The Gasmask Trick
When I was seventeen, I caught my boyfriend fucking another girl in the kitchen of his parent’s house, when I came over to surprise him. I cut his throat from behind with a carving knife meant for big joints of meat, then stabbed her eighteen times while she screamed and flailed her arms, because eighteen is a multiple of three and three is a good number of times to make a stabbing motion. Then I cried, then I went back outside, into the garden that the little kitchen looked out into, where I’d climbed over the wooden fence a few minutes ago, and sat, looking at the pear trees that were just starting to bloom in the southern Maine spring.
I had met my boyfriend in a different kitchen, just a few weeks after the Siamese Dream album had come out. He had been attempting, with the help of his two best friends, to make what he described to me as “The Best Sandwich.” It consisted at the time of peanut-butter, bacon, bananas, honey, a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and a great deal of a local hot-sauce that he liked and that made his mouth taste clean and like tomatoes. I liked his thick black eyebrows; I liked his rubber-band goof-voice when he explained that he was completely certain that he would know The Best Sandwich as soon as he bit into it and that after that he would never look twice at any inferior variety of sandwich again. I liked his black leather jacket and his thick steel bracelets, like future-warrior gauntlets that one could type efficient code into to trigger a beam-me-up. I liked most everything about him, in point of fact. I was fifteen years old and he was a year older than me and already smoked weed and went to school if he felt like hanging out with his friends in Biology.
We were so fucking bored. I think I’ve always been bored and good at dealing with it. As far back as I can remember it’s been the same shit and finding things to do in the middle of it all. We would go down to the big parking lot outside the mall and drive in the tightest circles we could, trying to get it so that the front bumper was basically a fulcrum around which the rest of the vehicle swung, while he held his jacket out the window like a flag. Every time the jacket swung back against the side of the car, all that metal smacking against the plastic and the chrome, he would yell “Shazam!” like he’d won. Can you imagine?
Anyway, we had sex in his room, not that day but the day after. He had this long skinny dick that hurt like hell but felt good too once you got used to it and he would do all this stuff with holding my wrists and head. It was funny, he never really knew what to do with my hands when he got them, he would hold them to the bedspread for a while, then to his face, then let them go, then go for them again a few minutes later. So, I smoked weed with him, and we watched all the movies I liked because he knew nothing about film.
We’ll talk about weed first. I can’t believe how amazing it is. I really miss it.
What it is with weed is that you suddenly understand your relation to everything else on a scale level. Stuff that’s normally to small to give much attention to, like your eyes or the inside of your mouth suddenly gets really important because you recognize that it does, in fact, have a size and as much value, I guess, as anything else of that size. You explore things like your pussy or a cigarette, because they are as worth exploring as any given pussy-or-cigarette-sized part of anywhere at all. At the same time, the size of your body in comparison to the space it occupies is suddenly remarkably small and somehow arbitrary; you come to wonder why something so proportionally small bothers to separate itself in any way from the general, you know, morass. I would always get him to take me out to the highway when we were a bit sideways, so I could be somewhere where everything looked, on the surface, the same for a long way. It let me get far enough away from the individuality of physical objects that I could actually see it, when everything looks so wildly different from everything else you just kind of go into shock and stare at the blur of colors. Out on the highway the only things that changed were the shapes of tree branches and wherever there were little gaps and incongruities in the asphalt. If I went out there already blown away by how small almost any give physical object on earth was compared to earth as a whole, much less the space between earth and the nearest other planet, and simultaneously interested in exploring small spaces, then I could look at the actual variations of said objects. That’s one of my favorite things about being here, I can really look at things.
Movies next. I don’t have time to tell you about every film I’ve ever watched, and believe me, if I did I would. Let me tell you about Natural Born Killers and Fuck. You doubtless know the one and not the other. Be patient.
When NBK came out, you might say it was a bit of a revelation for me and my friends. We rented all our movies at this store that was basically a guy’s basement. You’d go in and there would be some vague semblance of an actual video store: labels, advertisements for coming attractions, that kind of thing. Then, back past that, there was all the actual good stuff, piled in crates with absolutely no regard to order. Half the time it was unlabeled and you’d just pick out a blank case and ask the owner if you could use his VCR to check out what it was, or just take it home right there if you felt lucky. I think the idea was, if you were willing to dig through the crates for three hours with him in the background ranting about sixties avant-garde acid-movies and French surrealism then you were as loony as he was and good movies weren’t wasted on you. My friend Tasia found NBK easily enough all things considered, it was new enough that it hadn’t really had time to get buried and even Kevin (that’s the owner, by the way) could tell that it was actually going to be popular and maybe people might want to be able to find it. We rented it for three dollars, walked around town for a few hours, kissed a bit, then went back to her house and watched it. By the end of the film we’d both taken all of our clothes off and were lying on her bedroom floor holding hands and talking nonstop. We called another couple friends over, we watched it again.
“Dude” said Tasia “it’s like the Bible. Do they, can they even realize what they’ve done? The whole world’s going to change.”
What it was that compelled us so, just in case you don’t know for yourself, wasn’t the murder. We’d all seen that, some of us just onscreen. It was the trashy melting quality of everything, the disgusting pastels, the fake monster masks, Mickey’s pride in being an unsuitable murderer in a movie. We were all so bored of anything that wasn’t Technicolor, we’d all overstayed maturity already. We just wanted sugar, I still just want sugar and I bet any of my old friends who are still alive just want sugar, skip the bullshit. Which leads us to Fuck, a next-to-no budget indie film that had my boyfriend in it.
We wanted to make a movie about a perfect universe or a terrible one that got destroyed. By “we” I don’t mean that I had anything to do with the actual producing of the film. I just hung around on set a lot, my knees to my chest in a big pile of cheap but heavy camera equipment and everybody’s bags, watching my boy run around bare-chested and covered in various colors of paint. There was very little by way of set script, everyone wanted to do all this stuff with visual effects and maybe fifty percent of the dialogue was written on the day of the scene it related to, based off what the camera-kids had managed to concoct. My boy had a whole ad-libbed speech that the director-girl really liked; glassy-eyed and strangely sonorous for him, mumbling directly to the camera about how he obsessively wanted to pop and puncture things that seemed to him hideously lumpen and clogged all of the time: mostly pimples or fat on other people but also on himself, and the weird little bubbles in bacon entered into it too. Everyone smoked weed, but the cast and crew had an almost puritanical disapproval of any other kind of drug. It was my boy’s big secret with me that I was well on my way to being a full-blown junkie; he didn’t like it, but the fact that it was a secret and that none of the Serious Artists on set (who he both fawned upon and rebelled with a perfect lonely fury against) would be okay with it, made him feel playful and romantic. After each day, we’d all head to someone’s house, often mine because even more than most it was perpetually free. Everyone would review the day’s footage and talk furious, diffuse spirals about what would look good in relation to everything else while eating slabs of the strangely tasteless dark chocolate that my mom bought in bulk.
You’re probably getting the wrong impression from my tone of amused indulgence and detachment. The film was a masterpiece. The director-girl, who I stabbed in six sets of three in the breasts, throat, and stomach, was maybe the best mind of my generation and certainly the only person qualified to correctly compartmentalize and understand our dullness and hungers and then cater to them. If I had a copy of Fuck here, it would be all I would ever watch. Nothing else would ever have to matter, I wouldn’t need to go anywhere else to see everything I wanted to see.
Fuck was not an artistic statement. It took what we had loved about NBK, and what I’d loved to a lesser but equally important extent about the hundred-something of films I’d shown to my boy, in the purest flower of love and an old army-surplus gasmask that he’d rigged into a bong, one step further. It was a tool, purely utilitarian in intent and geared to a single purpose.
The only two things I contributed to Fuck on a creative level (I carried a lot of equipment and had a good VCR) were the idea that every woman portrayed in the film should be in some stage of pregnancy, and the vehement reassurance that, given that the whole idea of “overdoing it” was antithetical to the movie’s purpose of course every single sex scene should both begin and end with a murder.