Life was knocking. And I wasn’t going to wait to answer. There are still remnants of my life in that room at my Mom's house. Things I left behind in a hurry. Like a mandatory evacuation, I only took what I could and got out.

Two months later in October of that year we were settling in nicely. Clark and Camille had painted the entire inside of the house a bright turquoise blue and we had a gold velvet couch. If you could imagine Pee-wee’s Playhouse meets a Sunland thrift store meets aging desert ex-cons you would be nowhere near close. But close enough. Trans gendered elderly puppets hung from every doorway and vintage tasseled lamps decorated the ceiling. Candles filled our coffee table, which was also covered in Cheetos bags and dead poinsettias, half chewed dog treats, incense dust and James' used insulin needles. Cords from all of Clark’s electronic hobbies poured out of doorways into tangled scary lumps in corners. A wall of the living room was framed in nailed pieces of rotting wood and it was our TV, which we projected episodes of Archer onto for entire weekends. Clark and Camille also owned an incontinent three-pound Chihuahua rescue with a broken back named Maybe. She did come with a wheel chair accessory but it was only saved for special occasions because if you strapped her in and walked away she would inevitably end up stuck in a pile of speaker cords or be unable to get through a small space, which would lead to the most excruciatingly high pitched, warbled yapping in the world. So because of this, any given day she would be whining and snorting scooting around dragging her little paralyzed frog legs behind her while her 'lil snugglers' diaper collected all the dust bunnies in the house. Her toenails on her back legs were like little black snails, and given every opportunity a dog nail has to grow since there was no pavement to file them down. Maybe’s face was asymmetrical from the accident that landed her in Clark and Camille’s care and she had a large and painful looking spine that stuck up in a point like a shark fin. She was hopelessly dependent on everyone and anything for everything. Clark and Camille even had to 'poop' her by squeezing her butthole when it was time to change her diaper. This they did in either our bathroom or in the driveway in their pajamas. Regardless, Maybe was cute. She had large twinkly black eyes that she would knowingly or unknowingly wink at you with and a little sniffer that was always testing the air. I personally was extremely fascinated by Maybe's back legs. And regardless of whether she could feel it or not (she couldn't) I would pinch the little atrophied flippers constantly. They were like mush. And would most likely be delicious if you cooked them.

On Halloween we got dressed and hit downtown. We went to a party in someone’s loft and swallowed some MDMA. I knew in August what I wanted to be and was dressed as a white cat with ten nipples that I took from baby bottles and sprayed pink. Strangers sucked my cat nipples as we walked the streets and we danced in color changing lights at The Down-and-Out. My boyfriend at the time was a large bearded alcoholic ten years my senior who hadn't drugged it up with the kids since he was 25 and he was freaking out. He kept grabbing my head and pushing off to go dance weirdly by himself. By the time we all stumbled home in our busted dirty costumes we were all drugged and spent and ready for bed. Except Clark. When Clark got too drunk he was in something we liked to call 'The Confusion'. For instance on the way back from a Mardi Gras party Clark asked me if we were on our way to school. I never went to school with Clark. Camille would roll her eyes and tell me,

"He's in The Confusion." And it was understood. Following The Confusion Clark would usually spill out of my passenger door onto the driveway or have to be coaxed out of the back of a taxi by Camille.

"Come on BooBoo." She would say. "We gotta get you into bed, huh?" And they would slump towards the house like a two-headed beast, his arm over her shoulder, his weight pulling her down. This Halloween night Clark had entered The Confusion and made it into the house safely but immediately removed his clothes and sat in his underwear with his head in his hands on a balding velvet chair in our living room. My bearded alcoholic boyfriend thought this was hilarious and plopped a large black sombrero on his head.

"How’s he gonna get up the stairs??" I asked to anyone, but Camille was already disappearing up the aluminum attic ladder to their bedroom and my boyfriend had retired to my room. "Clark," I said. "Don't you want to go up stairs and go to bed?" He didn't respond. So I went into my room and changed. "Can you help me get Clark upstairs?" I asked my boyfriend as I tossed my cat nipples to the floor. He agreed. When I re-entered the living room I was taken aback. "Woahhhhh!" I said and recoiled back into my room. My boyfriend, intrigued by my shout blew past me into the living room.

"Naked!" He said astonished, joining me in my room again. "I'm not touching naked dudes," he said. "Sorry."

"Whaaattt? come onnn!" I whined.

"Nope!" he replied. I was frustrated and for some reason felt strongly that naked Clark should be upstairs with his wife in their bed. So I went back out into the living room. Clark was wedged in the corner under the attic stairs fully nude behind my bicycle that was propped up in the corner. How he even got to be naked and in such an awkward place is still beyond me. It had only taken me a few minutes to change out of my costume.

"Camille!" I yelled, "Clark's naked! Clark, don't you want to go upstairs? Camille?" Clark's eyes were closed and he bobbed around in his limited corner like a Sim with no way out and then fraaappppp!, farted loudly on my bike. "Ewww!" I yelled. "Camille! Clark's naked and he farted on my bike!" And then from upstairs a screechy bark from Camille,

"If he's comfortable LEAVE EM!"

"But...Camille! He’s naked!"

"Leave em!" She barked again. Well, okay. So I slowly walked out of the living room and offered once more,

"You sure you don't want to go up stairs Clark? It would be more comfortable?" He responded by pooting again and it sounded like a pigeon coo. So I frowned and left him farting in the corner naked and turned out the light. After I slept some and dawn was barely breaking I got up to pee. In my early morning haze I had briefly forgotten the night before. But remembered just as quickly when what to my wondering eyes should appear, Clark curled up naked on the couch with his ass toward me and his pink ball bag squeezing between his thighs. "Oh!" I shouted and guarded my eyes while I quickened my steps to the bathroom. As I sat down to pee my eyes settled on an adorable painting of a kitten with a pink ribbon around its neck. So this is home now....I thought as I listened to my pee hit the toilet in the purple morning light.

The Legendary