about the author

Zach Trebino populates the world with absurdly grotesque performances, plays, and texts. His work has been published in journals including LIGHTHOLE, The Clockwise Cat, MUSES, POPPED, and Black Box Literary Magazine. His performances have been seen in cities throughout the United States. His plays have been produced by Anam Cara Theatre, Homunculus, Muhlenberg College, and others. He is the runoff from the apogee of nothingness, the outcome of a surrealist’s wet dream, a coded message sent to you from your pre-conscious brain telling you to “Wake up!” Zach lives and works in Baltimore, MD.

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in the air 

Zach Trebino

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Somewhere between Baltimore, Maryland, and Varna, Bulgaria, I masturbated in an airplane bathroom.

Did I mention that I was on an airplane?

I was on an airplane.

Travelling from Baltimore, Maryland, to Varna, Bulgaria.

Actually, it was three or four airplanes—the number of airplanes being the number of times—at separate points in time—that I was in the air.

I suppose—perhaps—that I was in the air more than that.

I was in the air more than that.

Every time I lifted my foot or both of my feet I was in the air.

I should say “every time I lift” because it’s not just a thing that happens (or has happened) in the past.

It does and will continue to happen.

But then again, maybe I didn’t masturbate.

Perhaps, I just thought of masturbating.

Maybe I just imagined it and in so doing I made it a thing.

Because isn’t the imagined thing just as real as the real thing? In that when it is imagined it becomes real—as the imagination is a real thing constituted by our real neurons as we imagine the thing we are imagining.

Regardless, late at night (or early in the morning—depending on one’s temporal situation), I stood up from my airplane seat to masturbate.

I walked up the aisle as the plane bounced a bit over mid-Atlantic turbulence.

Or maybe—perhaps it was alpine turbulence.

Alpine turbulence being that which occurs over the Alps—as we approached Rome (in the air) from the north over the Swiss Alps.

Maybe I didn’t masturbate at all.

But the thought occurred to me.

The thought that I did.

Or—at least—the thought of doing.

And now, I fear that I should have.

I should have masturbated—if I did not.

For this alpine turbulence conjures thoughts of death for me.

I fear I may succumb to a premature burial.

A sky-funeral. A mountainside tomb.

Either I died then—though that seems unlikely—or I might die on the return trip.

Of course, though, I am destined to die and so I will die and so I should’ve masturbated.

And if I should’ve, then I would’ve.

So then I did masturbate.

Or I will masturbate.

Or, at least, quite seriously consider the prospect of doing so.

Earlier in the day, I had asked for pictures from my lover.

Did I mention that I have a lover?

I have a lover.

This particular lover being a lover whom I fancy quite a lot.

In the airport, while on a layover, I asked my lover for a picture of themselves.

I think, perhaps, I had hoped that this picture would be sexual in nature.

And I don’t mean a picture taken in the woods or the forest or the mountains that is sexual in its content.

For all I care, it could’ve been taken in the bathroom of a chain coffee shop.

And not a coffee shop composed of intertwined links of metal.

No, one particular coffee shop location of a hegemonic coffee conglomerate.

But a particular location of a coffee shop with multiple locations.

I hoped—I think (and I say I hoped because what I hope now is certainly different than that which I had hoped and of course, being that I am me now, I can no longer hope for that precise thing for which I had hoped in the past) that this picture would show me the mole.

This mole is unlike any other mole.

It’s not a subterranean dwelling mammal.

No, it’s a hotspot of melanin.

It’s a very special mole. A mole on the left areola.

It’s the kind of mole that one could never forget.

Though, perhaps, I could forget it.

Because in asking for a picture of it (though I did not explicitly ask for a picture of it), I was trying to preserve it in a thing other than memory and as such alleviate any possibility of my forgetting about the aforementioned mole.

Nonetheless, this picture that I received (actually, it was three pictures so I should say these pictures)—these pictures that I received were pictures of my lover’s body in action.

The actions—most certainly—were performative in nature.

My lover was in a number of characters in these pictures—an urban pseudo-hippy baglady, a commedia-dell’arte clown, and a folk musician.

And these characters were enough.

I didn’t need the mole—as much as I may have desired it.

I say “may have” because one can never really be sure of a thing that is no longer in the present.

Which, of course, means that one can never really be certain of anything.

Because a thing—once aware of it—ceases to be a thing in the present and becomes a thing of the past and any true awareness of the thing is thus lost just as awareness of it is achieved.

Regardless, it was with these pictures that I chose to masturbate.

I say “with these pictures” but I didn’t really have any pictures.

What I had (and still continue to have) were versions of a photographic image as re-created by the pixels on the screen of a cellular phone.

So, in a sense, I didn’t have (and don’t have) anything other than a phone.

So, with this phone, I masturbated.

Or rather to.

To this phone, I masturbated.

But I’m not really sure I did masturbate on the plane from New York to Rome.

Or maybe it was the plane from Rome to Sofia.

Or maybe, maybe it was in the dream I had when I briefly slept on the plane from New York to Rome.

Maybe in this dream I masturbated to an image of my lover as conveyed by the pixels on my cellular phone.

And so I wrote this note here.

This note to you, my lover.

And as you know, I do not mean by “my lover” one who is a lover of me.

I mean one whom I am a lover of.

Though, I suppose, both sentiments are equally true.

So “my lover” is as appropriate a term as any.

I included in it a purloined letter.

The purloined letters being the letters ‘Z’ and ‘J.’

The letters ‘Z’ and ‘J’ being stolen from our names—talismans of ourselves.

But doubtless, I should also say that this is a letter per-loined.

That is, a letter I held close to my loins before mailing it.

And maybe, then, I did masturbate on that airplane.

Having thus written this note to you, my lover, I determined that the fantasy should manifest.

And letter in hand, I masturbated in the air.

Not to the pixels of a picture on a cellular phone but to the oval portrait of myself holding this very letter for you.

The oval portrait being the image I see of myself in the mirror of the airplane bathroom.

So, it is not so much a portrait.

No, it is more a reflection.

And this is not so much a letter.

No, it’s a series of letters.

Letters being characters.

Not characters like fictional folk from stories.

No, characters meaning symbols.

And so this is a symbol, too.

A symbol composed of symbols.

A symbol for you.

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