17th Aug - 9th Oct 2019
- Tracy Emin
Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said can be said clearly.
― Ludwig Wittgenstein
* * *
The concussed surgeon gazed at the swirling barber pole. Sunglasses hid his eyes, an ear-loop mask hid his face, and a hairnet hid his hair.
He opened the door—the shop looked exactly the same as fifty years before. Fifty years of hair clippings blanketed the floor. A hunchback centenarian turned around and took up his scissors.
“Louie,” cried the surgeon. “Remember me? I’m Doug Curley, M.D. You used to cut my hair when I was a kid.”
The surgeon teared up.
“Why is life so unfair? You don’t know how lucky you are. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a barber just like you. But I lost my way. I got mixed up in school, many schools, sex, mountains of sex, stocks, bonds, all that jazz. Scholarships, internships, relationships, every ship anchored in my harbor. I wound up saving lives for a living. I have a huge penthouse that overlooks the city where I dine and shop in the company of my beautiful daughters. But I never got what I wanted out of life. I want you to teach me how to cut hair.”
“I’m prepared to offer you a substantial sum of money.”
“I’m not for sale.”
“I have a weapon.”
“So do I.”
The surgeon flopped onto the hairy floor.
“I’m begging you!”
The bell tinkled as an older man entered.
“Good morning, Louie.”
“Morning, Earl. Could you show my guest the door?”
Doug Curley landed on his head for the second time that day, further bruising his brain. The concussed surgeon wandered back to his car, ears hemorrhaging every step of the way.
“Help me, please!”
The surgeon paused in the middle of the street and wagged his head. An old lady lay in the crosswalk.
A simple lesson, barber-y, could not be afforded to the surgeon. He would not afford help to his lady who may very well be napping in the crosswalk. Doug figured that he saved lives for a living, he might as well refuse to do it for free.
“Are you a doctor?”
“No, I’m a barber,” shrieked Doug Curley. He brandished a pair of scissors.
“Why do you have a stethoscope?”
“So I can hear the footsteps of my enemies.”
“That’s nice. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to start sewing again, clothes for men. You know, zippity zipper sweaters, like that. So, just tell me your size and I’ll make you a nice one.”
A horn blared.
“Hey asshole get your grandma out of the street!”
“I’m not an asshole and she’s not my grandma,” shouted Doug Curley, waving his scissors.
“Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining,” growled the trucker. He climbed out of his semi, iron in hand. “You think you’re better than me because you’re some big shot veterinarian or something?”
“Hard cheese, meth mouth,” slurred the surgeon, swaying with swagger. “You should have paid attention in beauty school, because I’m about to ugly you the fuck up.”
“Boys boys don’t fight over me, I’m poly.”
“Beauty is a short-lived tyranny, bitch,” the trucker cried. “Get behind me, grandma, I’m going to ring his bell.”
“This picnic is over,” said Doug Curley, digging the scissors in the trucker’s belly. His guts spilled all over grandma as he collapsed. The surgeon leapt into the truck and gunned down the sidewalk.
Doug Curley parked his hot semi outside the emergency room.
“Who wants a free haircut?”
“I don’t think my insurance will cover that,” mumbled a man cradling his severed head in his arms.
“We don’t feel so good,” moaned twins stuck together with an arrow through their chests.
“I wipe myself, I’m my own napkin,” chirped a young boy, wiping a moist strand of intestine on his shirt.
“Dr. Curley, where have you been? These people have been waiting for you,” said the nurse.
“They’ll have to wait some more. I still don’t know how to cut hair.”
“Are you okay, Dr. Curley? You’re covered in blood, and hair.”
“I’m like the world. I’m like a sucker, you have to lick me. Like an owl. Hoot, hoot.”
The electric doors slid apart, admitting two paramedics carrying a hirsute woman. Thick, dark hair covered her naked body.
“We found her in the grill of that semi parked outside.”
“She’s with me,” said Doug Curley, tearing the unconscious hairball from their arms. “I have to go. It’s our first date. That’s why my ears are bleeding. I’m all nerves. Bye, bye. If you’re hurt, rub some dirt in it. Ciao for now.”
Doug Curley buckled up the hirsute woman and hit the gas. He headed toward his lakeside cabin up north. He couldn’t wait to try the new pig toilet and bidet. The hirsute woman didn’t stir. The surgeon listened to her chest as he weaved between lanes on the expressway, going well below the speed limit.
A cop pulled him over several miles outside the city.
“Good morning, officer. Don’t throw any pumpkins, I already ate.”
“License and registration.”
“Alright. Mind telling me what the hell you’re doing in this semi?”
“How do you expect me to get around? Snowshoes?”
Doug Curley took a long sip from a soda he found in the cup holder. He sucked the straw until the ice squeaked.
“Put down the soda, you’re making me nervous.”
“Do you have a coaster?”
Doug Curley stabbed the cop in the neck with the soda and hit the gas.
They arrived at his secluded cabin after sundown. Doug Curley tied the hirsute woman to a chair. Though she was still unconscious, he decided to keep his face masked. He couldn’t see her face behind the hair.
“How do you do? I’m sorry about all the commotion. This week has been a rectangle. Skeletons are made of bones, after all.”
Doug Curley tossed a bag of wine in her lap.
“Help yourself, wet your whistle, I don’t mind. Relax. Want to hear a joke? What’s worse, dog shit or horse shit? Horse shit, there’s more of it.”
Doug Curley didn’t laugh, having told the same joke so many times to so many unconscious people. He sat in her lap and began snipping her shoulder hair. Within minutes, Doug Curley blacked out.
A rooster crowed. Doug Curley stretched and smacked his lips. There was hair in his mouth. He blindly grabbed his scissors and shaved his tongue until he choked on his blood. Gasping for air, Doug Curley noticed an enormously obese man splayed on the floor.
"Good morning," sputtered the man. "I'm typically a good-time-charlie, but I'm afraid your dog kidnapped me and devoured my legs. Like I said, I'm typically a good-time-charlie, but I'm a very vexatious litigant."
"Do you know how to cut hair?"
"My body is hairless. It's a miracle."
Doug Curley climbed the mountainous man and found the hirsute woman chewing a hole through his cankle. She looked up from the maggoty gash and smiled. Doug Curley had managed to cut most of her facial hair before he blacked out. Despite deep lacerations, she had a beautiful face.
Doug Curley smiled back. I could, yes, I could definitely cut her hair, make a disguise, and flee the country in short order. I'm a surgeon. I can do whatever the fuck I want.
"Okay, I think I can fix you up, but you can't leave until I leave."
The obese man gasped.
"You don't understand, I need my gut cleanse smoothie. I need to repel against the bacteria in my belly, or else I'll act funny. I live across the lake. My boat is docked outside. We have to hurry!"
"Alright, fine, we'll leave shortly."
"I have to take a leak first. Don't move."
"Can't you dress my wound before you piss all over yourself?"
"No, I can't. Babe!"
Doug Curley snapped his fingers. The hirsute woman looked up.
The air smelled of burning wood. Doug Curley and the hirsute woman stared at each other. She already had a 5 o'clock shadow. Doug Curley wagged his finger.
"What are you doing, you don't just cannibalize strange people like that. It's not good for you. I'll take you out to eat at a nice supper club after we shake this guy. But I have a favor to ask. I need to wear your skin. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. What do you say?"
The hirsute woman clawed Doug Curley's face. He scrambled to the outhouse and locked the door. The hirsute woman jiggled the knob and gave up.
The attack had loosened his bowels, so Doug Curley undid his trousers and prepared to sit.
"Hey where have you been?" said the toilet.
Doug Curley peered inside the bowl and saw a skinny pig glaring back.
"You haven't fed us in months. I hope you ate a big greasy breakfast."
"I'm sorry, but it's not much. I'm on a diet and I'm on the lamb right now. You can't begin to understand how constipated I've been."
"Listen, asshole, my family is starving. We've been eating bugs off each other like a bunch of goddamn apes. You had better bring us some fecal matter or else we're calling the cops. Capiche?"
"Okay, that's not necessary. I know a guy who has a bunch of smoothies, I'll drink them all and take the biggest shit you’ve ever eaten. Promise.”
“That’s what I thought. By the way, you should wipe the toilet paper off your balls.”
The pigs laughed as Doug Curley slowly crept back outside. The hirsute woman wasn’t there. Doug Curley ran inside the lakehouse. The fat man was bleeding out.
“You didn’t wash your hands,” he cried. “Don’t touch me. I’ll crawl to the boat.”
The little boat puttered across the lake, bobbing like a cork in the choppy surf.
“I’m sorry about earlier, old sport, my girlfriend is a free spirit. What do you like to eat? I’ll take you out to dinner sometime for your trouble.”
“I like candy.”
Doug Curley chuckled.
“You have good taste.”
“No, I have an eating disorder.”
“You’re in good hands! I used to be a surgeon. But I’m a barber now. And I’m hungry. Tell your friends, Doug Curley is a hungry hungry barber. Tell them I’ll do anything. I’ll eat the hair off their head if that’s what it takes. That’s how much I care about hair. Do you hear me?”
“It’s too late,” said the fat man.
“Cheer up. Here, let me listen to your heart. I used to do that when I was a surgeon.”
Doug Curley pressed his stethoscope between the fat man’s tits.
“He’s listening,” murmured a shrill voice.
“We are strong in numbers. Swarm the fool!”
Doug Curley looked up. The fat man’s head had swollen twice its size. White worms wiggled out of every orifice and fell in quivering clumps on Doug Curley’s face. He screamed and dove into the lake. Doug Curley swam to shore and watched the worms geyser out of the fat man’s body.
Doug Curley famished for a towel. He stepped inside the fat man’s lakehouse. It was much nicer than his. Doug Curley located the bathroom and swooned. A Jacuzzi with a showerhead, a fireside vanity, a urinal, a bidet, several sinks, cabinets of soap dishes, hand sanitizer dispensers, paper towels and blow dryers--and no talking pigs.
Doug Curley decided to steal the man’s identity. He grabbed a handful of smoothies from the fridge and went back outside. The boat was beached, no worms, just the fat man’s skin remained. Doug Curley shimmied inside the slimy skin suit and beamed across the lake again.
He trudged inside his stupid shitty lakehouse. The new skin was hell on his joints, but Doug Curley was desperate. He hung the skin on the coat rack and vegetated in a wicker chair. He gazed thoughtfully at his ragged slippers on the carpet. They looked like fish bones.
The hirsute woman pounced on the slippers and shook them.
“Hey! Hey! What the hell are you doing? Stop! Sit! Bad! Those are my slippers!”
“I’m sorry,” said the hirsute woman, spitting out his slippers. “I mistook them for marsupials. Doubly sorry that we haven’t had a chance to exchange names. I’m Abcde Bronkhurst-Borgwardt. Yes, the dowager of the famous nudist. I read about you in the papers, Doug Curley. They say you’re a wanted man.”
“It’s true. I did it. But it wasn’t my fault. It was an accident.”
Doug Curley jumped to his feet and howled with teenage angst.
“No, it’s absolutely not my goddamn fault. I never wanted to be a surgeon anyway. I wanted to cut hair. And he had such a nice head of hair. I couldn’t help myself. I locked the door. I figured I would just give him a little trim while he was under, but I fucked it up. I tried to fix it, but I just kept making it worse. Before I knew it, I had hit bone. There was blood everywhere. We had the same blood type, so I sliced open my arm and tried to perform a transfusion. But I gave him too much. He was choking on my blood and I was bleeding out, so I tried drinking my blood out of his mouth. That’s when he woke up—”
“You’re a sick man, Doug Curley. I should turn you into the police. But I understand you’re also a rich man, so I’m sexually and romantically interested. I propose marriage. Let’s run away, Doug. I know a naked couple in Baja California who might let us honeymoon on their futon.”
“No, thanks. I’ve made my decision. I stole the fat man’s identity. I’m going to wear his skin.”
“That’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
“I have to take a shit.”
“I’ll wait for you, my love.”
Doug Curley scooped up the detox smoothies and stumbled into the pig toilet. He bolted the door and peered into the hole. The skinny pig appeared.
“Dinner is served,” sang Doug Curley, dumping the smoothies down the toilet.
A can sailed back at him and struck between his eyes. Doug Curley saw dinosaurs and drooled.
“You think I’m stupid? These are detox smoothies. I’m not on a diet, you goddamn imbecile.”
“Watch your mouth, you fat pig.”
“I’m not fat, I’m dying of starvation.”
“I wish you’d have starved, I could have had fat-free bacon this morning.”
“That’s no way to talk to a bottom feeder. We’ll rise up.”
“Eat my ass,” sneered Doug Curley, pulling down his pants. He took a seat on the toilet, but a small raccoon skull on a stick stuck his taint. Doug Curley sprang into the air and collapsed in the corner. The pigs laughed.
“We’ve notified the authorities, Doug Curley!”
A cop car tore up the driveway as Doug Curley waddled out of the pig toilet, pants around his ankles. He was prepared to explain himself, but he lost his voice when he saw a uniformed pig step out of the car.
“Pull your pants up and put your hands up,” squealed the pig cop.
Doug Curley did what he had always done when told to pull up his pants. He was told this a lot.
If I pull up my pants, man, f I pull up my goddamn pants THE PATRIARCHY WINS!
The pig cop was holding back tears. Doug. This was his Doug.
You still have a chance of knowing love in this world and I see it here, even when the words aren't at all "about" love. Even when they're about hate or fear or insecurity. You can't just have love. If you love deeply - if you allow yourself to love deeply - you also must experience grief/loss that is equally as deep. All of the emotions you hide away, all of the feelings you cover up with feelings you decide are "more acceptable" and mimic so well you convince even yourself ... You deserve real love, and that is all a part of real love.
I won't ever know it again. I'd cut my heart out if I could. Or lobotomize the emotional cortex in my brain. But I won't ever feel anything so deep for anyone as long/short as I live.
I don't want to come back from Palestine alive. I feel like I'm not even going there alive. I'm already dead inside. Too often, grief and loss and abandonment rise to the surface and I know that 2010 was the year of "last"s.
I also know that, until I die, 2010 will last forever.
There are too many names etched on that wall. And one name I can't even let myself engrave. Because I was supposed to go to the grave first.
Usually, practice makes people more capable of dealing with things. And I've practiced loss and abandonment and good-byes throughout my entire life. I was improving, I thought. And then this year happened. The year the whole world went away.
And I went away, so far away I can't even find myself.
Doug Curley pulled his pants up.
yestrday disappears every time i blink. at this rate i'll have lived a thousand times by tuesday. i'm not scared of dying anymore.