Involuntary Movements of the Extremities: I was touched by Gustav Mahler.
Fiction by Carla Bozulich

From Ben Is Dead, Black Issue # 24, Summer '94, page 45

Once when I was a junky whore, I was standing outside of Arby's on Sunset
waiting for someone to pick me up so I could make a fast twenty bucks for a
shot of heroin.  A young guy pulled up in a red sports car and we went to
his house.  He turned out to be smart person and sort of interesting
(especially considering the fact that I rarely came in contact with anyone
that spoke my language.) He had played for the California Angels until one
day on acid, he realized he was wasting his life so he quit pro-baseball to
get a degree in philosophy.  He didn't want to have sex.  He wanted to
bathe me and feed me and keep me safe in his little house.  He told me that
I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and he cried when he
realized just how fucked up I was and how little I cared about getting
myself out of trouble.

I was addicted to heroin and cocaine.  I was so mentally and physically
debilitated and downright gross that I was lucky to get twenty dollars for
a blow job or whatever else.  I often took less.  Therefore, I had to turn
as many as fifteen tricks a day to get enough money to support my habit.  I
could never wait until I had enough money to buy a substantial amount of
anything.  I had to go cop as soon as I had the money in my pocket and fix
right away.  So I had this routine which continued uninterrupted except for
the occasional catastrophe like going to jail, or getting beat up, or
meeting a guy like this new friend.  (Every whore knows one.  He falls in
love with sick prostitute fanaglers who, in the course of his crusade to
show her the light, will take him for everything he's worth and leave him
dazed and ruined.)  My typical schedule consisted of: walking, turning a
trick, going to cop, finding somewhere to shoot up (I had no car or home),
doing the drugs, then walking some more until the next man pulled over, and
so on, for days on end until my body insisted on sleep, sometimes at very
inopportune moments.  Once in a while I had the opportunity to participate
in a crime that didn't involve my pussy, but these were few and far between.

I was twenty years old and a raving, muttering, sometimes violent madwoman.
 My toenails had fallen off, my hair came out in clumps.  I was scabby and
dirty, bruised, battered, and totally resigned to my impending death.  I
don't mean to be melodramatic, it's just that things were really that bad
and the way I felt about it was this strange peace.  I had stopped wanting
to try to get out.  My routine was meditative.  I was a kind of whore for
the most part.  I knew I was going to die there.

So yeah, he cried when he realized these things.  We went through a period
of about a week where he would try to give me enough money for drugs to
keep me off the streets.  Needless to say, there's no such thing as that
kind of money, and I recall a hazy memory of a trip to Mexico, which I
think was some kind of plan like, "We'll leave town with only a little bit
of heroin and after a few days you'll run out and then you can drink as
much Tequila as you want.  After a couple of weeks, you won't be a junky
whore anymore."  I think we returned home after forty-eight hours.  In
another attempt at the impossible, he bought be a car but I simply did not
possess the motor skills or common sense to even get out of the driveway.
He would talk endlessly about our new life together after I got over my
little problem.  He was more delusional that I was.  *I* was going to *die.*

My recollection of this time is foggy, but somehow I ended up in a county
detox center.  It was a last stop kinda place for addicts with no money.
Fourteen days, with seven days of methadone, in a room with forty people
coughing and moaning and whining as only junkies know how to do, and you
wish you were dead.  I had been there before.

Anyway, during my stay in this place, my man, my fiancÚ, this guy who
wouldn't leave me alone, was busy trying to make my stay as comfortable as
possible.  He brought me something to help me rise above my self-centered
misery and far.  Something to pass the time in a state of musical
intoxication.  He brought be all nine symphonies and the unfinished tenth
by Gustav Mahler.  For anybody who doesn't know about Mahler, it would be
difficult to understand the strangeness and irony of selecting these works
for a person in the midst of the step-by-step dismantling of their own body
and mind.

Yes, clean socks and underwear!  Yes, candy and cigarettes.  Yes, a
new-wave, waterproof, yellow Walkman with auto-reverse.  But Mahler!?
Bring me a fucking Blondie retrospective!  As a gallant measure, he warned
me to listen to the early ones first--said the later ones were kind of
depressing.  Thanks like telling a prize fighter no to step into the ring
-- I went straight for the ninth symphony.

The music he brought me caused my nerves to unhinge even further and
reminded me of everything that was, and had ever been wrong with the world,
which, although excruciatingly beautiful at times, was obviously spiraling
hopelessly into some kind of magnetic "shitfield."

Mahler himself was a tragic character.  He was born in 1860, the 2nd of 14
children, 6 of which he would see die while he was still a child.  His
mother-a crippled, sickly woman, got married, without love, to an abusive
alcoholic wine maker.  Some say that Mahler's strange way of walking, in
which every few steps his feet would seem to "fall out of rhythm," was
adopted from watching his lame mother walk.  From the onset of his life, he
was subject to racial harassment and discrimination, and considered being a
Jew a liability.  This situation wound up culminating in 1897 when Mahler,
convinced that he was not being appointed the conductor at the Vienna Court
Opera because he was Jewish, coverted to Catholicism.  Within three months,
he became the conductor.  He also had a lot of trouble getting along with
people and was considered a major pain in the ass by many that worked with
him.  For most of his adult life the money he made was spent supporting his
family, particularly a sister, Justine, who leached off him mercilessly to
support her high-booty standard of living, keeping him, his wife Alma, and
his children in poverty.  When he was 35, his brother Otto shot himself in
the head.  In 1907, when he was 47, his daughter Maria died and he was
diagnosed with a terminal heart lesion.  At this time he wrote his most
death-engrossed and maybe his greatest work -- "Das Lied von der Erde" or
"The Song of the Earth."  This piece is especially interesting when you
realize that it is, in reality, Mahler's Ninth Symphony, but that he did
not want to call it this because he believed that all great composers died
after writing their ninth, as in the cases of Beethoven and Bruckner.  So
he called it "Das Lied von der Erde" and called his next symphony Number
Nine.  This fancy switch-a-roo backfired however, and he died in 1907 after
writing "the Ninth Symphony" which was actually his tenth.  He did being a
"tenth" (eleventh) but died before it was completed.  Perhaps he should
have eliminated the number all-together as superstitious high-rise builders
do with the number "13."

At any rate, Mahler is dead... and I?  I am very much alive.  I've
blossomed like a goddamn butterfly.  As for my friend, he disappeared soon
after I jumped out of the window at the detox and hitch-hiked to my
dealer's house looking to trade a brand new Walkman for a few bags.  It
took me almost a year before I got fucked over enough not to be able to
fight when the right people finally came to help me.  I barely recall the
first six months I spent with no drugs in my system.  I know I spent most
of it laying around on a couch consuming mass quantities of food and
antibiotics.  Seven years have gone by since then.  No needles.  I don't
even drink.  I love my stupid life like nobody's business.  And that's what
I hear when I listen to Mahler.  The beauty and horror inevitably follow
one after the other, blending nonsensically until the sweet and bitter...end.

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