I am doing some tweaking and re-working of an old favorite, "Johnny, Hit and Run." It’s time for this story to see the light of the moon. It's been sitting on my shelf for about seven years now, which actually makes it much easier to perform surgery on: stripping its layers, removing malignants, deleting what it may have thought was its reason for existence but has given up believing in. I am killing my darlings.
(In Stephen King's memoir, On Writing, he says “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” But, this sentiment has been ascribed to many of his predecessors. Who said it first?)
Meet Pinky and Johnny, two little, gutter punx in what-they-think-is-love:
When my feet started to rot inside my boots, you scrubbed my toes in a truck-stop bathroom while I smeared our names in bubbles across the warped mirrors. When scabies scaled my skin, you rubbed me down with Lidane lotion and mummified me in toilet paper--the scratchy public-bathroom kind, so rough it almost leaves splinters. I hobbled through the parking lot, naked save for paper. The truckers whistled, you bristled. There was nothing you couldn’t handle.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" (short story) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. You may recognize her name because she authored a very highly-regarded, early, feminist text: Women and Economics. This book is a staple in any Intro to Women's Studies class, and deftly describes women's predicament in the late 1800's, calling for women to transform their cultural identities.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a vivid portrayal of a woman falling into madness. Not only does it critique women's social and familial roles, but also exemplifies the concept of the "identified patient." The narrator's husband is a doctor; when he tells her that she is sick, she believes him (even if she doesn't actually feel sick herself). She is even thankful that he is taking such good care of her (even if that means locking her up in a room, and depriving her of all social/physical/mental stimulation). She doesn't know any better, she is only doing what she is supposed to do. This story is heartbreaking, but also reminds us to be firm in the face of annihilation. It is about housewifery, hysteria, and what happens when we don't have creative outlets in which to sink ourselves into.
(To read the poem that was inspired by this story, click here. It's called "charlotte.")
Click below to hear this empowering Bikini Kill song about what it means to be a woman and a poet in a society that says those two things cannot coexist in one person.