The Symbolic Without the Father
Woman is one of the names-of-the-father
Tommy, the Anatomy of a Trauma
Never, Will I Stoop to Wanting Anything Else
Gaze-bo, Videbo I Shall See
La Can-Can Française
A Camille for the Nineties
A Visit to East Wallingford, Vt.
Hoboken Palace Gardens
The Tell-Tale Heart
Cuor Pulmonale, two nice words for an over-compensating heart. Years ago, surreptitiously looking through her medical file before they allowed patients free access to information, she noticed a letter in which the lung specialist told her internist that, one day, she would have cuor pulmonale. Fat chance, she thought. Never. She wouldn't allow it. So much for her will. When you slip over the edge, when your lungs are empty, wiped out, no tissue left to send that oxygen over the border into the bloodstream, then the heart takes over, tries to breathe for you. It becomes a pulmonary heart, and you who are suffering from it may feel alive, but you cannot move.
The myth of the erotomaniac with lung disease-she burns with fever heat. The men with TB and such get to burn quietly-and write. The women are consumed, and say very little. She is also consumed but is not sure what she is saying. In the Jerzy Kosinski version, the men who fuck tubucular women are spoken of as hyaenidae, hyenas feeding on the dying. In this story, the predatory male absorbs the female victim of disease, using up her vital energy in the sex act. There's an aspect of compulsion as well, a surrender of will that takes a sexual form. Sexual desire as a sign of disease, of not being well (that is, not being good). This sort of grotesque reasoning (or lack thereof) is applied to those with HIV. Harder to apply (in a literal way) to herself. She' s not aware of the inflammation. It is completely hidden. In a strange sort of kinesthesia, she listens for it. But the disease is very quiet. At present there is no congestion, there is no coughing. There is (instead?) an intermittent desire that wants to take over the body. It is a form of possession with no outlet. Can it be exorcised? Would she want it to be? Feeling like a flame is not all bad.
She has a new lipstick: Breathless. The name is so apt, and the color, a frosted mauve, is not bad either. It's part of her collection of escalating nouns: Breathless, Lust, Frenzy, X-S. (The truth of it would be Lust, Frenzy, X-S, Breathless, Cardiac Arrest.) Repeat as in a litany. Repeat until you know who you are. Words must now stand for actions. She knows the words. She is familiar with their texture-in her mouth, on her mouth. Portrait of a lady in various shades of lip rouge. She used to think that if you lay out a person's possessions, and then studied them as if they were grave goods, you could read their story. Methodically, she puts her lipsticks in a row on the dining-room table. She opens each one, twists the tube until the color is revealed. What does she now know about herself'? Not much. Girl things are props in a life where the body can no longer do its part as active agent. They are fetishes of a sort, but certainly not substitute objects of desire. Pleasurable enough in themselves, what they do is assure you (falsely) that desire can still be enacted, that the kiss will come.
The Witching Hour
Dream of suffocation: somehow the sheets have risen over her mouth and she cannot breathe. She wakes up. It's 3:15 A.M. The bedclothes are safely around her shoulders, so it isn't literal, this feeling of constriction, this sense of being in a bind. The suicides have their time: 4 A.M., the so-called Hour of the Wolf, sixty minutes of such desolation that people decide to take their lives. Those with bad lungs have two hours-3 to 5-in which they are liable to die, literally to cease breathing. The overlap is interesting. Susceptibility, a fit between the person and the hour. It is the time that belongs to them and to which they belong. The mind or the body knows, or cannot resist, the rush to oblivion, the urge to cease existing.
Wolfgang Tillmans, OP Schleuse, Photographs, 1994
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