So this morning I got up late even though I lay in bed for a couple of hours wanting to get up, but not really being able to put the idea into practice, and made myself an enormous cup of coffee with some hot milk stirred into it and made a nice bread-and-butter tartine and lit the last of the Gauloises I stole from Lillian's husband (except for the lucky one, because I can never bring myself to smoke the lucky one and keep them all in their crumpled packets in a special drawer in my pink enamel vanity) and picked up the phone and called the IR. Her voice was heavy with sleep and drawly as usual and it took a few minutes before our conversation made any sense at all. Finally I asked her if she'd gone to the appointment at the clinic and she said yes, she had, and that her Norplant had expired months ago and that they had taken it out and that it hurt like a motherfucker.
So I said, well darling, at least that's taken care of, no harm done, and you'll know better next time, and let's hang out again soon.
And she said, yeah, that's taken care of, except for the fucking baby in her fucking uterus.
Oh, great, I thought. She doesn't know what she's going to do about it. I am officially there for her should she want advice. I'm not sure if others are as well, and I don't know whether she's going to tell its daddy anything about it. It's difficult because the IR is clearly an unfit mother, but she's twenty-seven and not a teen pregnancy or anything and will certainly never be any more fit than she is now. She didn't sound particularly surprised or upset. When I hung up, I had to remind myself that I am not pregnant and have no decisions to make about anything, except whether to have dinner or brunch or drinks or nothing with the MB's brother when he comes into town, and what color I ought to use for livingroom curtains (madder rose? tangerine?)
Nonetheless I accomplished nothing today but much coffee, the newspaper, a feeble walk to the park and back, and half a chapter of this dreadful novel about Sylvia Plath, by Kate Moses, which I will have to review in these pages when I have finished it. I suspect it of being dreadful but perhaps that is uncharitable of me.
Otherwise, artistically-speaking: saw a new band this weekend called Tallboys: four pale and mysteriously beautiful girls with slick dark hair or gingery bobs or loose goldy waves, playing what the boys might say was relatively kickass rock and roll. I was particularly fond of the shrill orgasms that the singer hiccupped between choruses of "Sex with a Stranger" (an experience for which one ought to "face the danger," & I guess I might agree) and of the still-lipped coolness of the guitarist. They played at this bar with scarlet walls and brocaded lampshades and Christmas lights of the same cherry color as the ones on the IR's bed, and I sat with my date (the guy from the Stevie Wonder concert last year -- we go to concerts and make out and part kind of tearfully because of our lack of a future together) in this funny alcove with a deep velvety chair in it, with curtains hanging nearly in front of it, and I sat on his knee and my Stoli Orange cosmopolitan hovered over my knee and tasted as sweet and difficult as Pez, just the way I like them.
The other thing I saw was a one-act by Jacques, who is a friend of Paul Redcloud's (the subject of my study, duh) and it was fucking incredible. I had expected it to be odd and quirky and absurd and peppered with non-sequiturs, which it was, but it was also very well-constructed and a little moving in a weird way and charming and good, and well-acted, and the author's brother was in it and was extremely charming with his constant bemused smiling and it was lovely. Hurrah, I say. Hurrah.
Oh, my. Spent most of the evening at the IR's, smoking marijuana and watching some Cassavetes movie about an actress. Oh, my. The IR lives in a warehousey-type building in a hip, dark, shabby neighborhood dotted with hip, dark, shabby rock venues and small, beery, crowded bars and greasy innocuous pizza joints. When you walk there you are nearly always almost knocked over by a lean pale boy with a greasy forelock on a bicycle, and there are always a couple of girls in funny stockings carrying handbags they made themselves from red courderoy or T-shirts screenprinted with Mexican devotional paintings. It was a rainy day today so everyone was wetter and lankier and clammier than ever, and they clutched their new records to their breasts with deeper and more burning ardor.
The IR's apartment is large and unfinished-looking, with a huge avocado-colored refrigerator and a stove and a vast linoleum-covered table designating the kitchen area and several enormous couches covered in purple and gold brocades and white fake fur. The walls are a greeny color on one side of the apartment and a tangerine color on the other, and there is a big window that looks out on an industrial complex at the back of the building that can really be quite breathtaking, especially when one is drugged with sleep and hangovers and hanging out with interesting and artistic psychotics and manic-depressives with whom one drank vodka and red wine the night before. But there were no psychotics tonight, and so the curtains -- strips of glittering purple fabric and yellowish lace sewn together -- were firmly drawn, so we could smoke and watch TV in peace. One wall is covered with different clocks: pink and turquoise diner wall clocks, rabbit-shaped clocks, Felix the cat clocks, cuckoo clocks, Jesus clocks. The other walls are all artistic large-format photographs by men to whom the IR has given blowjobs and men who want the IR to give them blowjobs and girls who have waitressed or worked in record stores or taken yoga classes with her.
I came over with the video and the IR made me a glass of water and we sat down facing each other on the couch while she rolled the joint in her lap. She was wearing a dirty-looking white tank top with no bra, so that you could see her odd little teardrop-shaped breasts hanging down and then swooping up again into puffy little nipples. The IR is one of those girls who never looks clean, even if she has just showered. She has thick, dull-looking skin and huge cowy eyes and a droopy, full-lipped mouth that she never seems to close, unless she's biting her lip and squinting her eyes in concentration, like when she rolls a joint. Then her face focuses strangely, but the rest of her body takes on a beautiful, relaxed grace, like a paper crane. She balanced the little heap of pot on one sharp, folded knee and the papers in the hollow of her ankle, and flexed her sharp bare shoulders back like a couple of wings. Some strands of dirty-looking reddish hair fell forward from the early 90's style clip at the back of her head. I watched her with fascination, as always. When she was finished she licked the edge with enormous satisfaction and arched her eyebrow devilishly.
"How have you been?" she said, passing me the joint. We hadn't talked since the sexual harassment thing, and it was a long time since I'd been in her apartment. We used to hang out nearly every weekend, back when I was a stripper. I was a stripper when it was cool to be a stripper, back when Courtney Love was in Spin wearing a blue velvet dress and talking about being a stripper, when they first starting printing those articles about nice girls being strippers to pay their college loans and shit like that. It was also a little before it was really cool for girls to hang out at strip clubs, and the IR and I didn't meet at a strip club -- we met at weird parties thrown by another one of the strippers, Iola, who was in some riot grrrl band and liked to shoot smack with some of IR's friends, and IR when she was feeling stupid. (Iola and I were both blondes but I was the anonymous one; she was most definitely Iola and didn't care who knew it. Iola was also a bottle blonde & extremely proud of that as well. Her band was incredible, if only for their sheer sexual energy. Also, because she only wore purple, right down to her sticky lipstick.) Even after I stopped stripping I spent a lot of nights at the IR's place, as I might have hinted before, drinking with psychotics and spending whole nights with them on the IR's couch, stroking each other's hair or licking each other's faces or something weird, while Iola fucked them in her tent of a bed or had threesomes with strippers and artists and psychotics. But gradually we have drifted apart a little, mostly because she's often legitimately mean and incorrigibly selfish and vaguely stupid.
The IR speaks in a slow, high-pitched drawl out of her very lazy mouth. She was telling me how I looked crystal-clear to her even though the whole room around me was foggy and indistinct, and I was agreeing with her and suggesting that perhaps she and I were the only solid things in the room, and that the rest of the room was just a watercolor or something, and then she suddenly rose from the couch and said, "Heeeey, that tooootally remiinds me of this baaand that I heard last night and I bought their CD at the shooow, you wanna heeeear it?" and I said sure and she said "it's in my beeed let's go geyt it" and she got up and walked swingingly towards her bed and sort of fell into it and I fell into it too. Her bed is in a corner behind a huge pink curtain with cherry-red Christmas lights hung inside it, and inside the curtain there are nine million pillows that she sewed herself out of scraps of different colored metallic and velvety fabrics. It smelled weirdly organic. We lay down among the cushions and smelled the weird organic smell and she handed me the CD case in her long skinny fingers but there was no CD inside, just a screenprint of a cadaver.
"Fuuuuck," she said. "Anywaaay, did I tell you I fuucked that guy from Shanghai Doctor?" She had not told me, but she did. "Yeah, it was CRAzy. I was sooo drunk, it was ridiiiiculous. It was like, fuuuck, I didn't even FEEL anything. But it's okay because he's kiiind of ugly." She smiled a crooked smile. "Hey, I hear you fucked that girl Lillian's husband."
"I didn't fuck him," I said. "I just kissed him. It was an accident." Then I wondered how she had found out about that. I asked her, and she bit her lower lip and twirled her hair in her finger. "I got sources," she said, and snuggled deeper into the cushions.
"You didn't hear it from Lillian, did you?"
"Nah. I heard it from, I don't know, somebody. The graaaapevine."
"Shit, I hope nobody told her. Fuck. Fuck. Do you think somebody told her?"
"No way, no way. Who would tell her? What do you think, people are craaazy? I heard it from the MB."
"You talk to her?"
"Yeah, we e-mail. It's fucking hilarious. It's like now we're best friends, just cause she lives in Cali-fucking-fornia now."
"Just as long as Lillian doesn't know. That would be a fucking disaster."
"You're so worked uuuuup about this! Like it even matters. Good for you, you fucked with the establishment. Marriage is a prison or whatever."
"I feel bad about it, I do."
"Yeah, yeah. Don't feel too bad. I fucked that girl Iola's husband one time."
"She got married two years ago, and I fucked her husband a year ago, but, like, she got over it."
"Wow," I said.
"Wow," she said. "I'm just kidding. I never fucked him. But I definitely have done shit like that." She stretched out her weird knotty-looking skinny limbs. "Hey, you remember that time we made out and stuff?"
The IR and I had indeed made out and stuff once, when a few of us were bored and had drunk a bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice between us and were rolling around on the floor touching things, as sometimes happens, and the IR had decided we should have a makeout party. Everyone kissed everyone once, and it was pretty innocent. When the IR kissed me it was gross: she had a soft, tiny mouth, with a pointy and insistent tongue and a fog of smokey breath. Somehow her teeth were involved -- they were small and sharp and rasped against my upper lip. I remembered kissing her was kind of like kissing a leech or some other weird, toothy, subterranean creature.
"Yes I do," I said. "You said I was an okay kisser, but that I didn't use enough tongue."
"Yeah, you didn't use enough tongue ," she said, and looked at me meaningfully. "You'd be a terrible lesbian," she added.
"Heeeey, I maaade some new paaaintings!" she breathed, suddenly exhaling as she sat upright. "Wanna see them?"
"Of course I do," I said. She leapt up and threw aside the pink curtains. The paintings were leaning against a wall, with their bare frames facing us. She turned the first one around.
It was a reproduction of a photograph of a naked woman, her body strangely pale and swollen, with dark holes for eyes and elaborately curled hair. The photograph part was screenprinted or something in black ink and then the IR had painted her in lurid acrylics: red lips, pink cheeks like a tinted Victorian photograph, green nipples. The background was filled in with brilliant washes of color and stuck all over with pieces of fabric and lace and tiny found objects -- bottlecaps, ticket stubs, buttons. She had stabbed huge gold hoops through the woman's ears. I realized finally that the woman had wings made out of plastic KFC forks.
"It's a cadaver," she said. "It's like the Joel Peter Witkin photograph, like on the cover of that CD, only his cadavers all have weird masks and metal bras made of pincers and shit on them. But this is the best one," she said, turning over another reprinted photograph, this one of the severed lower half of a woman's body, photographed from this weird foreshortening angle. It floated disembodied on an acid-green ground and from between its legs the IR had glued hundreds of weird things: lots of prescription bottles and lipstick cases and hairpins and tampons and crumbled pieces of deoderant and crumpled cigarette packages and screwdrivers and egg-whisks and broken glass and a high-heeled shoe and crushed beer cans and little dried flowers and the plastic heads of baby dolls. And pearls. She told me that now you can buy cadavers to fit your company needs and that people like Johnson & JOhnson can buy female half-cadavers to demonstrate gynocological products on.
"I might call it 'you can now buy cadavers to fit your company needs,'" she mused, "but probably I'll call it 'the origin of the world, part fucking two."
I laughed. It was striking-looking. We went and sat on the couch and started watching the movie, but I was having trouble concentrating from the pot and the IR was staring at the cadaver painting.
I went to the bathroom, which is bright pink and in a little closet, and when I came back she said, "So I need to go to the gynocologist myself."
"Why?" I asked.
"Weird shit is coming out of my vagina, like it smells all sweet and shit. I think I'm pregnant."
"Yeeeah. Sucks, huh?"
"What do you mean? Why do you think you're pregnant?"
"Cause I had unprotected sex, sort of. I mean, sort of. You know. And my panties smell all sweet and shit. They smell like somethin' good is cooking, you know, like a delicious cake, or some bread or something. Like a bun in the oven." She paused. "So, like, do I get an abortion? Or something?"
"That doesn't make any sense. If your panties smell like bread and you have a discharge you probably have a yeast infection or something."
"Nah, I had that before. This isn't yeasty, it's like a pineapple upside-down cake or some shit like that."
"And it doesn't normally smell like that?"
"No, it's usually all fishy and shit."
Hooray. Now I know what the IR's vagina smells like. "Anyway. That doesn't mean you're pregnant. At all. When was the last time you got your period?"
"Well, that's the weird thing. I thought I got it two weeks ago."
"And have you had sex since then?"
"Well, yeah, but with all the shit you need to use and shit like that."
I told her that she couldn't be pregnant if she had had her period, but she insisted that it had been "breakthrough bleeding" and that it had been all "watery and weird, like real blood, and it came out in this weird way" upon which she could not elaborate. She told me that she was almost positive that she was pregnant, and that since I was the sex columnist, what should she do?
I told her she should stop smoking pot, for one thing, and she giggled and looked weirdly sweet and put her two hands up to her mouth and then she put them on her temples and looked concerned.
"So should I get an abortion or whatever?"
"You're not pregnant," I said.
She looked like she was going to cry. "I'm serious. Fuck. I don't ask you for very many favors," she said. "Seriously, I'm serious. What the fuck am I gonna do if I have a baby?"
I poured her some milk and heated it up on her stove and called a clinic that I found in the yellow pages and made an appointment for her to have an exam tomorrow. She doesn't have health insurance, but she has enough money for a gynocological visit and pregnancy test & probably could use an STD test, too, if she does have a weird discharge (even if it does smell like pineapple upside-down cake.) Then we watched the rest of the movie, and I put her to bed because she was all sleepy and retarded from the pot and her eyes were all moist and confused, and then I lay down with her and put my arms around her and told her she wasn't pregant, and she talked about how if she was a mom she would be a fucking cool mom and that I would have to throw her a baby shower and have eggs benedict and that she would make her baby really incredible clothes and teach it to say funny little epigrams. I told her that she wasn't pregnant and she laughed and fell asleep and I let myself out of the apartment and read an abandoned newspaper on the train home, all about Philip Reisch's video collaboration project and about cloning and how all living creatures are machines.
I apologize hugely for being so negligent, dear Diary, dear Kitty, dear darling, silent, virginal public, white as new milk or new snow or the sheets on a bridal bed or the teats of some awful albino cow or the creased, scented skin or hair of a lovely grandmother, the kind they celebrate in memoirs. But, you know: no, I don't. I can't remember why I've been so lax, but it scarcely matters; little has happened since we last spoke, except that the air has chilled suddenly & a real whippersnapper of a wind has swept up and made it essential to wear little gloves and little hats, like a real lady, and always stockings that are dark rather than pale. Though I reserve the rights to uncover my winter whites when the time is right. Anyway, where did I leave you? My foray into Providence to observe my subject in his natural habitat? That was a long time ago, but I feel obliged to report: I think it was a success. I slunk into the back of the venue at 10 or so, wearing a slouchy fedora and a shapeless suede coat over a complicated and invisible blue dress, ordered a small and inconspicuous beer, and positioned myself at a little table where I smoked quietly and made notations in a little tiny booklet with a little tiny pencil. What I wanted was Pernod, for some reason, but of course they would never have that. Paul was milling around with a gaggle of excitable teenagers and his girlfriend, whom I have interviewed, so I had to keep a low profile lest I was noticed and my data contaminated. Paul and his girlfriend seemed fond of each other. I took note of her movements and did a few hasty calculations about the geometry of her mouth: slope from apex to lip-corner, depth of groove in lower lip, distortion created by quirky pursing of lips, angle of tongue as it disposed of excess lipstick. (I compared this data to other visual data at home, with interesting results.) Also noted function of of their distance from one another times their frequency of blinking as time approached 11:30. This too was interesting. Thermal analyses were inconclusive. At 10:34 they embarked on a walk, and I trailed them for a few blocks, noticed their embarrassment when a homeless man told them the rosebushes behind them were romantic, but then lost them in a crowd of Providence Renaissance pleasure-seekers, who had come in droves to see these weird flaming braziers hover over the dark waters of the river. I was reminded of my honeymoon. I considered briefly whether to make an auxiliary study of Paul's bosom friends and their girlfriends, one of whom was wearing a very skillfully modified T-shirt and also was in the band with the friends, and the other of whom was a new girlfriend and seemingly not sportive but rather fond of shopping, but I lost both of them in the crowd, as well. I contented myself with watching the teenagers flail charmingly about and allowing myself to draw on my cigarette as if I truly were a private dick. Also the band was good, and you can learn about them here.
This is all relevant because on Friday of this week I attended a little private conference at a local-ish hotel and gave a sweet little paper about my current research, complete with wry little quips and elaborately plotted facial structure analyses. It was a moderate success, and I was congratulated by various mild-mannered social scientists over free bagel wedges and wan-looking sliced fruit in the reception room. I also had a nice Japanese lunch with Eunice, who works in a building on the same block. I dropped in on her unannounced, and she'd made plans with a couple of people from work already, so we all went together: me, Eunice, a couple of funny women in unremarkable suits and tastefully funky jewelry, and a quirkily handsome guy with a little, elfin, Irish face and a quick mean laugh. I made a half-baked attempt to send some charm his way, but he was completely unreceptive, volleying loving sarcasms and inside jokes at Eunice and the other two, and smoking cigarettes in a clipped, masculine way that made me want to ask him for one just to show him I smoked. Instead I slurped my miso soup and crunched the little circles of green onion with great private pleasure and trailed hot mustard through the duck sauce (it was a Chinese restaurant, too) so I could dip the little crispy twiddles in it that they gave us for appetizers. I can't keep up with Eunice and her friends in any situation, but I usually don't mind: they're always warm and amusing.
ALSO related to that conference: this nonsense. Unable to focus on some computery task at hand, on Sunday I idly did a Google search for my Christian name and the name of the hotel. Ordinarily nothing comes up on Google about me, because I'm so skilled at preserving my delicious anonymity, but all this work in the social sciences requires some degree of frankness and straightforwardness, & I wanted to see if anyone had praised my deft analyses. What I found was some insane young riot grrrl activist bitch's weblog: she mentioned stopping by the conference for the free bagels and muffins and coffee and being favorably impressed with my project, which she believes "really pushes the fucking boundaries of fucking gender issues in this shithole society we live in, all true love and fucking heterosexual monogamy, but when you come down to it monogamy in all senses is a fucking myth and we're all just fucking the multiplicity of ourselves, which if you want to call it homoeroticism or autoeroticism, you can, but I just call it like I see it just like this chick" Which, by the way, is not how I was calling it at all. What upset me was not, however, this girleen's interpretation of my interpretations, but her "cold" memory of me: "what was really weird though is that I totally recognized this chick, and not in a good way like 'oh she was so cool' or 'oh she was so nice' but because I totally think I went to college with her. I remember her as a particularly pretentious literary creature, always clutching poetry and wearing velvet and being too mature, oh dear me, just TOO MATURE for college." She goes on to talk about various neuroses she has about rockabilly or something, but I don't get it. Who is she? And why did she think I was mature in college? Or that I wore velvet? I did have one sort of verdigris stamped velvet jacket that I thought looked kinda Wildean, but mostly in college I wore babydoll dresses and Kennedy-style thickframed glasses and went around rocking the vote. I wrote some poetry, but fuck that. Anyway, it's just odd.