FIVE PIECES: Lydia Okrent


Hi honey
Come over here
Is he a person?
Is that real?
Is that a girl?
Is it a robot?
How does it know what to do?
Is she just gonna do that all day?
How much do you think they get paid?
I want more…
We have to…
I’m sorry…

I had to put my cat down last night.
He died a few years ago.
He trains horses in New Mexico.
He was a self taught artist.
We learned…
We went to the same grad school.
More famous than…
That’s not how he did it.
Can we do it too?
Omg I would never do that!
I could so do that!
I like those…
Go stand near it
Move to the side please.
Move to the side please!
Excuse me…
Can you move?
Oh my god!
Oh god!
Oh, it’s moving.


When my brother was seven and I was five, a grown-up asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. My brother said he wanted to be a farmer. I said I wanted to be his sheep.


It’s not that she missed it, was just surprised that it had come and gone, a passing trend that left with Jncos and baby-ts but hadn’t come back with Jncos and baby-ts. It used to be that if you were on a park bench crying with your bff, or on the 2 train finishing your math homework, or walking around Washington Square Park trying to buy weed, or having a family picnic by the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, there would be some man’s penis in some man’s hand. A public masturbation for all occasions. You’d look up from telling your bff how horrible your parents were, or innocently staring into space trying to figure out the difference between cosine, tangent and sine, or walking over to the people covered in a hundred pigeons, or grabbing more chips from the crummy bottom of the chip bag, and there it would be. Just staring at you. Eye to eye with a dick framed by a zipper, a hand, and the New York City skyline.

One night she dreamt that all of the birds in the entire world were flying together in an act of protest. They were protesting humans and what humans had done or were doing to them and their sky and trees and woods and greens. She knew we deserved it and she knew the birds deserved so much better. As she was watching the seagulls and hawks and parakeets and pigeons and albatross and blue jays and geese and parrots fill up the fall sky with their swooshing and swooping, one of the chickadees alit on her outstretched hand, and dropped a daisy into her palm. Then something or someone somewhere said “it is not going to be ok for mankind.” And then, with such a cinematic ending, she woke up clutching the corner of her sheet covered in a whimsical design of feathers and leaves. While she made coffee and ate her overnight oats, NPR told her that Waren Kanders had resigned, and that Ricardo Rosselló had resigned, and that Jeffrey Epstein was found unconscious in his jail cell. The birds were right, it was not all going to be ok for mankind, but it was turning out to be a good day for men. The less the merrier.

When she got to work, her boss came into her office and told her that his cat had run away and then he started crying. She didn’t think it was weird that he was crying, or weird that he was crying because his cat ran away, or weird that he was crying in front of her. She thought it was really weird that he was so bad at crying. Like, his face just didn’t know what to do. His wrinkles kind of made the tears pool together rather than create chutes for them to travel through. His mouth twisted up as mouths do when they cry but it was like only half of his mouth agreed to twist leaving the other half slack, exposing the remnants of the poppy seed bagel he must have had for breakfast. Maybe he just wasn’t really experienced in crying. She had lots of role models for crying, was well rehearsed in the art of distress. She had watched Vada cry over Thomas’ casket in My Girl so many times throughout her childhood she had often mistook it for her own memory. She had diligently studied Juliet, so lovestruck and forlorn, so that she would know what it meant to love something and to have to stop loving something. He probably just hadn’t studied Romeo’s blubbering and weeping, weeping and blubbering. Tragedy is a male genre but dealing with tragedy is women’s work.

She explained this all to a friend while they ate lunch in Central Park, watching men run around the reservoir, and men putting their arms around one another, and men pushing baby carriages, and men cat calling the running and smiling and linked armed women walking by. Her friend didn’t think it was weird. “I mean it makes sense. Men, biologically, have a hard time crying. They are pre-programmed to be bad at it. In order for men to have been able to go out and kill innocent animals, or go out and bludgeon an unwanted visitor, they couldn’t have just started crying at the sight of despair or death or blood or fear. They had to be able to feed and protect their families without getting all bent out of shape about it. It is a survival mechanism. Women on the other hand, needed strong familial bonds to survive. They cried and laughed and that ensured they were welcome and safe. It’s evolution.” She was right. She was always right. They moved on and talked about a recent study that had discussed something called the Deep Adaptation Agenda. It said something about how we have all really fucked up the world and how we need to act with the understanding that there are some interventions we can do now that we will not be able to do in the future. And then it went on to say that there are many norms and behaviors that we will not be able to maintain if we want to try to survive our inevitable collapse. Maybe that’s actually why he was crying, crying because the world is ending and his cat is gone and if anything is going to get any better he has to change. He was undergoing a psychospiritual adaptation in the form of an acceptance that everything as he knows it will, ultimately, fail. Later that night, she saw her boss had quoted Shakespeare in a tweet. When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.


I thought she said “I have good news and I have dad news.”


They carve away at the stone revealing what was. Or, do they look inside first and ask questions about how or what it wants to be? Maybe the relationship between dancer and choreographer is like that. She is the rock waiting for the big reveal. 

I once visited the house and studio of an artist named Kawai Kanjiro. In the center of his home and in the typical fashion of traditional merchant houses in Kyoto, there was a garden. Fine gravel created a soft valley between the plants and larger rocks that, in turn, created mountains and cliffs. 

At one end of the garden there was a rather large boulder. Grander and bolder than the rest. This large round deposit of earth was given to the artist as material, as something to carve into and out of. Individual rocks rarely play a starring role in Japanese gardens, as the emphasis is typically on the harmony of the whole composition. But, it is also said that rocks that seem to have been placed at random can add a sense of spontaneity and movement. As the story goes, rather than try to turn the bolder into something else, Kanjiro decided to keep it intact and move it around the garden whenever he felt like it. The boulder altered the landscape with every roll and nudge. Maybe the dancer is like that, the big rock revealing. Kanjiro died in 1966 but the boulder remains. Moving but no longer moved.