You Are Not I

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 3 Spring 1982

Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company


Nan Goldin

Photographs by Nan Goldin.

“You Are Not I” is a short story by Paul Bowles from his recently published Collected Stories 1939–1976. It is the story of a young woman, Ethel, who escapes from a mental hospital during the chaos of a nearby multiple-car accident. She is mistaken for a shock victim by a rescue volunteer who finds her trying to place a stone in a dead woman’s mouth. The volunteer drives her to her sister’s house. The sister is confused and angered by the sudden arrival of the psychotic Ethel. Not wishing to be alone in the house with her, the sister brings two neighbor women over. Finally the sister calls the hospital and finds out that Ethel “wasn’t released at all but somehow got out.” They nervously await the attendants from the hospital while Ethel, refusing to speak, formulates a plan to stay in the house. The women are terrified of her and appear relieved when the attendants arrive. As Ethel is being ushered out by the men, she takes one of the stones out of her pocket and thrusts it into her sister’s mouth. The screen goes black. As it clears, the sister is being taken away while Ethel remains in the house: “For a moment I could not see very clearly, but even during that moment I saw myself sitting on the sofa. As my vision cleared I saw that the men were holding my sister’s arms and she was putting up a terrific struggle. The strange thing, now that I think about it, was that no one realized she was not I.”

Paul Bowles by David Seidner
Bowles 02
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Originally published in

BOMB 3, Spring 1982
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