An Elevator, A Carriage, A Womb, A Train Station

One train pulled in as the other left, the arriving bullet carrying us and the departing betrayal carrying God knows what. It’s 5:39 and our next shot is 6:39 and it’s freezing, especially since the city saw fit to leave this train station without walls: two tracks, lots of stairs, a ticket machine, a trash can, and an elevator up to the street. It was a joke at first (well there’s one spot where the wind can’t touch us) (oh but how ridiculous) but we quickly made a button-press to beckon that same elevator. We stepped into its warmth, marveling at the highway running above the tracks. Who thought this was the place for a train station? 5:42.

The elevator, for whatever indiscernible machine reasons within its programmed brain, couldn’t stay still while we were inside of it: it crawled up and down with the beeps and the clicks of a robot ill maintained yet eager to please. To fill the time I initiated our favorite cocktail party game: of all the languages we knew (oh! how worldly!) which was best suited for poetry? As always we both began by explaining why our native tongues were the worst for it: my English, musically deficient and your Turkish, grammatically overwrought. I lacked ease of rhyming. You lacked range of vocabulary. I was a mutt. You were too close-minded. 5:54.

Locked inside our chrome and glass box we pivoted to our next well-oiled move, both praising French for its glides and its vowels. The elevator began to smell of cologne and I could hear a piano. No, dusty books and filtered sunlight. No, saxophone on street corner. No, a jewelry box. No, genealogical portraits. In our eyes we traded recognition of that conversion stirred only by rooms with the best-designed clutter and the most ornate icons. Cathedrals and mansions, libraries and studios: from our black and white cage we inhaled deep red and soft gold, the velvet of uncle’s coat, the wet of cousin’s paintbrush, the rock of literary carriage, the bite of black coffee. You blinked at our clichés but our mouths were unable to stop. 6:12.

Finally we got a bit closer to what we actually wanted, what structure we were clutching at underneath all the gold and the perfume. I said the word, and I thought you were going to pull your legs from under mine (us sitting all tangled up, still letting the elevator rise and fall with no destination) as your face processed how queer it all really was. Neither of us knew the word for queer in French. You said it didn’t really translate to Turkish, but you tried anyways. 6:15.

I got off on one of my monologues about space, mostly parroted from the lecture I had heard that morning, and you said, no it’s not the Sicilian rooftop or the seashell love nest that I’m getting at, it’s the womb. I said huh? You said, the only queer space I’ve ever really been in, the womb: a cave where what’s expected can never touch what’s coming, quiet like monastery and smothering like ocean. Pure loneliness despite tangible connection, all while floating, suspended like some sort of lab rat. Literally growing sideways, or diagonally, but never up and down. (The elevator dings.) You said, it’s the womb, and the ambulance, and the nursery: space for wailing, where to cry out is permissible because they know you’ll outgrow it, the wailing and the space. They know they can snip you right out of it. 6:27.

It’s not the bathhouse or the study. How much longer till the train? Far too long. I don’t think we’ll ever get out of this elevator. A metal womb. Due date a few minutes too late to still make our dinner plans. Did they just stop building the rest of this train station or did they mean for it to look like a post-apocalyptic crater? 6:30.

From our womb with a view we babbled about our summer plans, about deadlines we had just missed, about decades we wish we had been born into, about bodies we think would suit us better, about how we were tying ourselves together a little too tight, about whether we could make ourselves twins so late in the game, about how weird it is to only make eye contact with somebody’s reflection, about how it was a little too warm in our tiny elevator. You muttered something about maybe Turkish actually is suitable for poetry. 6:38.

Falling into the cold again, we left our tiny room and left our crater on the 6:39 train. We were back in time for dinner.


So this is my attempt at a flash fiction response to my thoughts on “queer spaces” presented in Wings and The Well of Loneliness. Both texts put, I thought, a unique spin on the idea of queer spaces. When we were reading Wings and The Well of Loneliness I was finishing Aaron Betsky’s Queer Space. It’s an architectural genealogy of sorts, tracing from Oscar Wilde’s ornately decorated home to the post-AIDS gay chatroom a story of how queer desire can motivate the construction or co-optation of different spaces. So I saw particular relevance in the novels’ uses of space. Wings seemed to engage with many of the examples from Betsky’s account: a return to antiques that mimics gay men’s particular interest in Greco-Roman Antiquity (see p. 31, when Stroop begins to be interested in antiques) and extreme attention to sensory detail (see p.28, in the description of Stroop’s apartment’s olfactory, musical, and conversational extravagance). I tried to focus some of this attention to detail into my piece here, how space can be transformed through imagination and through material effort. Such efforts are missing in my story primarily because it is more about the experience of reading texts about queer spaces rather than actually creating them. But also I wanted to highlight a different concept of queer space, one I found in The Well of Loneliness: organically or uncontrollably queer spaces, spaces that queer their inhabitants without asking permission. I think specifically of the nursery, with Collins, and also of Stephen’s mother’s womb, rendered queer (in my eyes, at least) by the disjoint between her parents’ expectation that they would have a boy and her own sex (see pp. 12-13). The futility and enclosure of my elevator meant to gesture somewhat towards the mirror, a queer kind of space that pops up in Well (73) and Wings as well as in Foucault’s analysis of heterotopias (which are often pretty queer, or at least aligned with queerness). Lastly, the relationship between the story’s two characters is (naturally) a sexually queer one, but I tried to replace traditionally romantic language with the language of birth and family to “queer” this concept and also reference our class’ recurrent idea that queer people can form their own families later in life. Anyway, hope you enjoy!


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Filed under Week 5: Kuzmin, Radclyffe Hall

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