By Joyce Carol Oates
Originally published in Conjunctions, Spring 2004, and reprinted in High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories 1966-2006.
HE WAS OBESE. He was a fantasist. He was a fetishist. He was a perfectionist. He was a prince. He was a toad. He was a prince born mistakenly as a toad. He was in fact born British. He was a very proud Brit. Though, in time, an American citizen, yet a Brit. He was a “devout” Catholic. He was one who wished revenge. He was one who feared Hell. He was a genius. He was a giant fetus. He was a genius in the form of a giant fetus. He was a smirk. He was an appetite. He was a mouth-hole. He was a maze of guts. He was a giant anus. His (hairless) head was Humpty Dumpty’s head before the Fall. His head was filled with dreams. His head was filled with such dreams! He was a virgin-boy for a long time. He was his mother’s plump-virgin-boy for a long time. His face was a pious face. His face was congealed grease drippings. His face was a droll jowly smile. His skin was toad-belly white. His eyes were toad-eyes. His eyes were shy-boy eyes. He was very ugly. He was very ugly but very dapper. He was one to wear a good Brit suit. He was one to wear a good dark Brit suit, starched white dress shirt, necktie of a conservative type. He was one to sweat inside his clothes. He was one to scratch at his crotch, in furious yearning. Ah, he was angry! He was a Prince of Rage. His eyes were not shy-boy eyes but raptor eyes. His eyes were hooded eyes. His eyes were hypnotist-eyes. His eyes were X-ray eyes. On the film set (utterly silent, by his decree) his eyes were the eyes of God who has seen all, and need now only remember. His peephole eye, too, was the eye of God. In our love nest (as in his droll Brit way he wished to call it) he preferred to observe me through the peephole than directly, as lost in blond reverie I slowly, very slowly removed my white satin lacy-conical-breasted Maidenform Bra. He favored strangulation. He favored ice blondes. He knew how to get their attention.
FAT MAN, a quarter-century dead! Yet still I fear the peephole eye.
WAS HE VERY UGLY, yes very ugly but a very dapper ugly man of power. Was he nice, nooooo not very nice but a very dapper very ugly man of power. Was he a zombie Buddha, yes he was a zombie Buddha but a zombie Buddha of power. Was he cruel, yes he was cruel but was he witty in his cruelty, was he inspired in his cruelty, was he selective in his cruelty (his victims subordinates, underlings), yes for he was one who knew the script. Very few of us (Pippi, certainly!) know the script, but he was one who knew the script. He was one who had memorized the script. He was one who had dreamt the script. He was one who directed the script. He was one who cast the movie choosing You, and you, but not you, and not you. He was not one who believed in God. He was one who believed in the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. He was one to believe in evil. He was one to believe in Hell, damnation. He believed in torture. He believed in the (therapeutic) torture of women. He was born in 1899. He was the approximate age of the movie industry. He was a shy man, socially. He was a showy man, socially. He was Fat Man, a joke. He was (he feared he was) a sexual joke. He was a director to cast beautiful faces, bodies. He was one in awe of glamor. He was one to spell the word glamour. He was one to inflict torture. He was an upright phallus. He was a very jolly very portly Humpty Dumpty phallus. He was not a penis or a prick or a good-natured cock but a phallus. He was his mother’s phallus. He was his mother’s phallus and by twenty-seven yet a virgin. He was twenty-seven and yet a good-boy penitent. He was not Jack the Ripper for he had no sins to confess (none!) yet he was required each evening after work (he was a title-card designer for Famous Players-Lasky Films) to approach his mother’s bed and tell her, in the halting way of a penitent confessing his sins to a priest, of his day. Thirty years later In the taxi in full view of any startled observer who wished to peer into the back seat to observe the ravishingly beautiful elegantly coiffed Ice Blonde model and Famed Fat Man Film Director in Dark Brit Suit moving amid early-evening traffic on Hollywood Boulevard where I was poor hypnotized Pippi required to “tear open” the great man’s billowing trousers. I was required to “tear open” the great man’s billowing trousers if I could but locate with chill fumbling fingers the damned zipper lost within the goiterous crotch and the great man was to shout with surprise and laughter and “fend the wench off”—as Mother would have wished.
HE HATED SUSPENSE. He hated not-knowing. He hated not-being-the-One-to-know. He hated not-being-the-One-who-has-written-the-script. He hated the suspense of such impotence and so he would make himself the master of suspense. The Jesuits had terrorized him with tales of Hell, now he would terrorize the world with tales of Hell except he would be a practical joker. His movies would be practical jokes. All movies are practical jokes. Fat Man was so funny! You wet your panties laughing at Fat Man’s droll Brit witticisms. You crapped your panties laughing at Fat Man’s jokes for Fat Man favored practical jokes involving laxatives slipped into drinks. Will you have a vodka martini my dear. Will you have a manhattan, will you have a Bloody Mary, will you have a sloe gin fizz my dear. So funny!
WAS HE A FEARFUL FAT MAN, yes of course. All Fat Men are fearful and he was one to choose his victims solely among those who had no power, who could not retaliate for fear of losing all they had accomplished in the “film world.” Was he a mean-raging Fat Man, yes of course. All Fat Men are mean-raging and he was one who saw with peephole accuracy how he would himself be cast in one of his own pitiless movies. Was he an avid lover, yes of course How can I force you to love me if you do not love me if I am Fat Man a sexual joke how can I hurt you most ingeniously my dear you will see! Was he a quivery Fat Man, yes of course. All Fat Men are quivery. Did his numerous chins quiver, did his bloated torso quiver, did the layers and ledges of flesh around his belly and buttocks quiver, did his fatty-marbled heart quiver, yes for there was a hole inside him like an open drain and so many years before he was brought by wheelchair amid deafening applause to accept the coveted Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures Academy Award he was one to quiver, and to sit.
He was one to sit, and to dream.
In his massive (hairless) head, such dreams!
Elaborate plots like a maze of guts. Chase scenes, suspense scenes, shock-surprise scenes, deliriously-circling-camera scenes, vertiginous scenes, aerial scenes, bloody-stabbing scenes, horror scenes, strangulation scenes, sly orgasm scenes, the minuet-orchestrated ecstasy of revenge.
He was never one to run. He was a pious plump-boy-virgin hiding his smirk behind clasped prayer-hands. He was not one to walk, much. As Fat Man he would sit and dine at favored restaurants, often. He was one to demand “his” table. He was one to sit and dine for a very long time each evening for he was very hungry. He was a giant gut, eateating. He favored scatological jokes. He was very courteous, formal in his manner. He was one to drinkdrink to sodden oblivion. He was one to stuff himself to fill the hole inside him. Flush-faced and panting and wormy lips quivering as, in later years, the sharply white dentures chewchewed. He could not eat alone: he had a horror of eating alone. He required the presence of (admiring, adoring) others when he dined. Though he would ignore these (admiring, adoring) others as he dined he required their presence for there was this hole inside his fatty hulk of mysterious origin…. At first only a few inches in diameter in his chest, later a larger hole of about six inches in diameter in his belly, in the (later) Hollywood years of fame, legend, wealth, the envy of filmmaker rivals and the fawning awe of countless others an even larger and more alarming hole in the lower gut. Pity me! I am a tub of guts but the guts are always aching-empty except when stuffed full for a fat man is always empty except when stuffed full, will you fill my hole my dear?
HE WAS A PLAYFUL FAT MAN. His was the (pitiless) accuracy of the peephole eye.
WAS HE ONE TO SIT, yes! Oh yes he was one to sit.
From boyhood he was one to sit calm and impassive as the Buddha, not to meditate but to dream.
He was not Jack the Ripper. Not a sinful loathsome boy. His hands were never busy beneath the bedclothes. His hands, his arms were properly folded across his chest atop the bedclothes like those of a carved funerary figure. As the Jesuits prescribed, and Mother oversaw. Yet in the night his skin was clammy, damp. His (tight-shut) eyes swerved in their sockets. Mad veins pounded at his temples. His mouth was dry as if he’d swallowed sand. By night I was a captive of that other. I am not to blame. Yet by day he was a very good boy-student. He was a very good boy-student in his St. Ignatius uniform. Yes he did believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ His Only Begotten Son, in the Holy Ghost, and in the Virgin Mary. (“Begotten” was not a word he knew. “Virgin” was not a word he knew, exactly.) He was one to recite British Railway timetables to the astonishment of family and relatives. Lurid illustrated magazines and newspapers he read (in secret) and these too (in secret) he memorized.
He was not Jack the Ripper.
HE WAS JACK THE RIPPER. Stab stabbing the nasty naked women. Nasty mocking ice-blond naked women. In the prime of his power and bulk (three hundred sixty-five pounds) he was Jack the Ripper stab stabbing the women though in fact he preferred strangulation to stabbing Strangulation is more intimate, I’ve found. Yet he would not scorn stabbing. Stabbing provides blood, blood is wonderfully “visual.” Certainly he scorned guns, noisy guns, no intimacy with guns, guns were a cliché of shoot-’em-up, cowboys-and-Indians B-films naturally one of his sensibility would scorn. He was classy, classic. He was of the priest caste. His mother would have wished him a priest but that had not happened. He had not the vocation, his was a secular vocation. Yet he would observe ritual, sacrifice. Sacrifice of the ice-blond temptress. Yes, he would have very happy memories of stabbing. The most spectacular of stab-sex-scenes in movie history would be his. So, he would hardly scorn stabbing. Mother would aid him in this as in so many things, Mother gotten up in Whistler’s Mother long dowdy black skirt, proper gray (wig) bun. So exact, Mother could be. So prim and so cruel. (So funny!) Yet, he preferred strangulation for the intimacy. He was one to crave intimacy. He was misunderstood as coldhearted, calculating, lacking in charity. (Through his long life, he gave not a penny to “charity.” Why should he?) Many have asked Did the great film director touch you in a lewd way, Pippi? Did Fat Man grow bored with the peephole merely and one day close his hideous fat fingers around your lovely blond neck? Did Fat Man grunt groan wheeze bellow collapse his bulk upon your slender girl-body paralyzed in terror, broken beneath so hellish an assault? Did I die, was I revived? Was I revived by my ardent lover many times? (Fat Man knew the advantage of strangulation, by garrotte for instance: the dying victim can be revived many times.) Am I revived now, decades later in the 21st century?
HOLLYWOOD TATLER offered me $$$$ for such “confidential” revelations. National Enquirer, Playboy, Esquire, Reader’s Digest (in abridged form) and countless others. Always, Pippi declined.
I was so very ashamed.
THE GREAT MAN’S SECRET WAS: he feared laughter.
He feared laughter at him. For all his fame, genius, grandeur he was but a (visual) joke. Girls, women giggling at such a lover!
He had not been a joke to his mother. Never a joke to the Virgin Mary. He was happiest when they observed him for then he would not be bad. But it was exciting when they did not observe him for then he would be bad. And his badness took such flights! Observing his pasty-pale impassive good-boy face at (for instance) the communion railing, you could never have guessed how his badness, like exultant predator birds careening into the air to seek their prey, took flight! He was not a very nice young man but he was a very dapper young man and in time he would be a very dapper Fat Man always impeccably dressed Brit style in sun-splotched Los Angeles among beautiful imbecile faces and bodies a Fat Man of habit, order, discipline in dark suit, starched white dress shirt, conservative tie. Tent-sized dark Brit suit in fact he owned six of them and each was identical to the others. Tent-sized starched white shirts in fact he owned fifteen of them and each was identical to the others. Plus ten identical ties, six identical pairs of custom-made (XXX width) leather dress shoes, numerous pairs of identical black socks. He was courteous and contemptuous and he was very happy stabbing, for Jack the Ripper was not laughed at by girls and women. Fat Man was a joke to women, was he?—well he was not. Fat Man was not a joke but a joker. He was not a joke but a joker and that is quite a distinction. And that was his career. He was not a joke but Jack the Ripper who was Jack the Joker and the joke was on you, and on you, and on you.
And the joke was on me.
ONE DAY Maman called to me: You have a gentleman caller, Pippi! You will bathe.
It was 1953. I was a girl model known coyly as Pippi. There was Kiki, there was Fifi, there was Mimi, there was Tippi and there was even, for a while, Gigi. I was Pippi. I was one of the Ice Blondes.
May 1953. A time in which, in some quarters even here in sun-splotched Los Angeles mothers still addressed their daughters in formal terms. And daughters obeyed their Mamans.
May 1924. Aged twenty-three he was a heavyset young man not yet Fat Man and not yet famed. He was the hardest of hard workers at the Famous Players-Lasky Studio. It was the Silent Film Era. Aged twenty-three he had never touched a female in that way. He was faithful to his mother as to the Virgin Mary. He was not Jack the Ripper. They would know, he could not be Jack the Ripper. Aged twenty-three he did not know what the word menstruation might mean. He did not know what the word ovulation might mean. He did not know what the ugly words sexual intercourse might mean (though he had some idea, he had glimpsed dogs in the street before looking quickly away). He wrote his first screenplay.
PIPPI’S SCREEN TEST! The famous director was fifty-four and in his Fat Man prime. Maman chaperoned.
My dear say I love you
“I love you”
My dear say I love you with feeling
“I love you”
Again I love you
“I love you”
Lift your chin my dear I love you
“I love you”
As if you meant it my dear lift your beautiful eyes I love you
“I love you”
Ah no! my dear you must try again I love you
Until finally Maman fell asleep, exhausted.
ONE DAY I would realize that as soon as the great director saw me it was to discover that I was already “in” his head. I had no knowledge of this fact of course. I was Pippi, only just nineteen and very silly and very vain and very hopeful of her blond “good looks” as it was expressed in that long-ago era. I had no knowledge that when the great director saw me (in a TV ad) it was “in” his head he was seeing me also. Because I was not physically present but only a gliding TV image at that moment I could not yet know the suffocation of being “in” another’s head. That knowledge would come later.
I WISH you were the size of my thumb dear Pippi! Know what I would do dear Pippi I would gobble you down in one delicious gulp dear dear Pippi!
SOMEHOW IT HAPPENED, he was married.
Somehow it happened, “his wife” was pregnant.
He was not certain how it had happened. He believed it had happened during the night. He had not seen the (contorted) face of “his wife” nor had he heard her (whimpering, panting) response when he (or someone in his place, in the bed) had touched her. (Or had he touched her? It may have been, “his wife” had touched him.)
He could not bear the bloated belly. He could not bear the hideous bloated breasts. He was ill, his appetite was depressed. He drank. He drank to fill the aching cavity within. He saw that the wife’s appearance was a mimicry of his own appearance. He saw smiles in the street, rude stares. He saw the bemused glance of beautiful girls and women. He saw their perfect bodies gliding past. He saw the wife’s distended belly in mockery of his distended belly. It was Mother’s belly, was it? It was himself in the womb, was it?
Yet the wife adored him, her name was “A.” His name, too, was “A.” You might laugh, “A” and “A” were twins. He laughed, for he was one with a jocular sense of humor. He laughed at the coincidence for it meant nothing. (Of course, it meant everything. In the script, there are no coincidences.) His mother was ailing but still living when “A” (“Alfred”) married “A” (“Alma” who had converted to Catholicism to please the groom and his family). The two women’s lives overlapped for some years so it was not likely that “A” was his mother, still less that his mother was “A.” It was not likely that “A” was pregnant with “A” when “A” was the father of the unborn child and it was not likely that the wife was deliberately mocking “A’s” distended belly. In cinema, yes. In the German Expressionist cinema he admired, yes. In the ordinary world, no.
Not likely. Yet crude sensationalist vulgar minds would go speculate, after the great man’s death.
PARTICULARLY the wife’s enormous nursing breasts leaking milk repelled him. He could not bear the sucksucking of the baby. He could not bear another baby in the marriage. He was a practical joker whose specialty was laxative jokes but he did not care for baby diapers nor did he care for babyshit.
There was this hole, ever growing, inside him.
PIPPI I have been celibate so long. I have been celibate forty years Pippi. I have no love I have no sex-love I have only my work in which I am a genius but I am so lonely Pippi I have this hole inside me Pippi I adore you Pippi tell me you adore me Pippi even if it is only the script. Pippi I will make you a star!
Maman brought me the contract, breathless. Pippi, sign!
It was an era when if you were Pippi, or Tikki, or Lili, or Bibi, if you were directed by your Maman to sign, you signed.
Signed away my soul. Seven films!
(Of which only two would be made. The first, legendary and acclaimed. The second, a disaster.)
Why did I submit to the tyranny of Fat Man, why did I submit to Maman, you ask from your pinnacle of wisdom in the 21st century. You cannot comprehend. You cannot put yourself in my place. I was Pippi, I was hypnotized by Fat Man. It was not an era in America when Pippi would not be hypnotized by Fat Man. I will make you a star Pippi I adore you only try to adore me for Fat Man did not threaten, at first. That would come later.
You have sold your soul for riches, fame it would be accused but I don’t believe this was ever true. Immediately Fat Man saw me I was “in” his head and captive. And it was safest there! For in Fat Man’s massive head I was without desire. When in the glaring camera lights I was without desire. Fat Man costumed me, Fat Man oversaw makeup, hair, undergarments, hosiery, all footwear. Shoes! Fat Man was a fetishist of shoes, feet. Black satin high-heeled pumps, stiletto-heeled sandals in the sheerest silk hosiery. In Fat Man’s head I was the Ice Blonde beauty without desire. For to be Ice Blonde is to be free of desire. I was without desire like a flame that has been blown out. I was without desire to be other than Pippi in Fat Man’s massive head and it was a holy place, I believed.
FOR HERE WAS a Brit gentleman of impeccable good manners, taste. Here was a gentleman renowned for his wit. Here was a genius of cinema. Here was lofty sorrow. Here was gross appetite. Here was one shamelessly enthralled by glamor. Here was one famously impatient with underlings. Here was one who remained an infant through life. Here was one who had never been young. Here was a fat drooping phallus. Here was a very fat very drooping phallus. Here was a witty phallus! Here was a wise phallus. Here was a haunted phallus, a poet-phallus, a visionary-phallus to instruct us, ice blondes and all others who yearn for redemption It’s only a movie. Let’s not go too deeply into these things. It’s only a movie.
I wept, to be so freed of desire. For desire is the flame that dazzles and blinds as it kills.
SEIZING ONE of us in bloated slug fingers, for Fat Man was the greatest filmmaker in all of history, should not Fat Man be rewarded? should not Fat Man be happy, as ordinary swinish folk are happy? where is justice, otherwise?—lifting the squealing thumb-sized flesh doll to the massive hole of his mouth, and eating, chewing, swallowing with a mouthful of his favorite French burgundy.
WE HAD NOT KNOWN! We had not guessed. (Pippi had not even known that she was but one of a succession of Ice Blondes. Pippi in her stupidity and vanity had imagined she was the sole Ice Blonde!) The movie that was to be made, involving “real” actors, in a “real” set amid “real” technicians and assistants, was but the aftermath of the Fat Man’s vision. The movie was but the tunnel for what was inside the giant fetus head to come “outside.” If what was inside the head was not realized “outside,” the head would explode. For the head, though massive, had to be relieved of its contents. As the hundreds of feet of guts had to be relieved of their contents. Or Fat Man in his proper Brit suit, starched white dress shirt would explode. But after the movie was made and released to the public it began at once to lose its lustre. It became banal, boring. Only a movie. Only a movie. Only a movie. Like a mysterious light left burning after the sun has risen. Such light enduring into day, now tawdry, pointless. Fat Man was one whose dreams ceased to interest him once others shared them for the eyes of others debased Fat Man’s dream. There was this hole inside him.
FAT MAN BECAME IMPATIENT with his Pippi who did not adore him in the way Fat Man wished to be adored and so had to be punished. Birds were sent to peck at my face, hands, arms. I was made to endure the hellish shrieking of birds. I was made to endure Fat Man’s rage. I was made to endure Fat Man’s madness. I was Pippi, I had wished to believe that I was beloved. I was Pippi, I had been assured that the birds would be mechanical birds. But when I arrived on the set that day there were cages of live birds and they were excited. And they were hungry. And they were angry. They were furious blackbirds, ravens. They were crows. They were Death-Birds. I was made to endure hours, days of these birds. Pecking beaks, flailing black-feathered wings! A sky of birds, an avalanche of birds! Fat Man observed at a distance. Fat Man was impassive, seemingly uninvolved. Fat Man was a zombie Buddha. Fat Man was in command of the Death-Birds. I was made to bleed by the birds’ ravenous beaks. I would be badly infected by the birds’ ravenous beaks. My left eye was pecked by a frenzied starling. Birds were being flung at me, I could not defend myself. My hair was encrusted with the suety-sticky white of bird shit. Help! Help me! I was panicked, I could not breathe. Yet Fat Man remained seated in his director’s chair impervious to my terror as he was impervious to my pleas for mercy. Only a movie. Yet it must be endured.
YET: the final scene of the movie was such beauty! Pippi who had been broken, terrorized, humiliated was yet resurrected, on film. I saw, I was made to see, how Fat Man had the power of such resurrection as Fat Man had the power of utter debasement, humiliation. It was the power of God. It was the power of the giant fetus, as God. In that way in which, in the final scene, the Ice Blonde made her cautious way with other survivors through a vast subdued sea of predator birds. Human beings in their vulnerable featherless flesh making a pilgrimage through the devastated world. It was beautiful, we wept to see it. We had not known, in the filming. We had come to loathe and fear Fat Man who had swallowed us whole and digested us and excreted us yet we wept to see such beauty, and ourselves redeemed within it.
(ALL OF HOLLYWOOD talked of it: an experienced actress would not have tolerated such abuse. An experienced actress would not have tolerated such insult. An experienced actress would not have succumbed to Fat Man’s entreaties. For never did Pippi recover, entirely. Never Pippi’s lacerated and shat-upon soul restored to its virgin purity.)
IN FAT MAN’S MANY MOVIES there would be the fleeting image of Fat Man for Fat Man was a practical joker and what more of a practical joke than to insert Fat Man in the cinema-world of perfect faces, bodies. Fat Man so very ugly. Fat Man smirking, Fat Man with quivery jowls and bleak empty eyes. Now Fat Man was making lesser movies, you could tell because Fat Man was ever more famous. Fat Man was nearing Death, you could tell because Fat Man was winning ever more awards for Lifetime Achievement.
The next, posthumous. Eagerly I await.
A SUMMONS CAME at last. He had been waiting for many years. He was embittered waiting. He would not forgive this long insult. He had won an Oscar! At last. An attendant would accompany him to the ceremony. The studio would provide transportation. Always Fat Man required transportation. Fat Man did not walk, not much. Fat Man was in a wheelchair, was he? (When had this happened?) Fat Man had difficulty breathing. Fat Man had difficulty swallowing his food. Fat Man was not supposed to drink as he’d once done but Fat Man demanded his drink. To what purpose had he labored these many decades, if he was to be denied his drink? The white-jacketed attendant was in the hire of the studio. Fat Man would not pay for his own attendant, the studio must pay. Fat Man was in a sulk, the Oscar had so many times been denied him. On my count of three, sir! the attendant murmured heaving Fat Man into his chair. And now wheeled along a crimson carpet, past cheering throngs. Flashbulbs. Fat Man wore evening attire. Fat Man was squeezed into a tux. Fat Man had been shaved, cologne had been rubbed gently into his collapsed skin. Fat Man was very proud. Fat Man was sulky, the Oscar had been denied him so long. His name was being intoned: Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures. His name was being chanted by thousands, tens of thousands. To the very horizon, applause. A standing ovation. A wall of deafening sound. The honored one insists upon heaving himself from his wheelchair, of course he can walk if he wishes. Amid warm dazzling lights, the gleaming statuette of Oscar is held aloft. The master of ceremonies is a tux and a black satin bow tie, bald-gleaming skull smiling above. The master of ceremonies is leading the applause that threatens to suffocate Fat Man but the promise shimmers before him, the hole inside him will be filled. At last! With childlike eagerness Fat Man reaches out to receive the Oscar statuette but the statuette hovers out of reach firmly grasped by the smiling skull above the black satin bow tie and (something happens, a mishap, there are gasps from the audience, where is the damned attendant) Fat Man falls in slow motion in what appears to be a staged comic-cruel sequence of the sort for which Fat Man’s movies are known, the audience responds with gales of laughter, applause. Yet Fat Man has fallen heavily, fatally. Fat Man has fallen onto his bloated belly, Fat Man’s Humpty Dumpty head cracks. His breath has been knocked from him with rude abruptness. In his death throes Fat Man manages to roll onto his side, and onto his back, he is helpless as a gigantic beetle on its back, still the audience shrieks with laughter, applause. Fat Man’s fingers are grasping still for the gleaming statuette which hovers out of reach teasing, tantalizing, luminous amid frenzied applause to the very horizon and cries of Bravo!
There will be no final credits. There will be no THE END to signal Fat Man’s demise, only a slow…
BUT WHY am I crying, it is many years later. I am an old woman. I am no longer the Ice Blonde. There is no one to “see” me now. There has been no one to “see” me as Fat Man saw me for a very long time. The shrieking birds are gone, their stabbing beaks and cries. There is an emptiness inside me where the flame of my long-ago desire once quivered.
I loved Fat Man, I think. I feared and loathed Fat Man who destroyed my acting career (exactly as he had vowed) and yet I loved Fat Man. I could not bear Fat Man’s clammy repulsive touch and yet I loved Fat Man at the peephole. Fat Man was not God, but who among us is God? (At least, Fat Man aspired to be God.) Fat Man was not God but for many years Fat Man possessed the wonder of God. Fat Man yearned to fill the great hole inside him in a way that was God. For God is but emptiness, we must fill God. We are creatures to fill God. I was too young and foolish then to know, when I was “Pippi.” Too young to be worthy of Fat Man’s peephole eye. In Fat Man’s head I was trapped and tortured and yet I was happy there, I believe. I was absolved of all desire, like a saint or a martyr. (In the wake of my disaster and breakdown, I would convert to the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church.) Yes I was very beautiful but beauty is emptiness. Fat Man knew, as few know. Fat Man too was a saint, a martyr. Fat Man suffered the Hell of ceaseless yearning.
Often in my dreams Fat Man appears, not elderly and ravaged as he was in the later years but in his prime, when I knew him. Fat Man takes my hand to lead me through the devastated landscape. I am still frightened of birds (silly Pippi!), Fat Man must lead me through the Valley of Death-Birds.
Pippi, my dear. Never doubt the director!
I wake from such dreams of warmth and love and yet: why am I crying?
I am astonished to see in mirrors this faded old woman! The peephole eye would regard me with disgust, contempt. The peephole eye would be shuttered at once, seeing me. The formerly elegant blond hair is mere filaments, faded wisps. So thin, the shape of the skull is exposed. If the light is bright behind me I can see through bone, brain matter, gristle. For it is only a movie, Fat Man knew. Pippi was never real. None of us was ever real. (You believe that you are real, do you?) Pippi was only inside Fat Man’s head, and we know that Fat Man is dead.
(“Fat Man My Love” is purely fiction containing, in transmogrified form, factual material from The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto and The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock by Gene D. Phillips and Thomas M. Leitch.)
Image: Psycho by Thomas Hawk