I’m still trying to decide if I regret throwing my giant cardboard baby into the dumpster. She was seventeen feet tall and seven feet wide and she was beautiful. I think her name was Nomi. She was such a lovely likeness of a real baby, so flushed and chubby, but a baby that size was a big responsibility and I let her go without even getting a very good photograph of her. She was just one of the cardboard painted creatures that populated my life during the decade before I moved to New York. I saved the football player in his helmet, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit girls, and some abstract paintings of buildings that I later realized resembled the highrise where I had visited the psychologist as a kid. I got rid of the lion. It was a good looking lion but it had never meant that much to me.
I made the lion for a performance that I did sometime between 2000 – 2001. I can barely remember the performance at all or any of my motivations for making it. All I know is that I painted a realistic but smaller than life size lion, and in the show I stood near it and talked about how scary it was. I actually have no memory of the show itself, and the only reason I know that I talked about being scared of the lion is because Molly Robertson gave me some feedback afterwards, and the feedback I definitely remember. She said that I hadn’t seemed afraid of the wild animal I was supposedly standing next to. She couldn’t feel my fear.
Pretending to afraid of a cardboard lion seemed embarrassing. The truth was that I wasn’t scared of it, because it was just a flat painting of something wild. I didn’t want to invent make-believe feelings and act them out, and what did I know or care about lions. What I was actually scared of was Molly Roberston. She was perceptive and appealing and into me. I can’t remember if she and I had had sex yet when I made the lion show, but if we had then I was also definitely afraid of how good the sex was. I don’t think we had yet. We only ever slept together twice. One time we walked to the farmers’ market together and she had her hand in the back pocket of my jeans. She made reference to something about the way I was walking, and then I kind of swung my butt a little bit more as we walked, and she said something affectionate and encouraging, like, “yeahh!”, kind of like cheering me on about trying new movements with my butt. I liked how that felt. I can remember pretty vividly most of the sensations of being in proximity to Molly Robertson.
I like to remind myself that it wasn’t a waste, making that performance about the lion, even though it was small and unmemorable and fairly timid. It was something that I tried, and later on I tried other things that worked better. The route from there to here is awkward and failure-ridden. And Molly, who was like this vast galaxy of possibilities that I was really not ready to travel into, I guess she was another thing I tried. Maybe if she hadn’t been ten years older, living in the decade where one expects to have a real relationship with someone as opposed to hurling their bodyweight through the crowds just to see how much effect one can have. She showed up in my dreams now and then for years, in scenes that are completely vivid to me still. We passed each other in outerspace one time, she was on her way to the moon or something, I could see the expanse and the darkness of space and I watched us both go hurtling past each other in opposite directions. It was deep.