Anna-Sophie has a Drink on Sunset
The other day, my mother handed me a pot of yoghurt, cultivated from my great-grandmother’s vagina, across the antique wooden breakfast table, before I had had even the first of my morning coffees. But, of course, I tasted a spoonful out of politeness. It was gloopy and unpleasant.
This was some months ago, I think, or whenever I was last at her house in Malibu. Through the open windows, I watched pelicans fall from the sunshine into the waters below and thought about a story I had read recently, somewhere, about how they would stab themselves in their own hearts with their soggy, preposterous beaks, and profusely bleed into the mouths of their pelican children. “How horrible,” I thought to myself, followed by a floaty jellyfish-like feeling of annoyance that my own mother would not provide for me in this manner; for my younger sister Isabelle, certainly, but not me – no, never. Ugh. Isabelle!
Actually, my mother drinks a mug of warm horse’s blood in the morning, every morning, because she is a knitwear designer from France, and that is the sort of thing they enjoy. “Anna-Sophie, it makes me strong,” she says. Nobody knows where all this warm horse’s blood is coming from, and whenever I ask her, she pretends not to hear.
“Bad bacteria is behind all of society’s ills,” she informed me sternly that morning, as she does most times I speak to her, which is not often. And she spooned some more of the yoghurt made from my great-grandmother’s vagina onto my muesli and spoke passionately, lyrically, about how this was a good bacteria, a happy and unusually kindly one with which our family had been cooking up homemade yoghurts for well over a century.
“One day, my Anna-Sophie, in the whole wide world there will only be a handful of people that have never taken antibiotics – they will become like gods! – and the rest of us will make pilgrimages of thousands of miles, through frozen mountain passes and across perilous white waters, only to make yoghurts out of their bodily fluids, or to partake in samples of their stools. Each of their waste orifices will become like a gold mine, or a fountain of youth.”
My mother, she spoke for hours about the hidden powers of raw yoghurts and I wondered to myself whether she was using them for the purpose of evil.
* * * * * * *
Another night, after a long shift working in the kitchens, I was talking to my boss over a glass of purple wine. Of course, I don’t like him but then, I don’t like anybody that I work with, not at all, and, according to what I’ve read in the papers, that is actually very common and most of us dislike everybody we work with, with a surprising intensity of feeling.
Not that Oswald (my boss) would agree – no, not at all. Not even after a bottle of wine, which doesn’t really agree with his constitution and somehow only makes him more misguided in his stabs at creativity, more disgusting in his sexual frustration. Once, he informed me that he would like to make a cup of tea with one of my bloody tampons. But anyway, all of Los Angeles was sparkling below us, and this was about to become a most wonderful, magical night.
“You shouldn’t work because you have to,” Oswald told me, conspiratorially. Not that I was asking, or even really listening, but nonetheless it struck me as a particularly moronic platitude, especially coming crawling, as it had, out of the misinformed lips of a middle-aged man working in the kitchens of Soho House in Hollywood. He elaborated: “You should work because you want to. Because you are passionate about what you do! Often I work other jobs too, just to satisfy my creative side.” Yuck.
I stopped listening completely and instead, cast my eyes along his body, up and down, and tried to peer under his clothes – that evening he was wearing a T-shirt that explained, “Art is my drug” or, possibly, “Men don’t protect you anymore”. I tried to look through his flesh, right into his ageing, Korean-American insides, and wondered in which of his organs exactly his creative side began and where it might end. Swilling my wine around with one hand and inhaling deeply, I attempted to sniff my way into his intestinal miasma, through all those bloody passages awash with expressive longing and partially digested hope and leftover smashed avocado. And, sighing, I drank deeply of my wine and wondered how much longer until I could leave without hurting his feelings, when really the most extraordinary thing happened.
“I’m thinking of writing a poem,” he spoke.
And then I started to feel my right arm dislocating itself from my shoulder, as if hoping to escape this conversation as much as the rest of me, and it felt wonderful. As though the whole world just filled up with light.
Slowly, near silently, my arm disassociated from my body and dropped onto the roughly finished, reclaimed wooden floorboards below. Oswald stopped talking (at last) and, in a panic, flapped his own arms about ineffectually, not knowing what to do in these sorts of situations. And, sensing a perfect opportunity to escape this tiresome social construct, I downed my wine, gathered up my right arm from under the table with my other and told him I had to go. But actually I felt fantastic, like an octopus that had shed one of its extremities in order to bring an awkward social situation to a close.
* * * * * * *
Now, I am not a person that likes to carry things. So, after a short stroll along Sunset, I tossed what was once my arm away, down one of those storm drains that are everywhere, because there was no blood, no gaping nor sticky wounds, and thus to my mind no possibility of ever bringing those two now-so-separate things back together. In any case, I use my left arm much more.
The storm drain was decorated with a blue painting of a dolphin jumping up out of the water, and these words – “No dumping, drains to ocean” – and I imagined an umbilical cord of bright, rainbow-like sewage connecting this place to the Pacific and all its pelagic inhabitants, and suddenly I thought of that lyric, “I have been searching, for the dolphins, in the sea”. I recalled reading that its singer had abandoned music soon afterwards, and dedicated the remainder of his life to helping dolphins.
* * * * * * *
For a while now I have, in idle moments, conceptualised society as some strange, dismal factory of unhappiness, as a contest in which nothing is promised except the certainty of failure and the impossibility of escape. Scrolling, indignantly, through all the photographs posted by my family and my friends – as I like to, two or three dozen times a day – I often experience a harmoniously compound emotion: a constant longing for the lives of others, and, also, in that moment, an unsullied hatred of everybody and everything they stand for.
Oh Lord, everybody I know makes me want to vomit, and vomit again, with a romantic, longing for infinity, until there is nothing left inside my throat; and it would feel transcendent and euphoric, like throwing up because of too much ecstasy into the snow in the car park close to my great-grandmother’s house in Paris around midnight on Christmas Eve, which is as well as ever I have felt. And sometimes I wonder to myself, “Were we placed here in this Milky Way in order to help one another, or to hate one another?”
That is an important question and I wish I had an answer. But, anyway, for a long while I have been having all of these awful conversations and now I have a way of escaping them: if ever anybody tries to talk to me, I just allow one of my limbs to tumble off my body, like an apple falling only a slight way from its tree, and wander off without so much as an apology. Bliss.
* * * * * * *
However, one morning, with nothing else to occupy myself, I accepted an invitation to coffee with one of my old friends who I used to play with in kindergarten and then school, because our mothers were close. It is one of those friendships in which you don’t actually like one another – not at all, really – but you stay in touch in order that you might chart each other’s decline, and feel some sort of nostalgic and rather festive pleasure from these failings. Which is my favourite kind of friendship, I think.
As the fates would have it, she had recently lost her arm in a tragic family speed-boating accident off the Côte d’Azur. She told me that her father had lost control of the boat and everybody was thrown from it – although some were still tied to it with ropes – and, as it was spinning around and around and around, its propeller hung, drew and quartered her extended family and the harbour ran red with blood. I imagined it was as though her family had been made into a soup, with flaps of tripe, loose spinal cords and brains swilling around in the water – the sort of thing they might eat in Mexico.
“Oh,” I commiserated. “I think I read about that, perhaps, in the papers.”
“You lost your arm.”
“So is it growing back?”
“Oh, never mind.”
Of course now, my limbs always replace themselves, over the course of a day or so. And I enjoy looking at them, these perfectly smooth things. Often I just slump upon my smooth cotton sheets and gaze lovingly over my own elongated stumps, elegantly melting from my shoulders and my hips without an ache or a twinge.
* * * * * * *
What can I make of this unusual talent, I wondered to myself, other than excusing myself from awkward social situations? Perhaps I am actually some sort of superhero? So I thought of donating my extremities to those in need, and one morning I approached a one-legged, elderly Korean woman hobbling out of the bakery, and rather classily I slipped off my own leg and handed it to her. But she only started screaming hysterically, and I could not even understand what she was saying. Possibly she was thanking me, but it didn’t really feel like that.
Hopping one-legged the short distance home – along Olympic, where nobody cares about this sort of thing – I started thinking that I might be some sort of a pirate. In that spirit, I resolved to leave my other leg on my Salvadoran neighbors’ front doorstep as a warning, because I’m really sick of all that joyous Latin music they play on a Sunday morning when I’m trying to sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t think they properly understood my message, which was maybe a little obscure, as a couple of days later, a schoolboy was shot just around the corner, and parts of his face (a nose and one of his ears, I think) were scattered over the pavement. I hope it wasn’t any sort of misunderstanding to do with me leaving my leg on that doorstep.
So, what could I do with my talent, that I couldn’t before? I suppose … I could murder somebody, and then dispose of my murdering arms and any incriminating fingerprints and scars and things. But where to begin? There are so many people that I would like to kill. Maybe with my ex-boyfriend Bruno, who left me for a celebrity stylist?
I took a taxi to Bruno’s house in the hills of Glassell Park and turned up on his doorstep, holding out my left leg, which was dressed in a black Miu Miu heel and a white lace knee sock, in front of me. And while he was clearly surprised to see this, without so much as a “hey,” he ushered me into his kitchen and immediately started fucking me – holding up my disembodied leg entangled in my hair and with the shoe still dangling off it – and sighing with pleasure.
Now that I come to think of it, he never actually asked what had happened to my leg, or if I was OK, but that’s what boys are like, and if it ever bothers me again, I can kill him with my bare hands and then throw them away. Most likely, I would wound him first, and allow him to crawl away into a car park or whatever, and track him by his howls of pain.
* * * * * * *
As a young lady with large, sorrowful eyes, and a scar close to my mouth, who was frequently missing one or more of my limbs, I often found myself attracting the attention of unsavoury men. Like Oswald, who once again asked me to have a drink with him after the kitchens closed AND STARTED TALKING TO ME ABOUT HOW HE WAS INVOLVED IN A POETRY PROJECT USING DISUSED BILLBOARDS, OR SOME OTHER FUCKING SHIT LIKE THAT, WHO CARES?! But, of course, I just smiled at him and sipped my wine – as usual – and, as I was brushing my hair across my face, I could feel my shoulder softly dislocating and my arm sliding into my lap like a sleepy platypus having its tummy tickled. Except, this time around it did not have the off-putting effect that I had hoped for, and, what was worse, he cosied up to me and began stroking what was once my arm.
“We must shrug off our decency,” he whispered – eew – “and instead look for rarer pleasures.”
Oswald told me he was fantasising about taking my arm and fisting me with it, slowly working my long “lady-fingers” up through my anus and my intestines or whatever, until I could touch my own heart; and about binding my unattached body parts to my attached ones, with ribbons; and about taking away both of my legs, and twirling my body around acrobatically (which made me think of ice cream and candy sprinkles); and about hanging my spare limbs around the room on ropes, so that I became a sex environment, a sort of fleshly interior decoration.
I think he had been reading a coffee-table book by Araki, and, because of this (and also because of the things he was saying) I felt embarrassed for both of us, really, and so completely awkward. Oh, why had this grotesque old man emerged onto the sofa now, like an ocean-going fish returning to the shallows only to die. And when he dies, will all his disgusting markings fade away too, his stick-and-poke tattoos, and his collection of abstract paintings? And, thinking about that, I walked away, but I left my arm behind to placate him and pondered how long it would keep without the warming touch of my heart.
* * * * * * *
Sometimes, though, I lay awake worrying that I was not shedding my limbs, but rather my limbs were shedding me. I imagined that they were running away for another chance at happiness, like a gingerbread man fleeing from the kitchen, or that they were dreaming of the daughter that my mother always wished I was – a pregnant daughter, with an interest in preserving those strains of yoghurt that have been cultivated from my great-grandmother’s vagina – which was much more like my little sister, I suppose. Isabelle! Ugh.
I imagined all of my lost limbs coalescing into another body, perhaps some sort of heavily pregnant, Medusa-like monster, and climbing into Isabelle’s beautiful Beverly Hills mansion, through one of its stained-glass windows and wandering into her sunny bedroom and fucking and fucking her husband, although he’s awful. Nonetheless, I think that would be a comforting sensation? One of post-coital warmth and tingling, butterscotch revenge and that can’t-feel-myself numbness of throwaway body parts. And I don’t think I would feel bad – no, not really – but if I did feel bad, in that case, well, hopefully I could slough away my guilt as easily as a mushy, quaggy, yielding limb.
* * * * * * *
“Another service closer to death,” smiled the commis chef that evening, with a nod.
It was a busy night in the restaurant and, by that point, I had started feeding parts of myself to the dinner guests of Soho House – to entertain myself, I suppose. Or maybe it was more than that. Photography is not allowed inside this place and yet there is a photography booth that churns out portraits of all of the visitors, continuously, into the one hallway that connects the restaurant and the bar like a colossal digestive tract. It is illuminated a bloody red, its walls concealed under an elegiac, mournful palimpsest of the hundreds of thousands of photographs of everybody who has ever been there. It is a prolonged and orifice-like cave of horrors, but also a grand celebration of our obsession with ourselves.
These are desperate, disgusting people, however. I wished to be consumed as they are consumed. And so, I began to hold onto my discarded legs and I hung them up in my wardrobe until they were cured, and I smuggled them into the kitchens and mounted them on one of those medieval-looking racks intended for carving up thick joints of jamón ibérico.
I thought of this process as a transformation of my own body into a desirable artisan product, a transubstantiation of my otherwise useless flesh and a mouth-watering one, too. The kitchen served these shavings of myself upon a pizza, alongside arugula, parmesan and mozzarella. And soon it was the most popular thing on the menu and that was an almost sexual thrill, maybe.
However, on the last occasion that I found myself attaching my arm to this carving apparatus, again, I wondered, “Why, why am I doing this?” And I couldn’t think of any reasons, and, well, that was the end of that.
As I walked along Sunset that night, I realised … well, I realised, it’s so easy to hate everything, and to feed unimportant parts of yourself to unpleasant people and to detach your limbs in order to escape from awkward situations (and occasionally to seduce past lovers), but perhaps that was not really the correct way of handling yourself. Because if I really must serve slices of myself to somebody, clandestinely, it should probably be my mother, who would at least appreciate that sort of thing, or I suppose my fucking sister Isabelle. And, with that realisation, somehow, my limbs stopped replenishing themselves – like a printer filled with reusable cartridges that has no idea how much ink is inside, and one day, just runs out of ink.
Illustration by Leon Michael Sadler