Dusty Springfield

Madeleine Maillet

I lost my virginity in a white van, not my parents’ van or the boy’s parents’ van, the van the man lived inside. After, I asked him if he wanted to marry me.

White trash is not promiscuous. Uncle Kevin won’t let me forget the time I came home with leaves in my hair. Like nice clothes, promiscuity is discreet, but the hem of my skirt is falling out, and I am wearing it anyway.

My grandmother warned me, on my birthday she raised her glass at the party: if you get pregnant, I will pull down your pants and spank you. I was embarrassed, but I also felt that her fear and rage were a kind of compliment. Only a beautiful slut is worth the fuss. (That sounds so flippant. Maxims are ahistorical assholes. But isn’t beauty why I worry I’m doing it wrong? And didn’t I have it, when she wanted to spank me for everything I was going to be?)

Her rage was material—a poor woman’s dreams are the only real dreams America has left (virginity, the lottery, the english language). Everything else is a goal. A goal is only selfhood conceived incrementally, as less endless and contingent than it really is.

Goals are for assholes. I don’t have any.

Reading is an experience, it is not a goal. Narrative will do things to you that you did not foresee or consent to. That is why rich white men prefer non fiction. A prostitute told me that and I believe her.

There is no learning, too many people have wanted to teach me. It was a lot of waving and pointing. I have never learned anything. I have only listened or not, remembered or forgot.

There are things I remember that I’d like to forget. What does Milan Kundera say about the mistress in the bowler hat? To rebel against being a woman seemed as foolish to her as to take pride in it. This winking is banal. That my armpits are moist right now makes me feel more human urgency than any act of narrative identification.

I need a grammatical mood in which I can exist. An imperative.

Walk up to that white van. Bang on its tinted windows, the driver side door. No one will open it.

Collapse your lips and privates into a single expression of self. Open it. Remember what the choir director said, singing is praying twice, the message reaches the viscera before the mind—it’s the trick of identification that makes a martyr of pop stars.

What was that Dusty Springfield song the man played in the van? Son of a preacher man. He was. He was… Ooooh. The man’s father was a preacher. The most embarrassing part of the song is when she says he was the sweet talking son of a preacher man, cramming it into the phrase, it’s important, Dusty was a drip, poverty and self pity are her sticky pathos, it works on anyone who’s ever felt need.

Stop slipping into an indicative mood.

Watch the fantastically ugly sparkle of your mouth in the sun—agape and desperate. Get to the part that goes, the only man who could ever reach me, the only man who could ever teach me, press your lips against the glass. Listen to this distortion echo inside the mask of your face.

All of you is outside of you and thundering inside too. Lick the glass. Lick it like it is the surface of your fate. Look at your face. Now close this hole of selfhood. Your mouth is just a mouth. Hum…

The telos of desire is to be only a body. So, hum some more, until outside of you it’s as quiet as a Sunday, and inside is a prayer to every god that has a body too.