Question from Doctor:  I can’t seem to identify the location of your pain.  Where does it hurt?

Lidia at 49:

It hurts in my skinsong.  It hurts in the years it’s taken to unlearn
everything I was told about my own bodymind.  It hurts when I
breathe too loudly and hear my father’s voice chiding me, my sister,
my mother:  “Do you have to breathe so loudly?”  It hurts when
someone I love is suffering needlessly—some person or force or lack
making them feel “less than” or wrong—it hurts knowing the only
way through is through this death culture teaching us a woman’s body
is always and forever a thing.  Is that in my arm?  My leg?  My breast?
My vagina?  My head or heart?  Yes.

Lidia at 17:

It hurts in my scoliosis spine no one did anything about when
I was first diagnosed at 13.  It hurts in my ribcage where my father
Grabbed me so hard one night I thought I’d shatter.  It hurts in my
head where all my gifts are met with punishment.  News flash:  I
painted on all those walls in order to show you the beauty of my story.
You punished me.  Until I found the canvas, the page, I believed you.
You were wrong.  I wasn’t trying to deface the walls.  I was trying to
paint the house, the school, the church, a girl back ALIVE.

Dora:

Um, dude, are you retarded?  Next time you talk with a female? Ask
her which city her body is. Or ocean. Give her poetry books written by women. Like Sylvia  Plath and Anne Sexton and H.D. and Adrienne Rich and Mary Oliver and Emily Dickinson. Let her draw or paint or
sing a self before. You. Say. A. Word.

 

Question from Cop:  Step out of the car, please.  Do you know why I pulled you over?

Lidia at 49:

You pulled me over because you can.  You pulled me over
Because my life is broken and you can see it and smell it in
The tracks I’m leaving behind me—but I’m telling you—I was
Broken before that by rules and laws made all over my body—
Transgressions sanctified by power and rule and law and
father-headed fucking family—so now that you ask I’d say you
Pulled me over for finally, finally reflecting back to you your
Creation.  Woman gone crazy with grief and rage and love that
Didn’t fit the story.  I was speeding.  I was crashing.  Head on.
Into my own life.  To save it.

Lidia at 17:

Yeah I know why you pulled me over.  You pulled me
Over for speeding and drinking while driving.  And oh yeah,
For being high as a kite.  And for being with a beautiful gay
Boy who I loved.  And for laughing, and for not wearing
Underwear, but you didn’t tell anyone that, did you, how you
Felt me up in the little cement room before the fingerprints?
How you smiled and I saw your gold tooth and smelled your
Cigarette and Juicy Fruit breath close to my face?  How I
Considered biting your face like a chimp gone nuts?  Maybe
Chewing off your cheek?  You pulled me over because the girl
Of me busted your speed-tracker gun.  Gave you a chubby in
your little lame black and white man car.  Busted your second
Dick you wore so proudly on your hip.  They don’t call it a
Speed trap for nothing, do they hombre?  And when you told
me no one would believe me if I told, I already knew you were
right.  Telling never works.  But I knew a truth that you did not:
Stories, like bodies, never lie.  Someday I’ll be old enough to say
Your name.

Dora:

Does the pope shit gold?  Yeah, I know why you pulled me over
Fuck-for-brains.  Do you know I recorded every moment of our
Little triste that night?  Do you know you and that ever expand-
Ing man-gut you are trying to hold in with your cop belt and
Gun girdle have gone VIRAL on youtube?  Did you know you
Can get a video camera as small as a walnut into a girl necklace
With a skull dangling from it?  Did you know my beloved Zoom
H4N was in my Dora purse?  That’s right Mr. Man in Blue.  You.
Are.  So.  Busted.  I’ll say this for you though, you sure know
How to make cop-girl molestation look cinematic.  You should
Try for a screen test.  Really.  You’re a natural. Hollywood will
Love you.

Question from a fellow girl nerd:  Remember how we ate our lunches alone in the hallway on the floor of jr. high, and drew pictures of animals on the walls with purple sharpies?  Remember how we rubbed our soapy butts together in the shower?  Remember how we left used copies of Frankenstein in the pews at Catholic school and church and ran like our hair was on fire?

Lidia at 49:

I remember more than I remember my mother and father.
In fact remembering gives my life back to me in beautiful
Fragments or chapters…like knowing you was already a book
we were making away from the story we were told about what
a girl could and couldn’t be.

Lidia at 17:

I’m still kind of wondering how we survived those years.  But
I do know this:  when you-know-who became a cheerleader
and also of course prom queen and didn’t speak to us for three
Years while we refashioned selves out of home-made leather
Bracelets and high top snearkers and piercings we made up,
when you and me started wearing overalls to school
Every single day and cut each other’s hair off, when I arm
wrestled that arrogant dude in Mr. Saari’s humanities class and
won, I felt the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life.  Alone with you.
In our overalls and bright as the sun swimmer-sheened hair.
There should be a word for that kind of strong.  The word
should be “girl.”

Dora:

Fuck yeah!  That was the birth of the art bandits.  Like a girl
Rock band only better.  May our art banditry topple authorities
And pants cops and lawyers.  May our art attacks spill rich
Peoples’ drinks in their laps in public so they appear to be a
Bunch of fancy-dressed bed-wetters in diamonds.  May our
Art practices break rules, laws, codes everywhere, and smash
The face of the cult of good citizenship.  May we never rest in
Peace.  C’mon.  Let’s strip down to our underwear and play
Night golf course tag.  And steal all the flags.

Question from Teacher:  Here are these books.  Read them, then write a paper and take a test to get an “A” on the material.

Lidia at 49:

I stopped trying to please you when I turned 40.  Really, I
Woke up one morning and my mouth felt weird—like it
Had changed shape and I couldn’t any longer use the words
You’d given me—those magical words that lifted me up into
“academic discourse” momentarily where I felt I could “pass”
as one of you—my mouth just wouldn’t make those shapes or
sounds any longer.  And I couldn’t any longer do to art what
we’d been doing – critics, reviewers, arbitrators of meaning.  I
looked at art and art looked at me and there simply wasn’t any
need any longer to engage the language of the oppressor—art
didn’t need explaining, she just was, and I wanted my mouth
back anyhow…art and I have been giving mouth to mouth for
a decade now.  I never looked back.  Thank you for the books
though.  They make good refuge.  Oh and the velvet Ph.D. hood,
which, in my new incarnation, makes a lovely costume to wear
around the house while dancing naked to Patti Smith.

Lidia at 17:

I stared at my essay question on Frankenstein for the whole
Hour.  I didn’t write a word.  It felt like my heart was beating
Me up from the inside out and like my eyes were being scraped
And my skin was being raked with glass.  The words for her?
They’re mine.

Dora:

Um, is anyone else in the room like itchy and having to pee?
Are you SEEING this shit?  We read Frankenstein and all we
Get to talk about are the DUDES of Romanticism?  Hello?  Did
A dude write Frankenstein?    Is this a trick?  We can’t spend
five fucking minutes talking about who spawned Mary Shelley?
I’m not telling anyone about my dream.  You know which
dream.  The one where Mary Shelley came to my house in a
green velvet dress and told me what was what.  You fuckers
don’t deserve the answers.  The real answers only come in
dreams.  You people are con-artists.  Gimme my
“F,” asshats.  I’m fucking outta here.

Question from Mother, who was gone but came back:  Can you invent a self with crayons?

Lidia at 49:

I am a woman who has learned to love the purple crayon.  The
One I ate in a moment of trauma as a child, the one I was
Punished for using on all those walls.  I want to give a purple
Crayon to everyone I love.  I want us to draw the walls down.
Laughing.

Lidia at 17:

The exquisite violet expensive architectural felt marker I stole
From his desk—I have it still.  I’m not sorry.

Dora:

Daughters of Eve with your purple Sharpies, unite.  We declare
war on all poverty, bigotry, snobbery, class inferiority,
Racism, homofuckingphobism, we denounce your stupid-ass
Stares and disgust at fat people, gay men and lesbians and
everyone in between, wild people, differently abled and un-
showered homeless people.  We hereby reject your rejection of
the illegal alien, we scorn your scorn of the rez inhabitants, the
jobless, the single mothers the junkies the dreamers.  We piss
On your judgements of teachers and nurses and housewives
And hookers.  Watch for a bag of poo on fire at your doorstep.
At dawn.  It will be a sign of the EVE of our revolution.  Mother,
Rest.  I am home.

___________________

LIDIA YUKNAVITCH is the author of three works of short fiction: Her Other Mouths, Liberty’s Excess, and Real to Reel, as well as a book of literary criticism, Allegories of Violence. Her work has appeared in Ms., The Iowa Review, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine, Fiction International, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Her book Real to Reel was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and she is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Poets and Writers and Literary Arts, Inc. Her work appears in the anthologies Life As We Show It (City Lights), Forms At War (FC2), Wreckage of Reason (Spuytin Duyvil). She teaches writing, literature, film, and Women’s Studies in Oregon. Her first novel is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books.

Find Dora: A Headcase Here.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world. Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture. Fiction Editor Rachael Warecki lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere, and has received residency invitations from the Wellstone Center and Ragdale. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles and is currently at work on a novel.

2 responses to “Lidia Yuknavitch: The TNB 
Self-Interview”

  1. Francine says:

    Incredibly powerful. After just reading this, twice, I am still at a loss for words, but I will be back when I find them, again. Thank you, so much, for writing this and putting it out here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *