Deathlist – Sarah Mangle

Thousands and Thousands Dead.

Thousands and thousands after the glory of glorious sex, dead.

After the glory of glorious drugs and sex, dead.

Sex in the face of all that bullshit, dead.

Risk-takers, dead.

People with years and years of hardened glamour. Practiced and calculating. Fighting fucking hard. Working hard. Looking defiantly right at the camera.

She hit the drums really hard. Her mouth opened up like a huge cave. She screamed into the crowd: DO YOU WANNA LOVE? DO YOU WANNA LOVE? DO YOU WANNA LOVE?

The interviewer behind the camera asked the plaid bearded man on his couch, Do you think it’s healthy that you sleep with so many men – that you don’t have just have one boyfriend? 

The man said, Who says I should have just one boyfriend? Fuck you.

Who are you fucking up? Are you fucking kidding me?

They were fucking to really feel each other. They were fucking to feel alive.    They were fucking to come, to help their lovers come.

Peter says, I try to come out as HIV positive to at least one person a day. You hear my status and you picture my death. It’s such a recent history, but do you really know it? Do you really feel it?

We had a die-in. We carried big black fake coffins on our shoulders into the downtown. I didn’t read the literature, so I didn’t really understand what I was doing there, but they needed someone to help paint the cardboard black and fold the cardboard into the shapes of coffins so I did that.

Let’s make a house for all the cold bodies and a house for all the lukewarm bodies and a house for all the warm bodies.

Make sure you have the right number of everyone. Count everybody. Everyone is lining up. There are no numbers on the doors and we sit on the floor.

We went swimming. We dunked our heads in. We went all the way down in the water – we could swim that far. But it started a panic. People felt uncomfortable and people didn’t know what to do. We were losing the game, and I would’ve told the others the rules, if I’d been allowed to, but back behind me came this thick feeling: if you tell them the rules you lose everything.

They were underwater. They looked like they were underwater. I couldn’t really hear them. They looked like they were very far away. And I was tired. I felt tired of this.

Draw a box, and then draw some of the things in it. You don’t know enough, you don’t think enough, I don’t think enough. I don’t know. I’d like to feel like we’re either all entitled to it, or we all suffer together. I’d like it to feel like that, but it doesn’t.

There are a lot of empty rooms. There are a lot of forms to fill out. There is a lot of space and there’s no room to die. There are not enough beds to die in. The cemetery’s full. But is anyone is really dying anymore? How did we get here? We’re not all in this together but we didn’t get here on our own.

Klaus Nomi is at Fashion Week. He hasn’t designed anything but everyone’s trying to capture his style. No one can sing like Klaus Nomi because no one practices quite as hard. No one has that style. No one has style like Klaus.

I took my friend Peter to the party I always went to on Monday nights but he didn’t feel excited like I always felt. It reminded him of Ottawa. It reminded him of growing up. Peter was drinking and drinking. He was shouting too loud at the wrong times and remembering. I wanted him to shut up but I knew there was a problem with that, with my wanting to manage him, and I wondered why I liked fitting in at that party. He couldn’t and he didn’t want to.

Time moves on its own. Grief is an inexplicable, foggy feeling in the body.

When I heard that Neil died I stood in Emma’s kitchen next to the stools, next to the fridge. She was cooking. She did not notice my strange pause but I could observe myself. It was the rubber body feeling. I could see myself doing something different.

It’s a Deathlist in here, and it’s a Deathlist out there. It is very warm.  We could make breakfast in the gutters. The gutters are like hot plates.

We watch people walk by. I lean against the brick and pull myself up onto the ledge like Peter’s already doing. Later we can go to the two-dollar Peanut Butter Noodle place.

Peter says, as soon as I was diagnosed with HIV they filled me up with pills. I couldn’t tell how I felt. I had no idea. All the support groups were about taking the meds.

Everything smells.

The line in the street is a painted line, a river. The line in the street is a filthy strip of grass. The line in the street is winding its way all the way down the block.

My friend Peter says, I went to theatre school. When I told the school I was HIV positive, the theatre school people grabbed each other’s shoulders and cried.  They felt bad about me “having AIDS”. They wanted to grieve together. They wanted to fall in love and love each other. Blindfold each other and run into walls. They put on a production of Angels in America (but for who?).

I walked down the stairs. My girlfriend walked down afterwards. The street was soaking wet.

When I’m dead, please help my soul to stay by your side. Not like in a creepy way, but I just worry about being lonely.

Klaus Nomi’s friends wouldn’t come to his bedside because no one knew what it was at that time and everyone was scared and no one wanted to catch it.

I read the posters. All the posters on the walls say Get Tested. I felt like the posters were meant for me. I went to the clinic to get tested and the nurse told me I’m in no risk at all, but still I feel those pamphlets follow me to bed. What is on your Deathlist? A comfortable pillow.

So I go to the clinic. I’m given a fake name that I don’t need, but I like the protocol. We all check each other out in that room. Oh honey, the doctor says, you have nothing to worry about. The nurse asks me what I do to help my menstrual cramps. Do you have a Deathwish? Do you ever hope for death?

Eileen Myles, Eileen Myles, what do you see? Eileen Myles, who died that you knew? Did it feel like too much?

Yvette says we walked over to help them die, knowing they wouldn’t have done the same for us. If it was breast cancer, they wouldn’t have helped us. Sarah Schulman said, everyone – all the gays – they’re all in family units now, it would be much more difficult to organize. But condos have such thin walls. Wouldn’t you be able to hear the cries? Wouldn’t you notice the sadness?

I thought maybe my lover’s hands that had eczema could give me HIV but I didn’t ask the nurse.

What’s on your Deathlist? A scene from an overpass. The panoramic movie view over the tops of trees.

The extended pause. The rubber body. The laying down. I am just laying down. I am just laying down here in your office.

I put myself on your Deathlist. Let’s make patches and stickers about it. Later, someone will pin them to a white wall and type up a note.

I want to give my weight to you. My body will do it, or not do it, on its own. In my old house, on my old couch, I am crying. I am crying and crying.

Arthur Russell’s boyfriend just had so much love, in Wild Combination, he said, I don’t know. I guess we weren’t monogamous. You have to do what you do. We were supposed to be monogamous, but, well, you know, shit happens. You have to do your best. The trick is to find the patience to do the things you want to do so bad. You have to do what you do.

What’s the name of the guy who wrote Before Night Falls? There’s that death scene at the end of the movie. His boyfriend lovingly smothered him so he could die after he took a lot of drugs and laid on the couch. He used a plastic bag. Love me enough to kill me. Love me enough to help me die.

I’m on your Deathlist absolutely.

Everyone around us tried to ignore it but it was very hard to ignore.

We didn’t belong and that was the point.

We were all packed together in a room. And the room smelled bad, some people kept talking on and on and on. Trauma follows a person around.

You have your hand up inside me, and it’s like you’re in my insides.

What’s on your Deathwish Deathlist? What’s in your house?

Over and over, we talk a kind of history. We say we’re all in this together.  Who are you? The river. The ocean. Unstoppable bodies of water.

Deathlist is quiet. Deathlist hasn’t left my bed. Deathlist never leaves the party. Deathlist never leaves the street.

I’m not sure how to understand it.

Sarah Mangle is a writer, performer and educator currently living in Toronto Ontario. Sarah sits on the editorial committee for FUSE Magazine and is the advice columnist for Shameless magazine. Sarah is currently working on a multi- year documentary project about her relationship with her lesbian homesteading aunts and hosts bi-monthly performance nights of experimental, new and in progress work and music at The Holy Oak Café in Toronto to fundraise for the video and support the making of critical brave new weird work.

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