The Ninio in the Room



MELT3 X390 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COMThere was more Ninio hysteria: hand-painted cardboard signs that said, “SUCK MY TRUNK,” “I LIKE IT ROUGH,” and “SCREW PEANUTS, GIVE ME COCK.”

That was the day I fell out of love with slogans, when I realized that such short combinations of words were never meant to carry so much meaning. Polish verbs are resilient, but the nouns simply melt under the pressure.

“I’m not putting on the damn T-shirt,” I said to Dorota, throwing the rest of our ice cream on the cobblestone street. It melted almost instantly and settled in the cracks. “This is not what Ninio is supposed to be about.”

“You know, they’ll try to make us put it on.”

“We’ll tell them we’re both recovering from elbow surgery. Can’t lift our arms higher than a ‘fuck you.’”

Elephants in musth go nuts, it’s thought, when their temporal ducts swell and exert immense pressure behind the eyes. Imagine the pain from an abscessed tooth, but instead behind the cornea, pushing insanity with every throb.

Pedały do gazu

I was livid that Ninio was becoming a maskotka, and that I was now marching for God. I had long refused to be part of any Divine Plan, and I didn’t see the point in borrowing and redressing arguments the church had devised. Subversion is cowardly that way. Sure, Ninio could help the gay cause, but his silkscreened image could do little for transphobia. And it was anathema to atheists.

Why couldn’t Ninio simply fuck other males because he wanted to? Why did he need permission from above?

We quickened our pace, and the bullhorns squawked louder than ever. Perhaps we were feeling the pressure of the crowd, who now easily outnumbered us five to one, and who were getting nastier with their comments.

Dołoz˙ymy wam to, co Hitler zrobił z Z´ydami

Tomek, an acquaintance I knew from the gallery scene, cut through the ranks to us.
“Well, if it isn’t S. Mok Wawelski, the art star. What are you cooking up next?”
“I have ideas for London, but San Francisco has post-fire details that blow my mind,” I said. “Listen, did you know this was going to turn into a Fags for Jesus parade?”

“Radek, don’t isolate yourself. We’re in a position to score some victories this year, but you have to understand that it’s going to happen collectively.” The bumblebee buzzed past us, disguised as an elephant, fluttering his wings in time to the wave of fists punching the air. “We’d be fools to think we can do it alone.”
“By ‘we,’ do you mean me?”

“I know what you guys are up to,” Tomek said, motioning to Dorota, “and there is concern that this is causing division in the community.”

I hoped I had misunderstood his slant. He pulled me aside, away from Dorota.
“Your friend is straight,” he continued. “Have you ever thought about how this makes some of us feel? And what do you think she’s really after?”

At first, elephant keepers thought that musth was sexual. Then they found the killing grounds where elephants had separated rhinos from their limbs and turned whole crashes of them into goulash for vultures.

“Fuck off,” I said to Tomek, to keep myself from hitting him. “I hope you’ll be happy when we win the right to be as fascist as our oppressors.”

The shock on his face was priceless.

I rejoined Dorota.

“What did he say?” she asked. “I think he has a crush on you.”

“He’s an idiot,” I said.

“You know, I missed a class for this,” she said, punching me in the arm. I usually liked it when she erased the physical boundaries between us, but in this case, her timing was wrong. “I guess our elephant rescue plan just tanked.”

“We’ll find something else. Don’t worry.”

Dorota punched me again, or so I thought, but it wasn’t a fist. It was a half-full can of Okocim beer that someone had thrown. The crowd was pressing in, narrowing the street into a sliver, and forcing us to march single-file. Our lead banner was scrunched like an accordion, and some of the onlookers coated our path with gobs of smoker’s phlegm. It began to feel like a march to the gallows.

Dołoz˙ymy wam to, co Hitler zrobił z Z´ydami
Dołoz˙ymy wam to, co Hitler zrobił z Z´ydami

We’ll do to you what Hitler did to the Jews

I saw Tomek blotting his bloody temple with a rainbow flag. He was the first to get beaned by a rock. I felt sorry we had quarrelled. After all, we were fighting for the same freedoms, just in different ways.

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