MLitt Art Writing School of Fine Art

Kelcey Flaherty (She/Her)

Kelcey Flaherty is a writer and artist from New Jersey, currently living in Glasgow. By way of text-based work, collage and image, she aims to interrogate both the physical and personal landscapes held within a place, and attempts to use this as a way to map the city.



I LOVE CHRIS is a shifting narrative, an exposé, an ‘I’ walking straight down the face of it. Every letter is a love letter here, and everything is this urgent, and walking around this city is the only way I can get to where you’re going, and by you I mean Chris, and by Chris I mean the other half of the ‘I’. There is a constant underlying motion here, lights flash everywhere, signs of departure, leaving, waving goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, always three times, and I am constantly left weeping. There is so much to see, so I have to track it all in half-thoughts and street corners filled with half-completed episodes and the distinct planning of a city where I keep losing my way. Scenes are held between people and place, and it’s me thinking if you make it here, and we know each other in this space, unbeknownst to us, we’ll create a structure that’ll make this part of the city truly impossible to know. It’s an idea of layering on emptiness, a jump-cut from the cryptic to the literal. I can’t save these places from this fatal seriousness, it’s terminal, it’s already happening. All I can do is just be honest, and start with something real. I believe in intuition, so I can’t leave here confused or unclear, and it’s my right to pick up everything and use it—I want to own everything that happens to me now.


Below are excerpts & images from I LOVE CHRIS.


Chris—this is how it all happens.

I wake up. In between the deep drag of his breath and the keening of the seagulls, I realize I’m a body that is deeply sad. I ask myself how I’m meant to accommodate this feeling and where. I need to apply daily to this ritual—seeing myself, clearly mobile and passing through time. Patience, patience, patience or at least an alternation of this with stretches of choice so that I know my life is specific yet interchangeable. All of this lasts for about twenty minutes. He’s half-awake now, and his breath rolls across my face and I remember I’m very much so alive, right here, just waiting, and I need to reduce all my choices to the least amount— exert some control and structure. Anything without that will leave me completely desolate. This is real and useful and can’t be fully resolved, but is a way to reframe attachment—bringing the unseen back into the seen. I move my head. The window is open, and I hear a man outside in the courtyard. He’s on the phone and it sounds important—he’s driven by an absolute and personal need. I can hear his breath over the receiver now, and suddenly a multilevel map unfolds between us, showing our lives as mysteriously coexisting. I realize it’s all very desperate, but knowing each other on this corner for the first time makes us witnesses to each other’s lives. And I know that if I walk down a street not too far from here, there will be at least three people that look exactly like him. Everything begins to shift into this dreamy macro-landscape. He pushes the phone so close to his mouth he must be spitting on it now. The space between us suddenly becomes inviting and highly charged. I realize we could be swept off the face of this map at any time—flux is always a given, and something closes at this moment. Perhaps another eventuality, another site of becoming. Our existence immediately seems fragile and layered and I find myself, as a body, willing to be changed. A slight shifting, a slight repositioning, and I’m holding these two men in my head simultaneously. Our map suddenly sags with a trembling unevenness. I move my body nearer to the window. I know this man, by chance and circumstance, and everything is this urgent and terribly desperate. I know this has something to do with possibility, but I’m trying not to break my heart around it. His breath takes on staccato-like beats, and I think for a moment, he must be crying. I decide then that this man is in immeasurable pain, but he can stand it. I do hear him say one thing before the gulls start back up again. I’m listening now, so don’t disturb me. I’m listening. I imagine myself on the phone speaking to him, and then hanging up. It’s early and my flat gets an incredible amount of sunlight in the morning, so the heat always tends to drive me up and out of the room. I get dressed and decide to leave. On the street, my legs are just simple moving things, unmistakable in view and form, but turn unusable. This is a terrible—desperation made real as a vector of transportation. I want to call the man back and ask, Why can’t everything just be wonderful? How do I love alongside this? I’m fully aware that tomorrow I’ll wake up and it will still be clear and cold and grey just like this morning, and I know I could ask myself a terrible question, but I’m on the mend, I’m on the mend. I’m brought back into the bedroom by the sound of snoring in my ear. He places a now warm hand on my stomach, and rubs it slightly before turning his head somewhat forward, nearer me. Just then his mouth hangs open and he pulls in a deep, weighted snore, the kind of breathing that points to severe inflammation. The sun filtering into the room starts to hurt my eyes, so I close them. This part is momentary, and stands out in sharp relief.




Chris—you’re a dealer shuffling her deck. You’re in it, and summoning me to this destination where the street corners fill up with half-completed episodes. This is the distinct planning of a city where I keep losing my way, and I want to say, out loud, to no one in particular, Please don’t take it personally. I’m bereft, yes, and a visual learner, but I recall everything. I know this sounds absurd, but chance like anything else is a structure—an inherent need to control and compose time. It’s a link, but everything falls apart and I just can’t get rid of it, I can’t get rid of it. The resulting marks are those of personal biography and expectation—a collapsing of what’s performed and what’s lived. A note that says: I don’t love you anymore, but this is mostly about the future, and rarely of the past. The following is a question of what is real in relation to what is true. I am in the passenger seat of a car crossing over the river, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you who’s driving, but I can tell you this is a means to bring you closer. It’s moving around a city, a map forming beneath the text as a result of this intertwining and embedding narrative navigation, of encounter and encountering, again and again. It’s also a question of mechanics—a series of smaller joint movements make up a larger movement. This is the kinetic chain in action. I think about how when we move in space, our bodies share our secrets with anyone willing to look long enough—the labored breathing, the reddening of a face, the opening of a stride, the slight limbering of muscles, the sudden tensing, the deep release. I think, How is this a social phenomenon? How is this something we do in public? How do we show people what’s going through our head so plainly? The next time I leave the flat, I do all that I can to shorten my stride, to hide my face. I’m terrified of what someone’s going to see. It’s all exceptionally complicated, yes, but I understand that these writings aren’t the real work. They trigger a longer, associative process, and when plotting it out, I see desire is a self-perpetuating machine, and I realize it’s not all that revealing.




Chris—on this same afternoon, in a different city, Lauren Elkin’s on a bus and she’s moving fast. The bus stops outside a storefront and she catches a glimpse of herself, momentarily, reflected in the window. She tries to capture this image, but the bus begins to move again. In this moment, the thrill of life is to know that everything is about tracking, taking heart, and knowing that every way is the right way to say it. She sees the city as a series of encounters, where the pace is concerned only with stops and starts. Here, there’s a constant feeling of always moving forward, knowing you have to adore something the moment it arrives, and that it’s not possible to analyze any of this from a safe distance. Some notes after reading No. 91/92: A Diary of a Year on the Bus: The 91 goes from Bastille to Gare Montparnasse (and back). / The 92 goes from Gare Montparnasse to Porte de Champerret (and back). / The world is full of buses. View this as an exercise in closeness. / We travel, groping each other blindly, all of us enduring. View this as an exercise in critical distance. / Writing is an act of cataloguing that is destined to fail. View this as an exercise in potentiality. / There is a very delicate temporality here—an attempt to chronicle these very borders and signals, a city appears, emerges, becomes. I contemplate the implications and you’re able to pick it up off the floor, touch it, flip it in your hands. You can help to unwrap it a bit more, or you can decide it’s not for you, set it back down. It’s just a little constitutive erasure. It’s just a little re-institution of ground, grounding, and not being too precious with any of this because all this does is illuminate flaws increasingly, between each developing fact. Some might think this is catharsis, but this is just stating the facts—I need to make that clear. It starts with an open and desolate feeling, knowing I’m a body that deeply desires. The openness of this work moves against my natural inclination towards a perpetual clench, which leaves me with a singular twitch in my left eye. I feel this for days. This is newly strange, and hence, discussable. But Chris, in the early sunlight, the sea foam green sign on the 21 glows gold, as if it were passing for another bus, the yellow 83 perhaps, and Lauren is just up, joining everyone on the street. She walks past a man who drops his cigarette on the sidewalk beside her. The smell of tobacco mingles with the cold morning air and it is proof of life. She’s vigilant, she observes, and is just like any other person catching bus before 7:00 in the morning. She talks to people, and doesn’t tell them who she is. The events of her life weave into the everyday, and this is what makes it ordinary. She thinks back on the things she recalled as her life, and it’s otherworldly and uncanny to think one thing gives way to the next, and how this is a way of measuring distance. How you learn to do all of this, someplace else, with grace, and suddenly people see you just as you are, sitting on a bench waiting for the bus, and how in any new place, from one year to the next you can see how dark it gets in the morning during winter, and how easily you forget this, like pain. In the city, we are forever brushing sleeves with our other possible selves. This is risky, and brings me into a painful proximity, leaves me perpetually misunderstood, but this is just something I need to be willing to live with. I’m on a bus, heading south, and it’s just spring now, and I can feel it coming on so subtle, just waning. I’m meeting a friend for a late breakfast, and suddenly, we’re flanked by congestion and stop at the corner up ahead. I’m thinking about that night, on that one street in the West End, close to the river, but further away than I realized when I looked on a map. This part feels as if it could go on forever. It might still be going on now. A car passes by. I look at my watch, it’s 11:30, and it’s clear that there’s never really nothing, there’s only ever the problem of describing what there really is. I just want to be sincere, and I need you to know this, Chris, I love you and I don’t know you, but that’s how I can love you, it’s all mixed up really, all emptiness and breathless heat. On a nondescript day, a feeling of limitless time, come and go, just come and go, and I’m thinking about navigation and sex, and how Glasgow might be something like L.A., and how sex can be used to mark terrestrial points like a compass. But how can I hold your attention, I mean really hold your attention? I’m always wondering what I’d do if I were you, who I’d be then. But this must be real, because I feel myself expanding in your gaze, and I want you to know I take this very seriously. I was a thousand miles outside this bus, but then I try in jolts so awkward to take heart, and this brings me back. On the walk to the bus stop after breakfast, the slight weight of the morning vapor protects this feeling. I find myself constantly faltering and grasping at emotion, at reference and reality. But please, don’t worry. Wish me well. Wish me well.




I’ll take some advice, knowing this is all part of a larger, systematic plan—a distancing of the female experience that drives critics crazy. This is of paramount importance. Now that I’m aware of all the buses and bikes and the ways in which people really get from one place to another, I can’t seem to see the world without them. The world is full of people going somewhere, and I’m always walking away, going someplace too, alone and in public. Every single bit of my life exists here, between the cool early morning and deep night. The conversation will drift again before I can detail how all of this is will be resolved, how I might be judged, and found wanting, but I’ll examine all things coolly, on the table, as a series of confrontations. A willingness to use the body as material may seem disturbing, but people exist, and objects are nothing until they take shape as a body, and even then, it’s all about intention, about comprehension. There are days too, when chance plays a part. I walk off the subway this morning, late to work or some other previously arranged appointment, and the conductor sticks his head out of the small dirty window and says, You’re lucky, I don’t wait up for most people. It’s the lives we live in such increments, between one stop and another, that are truly incomprehensible to me. Now I’m walking to work, through rows of parked cars that flank the street, past bike paths and bus stops, lights flashing everywhere, signs of departure, leaving, waving goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, always three times, and I’m weeping. It’s all an accumulation of references, dreams and stories unleashed by contact with another body. Day in and day out, I’m continuously living through a series of tactile thrills. It’s distinct and it’s hard, and I’m constantly afraid of how much I’m missing to get there, wherever there is, and If I’m being truthful, I would say, Every time I walk home and turn the corner, I expect to see him there, standing in front of the glass door. Back turned towards me, backpack still on or in hand, his right index finger hovering above 4/2. His hope to hear the faint click that signals an opening, palpable. I would see his bike locked up to one of the rails across the street. The bike sleek and black, unrecognizable in the daylight, the lock a bright orange. I would walk up behind him, lean over to his left, my left, but I wouldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t make a sound. But I know this is shrouding some part of me. I know this isn’t useful. Later that night, he tells me he runs by the river. I know how river runners run—the light they need is faint and unnecessary, and it’s only to see them by. Once examined, they yield nothing, nothing real. The body is constantly throwing shapes and calling it personal, but because I’m obsessed with relativity, everything is plausible and there’s no coming back from this. A simple loop, he says, a few times a week. He doesn’t run for time, but for distance. I place a hand on his thigh, trying to locate a particular anxiety, an almost examination, some overflow of meaning. I think about Lauren pregnant, on a bus, on her way to some arrondissement, and how suddenly her world is full of strollers. How difficult it must be to view this time from a distance, how hard it is to find a reason for how things speed up and slow down, how escape and return become interchangeable, and how I never know which one I want. But when I’m in any kind of motion and not alone, I feel like I’m doing something, and this makes me believe in being whole, and knowing what to do because maybe, just for tonight, I’m not as awful as I think I am.