From the Archives: Blood and Guts in High School (1983)

I am incredibly stoked that we published this while it was still in progress. Kathy Acker is a literary giant. This one goes out to all the angsty teens who have no idea which way’s up or down; same here. It’s also quite timely…
Blood
Courtesy of High Times

By Kathy Acker

excerpt from Janey’s diary:

THE SCORPIONS

I was running around with a wild bunch of kids and I was scared. We were part of the Scorpions.

Daddy no longer loved me. That was it.

I was desperate to find the love he had taken away from me.

My friends were just like me. They were desperate—the products of broken families, poverty—and they were trying everything to escape their misery.

Despite the restrictions of school; we did exactly what we wanted and it was good. We got drunk. We used drugs. We fucked. We hurt each other sexually as much as we could. The speed, emotional overload and pain every now and then dulled our brains. Demented our perceptual apparatus.

We knew we couldn’t change the shit we were living in so we were trying to change ourselves.

I hated myself. I did everything I could to hurt myself.

I don’t remember who I fucked the first time I fucked, but I must have known nothing about birth control ’cause I got pregnant. I do remember my abortion—$190.

The orange walls were thick enough to stifle the screams pouring out of the operating room. Having an abortion was obviously just like getting fucked. If we closed our eyes and spread our legs, we’d be taken care of. They stripped us of our clothes. Gave us white sheets to cover our nakedness. Led us back to the pale green room. I love it when men take care of me.

I remember a tiny blonde, even younger than me. I guess it must have been the first time she had ever been fucked. She couldn’t say anything. Whether she wanted a local or not. A ”local” means a local anesthetic. They stick large hypodermics filled with novocaine in your cunt lips and don’t numb where it hurts at all. A general anesthetic costs $50 more and fills you up with synthetic morphine and truth serum. All of us gathered around her, held her hands and stroked her legs. Gradually, she began to calm down. There was nothing else to do. We had to wait while each one of us went through it. Finally they came for her.

She was the believing kind. She had believed them when they said a local wouldn’t hurt. They were taking the locals first.

I’ll never forget her face when she came out. She couldn’t have come out of her mommy’s cunt any more stunned. Her face was dead white and her eyes were fish-wide open.

“I made a mistake. Don’t do it. Don’t do anything they tell you to.”

Before she could say more, they wheeled her away.

I got to like that room, the women who were more scared than I was so I could comfort them, the feeling someone was taking care of me. I felt more secure there than in the outside world. I wanted a permanent abortion.

They strapped my ankles and wrists to this black slab. When I asked the huge blond anesthesia nurse if there was any chance I’d react badly to the anesthesia, she told the other huge blond nurse I was a health-food freak. After that I didn’t ask them anything, and I did exactly what they told me.

An hour later a big hand shook me and told me it was time to go. Girls were lying all around me, half dead. Blood was coming out between my legs. Another nurse gave me a piece of Kotex, a half a cup of coffee, my clothes, twenty penicillin pills and told me to get out. I didn’t get to talk to any of the other girls.

Penelope Mowlard was the creepiest girl in my class. Her skin was green. She was stupid. She didn’t know how to kiss. She was gangly. She was an idiot. Her face was scrunched up, covered with snot, partly eyeless, and her hair was full of puke.

Miss Richard’s was a school for nice, well-bred girls. We knew better than to get visibly in trouble. For months Penelope wandered through the classrooms and hallways with a larger and larger stomach. She was too stupid to know what was going on. The teachers didn’t tell ’cause they were scared, or mean dykes. We didn’t tell her ’cause it was fun to make her suffer.

Early one morning the janitor, an old man, found a bloody bundle in the bottom of one of the basement garbage cans. Later that day we saw that Penelope’s stomach had disappeared. The principal couldn’t suspend her ’cause she had to do everything she could to prevent scandal.

I couldn’t figure out what birth-control method to use. Foams and diaphragm creams tasted so bad every time I got the chance to feel a tongue on my cunt, I chose the tongue. An IUD made me bleed and get PID again. There was a druggist in Harlem who’d slip me some pills every other month if I’d give him a blow-job under the counter, but once every other month isn’t enough. All the boys I fucked refused to use condoms.

I decided that if I got pregnant again, I’d stick a broken hanger up my cunt. I didn’t care if I died as long as the baby died. Then I heard a story about a woman, I think it’s true, who was so desperate to kill her baby she chained flatirons around her arms, legs and stomach and threw herself down three flights of stairs. Even though almost every bone in her body broke, her baby didn’t die and she gave birth in traction.

I was still desperate to fuck. Abortions make it dangerous to fuck again, because they stretch out the opening of the womb so that the sperm can reach the egg real easily. They upset the hormonal system: The hormones send out many more eggs to compensate. They leave gaping holes in the womb, and any foreign object that nears these holes can cause infection.

I’m not trying to tell you about the rotgut weird parts of my life. Abortions are the symbol, the outer image, of sexual relations in this world. Describing my abortions is the only real way I can tell you pain and fear… my unstoppable drive for sexual love made me know.

My second abortion took place two months after my first abortion.

It cost $50 because it was a menstrual extraction. The differences between a menstrual extraction and an abortion are:

In a menstrual extraction, the doctor doesn’t dilate the cervix. The baby is still too small.

Since the doctor may or may not find the baby, menstrual extractions can be dangerous and they’re illegal.

Most of the doctors who perform menstrual extractions are not certified M.D.’s.

The minute I entered the office, they doped me up with Valium.

The factory line was shorter.

I actually saw the doctor.

He was the only doctor there.

He killed 32 to 48 babies and netted $1,600 to $2,400 a day.

He stuck his hand up my cunt and told me I was okay.

He stuck a little needle in my arm and tried to be nice to me.

A week after my second abortion I came down with a case of PID. When I called up the doctor to complain, he said it wasn’t his fault and he had never heard of me.

I didn’t know how much these abortions hurt me physically and mentally. I was desperate to fuck more and more so I could finally get love. Soon, my total being was on fire, not just my sex, and I was doing everything to make the nonsexual equivalent of love happen.

The rest of the Scorpions were growing the same way I was.

We started out making trouble. Early one morning we rode in a stolen van into a Connecticut town and busted into a hardware store. We threw everything in the store out the door.

Understand, we don’t hate—we have to get back. Fight the dullness of shit society. Alienated robotized images. Here’s your cookie, ma’am. “No” to anything but madness.

Broken glass lies over the floor. Gum sticks everywhere. Shit smeared in the cracks of the table. Their cash register is ash black, like a burnt-up telephone book.

We made the store into a death house, and made the street look like the New York City east-side slum we had to live in.

As soon as we had accomplished our purpose, we left the Connecticut town.

We stole.

Me and Monkey were the first to steal. We were high on meth. We ripped off Bloomingdale’s, a big department store in New York City.

I was going somewhere where my father and his girlfriend were also going. Johnny and his girlfriend wanted nothing to do with me.

We took a taxi to Bloomingdale’s so we could be straight. I was dressed in a red wool suit and a light brown wool coat. It’s necessary to be straight when you steal.

I was hanging on to the end of the taxi Johnny and his girlfriend had picked me up in. Clearly, they wanted nothing to do with me. The rest of Johnny’s rock band were in the car.

As soon as Monkey and I got to Bloomingdale’s, we separated. I checked my appearance. My dark curly hair, light makeup and dark red suit made me look like a nice, rich girl. I wanted to stay that way. Being nice and rich is a dream. I checked my vibes. I told myself to stay guarded, slow and calm. As I entered the store, I checked out the store’s vibes. No one was following me.

Daddy and I are standing in the downstairs of the Laguna Beach Hotel, which is Nixon’s favorite hotel. Facing me, there’s a rectangular white wall. A few feet below this white wall, and to its right, single stairs with no back move upward. Further to the right, another large rectangular white wall. Set in this wall, one-third of its width further right, an absolutely black hallway. Above this white wall, empty space; above the empty space, a white hanging rectangle means a room. There’s nothing around these walls, staircase and hall.

Back East, architectural objects are connected to, hidden in each other.

I move alone without daddy, forward backward through the hotel. The hotel is now, is really large transparent squares. I glide to the final back room.

The back wall of this room is really windows. Windows are opaque. Windows through which I’m seeing a black phosphorescent ocean. None of the men in daddy’s band want to be with me and daddy’s with Sally. I want to go swimming—I have to go swimming. The ocean is bright green, even though it’s night. The ocean is glowing.

Now the window is totally transparent. Through it I see a man’s body, as if dead, turning in the sparkling green water.

I wanted a fur coat.

Little halls surround one long, black, major hall. Thin white walls, almost nonexistent, separate these halls.

I bought a red sweater in the Junior Department on the third floor, so anyone who was watching would know that I wasn’t a thief.

Then I rode the escalator upstairs to the Fur Department. Tossing my brown woolen coat across a rack, I tried on fur after fur. Stealing is luxury. Ten or 15 minutes later the salesgirl had to run across the hall to get change.

Of course, daddy and Sally and the boys in his band are given their rooms first. My room is the room no one else in the world wants.

My bedroom is the huge white hexagon in the front left corner of the hotel. It has no clear outside or inside or any architectural regularity. Long white pipes form part of its ceiling. Two of its sides, which are always changing, are open.

My bedroom’s function is also unclear. Its only furniture are two barber’s chairs and a toilet. It’s a gathering place for men.

Hotel men dressed in white and black come in and want to hurt me. They cut away parts of me. I call for the hotel head. He explains that my bedroom used to be the men’s toilet. I understand.

My cunt used to be a men’s toilet.

I walk out in a leopard coat.

Dear dreams,

You are the only thing that matters.

I didn’t have enough food, so I started working in a hippie bakery.

It was 1977.

Working for money is the omnipresent fact of American life.

I wasn’t allowed to cook or make any decisions. My job was to hand people the bread or cookies they wanted and take their money. I also made vegetable juices, sliced bialies and dumped spreads made out of tofu and vegetables between the slices.

Because I work, I am nobody.

A 26-year-old English-accented Parisian hippie worked the counter with the Lousy Mindless Salesgirl. The hippie never did any work because she had to spend all her time finding out from the customers what she should do with her life and how she was going to be creative.

(Inside a small East Village bakery)

“Why do you smile at everyone?” the hippie asked the Lousy Mindless Salesgirl while the latter was desperately trying to read just one page.

“Why shouldn’t I smile?”

“You don’t really like everyone, do you? You shouldn’t act nice if you don’t feel like it.”

“How should I act?”

“Act like you feel. You don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

“I don’t feel anything.” The Lousy Mindless Salesgirl wanted to kill the stupid hippie.

“Then don’t smile and be nice to customers.”

“I’m being paid to smile.”

“You’re acting hypocritically, Janey. It’s because you’re male-centered. Look at me. I don’t smile when I don’t feel like it, and I don’t go out of my way to help anyone.”

Just then, a middle-aged shriveled man walked into the bakery. “Can I have a glass of wheat-grass juice?” he asked.

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “Certainly, sir.” (She runs around the counter to get a paper cup, runs back around the counter, down on her hands and knees to get the juice out of the front fridge, stands to pour, down on her hands and knees to put the juice away, back to standing.) “Here you are, sir.”

Middle-aged Shriveled Man: “Did you know that this juice kills all the diseases in the world if you drink enough of it? It kills cancer. In the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar ate grass and cured all of his afflictions.”

Twenty-year-old Whorelike Jew Lady (who entered the bakery while Lousy Mindless Salesgirl was making the wheat-grass run) standing very close to Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “What do you do?”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “What do you mean, ‘What do I do’?”

Twenty-year-old Whorelike Jew Lady: “How else do you make your money? Are you a whore?”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “No. I go to school.”

A Wispy Blond Hippie Girl: “I want that cookie and that cookie and two of those and, is that one soft?… I’ll take that one. And a loaf of round bread.” As the Lousy Mindless Salesgirl’s climbing on the shelf to get the bread: “Do you like your job?”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “It’s okay.”

Wispy Blond Hippie: “Is something the matter with this job? Are you discontent?”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “I’m not in love with handing out cookies and taking money four hours a day. It’s okay.”

Wispy Blond Hippie: “If you took more of an interest in the bakery, went inside to see how the cookies are made, talked to the customers more, maybe you’d like this job better.”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “When I’m here, I’m being paid to take care of the customers, and otherwise I don’t have any time. I have to do my homework.”

Wispy Blond Hippie: “Oh, I see. You have your own thing.”

As the wispy blond hippie walks out of the bakery, the Parisian hippie says: “You’re rude.”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “Why am I rude?”

Parisian Hippie Salesgirl: “You should know.”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl (panicking): “I don’t know. Why am I rude?”

Parisian Hippie Salesgirl: “You’re just not a nice person.”

Lousy Mindless Salesgirl: “Look. If we’re going to work together, we’re going to have to get along some minimal bit. You can’t just insult me for no reason at all.”

Parisian Hippie Salesgirl: “You don’t like playing those games, do you?” (Walks away from the Lousy Mindless Salesgirl.)

From then on, everyone at the bakery avoided me. I was the plague, and there was a huge circle of emptiness around me. If another counter girl was supposed to be working, the moment she saw me she retreated into the back room.

I had to do all the counter work. My father stopped sending me money. I had to work seven days a week. I had no more feelings. I was no longer a real person. If I stopped work for just a second, I would hate. Burst through the wall and hate. Hatred that comes out like that can be a bomb.

I hated most that I didn’t have any more dreams or visions. It’s not that the vision-world, the world of passion and wildness, no longer existed. It always is. But awake I was disconnected from dreams. I was psychotic.

I walked out of my crummy school. It was already night. I was running ’cause I was late for the bakery. I tripped.

“Ha ha ha,” some boys were chuckling behind me. Fuck them.

“Just ’cause she used to be part of the Scorpions, she thinks she’s tough,” some dumb gum-chewer snarled. “Now she’s handing dumb little cookies to dumb little people. I bet she got her cunt sewn up.”

I did. I kept running so I wouldn’t be late to work.

“Cumere.”

I kept on running.

“Cumere.” Something grabbed my shoulder. “Look at me.” As the hand turned my body around, the other hand shoved my chin up so my eyes saw a pair of gray Chinese eyes and a long nose. I couldn’t see anything else ’cause of the darkness.

“Don’t listen to them. They never used their cocks in their lives. I hear you make it with a lot of guys.”

“I used to. I don’t anymore. Who’re you?”

“Heh heh heh.” His laugh sounded like a sneer to me. “I hear you used to not even care what the guys’ names were who you made it with.”

“What do you want with me?”

“I want to stick my dick between your legs.”

“You can’t.” I was back to my old hard Scorpion way of speaking. And his hand running up and down my back hard made my legs wet.

“You don’ wanna. You don’ wanna.” He was talking right in my ear. “What does girlie wanna do? You gotta boy at home you gotta go and screw? You gotta boy who’s a better screw than me?” The words were closer and hotter. “You’re coming home with me now.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I gotta go to work.”

“What’s the bitch crying about?” “Why don’t you beat her up, Tommy?” “Punch her in the stomach.”

“My friends like you,” he whispered right into my ear as he pushed me along. “We’re gonna be hot together.”

“Listen. I can’t go home with you. I’m not what you think. I lose my job and I’ll be up shit-creek. I’m not going to give up my life for a one-night fuck.”

His lips came down on mine. His tongue traveled in and covered mine. His hands ran huge insects down my back.

I guess a long time passed, but I didn’t know.

“Well?”

“Uh—” I didn’t know. “If I come home with you, I’ll ruin the friendship between us.”

His hand brought my mouth to his mouth till his mouth was fucking my mouth. It was a fountain. We shoved against each other.

He lifted his head. “It’s up to you,” he told me.

I went home with him and didn’t give a shit anymore about anything else but him.

Love turned me back to crime. Tommy and I kidnapped children. Smeared up the walls of buildings. Carried dangerous weapons and used them. Did everything we could to dull our judgment, and acted as outrightly violent as possible. Shitted on the streets. Attacked strangers with broken bottles. Hit people over the head with hard objects. Kicked the guts out of people on the streets. Started fights and riots.

I could barely stand being so happy. The sex made me crazier than the crime. I started to thrash just when he touched me; just his fingers pinching my nipples made me come. I couldn’t stop rushing toward him like an overloaded volcano…

We pulled into the rock club about one o’clock. It looked like a war was happening.

We had heard that this rock band called the Contortions was gonna play in a redneck town in New Jersey and that the white, head singer thought he was James Brown. The rest of the band would be too drunk to stop the rednecks from beating up Brown.

James Brown was crawling babystyle across the floor.

The rednecks were jerking their cocks off in a corner.

James Brown crawled up to the redneck’s boot.

The redneck, confused, jumped James.

Everyone in the club started hitting each other.

I heard cops’ sirens.

I ran.

The rest of the Scorpions were behind me.

We piled into the van.

Green and pink lights flashed past us, neon yellow and violet lights gleamed.

The bright lights were denser and denser.

We were moving faster.

“Hey,” Sally said, “step on it.”

“Huh?”

“The cops’re after us.”

He drove faster.

“Can’t ya go faster?”

He drove even faster.

I heard the cops’ sirens clearly.

“Suck my tits.” Greaso leaned over and sucked Sally’s tit while he drove.

“Watch where you’re going, Greaso.”

The cops’ sirens were louder.

Greaso’s foot hit the accelerator all the way.

We were in a totally black section of Newark.

A tiny red light appeared in the blackness.

The red light grew larger and larger.

I don’t remember the crash. Everyone died but Monkey, who got brain damage, and me. For a few days I floated in a dream.

The blackness I now see everywhere comes from perverted because unrealized wants. I see this. I won’t be able to pretend the world isn’t horrible. Overwhelming fear separates me from the want I saw. Now, overwhelming fear makes me part of the death world.

High Times Magazine, February 1983

Read the full issue here.

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