Authors: Tennessee Williams
And so perhaps “maturing effect” is applicable to these experiences after all, despite the fact that I don't know how they matured me nor to what purpose.
Just a minute ago I wandered outside of the hooked rectangle we live in to look through the windows of the unpeopled vastness in which the rectangle crouches. I don't remember having ever done that before at night. Well, it is no longer night but after five in the morning which also qualifies as a wolf's hour when it is dark.
My first impression of the dark vastness was one of silence. Then I began to notice little sounds in it, the distance-muted patter of rodents' feet and then the despairing squeal of a small creature assaulted by a larger.
I wondered a number of things: would there be rats in the place if a section of it were not inhabited by human life? I thought, Probably yes, since rats are beings which survive through concealment, in over- and underground places which offer a secret existence from all but themselves and the menace of cats which is to them what Moise means by “the sudden subway” for people. I have a repugnance for rats and all other vermin, although I admire their cunning and their persistence under all circumstances through all seasons. I think they compete with insects and with germs for the honor of outliving man on this earth. I thought of germs, the venereal species, because I was twice infected with gonococci by Lance and also with pubic lice. Having to take a prick and rectal smear test at a free clinic twice was about as humiliating and wretched an experience for me as my stay on Governor's Island, and as for the pubic lice, I have never felt so loathsome. I had never heard they existed until I had them and Lance explained what they were. He was contrite about it but he defended his need of sex on the road with the ice show.
“Baby, if you'd learn to skate I'd get you in the show with me and be a totally faithful lover, but since you claim your ankles are too weak for skating and I am an oversexed cat, once in a while I am bound to infect you with pubic lice and the clap. You know I don't on purpose, it's just that I'm overly sexed and nowadays when I'm high on the streets at midnight and am approached by a good-looking long-haired boy, it's like a call of nature which nobody with an intestinal or urinal tract can ignore.”
“Lance, you're rationalizing the negligence of your nature.”
“Baby, you know they come at me like flies. I'm not lying, they do.”
“Well, why don't you get you a can of fly-spray to carry in your pocket on the streets after midnight or fantasize your libido like I have to do when you are out on tour?”
“What do you mean by fantasizing your libido, baby? You mean you?”
“I mean I think about you and caress my body at night, sometimes burning a candle and looking at your picture in your tights.”
“Do you masturbate, then?”
“No, I don't. It desensitizes your sex and is a messy habit, I just fantasize your caresses over me lightly till I fall asleep.”
He held me close in the lock of his legs for a while, then he said to me, “Sometimes I feel like God has given you to me.”
He had me stand up, then, and removed from his luggage a bottle called “A-200” containing a pale green liquid which he slowly and thoroughly rubbed into my pubic hairs, around the genitalia, into the armpits, and even over the light down surrounding my nipples. Since the crabs had been burning, it felt deliciously cool and soothing. Apparently it destroyed the vermin at once as well as nearly making me come from his fingers' manipulation.
“Okay, now do it to me.”
I gave him the same slow and thorough massage with the excitingly cool liquid, A-200, and this time, rubbing his balls which must have been large as a mule's, I suddenly gasped to him, “Love, I'm about to come.”
“Hell, quick, put it in me!”
Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between a truthful report on your love life and what they call prurience but I don't let it stop me now in these last remaining pages of the Blue Jay which may well be my last ones of all.
I was telling you how I wandered into the area beyond the hooked rectangle of love. It is called deviant love so it's appropriate to “their” definition of it that from time to time one should wander out of its confines, especially when those confines contain no window and you are in them alone and want to see if there is a sign of daybreak.
It was foolish of me to have thought that there would be a sign of it while still in the wolf's hours of winter.
I stood there for a while, my presence known to the rats and making them freeze in motion as addicts of hard-core drugs are said to freeze in motion at times when they feel a strong hit.
Then I turned on my heels and slipped back through a crevice of the plywood that sectioned off the hooked rectangle from the inhuman vastness outside it in the warehouse, wondering once more why it was not condemned and demolished, being so long unused except as a habitation by myself and two lovers.
I smiled wryly and said, “God has forbidden them to”
Then I sat down and said, “It's a monument to the living nigger on ice.”
Then, like the cock crowing thrice, I said to myself the last line of a lyric which I'd read once.
“Boys are fox-teeth in the heart.”
I recalled that the poem also dealt with girls and with men but couldn't remember what it had to say of them except that it was more flattering and less feeling.
But the feeling was pain and the pain was excruciating and for the third time in my life I seriously considered doing away with myself and by what means I could do it.
(Other two times? When committed to that island in the East River and the first time that Lance infected me with that yellow drip of a pickup on a faraway street.)
Doing away with myself.
On the island in the River East I had thought of slashing my wrists but there was nothing that I could slash them with since they had confiscated my reading glasses, my wristwatch, anything that had glass or a cutting edge to it, except my longing for Lance which was strong enough to draw blood but was not a material thing.
The time of the drip I had considered water, probably because it suggested that old Baptist hymn called “Washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”
(Mother used to sing it so passionately in church that people would turn to look at her with startled eyes.)
This brought to mind another short lyric poem on the subject of boys, again just a single line of it.
They offer you their eyes like startled flowers.
(Referring to boys on street corners.)
And I remember saying to the poet, “I think they offer their eyes like broken crutches.”
And he replied, “That is because you are negative by nature.”
Was that true about me? I honestly don't think so. Not even now as I stare at the next page of the Blue Jay with its pale blue parallel lines still undefiled by the pencil. I don't think it's pessimistic to look upon ugliness as well as beauty bare, although, like Millay and Euclid, I prefer to opt for the second.
And now that next page of the Blue Jay has been fucked by the pencil and is no longer bare beauty. .Â .Â .
I am not the only writer in the direct line of the maternal side of my family. My grandmother Ursula Phillips was the widow of a very handsome and dandified young gentleman who was struck by the sudden subway at the age of twenty-seven. By contemporary standards of this Eastern metropolis I don't suppose his accomplishments in the field of literature were particularly striking except in a ludicrous way. His career could be called meteoric. He flashed into it at the age of twenty-two and dropped dead five years later, a burnt-out wreck of a handsome young man who had physical attributes, according to Grandmother Ursula, which would rival Apollo's: a strong but slender physique, flawless skin, large eyes between green and blue which were heavily lashed. “Some people accused him of wearing cosmetics,” she told me, “but you know, dear, all that he ever put on was a light cologne called
When Grandmother Ursula said that to me, I laughed and said, “Grand, do you mean he went out naked except for the light cologne?”
She boxed my ears and said, “Boy, your grandfather was out of blue-grass Kentucky land with blood as blue as the grass. You just remember that and don't make sarcastic remarks which you mistake for humor.”
“Oh, now, Grand, don't we all, and nobody means much by it.”
“Your grandfather would have spit on Alabama if he'd been the kind that spits.”
She creaked up out of her rocker with the intense concentration of those possessed by an idol and brought forth two of her long-lost idol's literary creations. One was a very thin published book, a novella it could be called, which was titled
oh, I forget of
and the other was a screenplay which he had written when he was picked up by Hollywood as the result of the novella's rather startling success.
“Look here, boy, I understand that you fancy yourself as a prospective writer. Just open this book and read the first sentence of it.”
And despite my failure to recall, at this moment, the title of the novella, that first sentence of it is clear in my recollection.
“Edith was a sub-deb, meaning a debutante to be, and it was already apparent that she would be the glamour girl of next year.”
“Yes, lovely,” I remarked and handed it back to Grand, and then I picked up the screenplay that he had been hired to write on the strength of the book about Edith. The screenplay was of more interest to me then. I recall that I was mystified by the camera directions and the knowledgeability with which Grandmother Ursula interpreted them to me. Of course I can't reproduce the dialogue nor Grandma's technical interpretations at this distance in time, I can only improvise something of a likeness. The setting is/was an exotically furnished pied-Ã -terre on Sunset, and my grandfather, who describes himself with narcissan extravagance as silhouetted in a damply clinging silk robe against a picture window that seemed intended to present him to public view, much as a master portrait is framed and lighted in a way that is both delicate and dramatic, addresses his lady-
without turning to face her. He says to her something like this:
“You know I had no intention of prostituting myself when I permitted my publishers to reproduce on the dust-jacket of my novella a photograph of myself in bathing trunks that were a bit too revealing.”
“I don't quite know what you mean,” says the lady-companion, obtusely. “I thought the photo was lovely.”
“So lovely that it inspired a pederastic producer to engage me to write a film play for a silent-screen star attempting to make a comeback in the talkies.”
I kept running into a camera direction called POV, I remember, and Grandma explained to me that it meant the position of the camera, and it struck me, young as I was, that the POV seemed to be rather heavily in my grandfather's favor. Even when the dialogue switched to the lady-companion, who kept expressing remarkable surprise and stupefaction over the fairly obvious revelations which Grandfather Krenning was delivering to her, the POV remained upon Krenning, and I remember that his eyes or his face or his whole being was repeatedly described as “ineluctably” something. Although I had an extensive vocabulary for an early adolescent in a small Alabama town, I did not understand the word “ineluctably.” I asked Grandma what it meant.