While spending this month thinking about paper, learning to make paper, and creating works from paper, my friend, Pune Dracker, sent me something she wrote about love, loss, and hope through the lens of 76 used lottery tickets.
Pune is a writer and editor specializing in animal welfare. She writes haikus about lost shoes and pigeons eating pizza at @psychedelicate923.
AGAIN, I LOVE YOU
By Pune Dracker
You might not think there is value in a losing lottery ticket. If 1 in 4 is a winner, the remaining three wind up in the trash or, if you walk up any busy avenue in New York City, in the gutters, on the sidewalk, face down in unmanicured traffic islands. Bigtime lottery players also save them, their own spent tickets as well as those plucked from retailers’ garbage cans, to record as gambling losses on their taxes.
I have a thing for these tickets, these bright-yellow Bingo cards hiding in the trees, these failed Lucky 7s, green and pink and useless, inches from the garbage can. Every one of them had potential to someone, once. Every one of them could be, even if just for a few seconds between the time it takes to buy one and the time it takes to scratch it, a winner.
I have a thing for them, dirty now and unwanted.
Two Septembers ago, I spelled out the words AGAIN I LOVE YOU with used lottery tickets and hung them in the back stairwell of my building. The words are simple but not random. I appropriated them from notes written to me over a period of a decade. The words were always the last line.
To be specific, it was 9:30 am on Tuesday, September 25.
I made the individual letters in my apartment, then stacked them in reverse order so the “I” was on top.
I used tape from the 99-cents store to both combine the letters and adhere the words to the wall. “Y” was 5 tickets taped together, “N,” 9. The tape was so cheap it kept sticking to itself.
The scissors I used were sticky with pink aspartame, having been used to cut open packs of Concord Grape-flavored Crystal Light.
Seventy-six losing lottery tickets, at a cost of $2 each to the original purchaser.
I left the building once I hung the tickets, returning a couple times throughout the day. When I looked in the stairwell at 7:30 pm, however, the words had been removed and there was no evidence they had ever been there. I looked in the trash bins and the recycling room, checked the wall for a stray piece of tape left behind.
Did a tenant complain? Did maintenance remove them? Were they a fire hazard? Their complete erasure seemed sad and violent—and here’s why. In my building, things can remain in the stairwell for a long time. A dog peed there once, and the urine slowly dried on one of the steps over the course of the summer. When it was still wet, I slipped in it twice. Some say I could have called maintenance, but it didn’t even occur to me. And then by the garbage chute on my floor, a shelled peanut sat for 7 years, hiding in a corner. We never picked this peanut up because we were somehow rooting for it, its longevity, its second life.
Afterward, people told me AGAIN I LOVE YOU is considered an art installation. Let’s say that’s true, let’s say it was art about love, and let’s say it was removed.
Unlike the pee. Unlike the peanut.
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Just what I needed