Finished reading an article about the French actress, Capucine. She commit suicide in 1990, jumping from her 8th floor window. What a way to go. Why, of all the infinite ways to kill the self, would someone choose defenestration, such an ugly word. She was 57 or 62 at the time of her death. It confuses me how these reports can vary.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of Capucine. The first time was at the subway station, waiting for my train. I was pacing the bumpy yellow line, nervous about something. About what? I don’t remember anymore. I was reading a book in which there was a mention of Capucine. I remember that I paused over the word – its sound and syllables, the ring of it. I boarded the train, mindful of the gap.
Durkheim said that suicide is not the killing of the self by the self, but the killing of the self by society. It’s not you who kills you, it’s the others.
Durkheim was a pervert.
Death by drowning. We argued, my friends and I, whether this would be less or more painful than death by burning. I was on the side of less painful, though I wasn’t fully convinced by my own position. I chose this side because the image, of a person drowning, is easier on the mind than burning flesh. I pretended I wasn’t fooling myself. My friend, whose house we were at, was describing how drowning might feel, the inability to breathe, the moment when water punctured the lungs. I laughed. Everyone looked at me. I laughed again.
Later it was revealed to me that this friend had lost a sister by drowning. Then I felt wretched, but there was nothing I could do, at that point, to fix my mistake.
Defenestration used to be a royal punishment. So was falling down a flight of stairs, I mean being made to fall. A shame there are no videos of this – though even if there were, they would, I think, inevitably fail to communicate the thing itself. Its bodily heft and delight. The physical crushing of organs, ripping of skin, rising intensity of blood. You throw the person down. Then you carry them back up. Throw them down again. The body falling the whole flight down, stairs hitting skull, hitting elbow, eye, flesh. Then up again. Then down again. It’s patient, calm, and slow. The cumulative destruction of a robust human body.
Death by a thousand cuts. The victim’s face is simultaneous agony and ecstasy. Why are we curious about this? Isn’t it obvious? It’s simple transcendence. This is what transcendence is. The more interesting question might be, though, what this is a transcendence of. Transcendence shouldn’t be intransitive.
The passing afternoon.
A pair of eyes, pupils small as pins, iris orange, staring through the window.
I crept through the city with a tire iron, a gas mask, and a bike chain. Thirsting for the fight. I could feel the city throbbing, alive like flesh full of maggots, snake slithering from a vagina.
Suicide’s a difficult procedure. The body’s resilient. The organism wants to live. Isn’t that interesting? At the level of the cells, there’s a physiological will to live, lust for life. Pure biology. As if the tissues were aware of possible negation, and afraid of it, knowing (as the mind does, too) that what lies beyond is unknown, a black hole.
I was, therefore, wrong in my judgment of Capucine’s defenestration. She had tried suicide several times before. She knew the difficulties. With the jump from an 8th floor window – maybe this time she wanted to be sure. She had been “a recluse” for almost five years. This is an incorrect use of the word “recluse”.
Sadegh Hedayat gassed himself. In Paris, in a small rented room. He plugged the doors and windows. He left behind money for his burial and shroud.
I know so little about Sadegh Hedayat. Nothing connects us beyond the thin skin of history. Susurration in my blood. Sometimes I mistake the devil for my heart.
A man knocked on the front door. I refused to open it.
I can’t stress this enough. My heart crumbles like a biscuit. All over the carpet and floor. And I stalk the unhealthy streets. Adding pain to suffering. Subtracting all meaning. I love my job, I do. I love this life and I love my job.
First I split his chin with my silver knuckles, then I tore off his eyelids. First the right lid, then the left. I plugged his mouth with a rock. I beat in his stomach with the tire iron. I beat him till he stopped moving. I had been aiming in the general direction of his kidney and, sometimes, the spleen.
Rice pudding is a true delight. I am so happy when I am eating rice pudding.
A woman tortured by having rats forced up her vagina.
Isn’t all pleasure pain? Isn’t suicide the ultimate form of pleasure-seeking?
Yes – for some kinds of suicide. The brazen kind. None of that wimpy death-by-gassing, which is a ratlike activity, for human mice.
Reports of Capucine’s death sometimes note that she had no known survivors. Others mention her cats – “Capucine is survived by her three cats.”
In 1962, Capucine played the role of Hallie Gerard, a prostitute in a sophisticated New Orleans brothel. It’s called The Doll House and it’s run by an intimidating woman, Jo in the film, played by Barbara Stanwyck. Jo employs a man named Oliver to discipline the girls, and by discipline I mean beat them when they’re out of line. Oliver likes this. He has a calm, cool exterior, with cocker spaniel eyes but cold as ice. He walks into a girl’s room – she’s still in bed – makes small talk, puts on a pair of thick leather gloves and as he’s buttoning them he tells her, the poor nervous girl, what it is she’s done. Then he holds her by the neck and spanks her.
Capucine puts an end to this. She forbids Jo, the madam, from letting Oliver beat that girl again. Jo is indulgent and, secretly, a little proud. As with everything Capucine wants, Jo lets her have it. Jo doesn’t believe in love, but she loves Hallie, who is Capucine, very, very much.
It’s cold out, winter. I make a pot of tea. I pace my apartment, waiting for the kettle to whistle.
René Crevel, that wise boy, spent all of My Body and I extolling the virtues of suicide, bemoaning his own lack of will. It was he who said, rightly, that we are all more or less syphilitic.
No bridge connects me to the others.
I found a tooth in a sidewalk crack. It was just sitting there, intact and pristine. A perfect, slightly discolored human incisor. I bent to look at it, then I picked it up in my hand. It was clean, undamaged and whole, with something spongy and black, a piece of gum, still attached to it. I rubbed off the gum on my pants, slipped the tooth into my breast pocket. It isn’t every day you find such a thing.
Because I’m bored, I put on the gas mask. There have been studies on the gas mask, its status as war tool, its use in sexual subcultures. I remember the villain in Lynch’s Blue Velvet. It’s an obvious film, weak. Obvious because of its triangulation, in the figure of this villain, of sexual proclivities with moral corruption. I mean, look at that guy. He puts on the mask, puts out the lights, rapes a woman while calling her Mommy, then he calls himself Daddy, then Baby. There’s even a scene where he drags some lipstick across his lips and tries to kiss Kyle McLachlan, channeling in that moment that tired old cliché, the horrible transvestite.
I’m stretching a little. It’s not a gas mask the villain wears. It’s something similar.
I put on my mask. I step out of the drain. I lift myself out of the gutter and drip down the streets, head proud and high.
I tie her arms behind her back with my chain. I smash in her cheek with my fist, her left cheek. I kneel so I’m next to her. Pull back her head by the hair, whisper in her ear, lick the lobe. I call her Capucine.
I tell her I love her.
I have no peers. I am peerless. There have been none like me in the whole past, no promise of me in the future. The future itself is suspect. I will erase it. The future and I exclude each other.
Jo has a husband, and when he touches her she cringes, back turned to him. She doesn’t believe in love. She’s sharp, intuitive, stern. Except when it comes to Capucine. When it comes to Capucine, all the sense drains out of her.
There’s something doglike about all love, even the kind that sets itself up as holy or pristine. Perhaps there especially. There’s a weakening of the self, reorientation of principles and preferences, and before you know it you’re so porous you almost don’t exist. Not as yourself, at any rate. Not as what you were and had compiled yourself to be, so carefully and with so much pain. Everything is undone in simple seconds. With the temerity of a kiss.
I buy myself a puppy. I buy it because I can. I feed him expensive dogfood and I name him Primo.
Spending days in bed lately. Luxury. Someone slides the newspaper under my door, every day at 9 am promptly.
Going to the cinemas too, for the midnight specials and also the matinees. Very good selection of movies lately. A large tub of popcorn with infinite refills. I watch the movies till my eyes bleed.
I want to get AIDS so I can spread it to all my friends.
You will inherit me and my disease. Errors of syntax. I am my disease.
Delmore Schwartz called the movies a drug. The zone where we come to be anonymous ooze. They found him in his hotel room. Death by heart attack. Body unclaimed for three days. You genius of a generation. In the dirtiest hotel in the world.
It’s a friend’s birthday party. My friends ask me what I’ve been doing. I tell them I’m in the import-export business. When they press me for details I wink and prevaricate. I go to the kitchen for more ice.
I stroll through the streets in a light rain. A group of young women stumbles by in high heels. I lean against a lamppost and watch. They grow nervous, walk faster. I follow. A car pulls up and they get inside. I spit out the thing that’s been tickling at the back of my throat.
I ravage a bookstore. I walk in with my tire iron and destroy the place. First I kill the cashier. It’s a small store. Then I steal every book I like.
In a café I drink many coffees. Reading books slowly. Making notes. Acquaintances stop by but I make it clear that I’m busy.
Jo’s husband is a miserable, legless wretch. In the movie, he’s shown in a strange contraption, a low wooden platform on wheels, which he propels with the use of metal handgrips. His hands are his feet. This is a grotesque inversion, and a moral one. There’s an atavism here, a reduction of that thing in him, malicious thing, that makes him recognizably human.
We know this thing when we destroy it.
I love myself when I’m alone. Then only.
Primo and I go on long, difficult walks. I walk fast on purpose so that Primo, leashed, has to struggle to keep up with me. I love the sound of his panting, then wheezing.
My dealer brings me things. We have an arrangement. He comes to my apartment whenever I want him to, and it’s his job to intuit my desire. He’s nervous on the doormat, scuffing his shoes. I invite him in for tea. He plays with Primo as we talk.
When I was a child.
Durkheim the fool thought there were kinds of suicide. He composed his list with reference to social states i.e. he sought a correspondence between the nature and composition of a society and the nature, and composition, of its suicides. Durkheim should have been shown the modern subway system. He should have been shown the rodenticide that flows between the tracks.
I am a particle of night. This is my deepest, most secret identity.
Reality is particles too. Everything is atoms and alive.
Thus, we must –
I rob a man at gunpoint. The gun’s not loaded; plus, it’s a toy. I poke him with the barrel a few times, in the ribs. He’s whimpering. I take his wallet and drop it in the gutter. But before I drop it I remove his ID from the plastic sleeve, and slip it in my pocket. His shit eyes follow me. I take his wristwatch off his wrist. I swallow it.
At dawn I practice my violin.
Schwartz knew what life was like. This lie. He said it many times. In a beautiful voice. In a voice of despair. Every time I hear it it makes me cry.
Do you know the kissing bug? It bites the human lip. Dangerous poison. I am collecting these kissing bugs. Patiently. Slowly. My dealer brings them to me. We have an arrangement. My collection is steadily growing. I can’t wait to release them, together and alone, my controlled epidemic, my chemical war.
An organ is found in the local lake. It’s a kidney. I put it there!
Everyone is background radiation and atmospheric effects. Not I.
Capucine dragging a chair to her window. Capucine preparing to leap.
She named herself, sweet girl, after the nasturtium. My favorite flower.
I hire a suicide bomber. I give him the device and the coordinates. My suicide bomber is a teenager. He has bleary, sleepless eyes. I kiss his pupils before he leaves.
Crevel, who am I, alone in a hotel room. Together and alone. Never alone, and never! together.
The rose wilting against the glass vase.
The orchid leaning against the window pane, writing with its petals.
An orangutan flinging itself through the trees of the city. Was I let it out of the zoo. For the pleasure of seeing it pursued and killed.
I am eating eyeball soup. Not feeling well today. So I made eyeball soup.
Hedayat, gassing himself in his hotel. I wonder about you. Unkindly I called you weak. But I know this is wrong and that, in doing what you did, you alone were brave.
For lunch, a single clitoris.
I hang upside down from a monkey bar and read Howl. All the children look at me. I wink.
I’m the Pied Piper. I make the children follow me. Except, I don’t make them. They come of their own accord, willingly. I take them one by one into my room, and erase their face.
The serial killer who kidnapped children and dissolved their bones in lye. When they caught him his tally was over a hundred. I remember. How those rumors used to spread. Like lethal gas. Through all the alleyways. I remember his face. I remember what they did to him.
There it is. The siren. Red lights. I put on my coat and walk out, where I’m not supposed to be.
The moon explodes.
They’ve been wanting to bulldoze this district for years. And years. I lie here quietly and make her sing songs to me. She sings lullabies. She’s eating peanuts and sometimes bits of these fall from her mouth onto my face. My eyes are closed. I’m not here.
I ask her to marry me. She laughs, rightly.
I mailed her one of her daughter’s kidneys. This shared knowledge hangs between us like a live wire, pure potential. I flick it with my tongue.
I use her cunt as my umbrella. Then I slip it back into my pocket.
Primo licks my face. He’s happy to see me.
I wake up with the flu. I go around sneezing into other people’s soup.
The breaking wheel, to which they tied the person and broke their bones. Isn’t that wonderful? Pain and suffering as spectacle!
I miss those days.
A surgical procedure whereby they anaesthetize you, then remove your bones. The femur, say. Removed very cleanly. Or the phalanges and the tarsals, metatarsals. You wake up in a body without bones.
In the Hitchcock movie Rope, two college students murder their friend. They strangle him, then place his body in a chest, then cover the chest with a cloth and serve dinner on it. It’s a houseparty. On his dead body. This is absolutely delicious to me.
Isn’t there something delectable about all suffering? Even your own? Especially your own?
I don’t really like porn. It doesn’t do much for me. It doesn’t do anything at all.
What’s that thing between Jo and Capucine, in the direction of Capucine to Jo? She knows her captivity. She knows what she was, before she came to The Doll House, and she knows what she wants to be, in the present and in the future, but the thing is that she doesn’t believe she can. This desire is choking her. She’s choking on her own desires. And Jo, of all people, understands this. She treats Capucine the way she wants to be treated: like an artist. Pampers her. Tolerates her tantrums. Sometimes worships her. Capucine’s icy, full of scorn, and undemonstrative. But. Even so. There’s something in her that needs and wants the madam of The Doll House, the madam who’s happy to lose her profits by forbidding Capucine from working in her own brothel, though Capucine defies this order, every time, defies it with a petulant joy.
The Pig’s Valise.
I sip mushroom soup. In my favorite café. The light’s bad. There’s almost a storm. I stay the whole day in the café, eating, and reading.
A woman smiles at me. I desire the removal of her teeth.
It’s lightly raining. I can taste the acid on my tongue, quietly killing me. I summon Crevel, my friend, invoke his name as a holy presence, I walk through his ghost in the street.
In this dream, I’ve been tied to a tree. The bark of the tree is growing into my skin, incorporating me. I’m becoming the tree. I wake up screaming, from this awful dream.
There are toes in my soup. I put them there. There is nothing more tonic than toe soup.
I am in her arms. I found her in a bar. I experience tenderness.
They tied a serial killer to the breaking wheel and kept him alive for almost a week, so that he could feel each moment of his impending death.
There is beauty in slowness, in things orchestrated over a period of time.
The pig, for instance. Its extended orgasms.
A group of children runs through the streets, wearing gas masks.
Capucine’s cruel to Jo, quite frequently. She’s tumultuous like spoiled, useless lovers. In one unbearable scene, she says to Jo: “I want to have a drink with a man, not with you.” Jo doesn’t flinch, though every cell in her body, at those words, starts to burn.
Jo knows she’s a prisoner of her world, which is a world of strict concepts and beliefs. Yes, beliefs, and ideals. She knows what the world is, and this knowledge helps her act in it. In a world thus constituted –
Yet we must have sympathy for Capucine, who despite her many weaknesses is, too, a similar prisoner of this world. What she’s missing is Jo’s conceptual strength, her mental excellence. We must forgive Capucine, her particular conceptual constitution.
Concepts are organic matter, like cells.
I see her on a street corner. My femme fatale!
Femme fatale strokes my hair. Feeds me cherries. The afternoon’s waning and the light is warm.
She begins to flicker, then fade. I’m left hanging in midair.
I nail Primo to a neighbor’s door. I nail him in the night, while he’s still alive, my small pup, I kiss his whimpering mouth, cup my hands beneath his wound. Primo. His fur.
Bike chain. Cracking across the sidewalk. Dislodging souls. The ones constituted entirely of these cracks.
I’m moody and full of angst. It’s all her fault, femme fatale.
Her name is well-earned and appropriate.
She is the Cosmic One.
Universal Harmony, the mandala. Herself.
On the back of this cigarette pack I draw a map. I just sketch it, skeletal and brief. But it has all the information, for those with “the right eyes.”
I leave this map where it belongs, in the perfect center of the railway platform.
Rip off the fronts of houses –
The self-immolation of martyrs. There is a moment of courage – a single one – and it is neither the decision, nor the resolution, nor of choosing the location, nor even of pouring of the gasoline, but the moment of striking the second match, then the third, and even the fourth, after the first match fails to light.
The singing of the sirens. I hear them in my dreams sometimes.
She knows, Capucine, what it is that Jo is giving to her, the force of that emotion. It’s because she knows this so fully, and so well, that she can act the way she does. She has the Madam of The Doll House wrapped around her finger. This is power. This is Capucine curling her lips in a smirk of cold irony, waking up at 4 pm, Capucine in her lingerie all day. Capucine sitting opposite a man in The Doll House, making eye contact, dipping a finger into her champagne and dragging it down the side of her throat, telling the man “I have the madam of The Doll House wrapped around my finger”. The gesture is quick, full of condescension, and cruel.
This is Capucine, glowing with power.
This is what we do, when we love someone. We give a portion of our energy to them, the energy that is our life force. Thus the observation, that people in love began to resemble each other, in features as much as behavior.
I slash tires casually, of the cars lined on my side of the street. It’s night and no one notices me.
The hiss of leaking air. I’m totally dissatisfied.
I tie this woman’s neck with my bike chain. That’s all I do. I take a woman, find a lamppost, tie her to it with the chain.
My mother was a gentle woman. Of demure constitution. I descend from a long line of quiet people, with poor metabolism and chronic fatigue.
Diced liver in a diner, on a blanket of peas. Dining with friends tonight. We used to go to this diner often. Nostalgia as a series of beeps.
Under the table, I rub my leg against my friend’s. He looks at me.
Femme fatale appears to me through physiological means, I mean stomach cramps. I go to the bathroom. She’s there waiting for me.
We sit on the floor, in a corner of the public restroom, invisible and unseen. She strokes my hair and makes love to me quietly. I cry every time she touches me.
She calls me miserable, obscene.
My neighbor, removing Primo from his door, breaks down and weeps.
Ali is a shapeshifter.