Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Eternal Malignancy and The Void

I met a woman last night who has every autoimmune deficiency I have ever heard of.  She has food allergies that can kill her.  Mold is death.  She's had breast cancer and chemo twice since she was seventeen.  She had chemo for endometriosis, too, if you can believe that.  She can't go into crowds, can't go into the sun.  She is twenty-nine. 

Last night, she came to the studio.  She was sweet and talkative.  She apologized for rambling, said she didn't get to talk to people any more.  She can't work and stays at home.  She reads and plays video games, she said.  She has a degree in photography and knew about everything I do and knew more.  She talked about printers and papers and alternative processes.  She said she didn't shoot with many photographers but wanted to shoot with me.  I was intimidated. 

She was a Suicide Girl and like many of them, she had a nerdy appearance.  Her mannerisms were very midwestern which is where she was born and lived almost all her life.  Without the tats, she would have been a plain, folksy girl. 

Tats, no metal.  I asked why. 

"I'm allergic to the metals," she said. 

I was certain she didn't drink, but to be polite, I asked her anyway.  She lacked a protein, she said, that would allow her liver to break down alcohol.  It doesn't leave her body.  She stays drunk for days.    So. . . no. 

Her hair was just growing back from her latest round of chemo.  She had been on bed rest for seven months.  She'd lost forty pounds, she said.  She was trying to put some of the weight back on. 

When she took off her clothes, she was beautiful, but she looked frail, and, I must say, her body carried a little sadness.  Her poses spoke of what she'd suffered through.  Her eyes were a bit tired, I thought.  She was heartbreaking. 

I had to ask her:  "Do you feel lucky or unlucky?"

"Oh, I wake up every day and feel lucky to be alive." 

It was one way of looking at it, and probably the correct way.  We talked as much as we shot.  I let her rest between poses.  She said that she had some condition that made her heart rate jump to extraordinary rates with the smallest amount of exercise.  I had to ask her:

"Do you expect to live long?"

"My doctors have already had that conversation with me.  No, I can't expect that." 

"Well, let me tell you, nothing good happens after fifty anyway."  It is not true, but it is true, too. 

"That's what my grandmother tells me," she laughed. 

She was the loveliest of people.  One can only wonder at the sheer heartbreak of things. 

My mother is in her eighties.  She had a squamous cancer cut out of her shin yesterday.  It is a difficult surgery because of her age.  Circulation and healing and all of that.  My mother is a tough country girl from the depression, so she barely complains.  Everyone goes through hard times.  It makes me feel frail. 

I shot with the model for a long time and didn't get home until late.  I am burning the days at both ends again. . . twelve shoots in fourteen days with more coming all week long.  I stayed home and worked on photos yesterday.  Didn't leave the house.  I got eight done.  It takes so long to make one.  People don't understand.  Now I have models wondering when they will get their pictures. I feel terrible and should quit shooting until I get caught up, but it is a mania of sorts.  I have models driving four hours to shoot for two.  It is something of a phenomenon if not a miracle.  I work for sainthood. 

It was late when I cooked dinner, or heated it up, rather, N.Y. Strip and sautéed potatoes left over from Saturday night.  A can of pinto beans.  I sat down to relax.  I found "Mad Men" on demand and watched Sunday night's episode.  It started well and ended well, a stylized account of what it means to be alone with loss.  Donald Draper--screwing away the emptiness.  The fucking void.  I allowed myself a scotch, for I was going to bed alone with too much to think about. 

That model.  When she looked at me with those blind eyes (couldn't see anything without her glasses), I just swam in her gaze.  You will see.  There is a milky river of suffering there, of love and desire and the eternal malignancy that haunts our lives.  Sometimes I think that I need another way to spend my time.  Making miniature sailing ships or collecting stamps.

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