“I’m out. Back next week.”
Typed. Transmitted. Turned off.
“Three weeks before I died, I finally achieved the MGM-lit cheekbones for which I’d always longed. That first time, when I was fourteen, I’d done it using the Black Beauties I’d traded Dingle blowjobs for, which I took in combination with Momma’s Valium — because I wanted to hurt her back for all the imaginary slights — though I was really doing the teenager-in-love-dying thing because Bradley would not say us out loud, or, would not let me say us out loud. This last time, forty years later, I accomplished the same sort of sunken-in, super-glamour-sucked-in look that Joan Crawford’s pet cinematographer, George Folsey, managed for her with well angled Fresnels and Vaselined-lens, and all I had to do was ingest the giardia parasite. Not, mind you, on purpose, but, I think, from an unwashed, organic green bean? Who knows.”
This illness: Metaphor. Not, of course, at Sontag level. I’m no one’s genius. But this illness: everything (anything) I take in wracks and wrecks and cramps and convulses me until it escapes, rushes, flushed foul explosive violent voiding; nothing stays, it is out of me, out of my control, and I am wasting away to waste, to shadow.
With the cheekbones I have always wanted and seldom had.
When Grand Hotel was filmed, it was decreed Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo must never be on screen together lest one of MGM’s two biggest stars upstage the other. A cheekbone duel to the death. Cheekbones of death.
I got mine, each time, three weeks or so before I died.
I should, I know, keep this in. Too much information. Spewing. But, I warned you: Illness is Metaphor. Everything I have ever taken in has given me worry and wonder and confounding and confusion until I prattled and ranted and blustered and bloviated and somehow made myself believe I’d comprehended some truth.
The truth – that word – it’s the words, you see – because here, in me, I have always had the truth but –
It’s the naming. No. It’s the need to name. It’s the damn words.
Having to have words.
He loved me. Bradley. Did. But, he could not say us out loud. In words. What came into us, what was in us, between us, shared back and forth and in and out, I needed to make into words, let out into the world in words, to name it. But when I tried, when I did, Bradley heard definitions from dictionaries brainwashed and beaten into him by believers in those gods who smote and shunned, reviled and rejected such love as he heard me speaking.
No matter how long I lived, I never learned words enough to un-speak the ugly the world had taught. And, fool, no Sontag I, I never learned.
If I’d just done what he (they) wanted —
shhhh just cant you just cant we shhhh be this you me be quiet shhhh just let me feel good you kneel shhhh you bend shhhh i wont break you just you be quiet shhhh dont tell dont ask dont shhhh just you know no one can know you know you are lucky to have someone like me but only if no one knows this you me you are you and i am me and there is no us no we so just turn over kneel down stop talking shhhh
But I wanted all the words in all those worlds to the end every time the words believing in the power of words if I could just find the right combination of the millions of words I knew in the right order there would be magic I would make them see the truth what does that mean truth it does not have meaning in words it is a feeling a thing a presence a light I know this and if I could I would and there would be finally no need for further punctuation or explanation. Full stop. Love.
Bradley drank himself to death.
W shot himself to death.
A fucked himself to death.
Y drugged himself to death.
J drove himself to death.
I’ve, maybe, talked myself to death. And still, somehow, never said the truth. And what difference would it have made? All of this I’ve taken in and been, collapsing inward now, imploding into myself and spewing, liquid, uncontrolled, out into the void. Voiding into the void. Where we are all erased. Where I will be forgotten into a nothingness beside all those hes who could not bear the definition of loving me for whom I lied was lied to laid by beside lie lay lain slain by words those hes those they were this me, I guess, who cannot now look in the mirror and say of the reflection there:
“He loved me.”