Don't Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill
She'll go with you to those uncomfortable memories.
from "Folk Song"
However, with her lame' bathing suit and her camp ring walk, appealing to everyone's sense of fun, she would be the fundamental female as comedy: The killer could sit comfortably in the audience and laugh, enjoying this appearance of his feminine colleague. Maybe he would feel such comfort that he would stand and come forward, unbuckling his pants with the flushed air of a modest person finally coming up to give testimony. Safe in her sweating, loose, and very wet embrace, surrounded by the dense energy of many men, his penis could tell her the secret story of murder right in front of everyone. Her worn vagina would hold the killer like it had held the husband and the lover and the sharpie and the father and the nitwit and every other man, his terrible story a tiny, burning star in the rightful firmament of her female vastness.
Hell, yes, she would "show what women can do"!
from "An Old Virgin"
Well, but who could blame her? When she was still a teenager, out of nowhere her mother asked Laura what it had been like to lose her virginity. She wanted to know if the experience had been "special." It was late and the living room was dark. They had been watching TV together. Laura was startled by the question. "Was it someone you loved?" asked her mother.
"Yes," replied Laura, lying. "Yes it was."
"I'm glad," said her mother. She still looked straight ahead. "I wanted you to have that."
What a revolting conversation, thought Laura. She couldn't quite put her finger on why; her mother had only been expressing concern. But her concern seemed somehow connected with the nun in the water, and the dirtbag trying to set the little girl on fire.
from "Mirror Ball"
Because the dark-haired elfin girl was also a secular-minded person, she didn't know he'd taken a part of her soul any more than he did. But she knew she would not hear from him again. And she knew something was gone. She woke the next day feeling bereft and heartsick. She sulked and drooped around her flat while her roommates exchanged knowing glances. She vacillated between anger and contempt and terrible longing, and a sense that she must see the young man again no matter what. Because she was a rational person, she was sure that her feelings were illusory. Because she was a proud person, she was determined that she should not act on her feelings and call him. Rational and proud, she controlled her feelings by categorizing them in terms of obsession and projection. "I don't even know him," she said. "I'll get over it." And she waited for it to pass.
from "The Agonized Face"
I thought of my daughter, standing before the mirror, pushing her lower lip out, making seductive eyes. I though of her sitting at the kitchen table, drawing scenes from her favorite book, Magic by the Lake. I thought of her frightened awake from a nightmare, crying, "Mommy, Mommy!" I remembered washing her as a baby, using the spray hose from the kitchen sink to rinse shit away from the swollen petals of her infant slit--a hole she may fall down if she opens it too early, a dark Wonderland of teeth and bones and crushing force. The hole in life, a hole we cannot see into, no matter how closely we look.
Wordless knowledge can be heavy and dark as the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes you want the relief of dryness, of light, bright words. Sometimes you might be on the side of a smart-aleck middle-aged woman who thumbs her nose at the agonized face and fellates a snotty, sexy man, just for a dumb little thrill. Sometimes you wish it could be that easy.
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