A mouth is more than a hole

By Johanna Hedva


A mouth is more than a hole

By Johanna Hedva

Pire Sova, ...Precision That Pain and Desire Make Of Each Other..., 2024

I must confess a theft. But is it a theft? I mean, it will grow back, she was not entirely shanked. They tell me this is worse than theft and then they purr amongst themselves and one, like his throat tickles, coughs about whether they can charge me with criminal battery or assault or both and, ooh, they get giddy and pink, they want to add stalking to the charges too. They say it will go easier for me if I confess because this is the second time I’ve been here (which of course means they’ve only caught me a paltry twice), so they can also get me on serial charges, but when I ask them to clarify what easier means, they, making little fake laughs, blow air out their wamblecropt mouths. They ask if I will sell what I took. Idiots! Absolutely not! No imagination. They ask what I plan to do with it, what I use it for. “I will keep it,” I say, “I’m working on a project.” “A project?” they say, and the tone of their voices is like cut wings that don’t work. Their uniforms are beige, the colour of—well, because of my project, I won’t say. Part of my project is to no longer engage with that which leaves me indifferent. Part of my project is that I want to be smashed into desire and nothing else, to be soaked in appetite is to be wet with life and I want the consequential clarity of that, only that, not an iota of anything vague or faint or dull, certainly not fucking beige. It takes a lot of work to strain for only what I desire, firstly because it’s so hard to define, I mean, what qualifies and what doesn’t? How is a craving, say, different from a need? When does an ache become a fever? See, clarity like this requires vigilance. 

“So,” they say, “you crawl up behind women and cut off their hair? What kind of perverted sack of shit are you?” I ask them to clarify what they mean by perverted, I’d like to confirm that it fits into my project or not, and then they produce a harder, more forceful kind of serrated laughing. I tell them that I’d like to point out that criminal battery means I’ve caused bodily harm, and since a haircut is the most painless of all subtractive interactions a human body can have at the hands of another human, the most they can get me on is stalking because, I’ll allow, yes, I do take care to find and follow the right woman, exactly the right woman, I don’t just take anyone’s hair, what kind of snollygoster hick do they think I am? They tell me I better pray the woman whose hair I took doesn’t press charges. I make my own fake laugh then clarify that, when I pray, if I pray, it’ll not be for myself, no sir. But they have already stopped flipping the pages on their clipboards. “If I were gonna pray, sir,” I keep going, “it would be for the motherfuckingly repulsive police and their abominable fucking uniforms the colour of”—you’re right, obviously, I don’t say this out loud. They release me and I go home and google “how to insult a child”—you’re a grey sprinkle on a rainbow cupcake—and laugh myself pure. No clarification needed.

My project was ignited in a dream. There was a person who had the body and face of a young girl I didn’t know but inside her was my mother. I know this because she is bloviating with her dry old rage. She is much smaller than me – my mother stuffed into this tiny body – but somehow, I am the cramped and limited one. She stands in a nettle patch and her legs sprout riled red spots, and I can feel this in my own legs, a determining burn. She is telling me that this pain belongs to me. “This pain is you,” she says. But how? It’s happening to your body, not mine. At this she throws her little kindergarten head back and cackles a laugh aged by hate. “You understand now, don’t you,” she says. “Fucking cunt, now do you see?”

As soon as I leave the police station, I am already planning the next one. I want it to happen at the opera. I’m a drama queen. All that flowing blow-dried hair tumbling down exfoliated and lotioned shoulders. I’ll need to find the kind of woman who would obviously go to the opera, the kind with season tickets. I’ll buy season tickets for myself and scope it out. Oooh, this one will take a long time. Yes, good. I like it best when there’s longing.

Money is not a problem, in case you were wondering. I have what my mother left me. This is also part of the project. To use all of my inheritance on it, in this way, she is (finally!) apologising to me, and I get to decide (and I will take my time) whether or not I want to accept. 

You’re probably wondering what my mother’s hair was like, if that’s the reason for my project. Idiots! No imagination. The question you should be asking instead, if indeed you’re still wedded to that ruse causality, is how exactly I am, if I am at all, delineating, which is to say, making perfectly clear, the difference between desire and pain. Like, is there even one?

I found her. She came on the third night of Medea. Sixth row, centre, money. One of the only ones with her hair down. 40s, white, a strapless black gown, like Sargent’s Madame X, if you squint. The hair was shining, the colour of brown eggshells, oh. To crack her egg. The man at her side, as they always are, was nothing special. She sat back in her seat against her glorious hair. This is what would be tricky. I’d need to be directly behind her and make the cut softly, quickly. If she was sitting on it, I wouldn’t be able to take the hair with me, I’d have to leave it there. But it would still be worth it. At the end of the show, she’d stand to clap, and it would just fall away from her, one clean chop. I could cum at the thought of it. Sweet sharp yearn that hurts the most. She’d feel lighter, a swift weightlessness, and she’d turn and see it all there, sprawled on the seat, the years it took to grow, how much money it drank in shampoo, fancy conditioner, taking it to the salon to be tended, kept, would she scream? No, probably just a gasp, but a perfect one. She’d grip the stupid elbow of her man and, of course, he wouldn’t have a clue what to do. He’d whirl around with that blunt hunt of men, seeking the thing beyond the periphery of their vision, they can only ever muster an ugh aimed at what’s not there. See, it’s that men cannot hear the precision that pain and desire make of each other, men only ever hear the blurring. It’s a sort of gift from God – one of the few! – that men are tone deaf to this euphony. It means there is an entire range of coherence they can’t know, which means an entire clarification all to and for ourselves.

Pire Sova, Think of Theft but as a Gift, 2024
Pire Sova, Part of My Project Is That I Want to Be Smashed Into Desire and Absolutely Nothing Else, to Be Soaked in Appetite Is to Be Wet With Life…, 2024

Now you’re probably wondering what my own hair looks like, are you picturing me bald? That that’s why I steal the hair of other women? To make up for my lack? This is no longer the 20th century, we don’t need to stay yoked to the psychoanalytical conception of desire as lack! Or, ... or are you imagining that I have gorgeous, abundant hair down to my hips, my knees, my ankles? Waves of softness that smell of narcissus? That I take from other women, so they won’t have what I have, that I hoard the wealth for myself? Better – but still thinking in a binary. A have versus a have-not. Come on, you can do better. 

Let me suggest that the question is not where the line is between pain and desire, but that the universe is not constructed with lines at all. Think of the double-slit experiment, where atoms behave like particles and also like waves. They are both tiny little pieces and one fluid continuous shape. I’m trying to explain to you that the point of my project is a sort of re-education that I’m enforcing upon myself to root out the need for clarity at all, which is hard, and weird, because I keep asking for clarity but when it comes it’s never right. My hypothesis was that it would quell everything, but so far, it’s only made me hunger more.

Let me put it this way: When my mother told me her pain was me, see, I learned that my pain was also her, not that these belonged to us, but that they were us, and with this curse, this little spark of a law, I’ve come to know, as if it’s a thirst in the universe that I’m letting drink from myself, that when you cut into matter you’re also cutting into energy, like a witch, like an alchemist, you, on a quantum level, you’re simultaneously destroying and creating the wave; see, when I bring my scissors close to her head I’m not cleaving her but begetting her, continuing us, I’m gravid, it’s a kind of care, a maternal nurturing that pours from me. It’s that I am her well.

I called the box office and asked to reserve the centre seat in the 7th row. Yes, for the entire season. I paid the bloated fee they asked for. I went to every show. She came three weeks into the production after MedeaCarmen, I’d been waiting by then for five months, damp with the songs of both. I felt my breath leap as she came down the aisle to take her seat. My clit jack-knifed through my expensive designer clothes. Her head was right in front of mine. The lights went down. The curtain parted. The orchestra started. Her stupid man sat in a lump beside her. She sat on her hair as I’d planned and I watched it stream over her shoulders, puffing out a little where it was caught between her back and the seat. This woman, my well. I’d brought my best scissors, they gleamed as I stole them from my pocket. I could see heads in my row turning toward me as I raised them up. Oh! Then she!—she pulled her hair free! With an absent hand, fanning it out right at me. For me. It brushed my knees, a strand of it fell on my ready hand. Her kiss. A woman in my row started to make a whimpering noise, jerking her head around, she wanted to stop me. I let myself look right at her, square in the eyes, and for a split second, this protester was a well for me as I was a well for her, and we drank from each other, and both wanted more. I turned back to 6th row centre. Madame X. My hunger burned clear from my cunt and now the hair was like a rope in my hand, I tugged it with a vicious, loving yank, and I listened for the sound that would come next. The cut that was not a cut, the bite that’s also a pit, a mine both noun and pronoun. Think of theft but as a gift. Reader: I clarified her.

Johanna Hedva is a Korean American writer, artist, and musician, who was raised in Los Angeles by a family of witches, and now lives in LA and Berlin.