Readings — From the June 2017 issue

Amour Fou

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By Hervé Guibert (1955?91), from Crazy for Vincent, which was published in April by Semiotext(e). Guibert was a photographer, filmmaker, and the author of more than twenty-five books. Translated from the French by Christine Pichini.

In the middle of the night between the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth of November, Vincent fell from the third floor playing parachute with a bathrobe. He had drunk a liter of tequila, smoked Congolese grass, snorted cocaine. Finding him unconscious, his friends called the fire squad. Vincent suddenly recovered, walked to his car, took off. The firemen chased after him, rushed into his building, went up with him in the elevator, entered his bedroom; Vincent yelled, “Let me sleep.” Them: “You moron, you may never wake up.” Vincent threw the firemen out and fell asleep like a charm. At eight-forty-five, his mother shook him to wake him up for work, he didn’t move, she drove him to the hospital. Two days later, he died of complications from a ruptured spleen.

I never comb my hair; I rub my wet head in a towel then rake through the curls with my fingers. Yesterday, I don’t know why, I noticed the little comb that Vincent gave me sitting alone on the bathroom shelf (he gave me so few things). I picked it up, I combed my hair, the comb became enchanted. Vincent had buried a spell in the comb: “If you need me one day, comb your hair, and I will come.” I listened carefully, but the telephone didn’t ring. The next day, I combed my hair again: The comb only regained its magic after the second rake. The day after that I combed my hair again: It became magical after the third, etc.

Once, Vincent showed up in a poppy-red nylon motorcycle suit, his head sticking ridiculously out of the top, and I burst out laughing, he said that if it was going to be like that he would leave, I made him stay, he didn’t want to tell me what he did in the afternoon, he said that he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, that he was in heroin withdrawal, I asked him to show me his arms, he started doing a striptease with the jumpsuit, peeled it like a banana from top to bottom, revealed a white cotton undershirt with buttons on it that covered his whole body, now he claimed to have been riding motorcycles all afternoon, he pushed away my hand.

Vincent said to me, I have a fungus, he said, I have scabies, he said, I have a sore, he said, I have lice, and I pulled his body against mine.

He showed up two hours late. I threw him on the bed by grabbing and tackling him; I wedged his head under my elbow, pulled his hair, pinched the cartilage of his nose, twisted his fingers, pushed his eyes back into his head, slipped a hand underneath his clothes to taste the warmth of his skin.

I would have liked to photograph his prick surrounded by fragrant, pale-pink peonies: I would have loved that splash of blood at the moment of stabbing him, to feel disgusted and pleased when those warm pieces of his brain hit me just as I shatter his skull; Yes, I would have really loved to touch his brain.

Vincent came by to install a dimmer for me: He climbed up on a chair, rose up on the tips of his toes to reach the wires on the ceiling that still had to be cut, the chair was rickety, I held on to him by his thighs, I felt something pictorial in the loose grip of my hands on either side of his blue pants, the tan leather inlay of his belt, the skin of his back that the slightest movement risked baring, and my lips holding back a kiss (often, this impression, in erotic situations, of painting certain postures, transparent tableaux).

One day, when calling Vincent, I reached his mother, she said: “Is this Hervé? May I ask you a question?” (I shuddered in anticipation.) “Is the h in your name an aspirated h?” I replied that I had no idea. She asked, “Do they say mon beau Hervé or mon bel Hervé?” She added, “You know, we wanted to name Vincent’s brother Hervé, we even called him Hervé for three days, but we weren’t sure about this aspirated h problem, and so in the end we named him Gregory, but now I regret it. . . . Okay, I’ll hand you to Vincent.”

“What’s it about?” asked Vincent’s mother when I called. Urge to respond, “It’s about his cock, Madame, I need to suck it as soon as possible.”

Vincent was in the middle of shitting and I tried to suck him off: It wasn’t depravity or the search for an exceptional thrill, it was simply a movement of love.

While jerking me off, Vincent made me fantasize aloud about women I’d never had. He fantasized about my sister, made me describe her, asked to meet her, and I delivered.

Feeling cheerful one morning, I returned to the shop I kept returning to so I could take a look at that painting I loved so much, of the young boy with the sullen face, dressed in black — who made me think of Vincent — sketched in mesmerizing chalk lines, stretched out on the grim, bare floor. I went into the shop. I started by asking the price of a different painting, and whether I could go into the back room of the shop. I saw the one; I waited until the woman’s back was turned to gently lift it away from the wall. A small red dot was affixed to the corner; I slid this into my pocket. I flagged down the saleswoman: “And this one, how much is it?” — “Oh, that one is already sold.” I asked, “To another dealer?” “No, it just went to a stranger. . . . Why? Do you like it?” I left the shop totally devastated.

Yesterday evening with Vincent. He added vodka to his champagne, he said that he was taking antibiotics, he was exhausted, and plus he had something nasty, that thing on the bottom of his feet that he hid from me the other time; he went to see a dermatologist in the neighborhood, it’s a fungus that he waited too long to take care of, I shouldn’t touch it, it isn’t really contagious, but it would be better to be careful. He asked me if I wanted to see his sores, I said yes, he took off his shoes, he said, “Do you want to see the more disgusting foot, or the other one?” I replied, “The more disgusting one.” He took off his sock, gripped his foot to show me the arch, which was studded with little red marks and glistening with ointment. Then he turned around and took off his sweater to show me a patch he had in the middle of his back. He said that if it was AIDS, he would rob a bank, or maybe he would shoot himself during the holdup, or else he would take the money and blow it all. We went out to dinner. He took me back home, he didn’t want to come up, he had an early appointment with a tax guy for a part-time job in the month of September, he wanted to be in good shape for it, I insisted that he come up anyway, even if only for five minutes, he kindly agreed, said that I was a kamikaze. On my bed, he curled up against me in my arms, I stroked his torso a little, he was warm. In the morning, I woke up with a feeling of deep disgust. I changed all the sheets. I sprayed myself with antifungal powder. I made an appointment with the dermatologist in the afternoon, I said that by accident I had slept with a young man whom I’ll definitely never see again, whom I have no way of contacting, and I described Vincent’s sores, he assured me that no fungus in the world ever took a form like that.

The honey soap he gave me is shrinking terribly fast; I only use it now on my genitals; together they give off a capital perfume.

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