“On How to Say No” – Annie Rubin


The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.


It was unsettling to be back there alone. An impulsive decision spurred by the phone call—or lack thereof—and now she was sitting in the square by her old apartment on a bench in the dark. She checked her phone—it was ten. Still no messages.

She’d taken a seat between the trees that shook gently in the wind, and a rain repeatedly sprinkled and let up as if on a loop. She figured it would be better to be out of the house if he did decide to ring. Public spaces always felt more manageable, controlled: don’t make a scene, Ma used to say; Dad followed her words like they were law.

He slammed the door when he left, causing the dishes to rattle on their shelves. She feared for the porcelain set of four plates and bowls—hand-painted from Sorrento—they’d bought together on holiday. One of them had chipped once and she’d read somewhere you were supposed to throw it away after that but she never did.

She was walking now, in circles up and down the block that smelled like home. Tomorrow she would change the locks. There was no guidebook on how to say no. Only repeated frustration, feigning forgiveness until she overflowed, erupting with all that was never said.

It came out as glitter, bursting into his crevices, filling him with remorse, and an anger as uncontrollable as the thundering laugh she was once able to evoke from him by singing his name. He used to call her his.

Now she wanted to be her own. Didn’t quite know how to do that either. She stared at the ground, hovering before the doorstep of their building. She ached to know what it takes to rebuild.


these words by Annie Rubin were inspired by the work of Kevin Calixte

dogs belong tied to posts


Meeting in a group on four different occasions means judging strangers to build profiles that, sure, might blind you from getting to really know someone, but the survival reflex- To Judge- also means knowing what not to talk about, something crucial in CABBICY (Controlling Anger Before It Controls You), such as nothing-that-resembles-anything political to Mary, the anti-everything online news commenter who threw a chair at you the time you suggested something about capitalism being bad for the rich, and you didn’t duck; nothing-anything-remotely-close-to-anything-about meat to Sean, the Enlightened Vegetarian, who, after seeing you eat gummy worms, for some reason, called your dad a hypocrite, before apologizing with a medium Double-Double the next class, I’m sorry, but think of the bone marrow; or anything-whatsoever-that-resembles- any-words-in-the-same-dictionary as the word ‘dog’ to Jasmine, who just threatened to light your arm-hair on fire. 

All I’m saying is that not necessarily your dog, just dogs, in the general sense, in my opinion, are happier in the country.
Sure let’s tie the dog to a post so it can roam fifteen feet of land for the rest of its life in the rain!
All I’M SAYING is that some people have dogs on farms, where they’re supposed to be, in my opinion
What do you think: People who lives in mansions are jacked, and people who live in apartments are fat?
Don’t really follow you there… all I’m saying is that, in my opinion, dogs deserve to be in the wild, where all animals are from
Do you know the slightest thing about the past couple thousand years of domestication?
All I’m just saying is that, in my opinion, it’s unfair to have a dog in an apartment, because they should be tied to a post
You aren’t entitled to an opinion in something you have no idea about- this isn’t the fucking weather!

And so went the pre-armhair-burn-threat conversation, finally interrupted by the moderator. Eliza, the anti-dogs-in-the-apartment student, takes offense to the fuck your opinion comment, says I’m entitled to my opinion, whether or not it’s completely unsourced and just for me to feel like I am part of something, and Jasmine’s reply of Nobody is entitled to ignorant ideas gets a laugh from the circle- a rare thing. 

By the sixth class, you were able to guess accents, favourite styles of music.

By the eighth, you knew ticks: Sean’s giveaway ‘I think you’re an idiot’ eyebrow raises, the moderator’s tendency to repeat lines from the therapist on The Sopranos when he felt cornered, And how does it make you feel, Anthony, or Jasmine’s nails scratching her scalp when Eliza spoke, to grind away tension in her skull.

The tenth class means catching things that people try to conceal: Nose-picking, the half-second stares at you, between looking at things behind you (window to your right and the clock to your left), catching this secret examination, some glances building an image to remember you by, puzzle pieces to shape you together, Eliza. You forgot that it also meant your concealed glance had been caught by her- the necessary fact of meeting eyes- your attempt to go planter-Jasmine-moderator, light-moderator-Jasmine-plant.

colour by Aryz
words by Liam