The screen is black and white. Or maybe just the image. But there’s no color, just shadows and shades, a bed with crisp, almost starchy white sheets, and a woman with thick eyeliner and mussed hair.
She’s sleeping or maybe awake, she’s dreaming or she is a dream. She was raised in a museum, raised by sculptures and marble, figurines and images framed and hung. But her words are clear.
She reaches over, all hair and crevices, and says: “I want to create order, I want to create cleanliness, I want to create order, I want to create cleanliness.”
In a woman’s inability to do this, to provide this, is she empty? Does she feel purposeless? Is this why her books are missing from shelves and conversations?
“The flight back into the personal…plagues…the inability to think of broader structural shifts outside of what happens to families or individual lovers.”
Is this how a woman fails? There’s someone who asks me all the questions I once asked myself. I can’t answer them for her because I don’t want to think about them and consider whether they matter. I don’t want them to matter. But, she comes at me with them incessantly. And with stories, with the most detailed accounts, imbedded with a focus and earnestness she can’t seem to muster in any other area of her life.
Her focus is not on the counter but where her thighs rested on it, not the bitterness of the whiskey on her tongue but the fact that he made it, not the size of the bed–not its color, its smell, the feel of the sheets tangled amongst her toes–but the fact that she was placed upon it–that when she awoke, he wasn’t there.
We became friends long, long ago. The sadness I’d felt dissipated when we met. The world had felt so small and crumpled for so many months. With her, my desire found a small vein to run through. There was a beautiful freedom in letting it out, in unraveling the layers of a person. Mostly, all the love I’d held finally had a pair of hands who took it.
I saw The Piano Teacher, Michael Haneke’s film based on the novel. It showcases the inability of female desire to gain the upper hand for much more than a moment. This is tied to failure in communication, funneled through sexual interaction. Erika’s pursuit of S&M in the film is an attempt at trying to communicate, to hold a dialogue differently through sex, to designate a role, pleasure, a place for herself.
But it’s impossible. She can’t be understood–not just by her mother, by Walter, but most significantly, by herself. Her desire for agency, for desire itself, even she finds wrong.
And in her occupation of a woman’s body, her ineffectual sexuality consumes all that she is. There is no flight from the personal.
So for change, for a new system, there has to be belief in an order outside and belief in one’s ability to work toward such an order. This is the closest I’ve felt to liberation.
But how, when it’s easier to put it in a set of slender, soft, jejune hands? Or, if they’re yours, to just hold them out and wait to be taken?