Sunday, 19 April 2015

Scene with a prostitute

It’s been a strange kind of day, so I will choose it to describe a strange kind of scene. The scene belongs to House of Leaves.

Certainly not everyone will have the guts to read Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel from 2000, but if you happen to do that, up until the very last page, you will know you’ve done something special. The book will stay with you forever. Stick to your brain like a fascinating nightmare.

But this particular scene. It is one of the most psychologically devastating things I’ve read in a while.

The scene has to do with the main character, Johnny, who meets a prostitute. A whore or a hooker or something in between. Johnny is a curious, neurotic type who is one of those proverbial postmodernist characters crumbling under the weight of a highly dysfunctional world. As for the prostitute, she seems to have a heart of gold. They drive to his place, possibly in a taxi, and suddenly she sees this small dog abandoned on the sidewalk. A puppy. Lonely, hungry, craving for warmth and for love. Johnny wants… well, it’s easy to guess what Johnny wants from a prostitute driving in a taxi to his place. But she starts crying. Because there is this small dog and they absolutely have to take it with them. She nurses this adorable creature in her hands, and tears melt mascara down her cheeks. It’s desperate.

She is deeply unhappy. Quite possibly, depressed, and you feel for her and for the dog craving for warmth and for love. Just like her, just like everybody else. Johnny knows he missed his chance, but equally he knows it’s not about him anymore. It’s about her, the prostitute who is in reality a complex, emotional character who is crying her heart out. Crying and talking. Meanwhile, the taxi is already at his place. Johnny gets out of the car and tells the driver to drive her home. Should he take the puppy? No, the puppy will stay with her. He walks home and sees the car stopping in the distance, the car door opening, and the puppy thrown out on the road. The door slams shut and the car drives off. 

And Johnny just stands there, watching.