Memoir piece 9

Ch. 8 I’m fine

A heart surgeon’s assistant with that sort of grisled New York thing about her, not mean, said “why you got to sell me out Doc. Don’t put words in my mouth, you know.”

“I didn’t sell you out,” said a heart transplanter, James Pettigrew AMD, literally on his way to put a heart in the freezer for storage. “So don’t sell me out. And please just take shit seriously, what the fuck are you wearing — I don’t care how you look in the OR and your mind is the best thing we got.”

“You don’t even care how I screw??”

“I don’t care how you screw… unless it’s causing you to screw up people’s lives. Or worse.”

“Have you ever done that.”

“I mean I’m a heart surgeon,” said the Doc with dark humor almost, actually not really. “But I’m not impartial to different people, I don’t give my best surgery for the bigshot guy, I certainly don’t retaliate against my patients. Like Mengele you heard of him, yeah no thanks: not my guy. I’m happy how I am ha, the idea is helping as many people as possible. I know that I’m a good man who makes mistakes. And I’m not doing it for the glory, dear. I’d never call you dear because — I’m married. But I’d also never call you some other [worse] things to me.”

“Would you give your best surgery out of fear. I feel like that’s when I do best.”

“*Bitchy voice, it’s subtle humor and the assistant laughs at this* You’re cute…” said Dr. Pettigrew sarcastically (in fact he feels pity for her).

“I try, a little.”

Pettigrew shook his head. “Let me think. I don’t really get scared. Ever.”

A beat.

“What if you did and then were programmed to avoid feeling anything, you were that scared.”

“Maybe that’s how this heart hospital works. It’s how love and war work too. You’re fortunate that you’re so young, and so good at your work. Sorry if I’m being paternalistic, you know I don’t mean to.”

“*pees her pants* Are you good at your work? Sir I wore my best clothes for you and you just insulted me. Overall you sound kind of fucked up sir.”

Doc said *PRETENDING not to notice, not listening, not open to listening anymore* “yo if by fucked up you mean fucking brilliant, yes, suck my big fat Cock. These are jokes — remember I’m married? I’m married to Hope we’re super compatible. And my game today is ON. I’ll meet you in the backroom in five and if you’re not there, you’re gone.”

“I literally just want you to like me. I’m like your cyborg, I love you.”

“I’m gonna be a dick for a second. You’re not the same as when we met. And I don’t like you as much. I’m bored. But I’ll be cool and we’ll work on it. You would do anything for the work, for me I already fucking know it.”

“Yes sir I would. Sir yes.”

*Explaining it later to a doctor friend, naked her name is Morgan* “It was pity sex.”

I’m going to recount my time as Morgan Wilcock, an insuranceless patient in Bellevue Hospital in 2019. It was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me — that would make it worse than what felt like it was happening to me not anyone else, just to me in my head, in 2021, the underpinnings of which make up the more disturbing scenes inside this project. To bridge into those memories from 2019 I will recycle yet another riff by writer Cat Marnell from 2012:

“[…] while stars are infamous for their hard partying, their dizzying downward spirals, their headline-making binges, the truth is, when they use most heavily and subsequently die, it’s usually in their most private places, where they can relax, be in quiet, and don’t have to appear functional to the outside world … I don’t know what killed Whitney [Houston], but if it was something that she used to put herself to sleep because the agitation of being awake was too great—remember this, drug users: staying awake will never kill you,” writes Cat.

The title of the essay I took all that from is “ON THE DEATH OF WHITNEY HOUSTON: Why I Won’t Ever Shut Up About My Drug Use.” It was considered groundbreaking for being pretty much unlike anything female readers had encountered, for its openness, a piece maybe a bit rough around the edges in its delivery — but many of her exclamation point and italics-ridden essays which were similar to this one but impossible to find online now in 2022 were groundbreaking specifically [well..] for their influence on the spunk movement of writers influenced by Cat, and later by Morgan Wilcock, a gay-not-trans author who used to go by many pseudonyms including male ones. Indeed Morgan almost turned Cat gay, but reminded her a lot of women past their forties are whatever, and some of their early work collectively on a timeline that sort of accounted for all the years they lost emotional maturity due to abuse, of drugs, was probably groundbreaking work — even though all this “groundbreaking” work by women writers in my The Author’s own not biased view tended to happen best when it happened off the map; because otherwise the women had to shift their focus from the writing, to other modes of surviving.

Cat of course is a Beauty Editor who was made into a star by the likes of successful women in media such as Jane Pratt, and Jean Godfrey-June who I once saw on Hilton Als’ Instagram and his Instagram is like the fucking shield of Achilles (it’s beautiful content, with a queer dint upon it); so it’s not like Cat wasn’t always doing both beauty work and her work with words. But what-I-said should all make sense to people who have ever stood next to a model or movie star or star of a TV flick, if you’re not “with” him or her. Hilton Als has mentioned going to premieres as a big gay black man with famous women like Rachel Weisz, to accept awards that might help immortalize his writing. I think that’s nice.

Durga Chew-Bose said in Morgan’s version of her, “I have reached out to people before to say I liked their work, but let’s suppose in your situation I was put off by some things you wrote about me.”

“Did you see any of it?”

“What is the answer you’d write for me.”

Morgan said, “probably.”

“They were making fun of me.”

“No, I think just like with Big Tech — or not just like that, because like what power do you have Durga Chew-Bose editor of SSENSE, but basically — when I say that it’s not that cool to sort of endorse a twee aesthetic or sort of willful younger-ness, when it becomes just an act and people are seeing through it, well, most people are seeing through it, THE people are seeing through it, maybe not the people you depend on in more-literal ways… you are at some point not being responsible. That said I think there’s a fine line, between art that’s just prettier and are that is just the male gaze [like literally that’s the only thing that fuels the art] which in turn becomes internalized by women who ‘depend’ on a career in the arts for their income, their livelihood supposedly though they end up in situations where they’re ‘pretending to have fun.’ Do you think Art is fun?”

“Sometimes I describe myself as not a critic but as an enthusiast. I like going to museums, it’s fun, sure.”

“Well I think there’s a problem when some people on the same project, are ‘going to Fun’ while others are going to work. It’s just like this weird thing, where your job is essentially to make sure your bosses are still having fun. And it is extremely dark for lack of a better fucking word.”

Durga said nothing.

“I think I’d bring out a feminine side of you, and since I don’t always feel comfortable writing lines for people who I actually might meet I’ll just add one thing. I said something earlier in this book, I wrote this project in such a disjointed way that I can’t remember where or use autofind to locate it — but I was talking about what it might look like to be a feminist filmmaker. Maybe I could say that Lena Dunham was groundbreaking, actually a big deal because I think if women are acting their whole lives in bed, they lose themselves. I kind of cut to the case there: like I could explain that more, but I think she really introduced a mode of filmmaking where you could dare-to-suggest that women aren’t always obsessed with how the sex goes? I think men feel that way too and she did give the male perspective so I don’t understand some of the flack, then again I think a lot of men right now have anger and they tend to be sexually inactive: and expecting some great sex off the bat, I don’t know Durga I don’t know. I DEUNT KNEUWW. I can’t think of that many films that actually have BAD sex in them, and this is the hard part to write in a book like this that is not a novel, a girl in her mind can be in a place where sex if-watched[?]-by-someone-else would be just obscene, and the guy can be in a different place, like light passing through a triangular prism, spiraling off in different ways and while it’s different in literature (James Baldwin has some complicated sex I suppose, in his novels — also-this-is-a-good-moment to mention a new novelist named Ocean Vuong, who ‘writes the body’), it bothers me to think that hasn’t been done much in cinema and when it has it’s been such a clear struggle to escape abuse and censorship because … it actually might mean that all these male directors legitimately have a different experience of sex with women!! And the gap has grown so, I guess huge that something’s gonna give. Like something’s gonna give. I am scared of your friend Sarah Nicole Prickett but she’s written some incredible essays, albe-them by a kinky fuck for publications hardly anyone knows about, on the topic of film including pornography, and gender roles in porn, and sexual violence and the ‘greatest incel(s) ever to have lived’ which remember Durga is me. Like: if I’ve learned anything from being a guerilla performer using platforms in this weird creepy way it’s that all your creepy tweets ever that disappeared can turn up in a much-better way in like the second or third draft of some writing. I didn’t say in order to CANCEL you someday. They just come back. I would be able to look up to Sarah if I saw her step up at this moment in literal history. And you Durga, this brings me full circle. I know you like Polly Platt and have some experience writing screenplays or scripts because I’ve watched all your interviews or listened; you’ve just mentioned this. I think if there have been ‘distinctly feminine’ film artists who were Jewish, you over time became a critic who wasn’t male who out of the blue was able to give recognition to, well, I guess to actual white women like Barbara Loden and your first book is a big deal for being… genuine. [I think that was a joke in poor taste. I think it was, I don’t know.] And you just like art and it’s not for show, it’s not for some moral show of how good you are including for ‘giving platforms to women’ (and like: the one picking the women-artists is not a woman or is a woman who feels threatened or I don’t know). I fear criticism is in a precarious place and I tend to be forward because I just don’t have time to waste, I heard Anna Wintour say the same in an interview with David Letterman: she is just direct so I was like “nice” I’ll try to be. I’m being direct that I think a lot of women in high positions who were helped-in-some-complicated-way by equity laws are actually kind of insecure, men too, not her thank god. That one movie about Anna Wintour, I fear, not quite like The Social Network, sort of really changed the landscape for films about media offices in a way I didn’t like. Remember all those stupid 90s or 2000s romcoms like 13 Going on 30 where it wasn’t like, a moral thing whether you leveled-up to get the job? Leveled-up in ways that could be shown in romcoms watched by teenage girls. I don’t really know what I’m saying but OPE yess I remembered what scene it was that I was talking about ‘feminist film’ and I didn’t even use those words; it was my dialog with my ex Eric. I said I thought women were inherently more attractive — well that definitely wouldn’t be true if you were my actually-straight sister, or if you were like, photographer-director Petra Collins or something who is able to make men look a certain way under the female gaze. Her music videos are really good. So, if I am truly gay, and I am, then there need to be people on my team who aren’t or I’ll just have a very limited perspective of the world: limited to my gay girl eyes.”

“Are you sure you’re gay Morgan.”

“I’ll never be sure I am gay. If that is something you’d ask. I have had some good things with men, really good things actually and as Lola Wilcock or Lola or whatever I was able to morph into a different person: to kind of keep it separate from situations where being pretty honestly would get me in trouble. See I’m being direct, and since I am I’ll add, I actually, do, think, I lost my looks, they’re not coming back but I could have chosen that over being a real writer. I could be wrong; I don’t know, there aren’t ways to like, prove that kind of thing. Hilton Als wrote an essay in White Girls about Louise Brooks that I found relatable: I could reference it at this moment, or just mention it. Goes to show ‘the self’ is a delicate thing. More relevantly to the thesis of this book ‘it’ is a sacred thing, the self is a sacred thing and the body is something else. I don’t know what the body is. I don’t think I was born to write the body. I do think I am fortunate that my sister Alexis, say if I do intend to direct with her, has an awareness of how art as a medium is so often basically about looking at bodies [you know, in some context or in relation to each other or to the artist or..] (Alexis is smart) but of course that is not the only thing that art is. And I think rather than make it into a sexual-identity thing I would encourage people to make it into a love-thing and not overthink it until they fall in love with someone else: that probably is a little more complicated because for me love isd been sometimes a horrible thing, literally horrible. And *on a soapbox looking super feminine that day* I think I will choose to commit to people (like a girlfriend and one day a spouse) and they are more likely to be women, and it is probably because I am in love with my work.”

“Oh, so. With your self.”

“No, would anyone care if I were though and that became my norm, I am bipolar though so I either love or despise myself — oh and that’s another reason I might do better with a woman, they wouldn’t ever call me crazy for things that are just probably trauma-influenced. I don’t know if that makes sense.”

“More in love with work than with like, the idea of a family or something.”

*Morgan was making a face like she just woke up and forgot she was on an airplane.* “I know, I would like a family. I don’t know how I’ll have time for all this but becoming a doctor [a neurologist or mental health practitioner] in all honesty is to keep.. me, sane. And let’s pretend I started crying when I realized I wanted a family at age 28.”

“??”

“That’s when I realized it. I don’t know how to write your lines but … you’ve been editor to a magazine, I’ve only pretended I’m a leader … you are interesting because I think people just get behind you but then you are a real writer so you must pick up on their ulterior motives. At risk of getting carried away in a dialog with someone I don’t fucking know, I’ll just say that I expect we will be meeting again and we can talk about some of the things that actually need to be addressed because people’s wellbeing, and lives might be at stake. I am sorry if that is too much.”

“Pun intended..”

“Yes and here’s another pun. Who da boss, also. Say hello to my little friend.”

*Durga winces because it’s so bad and Morgan is like ‘I’m not going to say it’s not that bad because I’d be being actively dishonest maybe to make [you] feel better or to make someone ‘like’ me, someone who’s involved in this situation that I think has been kept safely self-contained beneath this scene like a diabolically-designed field of landmines; but I do not care if people like me to the point that it can become self-destructive and just-destructive and if people can forgive times I’ve been just-destructive it is true that I just need people [women] to know that I do need them too, I would rather take this very very seriously than kind of pretend, it’s fine’ (what if that’s not true)… if we meet IRL, Durga Sweet, we’d just have to negotiate boundaries [between art and life] and be strict about that. I’m talking in director-mode now, not like a lesbian mom or dad which is what that last pun was about. End scene.*

“It sounds like you’re talking about some sort of crisis, are you?”

“I don’t think people want to deal with how hard it might be to make things work, and I am talking about MeToo maybe and I am talking about how hard it is to create a better world. It is the much harder thing to do undoubtedly. Progress that is good progress does not come easily. Have you been eating?”

“??”

“I don’t know, I was going to maybe ask you to go out because I can’t keep doing this book, these scenes. It’s not how people actually should be talking. It’s literally like slave songs, talking in code — making bad jokes, did I just cross the line.”

“You’d have to ask if you just crossed the line and I could tell you.”

“Here is a good start because I’ve learned it’s good to just ask for what you need.. since I am a student at Columbia and he’s been a longtime professor here — could you maybe help facilitate something where I meet Hilton Als. I think that would be a good start.”

Durga said.. “I don’t, know. You could meet me. I don’t know what you’re gonna show him.”

“Like ALL my fucking writing and I’ll spill my soul. You are reminding me of my sister, dragging her feet on these things. She could come to the meeting? Say if we’re a duo and we are. Okay though how about we meet first, I don’t know. Literally you’re a leader right. But I do know I can’t just e-mail Hilton Als from the school server because it wouldn’t work: I just feel like it wouldn’t work. This book is literally designed to not be read unless someone is kind of willing to consider taking me seriously. For how people respond to it I expect ‘silence’ to be mostly what happens, and Nietzsche said *paraphrasing* that ‘silence is the worst form of truth.’ That’s how I took it because the silence has been all I had to go by, that I meet be onto something. Well let’s assume again that I am not onto something, it’s not a good-something to have picked up on, but that I might be right. That seems like a good balance to strike. And Hunter S. Thompson said ‘The truth, when you finally chase it down is almost always far worse than your darkest.’ God has that been true for me recently, and I think I’ve handled it well but if I get no help at some point I’ll crack and that could just be something you end up feeling very guilty about, when you could have stepped in at some point, sooner, what is a bystander, you don’t want to be one: I am not saying you have been so far. Just do the right thing, that wasn’t an allusion I just mean ‘do the right thing’ please god or capital-g God if you like are offended that I said please god in lowercase, someone show some humanity to this woman. I don’t care if she has a fucked up jaw or what she’s done, just like fucking do the right thing, now at this point since I’ve said that 3x it’s become an allusion.”

“Besides you around Hilton do I have to worry about you hitting on me or all my friends.”

“I think a lot of your friends are vain people who I’m scared of to the same extent they think I am a loser. If you think I am a loser then don’t come around, I’m sorry I wrote, about you [plural], I have no life and I will be in a relationship with someone who it’s a good relationship with — not with someone who will always think they’re doing me a favor. That is like my one criteria ‘not someone who always thinks they’re doing me a favor.’ I would rather be dead and I do feel deeply I deserve something normal by now in what’s been not an dreamy life and a lot of people want that and I want to stay away from it. I do think the world is going through a lot and I’m trying to do the right things and when I say ‘do the right things’ I think of being teased sexually about how I don’t know how to by people I wouldn’t be compatible with. They will have their separate lives and their art, but life and art and collaboration should all be separate things. I am sorry I said that I think a lot of your friends are vain people. I can only think of a few. This was a good scene.”

Ch. 9 It’s a tragedy

“She knows my body,” was the idée fixe that obsessed the Author so perturbedly that he wrote the last scene for his baby. Not his daughter. She was such a little girl, how could no one say “enough.”

If you ever steal my or my girlfriend’s work again, I will take this to the next level. You will know how it feels to be cancelled, how it feels to be MeToo’ed.

“Spoil sport,” was the cherry on top, a thought that obsessed yours truly like some rotten forbidden vegetable. Is that all I am to you. Is that all I ever was.

It was the right thing to do, just admit it. I saved the life of someone who ruined mine. I used to want to meet under “honorable circumstances.” Maybe we can meet as people who could have been in love. It would have been fun, but what is justice anymore, if there’s no place for it, in the historical record, call it ‘the narrative’ if you want.

The end of the story is not about me either liking you or not living, it is just the history.

In my history, my one and only Hope’s, hers too, “she isn’t gonna help.” That was the last fixed idea, what kept me Morgan from killing myself. It had been a choice after all, he had been [there] all along, and there was no way around it: it wasn’t the right one.

“That’s disgusting,” said Taylor Swift quietly in my schizoid head, literally while I wrote this scene in a lecture on August 3rd, not paying attention. And it was really deeply meant. And that’s where this short chapter ends, and another one begins.

End of Part Two

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