Epilogue (for David Salle) by Dennis Cooper

BOMB 13 Fall 1985
013 Fall 1985
Dennis Cooper 001

This piece is haunted like an old house. It sat two blocks from my parents’ place, bike riding distance. The sun rose in the sky like the flaw in my fingernail arcs toward the day I will bite it off. This piece limps toward the world with one part missing, and, in its place, the phantom pain of a girl’s stance in my life.

Its central figurine can’t get her due. Jill got bored, flew out the front door, is referential material built from the scraps she left lying around. For instance I have a faded tuxedo ad we posed for. It was the late sixties. We were supposed to be “hippies” glaring suspiciously at “bourgeoisie” in our midst.

A blue light suffused the sky. The grass was painted green. The world is faked, head to toe. That’s my dad’s necktie restraining my long hair. I smirked when told to pass judgment on lives which dwarfed ours for the moment, “God” is the adjective I like to use when describing Jill, as it implies beliefs lost in the years since.

This piece has more in common with a tuxedo’s luxurious order than our conspiratorial glance. Shyness invented our faces. Fear culls the words I write. Jill’s beauty veiled the real world. Our lack of savoir faire ruined that ad. This world appreciates its faker aspects. Back then no one believed in us.

The ad was a monument to itself. We were just chipped, toppled statues, compliments to a gray suit which that civilization built to a concept we’d written off. We were extremely pretentious to think we could represent more than our drugged selves. I like to praise things that don’t deserve it.

No matter how I position it, that time’s a threat. It stirs in its throne room of phony light like a young girl who’s constructed a doll house around herself. If I could finish it I’d hide behind all this artifice and stab her hundreds of times, which is what I’ve been doing here, but I’d replace this blue pen with a knife, this page with juicier flesh.

The photographers left. It was Jill and me and the afternoon. We could have lasted five minutes stretched out like that. Boredom, I mean. “Haunted house,” I thought, motioning toward our bikes. Ten minutes later we snuck through its rusty and vine-draped gate.

Its crisp front yard was a mess, the mansion shaggy with flakes of pre-weatherproof paint, from its peak roof to lopsided front porch. I pushed what was left of the door open. Jill trailed me in. Her back, ass, and legs became part of the inner dark. I’d picture them and lose my train of thought.

I felt my piece getting rickety so I just dolled it up. Maybe if Jill were here the whole issue of art would seem pointless beside her. I close my eyes and imagine she’s lying face down. My hard-on enters her cunt; my knife repeatedly stabs her back. Her life is upped in its preciousness. I can continue to work.

We climbed the dangerous stairs, checking each room. Someone had scrawled “Fuck the pigs” in toy blood on one wall. Jill wore her “Timothy Leary for President” t-shirt. Blue letters, white cloth. Her mood turned ugly at one point. She threw a can of dry paint through a pane of glass for kicks.

What did Jill want out of life? Something that only a head full of drugs could suggest. Stringy brown hair, pinpricks for eyes but I lusted after her, no matter how many days in a row she had worn that dress. It’s her I loved, not the idea of love, nor the effect of the joints we smoked, nor the descriptive abilities I’ve picked up since.

We crouched in what used to be someone’s room. Remove the concept of ghosts, bulldoze the sketchy set, eliminate overtones and what’s left: two seeming nobodies fumbling for things to say. “Let’s try the roof.” “If you’re sure we won’t fall off.”

I was Jill’s beau, big brother, dad figure. That house is our love distilled into one spooky scene where truth and wishes co-mingle. Her sense of me was a little of both. My sense of her is complete fabrication. How could I know what went on in her head? Not by watching the back of her dress proceed me up those steps.

The roof was falling apart. Loose shingles broke off and clacked to the ground as we strode across. It seemed the perfect spot to stretch out, light up. I wanted to fuck her right then and there. The danger implicit in our surroundings made compositional sense. I saw the big picture before I knew what was under my nose and behind Jill’s illustrious face.

She was obscured by the smoke from a flickering joint. Instead of Jill, I saw a yellowing ad for the girl I’d have held if I wasn’t so stoned-out. She and the smoke and a skyline of trees seemed unnaturally poised, so my eyes took a photograph. Ours was a vague, high gloss world with unsuitable tension inside it.

 

I can remember when, many years subsequent, traveling in Europe turned into a chore: flues piling up, tiffs with my traveling companions.

I walked by myself to the tip of a jetty in Nice and stared out at the Mediterranean. Its turquoise depths were exquisitely turbulent. I was “at peace” for the first time in ages.

Looking in Jill’s eyes felt like that, the actual turbulence “lost” in their overall blueness. I thought, Just go ahead and fall right into them. She’s stoned and won’t know the difference. We kissed a while then drew slightly apart, watching my hard-on deflate. I felt like tossing her down on the roof.

Jill felt (1) peace. (2) afraid that refusing me would test our friendship. (3) guilty. (4) disappointment at what she perceived as my real intentions. (5) used. (6) drugged. (7) ?

Now, even more than then, I want to know. Once I imagined an autopsy in which Jill’s feelings were pried open, figured out, placed in a poetic light. They’re in a short story I’ll never publish. But love’s not like that. It eludes words, which are all I know how to create. It throws an old can of paint through a thin, polished work of art, then dashes off.

I rest my hand on my chest. Jill is still in here somewhere throwing things around. She grabs a handful of words and breaks the hearts of those trying to get a good look at her. I say her name in a low, dispirited voice to no one in particular. I sound like a foreigner, don’t I, man?

Jill is alive in the work of an artist obsessed with her, trapped by a cave-in somewhere in these long winded sentences. I could abandon her, then live my life with a tiny prickly voice in my head. Nothing a few drugs won’t tone down. Or I can push all that’s left of its door open and throw some light on that rickety house, or whatever remains of it.

All that remains is this cold, black rectangle of words that I’ve been picking at. My eyes are peeled but I can’t see a thing for the dimness of what felt more bone-chilling back when I scaled its heights. Now I will lift my blue pen off this darkened page and check its structure for highlights, with chin in hand. A haunted piece in place of the love I would dream of from here on in.

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Originally published in

BOMB 13, Fall 1985

David Salle by Georgia Marsh, John Huston, Richard Chaves & Vincent Caristi, art by Carroll Dunham, Moira Dryer, and more.

Read the issue
013 Fall 1985