Jackie

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Translated by Gitta Honegger


Collaborators: Randy Taraborrelli, Elisabeth Veit, Roland Barthes u.a.

JACKIE should appear in a Chanel suit, I think (you would have to have very good reasons to do it differently!) One could also take as a model that last photograph in Central Park (with Maurice Tempelsman), the one on the bench, trench coat, wig (hair lost because of chemo), sun glasses and HermŤs scarf.

In any case, she should work hard. I imagine all her dead loved ones, her children, well, the embryo and the two dead babies arenít that heavy, but those dead men, Jack, Bobby, Telis (ďAriĒ), theyíll be quite a load, so, how shall I put it, she should drag those dead ones behind her like in a tug-of-war. Or like a Wolga boatman with his boat. Sorry, I canít make it easier for you. At least the blood on her suit doesnít weigh that much, and there is a chunk missing from Jackís skull. The actress should drag the bodies (which are tied to each other) behind her with great effort, which makes her speech increasingly breathless, panting for breath she will have to stop her monologue at some point, because she canít go on. According to her condition and the way she feels on a given day, this will happen sometimes sooner, sometimes later. And then the monologue is done and over. But I am sure youíll come up with something completely different.

JACKIE

Well, I suggest myself like my waist, which I donít stress. I wear understated clothes. My waist would be wasted if stressed and instantly cast off, I mean cast in. Oh no, well, I am about to make a crucial decision and I decide differently:†† my waste shall not be cast in anything, it should just be suggested. Itís not something I would stress about myself. I stick to my shifts or whatever they are called, those little loose dresses little girls wear. I am the little girl inside the woman. I politely take off my self when I am talking to somebody, and yet I also stay, if far above. I prefer to be suspended in all those pictures of myself and dragged along, that way I donít have to do anything. On the other hand there are those furious activities in matters of home furnishing and decorating. Early American, crowned like a rotting tooth with Louis-Seize drapes, thatís what they used to call good taste in those days, imagine! No, better not imagine things. Because one never knows, which pot feeds the imagination in the soup kitchen of the poor. I had to come and suggest myself to the population, which put its faith in me and got nothing in return. One has to add pomp and majesty to everything except oneself, one should stay simple and that takes gutsóespecially for the sort of total restraint, the barely breathed triviaóa boldness that turns into complete stillness, as soon as one appears to the public as Our Lady of Miracles. Itís a miracle that a picture like me can speak at all! One must turn into the footsteps people hear in front of the door, which make them instantly freeze in fear. Thatís power. Thatís not the gateway to power, as they always show it in the magazines.† Thatís power itself, it dispenses its limbs delicately like clothes, and invisible hands take hold of them, hands, which drop to their knees in front of themselves, so to speak. One sees and doesnít see power. One has to present oneís head in beautiful movements, bundle them in a photo, tie them up and hold them hostage of oneself. As the lover of oneself. Thatís why Jackís countless lovers didnít get to me, because they didnít get it. One has to be captured by oneself in order to be able to captivate others. One has to be still, but loudest in that stillness, so that one instills sensations in others as if injecting medication into a patient. People need those sensations, because they donít have them, but they know them nevertheless. They are described to them constantly, in the rustle of those colorful rags, in the rush of coming by oneself, which is the safest way, unless itís already too late. Their parents can die, their children can die, their dogs can die, but when one of us dies they throw out all their opportunities to do so themselves like rocks onto a pile, and lift up their mugs and howl. They are incapable of stepping back, they are even less capable of stepping on us. Theyíd rather step up to us and be like us. And whatever they are not, they want to have described to them, but it should be something they already know, otherwise they wouldnít get it. For what? Should we live for them? Itís logical somehow, that a shot put an end to all that. Well, no, it all began only with that shot. Looking at us with great interest, as if they were seeing themselves in the mirror thatís what people are doing all the time. They see us, but actually they see themselves in us. But a treasure like myself is most appreciated when absent. On the other hand, I can be seen everywhere. With the little jacket during the day. I buy them by the dozens, but they donít come cheaper. I cast myself as a castóplaster, but not plastered, and not my waist. My waist isnít cast in plaster, and my hair isnít plastered. Itís lacquered. I also have a wig, although I always denied it. Joan, that boozer, gave me away; she was cast out, that also was stressed. And how! Yet she is the only one who produced responsible heirs. Ethel: almost only irresponsible heirs. Myself: so so. They balance each other out. Only one is left anyway and she at least is the declaimer of order. She lives to recite† me and her father; she wonít have to save us, we are saved; not because we had so much to do in life, but because we were. At least she doesnít recite other peopleís stories. Joan was the most beautiful of us all, but also the least of all. But that Teddy really is an ass. When we still existed as human beings, they called us personalities, but Teddy isnít even that. But he is still alive. Not bad. Drowning in the actóreally now! Well, at least only her, the little secretary, not he. He must have come up pretty fast while the car was sinking; it seemed to have sunk instantly. As if the car was a whale, which had to move quickly from land into the sea because fishermen with flashing cameras were after him. That poor little blond fish stayed behind, below, Mary Jo. Yes, unfortunately Teddy was our last chance, the only survivor, but he didnít use it, he took another. Then it was over with the careers in the family. I became a statue, as ordered, with a bleeding man falling on it and no one forgetting his face during those last minutes. People can also cast themselvesóto use that term againóby getting cast out and out of sight. Like Joan. My husband also disappeared and remained as the permanent scar in a wound, lit forever by a sanctuary lamp, the eternal light, so they wonít forget us; I am lying there too, with the dead children. Johnjohn, unfortunately, didnít get in, because he didnít serve. The soldiersí cemetery: Only for those who served! He is ashes now, in the ocean, and the boats of the Americaís Cup are racing through him, thatís nice too, isnít it? I wouldnít call it pleasant in the ER, things never turned out well for us there. The public responds absolutely the same way to both the disappearing and the reemerging. The public isnít neutral, it expresses itself specifically to become the determining factor, the ruler that measures us, the rulers, who fall into their own image, falling over it occasionally, because they overstepped themselves and thatís a sight people canít shake off. Somehow I canít get myself to expose the public, which has a right to every detail, to the sight of the smashed head with the brain oozing into my lap. The doctors understand that; the secret service men do too. They have to understand everything, even though we donít get it. Oh Jack, oh Jack, I love you, I sob. What else should I say? I canít very well pretend we had planned to meet in the hospital. We hold each other and gently pat each otherís backs, while we cry softly, because so many of us died and now us, too; well, I am dead in any case. It's alright, we tell ourselves, it's alright, let it come out, let it all come out, every last bit of it. I just got over my crying spell, Ethelís is starting just now, Joan appears, tearless, but then she starts to cry as well , no, she doesnít; yes, now her tears finally arrive, if somewhat late, though no one was waiting, no, I see, they were awaited nonetheless. Ready for the River. Get those tears into the ocean of tears! And out of sight. With that look on your face you wonít get anywhere, you better take this one! Iíve tried it already some other place, but it wasnít right for there. That oneís like a shoe that takes you noiselessly up the stairs, where you slip and fall down again screaming loudly. Oh, had we just put it on in time, that cute, non-slip soft shoe routine, that always stops the show. And then filter everything thatís coming through a black veil, youíll find the taste incomparable. I held up well, until Ethel came, then I got my self-portrait from my portrait gallery and I stood there, a woman in black up to the straps that tied me to the coffin. In front of me the two small children with their well bred faces, the little red shoes, the powder blue coats, didnít I doll them up adorably, theyíll be remembered for centuries, youíll see. No, unfortunately you wonít see. But you can watch it on film five thousand times and you still won't have enough of it and you still won't have seen anything. I did that well, didn't I? All my doing, convincing people of this enchanting death in red and powder blue, of this death in the shape of two small children, cute, like a slim heaven, something like that, this death thatís in store for them as well, but it wonít be as awesome, I am afraid. They open their mouths to grasp it. The horse without a rider, the empty boots turned upside down, their legs in the stirrups. And Jack hated horses! He was allergic to their gorgeous hair. Well, not I. Riding, tennis, skiing, water skiing, thatís the way I embrace myself. As soon as I turned my back to him, Jack immediately came on to one woman or another, but that was the Cortisone. Turns you on, without having to let go of Momís hand. Every day the ladiesí man advances, without having taken any lessons, but he is a sloppy learner. He doesnít have to work hard. It comes to him. No woman can escape his personality. He jumps into every woman, but he wonít jump into an argument with me. I finally cleared up that thing with Marilyn, he told me he was finished with her before her death, therefore he couldnít be held responsible for her death. He said, she had big problems long before they met. I finally came to the conclusion that they really couldnít blame him for what happened. His father always pays. He pays me too, after all. If I have to marry and stay married, then his father should pay. Mine couldnít do that, paying. I had to marry, there was no other way to disperse of my charms, they always needed a permanent address. Not like Sylvia Plath, who was allowed to accept the fellowship at a womanís magazine and as a consequence was almost poisoned by the lobster mayonnaise which was offered to the girls, well, that could have saved her a lot of troubles. No one would have offered me that sort of stuff. No one would have dared. You see, I donít need a fellowship for dying. I know how it goes. I already knew. I know how it goes. No matter what. Someone like Plath never becomes an icon, except for stupid women, who think they have gotten a brain of their own. Ridiculous! Where should it come from?! Where would they use it, except for petty affairs? I wasnít allowed to accept my fellowship at Vogue. Mother was against it. You have to marry rich, she said. Quite right. Donít lose an entire year. You can use that year for something better. And how long does one have to wait during visiting hours on Judgment Day, when thereís no one there to support your arm, because one has to wait forever on the gangway for God to finally arrive and shake hands with you? Even de Gaulle and Khrushchev didnít take that long! Keep in mind that you could-knock on wood-be wooed by any number of men. Time for a poemóabsolutelyóbut make sure your dress works like a poem! Got it! You must adapt! Only when you have gotten everyoneís attention, have you truly adapted. Lean against flesh, even if itís rotted, as long as it is richly garnished, so that the flesh disappears underneath. No one could have done a better job educating a woman in power than Mom did with me. She doesn't grasp me, but she's right. She was like that herself. I grasp myself, but there is only air and deep pain, like water that turns into a highway when you water ski, hard as a road thatís ahead of you, but you still can drown in it. That never happens in a sea of tears. There you always can get out. Why should the President learn anything, the women are coming all by themselves. Those men. The first men who became sexy through sports. The sisters too. No, thatís not true. Itís true only today, since female athletes have to undress. They started it. Those Rah-Rah girls. Always shouting, fighting, kicking, screaming, cheering and then the fire, made of nothing but hot air and winds, fanning, blowing, tumbling on top of each other, women soccer teams, women players, biting, stomping, scratching. They always did that well, those women; their sinews zipping like bows and arrows all over the place, in all directions, women pushing each other around like vehicles on a bursting arterial road during rush hour. As if they would be thrown into the air at any moment, if they didnít hold on tight to the earth. Or is it true after all that all of us female figures, stringy as we were, without any meat on our bones, became the showcases for our generation and all those coming after? I most of all. Look at us and order something similar right away, because youíll never get the same! We looked as if we would never be subject to decay, there didnít seem to be an ounce of flesh anywhere. We were somehow meatless, healthy, yes and yet it was our flesh that was always hit the hardest. If it really had been flesh. Instead fate always encountered a taut safety net and tossed us back up in the air, no matter what happened. Yes, fate took note of us and then it wrote us up all the way to the end of our best parts. Since then it only copied from us, Fate, down to the third and fourth member. Canít come up with anything new, Fate that is. A sprawling novel, extracted from life, but no, we were life itself. They extract from us! But not just a little! No one was ashamed. No woman can keep her figure, only with us it lasts forever. We make the most of our pounds, but there are only a few. We have no bodies. Please, Fate, go ahead, help yourself! Just a moment, I have to cast myself into the new shape that is prescribed to me by my clothes, and I advised Mr. Cassini to make the clothes according to my measurements, but in such a way that they never touch my body. Nothing and no one must touch me, when I don't want it.

...

The complete text is available in THEATER, Volume 36, Number 2, published by the Yale School of Drama and Duke University Press. (Readers can order it at www.dukeupress.edu/theater ).

1.3.2006


Jackie © 2006 Elfriede Jelinek / Translation Gitta Honegger

 

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