Unsex me here
Unsex me here
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood…
Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall”
- Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
The girl descends to the floor of the powder room, where the large dog lies in wait. She collapses suddenly and abjectly. When she arises, she looks and feels very different, but there is no one around to see. She occupies the house in Palm Springs, in the pink powder room, with her large dog at her feet. She’s young. Or maybe she’s not actually young, but has one of those faces that appear plain and girlish without makeup. Her house is too big for her -- a house built for entertaining, an airless set for parties that never take place. The couches are pristine and the gardens manicured. Nothing breathes.
No — that’s just a story I was told, or told to someone else. In truth, the girl never collapses into the dog, never rises again as a wild thing, and the house doesn’t belong to her. Once, a long time ago, it belonged to someone famous. But the girl, or girlish woman, is too young to throw glamorous parties, anyway. She’s still wearing the outdated training bra that I put her in. She looks like me, except I’m older, with greener eyes and no hairy snout.
How we met was that I’d put out an ad for women who looked like me in Los Angeles, and who wouldn’t mind being photographed. We got the dog from a trainer, who sent an email that read, “Zarco ignores his instincts and loves to please me. He is also a show dog.” I wrote back to ask if he would look like the ceramic figurines of German Shepherds I found while scouring eBay. The ceramic dogs all sat erect, immobile, waiting in perpetuity for a command. They filled the looked-over china cabinets of the country.
I wanted to put the girl next to the dog because of another story, an older one: When I was a child in Poland, a dog bit my ear. There was a lot of blood and I needed stitches. Later, I became a woman and moved to America and met many other women who look like me, thin with red hair and pale eyes. Only dogs had never bitten their ears.
In my mind, now, the memory collapses: I fall to the floor, the dog bites me, and when I arise, I am a woman, and speaking a different language than my own. Or maybe it was that I never emerged, but instead this other woman did, while I myself remained forever on the floor with the dog, in another country and another time, still a wild thing.