Art · Death · Florida · Photography · Repatria · Trauma · Travel · Wendy · Zuzu Arbus


Shattered, by Zuzu Arbus


This used to be a Venetian mask.

I bought it in Venice on a trip with my mum and younger sisters my first year of university. I’d never been much drawn to Italy, but something strange happened to me in Venice: the woman with absolutely no sense of direction suddenly knew where everything was even though it was her first (and only) visit. It was magical; the first time I went somewhere in which I surely had lived a past life and never even knew it.

Walking the city by night, alone, I knew it like I knew nowhere else. I saw myself getting an apartment on the Grand Canal to write great novels. Stopping in a cafe for a glass of wine, meeting fellow travellers. And I never got lost once. If you’ve ever found yourself in the labyrinth of Venice’s canals you know this is a feat of epic proportions.

Though there were mask shops all over Venice, there was one shop in particular that was special. The quality of their carnivale fare was far above other places. In fact, it was me who led us back to the shop a second time because we couldn’t find a mask my sister wanted anywhere else.

And that’s how this Blue Lady came into my possession. She’s been wrapped in plastic all these years. I never had a place of my own in which her delicate beauty could be displayed. She went from Italy to Switzerland, to France, to Sri Lanka, to Prague, to Germany, in her bubble wrap. So perfect and beautiful.

One of the few positives about moving to Lighthouse Point has been putting up my amazing collection of global art. Blue Lady was placed next to my favorite Dali print, Velazquez Painting the Infanta Marguerita with the Lights. She sparkled there, ethereal beauty.

Yesterday, my husband accidentally knocked my Venetian Blue Lady off the wall.

She’s shattered beyond repair.


This coming Sunday — October 28 — marks twelve years since Wendy’s murder. It’s the first time I’ve been back in the States on this traumatic day since the year after her death.

I’ve been having these strange out-of-body experiences. I find myself drifting and it’s only because my body gets dizzy and threatens to faint that I return with a jolt. The worst is when it happens in public. Like falling asleep on the tram and waking with a dramatic start.

As if this week isn’t hard enough already, the last job option I had out of the house locally fell through even after I invested an entire new wardrobe in preparation. Unnecessary family drama has me shitting rivers. Russell Means’s passing has me thinking about Grandpa Tony Black Feather, who I miss terribly, and how even great leaders are human, flaws and all. I’m stuck, socially isolated, in a place I never would have chosen for myself in a million lifetimes. American Monsters II taunts me with my inability to finish the final draft. In fact, I’m still not sure if this indie writer thing is for me, especially in the current saturated market filled with crappy ninety-nine cent eBooks.

Blue Lady isn’t the only one who’s shattered.

I keep telling myself that things will get better. They have to. This is the worst. It’s all uphill from here. But it never seems to improve. And I keep discovering that oh yes, there’s still very far before rock bottom. Ten years ago after I finished testifying against Wendy’s murderers I tried to kill myself. The urge to self-harm grows and grows since I moved to Florida. In some ways It’s a helpful urge, it gives me something to fight against. But, the more I lose hope the less I care about what happens to me. I’m in dangerous territory, hoping for any sort of reprieve. Wounds of the flesh are so much easier to heal than a broken heart.

I can’t quite wrap my brain around the fact that this is who I am now. This depressed, frightened, hopeless, defeated, pathetic creature. A far cry from the badass, independent, powerhouse I used to be.

All the ways I’ve fragmented since witnessing Wendy’s horrific murder have not knitted back together. I’ve tried to make performance art from all the fragments, look above to see all the iterations of myself that now exist. ZUZU HULK even has her own Facebook page. My hope was that by acknowledging all these broken pieces I could at least have some good stories to tell, to hide behind.

But it’s not working.

More than anything I just want the Donnie Darko effect. To go back to that horrible night twelve years ago and force it to be different.

I’m so tired of being shattered.

And I think it’s gonna rain today.

©2012 Sezin Koehler, photo by Zuzu Arbus


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