the destroyer > text > Stacy Elaine Dacheux
Deep inside the caves of South Africa, archeologists discover primal wall
paintings. Beautifully done in earthy reds and browns, these images tell the story
of the ancient Bushmen. At first, it appears as though the Bushmen painted only
what they admired: certain animals, especially the Eland, a type of antelope.
Professor’s voice is hoarse. His vowels are lazy. He walks from the front of the room to the back, over and over, coffee in a silver sleek canister, taking slow sips in between his sentences. I bet he had blonde hair before it turned grey.
Then, in tiny crawl spaces, far away from the light, archeologists uncover an array of messy dots: abstract patterns. ‘There must be more to it,’ one archeologist says to his colleague while analyzing the cave’s conditions.
Professor adjusts the blinds up and down, up and down, flickering the classroom with light. His face is serious, ridiculously serious, and a bit leathery from too much sun. I bet he thought all the girls loved his stupid blonde hair.
Prolonged darkness can create hallucinations.
Professor rolls up each sleeve, clicks open his briefcase, and fiddles with our essays before placing them on his desk in a nice clean stack. I bet his blonde hair fell far below the shoulders and he probably made girls touch it.
It’s possible that some of the Bushmen were documenting an internal experience, more so than just replicating what they loved.
I bet he made girls touch it simply because he could— simply because girls thought it was pretty yet rebellious, soft yet unruly. I bet he thought girls wanted that too— to touch something soft yet unruly.
Professor finally makes eye contact and acknowledges us.
Becca and I lie out by the pool situated in her apartment complex, four blocks from campus. While lounging on towels, I peel dried paint from my fingertips and she chomps on bubble gum. We both look up.
On the balcony above, three rednecks with baseball caps blow cigarette smoke. One whistles. They are our pimps now. It’s decided. They decided this.
Becca slaps on baby oil and throws it at me. I squeeze then rub.
“Wink to the boys. Dummy boys.”
I drop the bottle and goofily convulse: a shaky arm here or a twitchy leg there. Becca joins in and we both stand up. Our flailing is hysterical and exaggerated— sending us over the edge and into the water with a big belly flop.
“Ha cha cha Ha cha cha HA!”
We flap our arms, squeak, groan, and hump a raft.
Laughing hard, we swallow water.
“Weird ass bitches.”
The rednecks flick their cigarettes and walk off.
They are no longer our pimps. It’s decided. We decided this.
In the 1930s, NY painter Lee Krasner searches for a certain artistic expression.
As the years progress, so does the technique. Her figurative drawings expand, briskly contort, and crack. She stretches back the line and sweeps louder, sharing her gestures with other painters, mostly men.
In her strokes, you will see, there is a certain cadence or rhythm.
She is told not to lose it— this way of speaking through lines.
So, she follows the streets of Manhattan, which lead to the rails underground, which take her home at night, or to her studio, or to a gallery opening, or to 1941.
These are the lines, the inherent lines, that introduce her to the future husband who tells her “I am nature” in defense of his painting, as he takes off her blouse, and she sighs a big “yes.”
She says, “yes,” and she unhinges her jaw, reaches down deep into her throat, past the esophagus, below the heart, and pulls up these delicate yet firm blackcolored lines, the most vulnerable of soft, and she lovingly offers them to him.
After class, Professor hands me back my term paper and pulls me aside.
So the paint is the element and that element is pure? What about thought?
He is retiring and would I like to get a drink. His old ugly body rubs against mine.
Everyone sees it.
Outside the art building, I pick flowers and smash the petals against my forearms. It leaves a purplish-green mark and I am pleased. Running around the campus pretending to get beat up or shot up or fucked up, I twirl and twirl and twirl.
Now, I am a performance artist.
There is this wig that I wear, and I know it’s a wig, but it feels real, as though it’s my normal hair. This is normal, I think. It’s nicely bobbed with bangs. While strutting around the Lower East Side, I catch my heel on a curb and stumble.
It’s 1945. The pubs are alive with smoke and jazz.
My foot is mangled and bloody.
In a massive rage, I slam the shoe against the pavement until grey mucus gurgles, then gushes out, splattering my dress, and pouring like a faucet onto the streets— where it collects and carries me away from Manhattan and into the country, where it drops me off, where it waits.
There, it watches me make love to my future husband, while I drink a Coca-Cola in the kitchen, while I water the plants, while I read a magazine on the sofa.
This is not an uncommon dream to have.
Every woman that’s an artist has this dream.
Becca and I arrive at the keg party. We quickly get drunk, and I turn into the brunette bitch from Superman 3—possessed. I abandon our friends, wander through rooms, and lean against walls. I lie on a mattress with a blanket over my body and sink into its springs. If I can control movement long enough, then I am either magnetic or invisible. Unfortunately, I am neither. I puke in the closet. Some guy grabs a wastebasket and holds back my hair. I can’t make out his face. “Who are you?”
“Oh, hello, The Artist.”
“Who are you?”
In Superman 3, the possessed brunette bitch dies so Superman can save the prettier woman.
“I am the One That Dies.”
“Oh, hello, One That Dies.”
On my way to the bathroom, there’s a smattering of sweaty bodies, busted canvases, discarded plastic cups, and stomped cigarette butts.
I splash water on my face. Next to the soap dish, I see an array of tin cans— inside are swooshes of dried crusty paint. I like that type of mess. Becca rushes in and locks the door behind us. Lights up a joint.
Some guy grabbed her head and forced it into his crotch. She says it like it’s a joke or something. I think of throwing his body shit red across.
I puff. She puffs. I puff. She puffs. I puff.
Becca explains how it ends. She is able to fly or jump, acutely with a certain awareness of wrists, broken doll piles, and bicycles trashed near hillsides.
Professor won’t look me in the eyes anymore.
He wears all grey as though it has a purpose. I bet his bedroom is a pristine yuppie palace with shiny dressers or mirrored ceilings.
He leans back in his chair. Love and loss is a part of art in this way. It’s in the work, if you want to resuscitate it.
He is speaking of Krasner.
He is speaking of the ancient Bushmen.
Yes, the ancient Bushmen.
He is speaking of the possessed brunette bitch from Superman 3.
Two older boys get Becca and I drunk. They tell us about the condemned asylum five blocks off the highway. They have names like Rob and Roy or nicknames like Tuck and King. They are assholes and we love assholes. We are tough that way.
There is a story about the asylum. It’s Southern and goes something like this.
In 1939, four teenage girls were kept in cages and electrocuted with shock therapy. The girls believed they were heretics and because they believed this others did too. The town was afraid of them. Their families were concerned. They wanted it to stop.
“Oh, God, make it stop!”
“Oh, Doctor, make it stop!”
The doctor wanted to be the man that made it stop— the man that fixed the women. He wanted to quiet their voices— their little girl voices that said sick and horrible things.
But, there was a catch. The girls had ghastly beliefs stuck inside their brains. It wasn’t their voices, but these beliefs. These brains. These wicked brazen heretic brains kept going, going, and going.
So, the doctor kept injecting, injecting, and injecting high voltage into their heads because he wanted it, because he wanted it, because he wanted science to want it, God to want it, and the family to want it; in the same way, everyone wanted it the way that he wanted it; therefore, they, meaning the girls, must want it too.
These thoughts were interrupted by the smell of burning hair and flesh.
Now the girls are apparitions. They haunt the old asylum. The cages are still there. Rotting and rusted. Blue and green spray paint cover a nearby wall with words like “dick” or “fuck” or “whore.”
At around 4 a.m. in the morning, we are drunk in the old asylum. The boys call this “dead time” because it’s spooky. We pretend to ignore them.
Becca tells us about how she hates her boobs. When she was 12, she played soccer in her backyard with the neighborhood boys, and grew horribly selfconscious about her emerging powers as sexual goddess.
She would chest the ball full force, and guys would feign grabbing their nuts, like oh shit man yeah.
So, for the next game, she taped her breasts down to her skin as tight as it would go, and focused only on speed, and weaving, bending movement, kicking, weaving, and screaming movement.
“I scored like 8 goals. I mean, holy shit, right?”
We chug our drinks.
We are supposed to laugh at Becca’s story, but no one thinks it’s funny.
In the 1950s, this is how Lee Krasner deals with the loneliness of her difficult unhappy husband situation. This is how she forgets about young curvaceous women with luscious thick hair. This is how she pushes her hands against canvas.
This is it. She unhinges her jaw, reaches deep down into her toes, and pulls up these lines, these thick viscous lines made of blood, guts, and oil.
These are the lines, she thinks, that drive her towards and away from other artists, mostly men. The collision of such lines, and the ramifications of crossing them, sear into and scar the fiber.
On the easel, she titles it “Prophecy.”
The bulb burns out in our flashlight. No one has anything else interesting to say.
So, the boys start to kiss us, rub us, and take off our clothes.
There is an idea about how art lives intrinsically inside a vessel. Like it’s trapped.
The Artist’s job is to excavate.
The Bushmen crawl into their cave’s darkness and wait.
Lee Krasner searches her own psychic core for the line.
The Artist’s job is to juxtapose.
Superman must kill the possessed brunette bitch in order to save the prettier woman. The doctor must shock the lunatic out of the girl, so he reaches for the switch. The girls thought they wanted that too— to touch something soft yet unruly.
The Artist’s job is to paint an internal experience.
Becca and I don’t see anything as our naked backs slam against the concrete. We know how it ends— acutely with a certain awareness of wrists, broken doll piles, and bicycles trashed near hillsides.
We are the Ones That Die.