Cosmonaut’s Day (The K-Hole)
Translated from the Russian by Margarita Shalina and Slava Mogutin
After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say
"I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER."
William S. Burroughs
forty years ago yuri gagarin was stuffed into a spacesuit
the spacesuit stuffed into a space capsule ground control said keep quiet bitch don’t you dare yank the iv tubes from your veins or dig the sensors out of your skull or we’ll fuck you up with electric shock so that you’ll lose what’s left of your cosmonaut’s brains or inject you with acid or ketamine so that you’re left a vegetable for the rest of your life or a fruit
but you’re already a fruit though already a cosmonaut
yeah you know exactly what we’ll do to you
remember nicholson in one flew over the cuckoo's nest?
remember mcdowell in a clockwork orange?
we too will torment you with droppers
prod you with pincers
someone said TAKE OFF someone gave the signal with his hand
after nine months valentina tereshkova immaculately conceived delivering gherman titov
fans almost tore them to pieces on la place pigalle
the whole of montemartre was showered with leaflets
in protest the americans pulled their athletes from the olympics
why the fuck did you piss yourself bitch?
why smear sustenance from your tubes onto the viewport?
so everyone cries earth earth
everest ain’t shit compared to the 21-kilometer high mountain on mars
then why are you fucking around so nesting upon rugs and crystal and chestnut wood and mink coats valentina?
tina tina be a good girl don’t you piss yourself again in the spacesuit you see others will have to use it after you all those cosmic whores with unwashed and unshaven cunts
13 years later i was born
my father demanded my mother abort
I DON’T WANT THIS SNOT-NOSED KID – he said
16 years later – my first attempt at suicide
a reinforced concrete freezer outside our window
all the contents of the medicine cabinet in my tiny stomach
MY DAUGHTER’S A BEAUTY BUT STUPID AND THEN THERE’S MY SON WHO’S SMART BUT A FREAK – my father’s favorite phrase
my father’s name was yuri
19 years later – the cops beat the shit out of him broke his back and a couple of ribs taking his signet ring
the time had come to get the fuck out of siberia
23 years later – i stole a collection of commemorative cosmonaut stamps from my best friend at school was damned forever started a traitorous notebook where i described in minute detail the various ways of eliminating my parents
there was another lad who preceded gagarin during the selection process
he distinguished himself based on superior proportions and remarkably rosy cheeks
sergei korolev stumbled before him while inspecting the formation of young able trainees in white underwear
the lad was castrated in his sleep prior to preparation for takeoff so that he wouldn’t ruin expensive sheets and the spacesuit
LET HIM BE OUR COSMIC EUNUCH – said korolev and proceeded to jerk off on the taxidermied space dogs belka and strelka
but the lad just didn’t measure up to the role of hero
was burned into space dust in the sweaty atmospheric stratums
40 years went by and the brits legalized human cloning
getting laid was just as complicated as getting drunk
everyone tried to get by the best they could
grechko and sevastianov secretly humping each other in the kitchen module of the soyuz-apollo station
at first it was tricky to figure out how to catch sperm so it flew all over the station occasionally smearing across someone’s face or the monitor’s screen
everyone getting high according to their own taste
some on pills some on powders some intravenously
mutual misunderstandings layered one on top of another
they say those who’d been in the k-hole had been to outer space
I’VE BEEN THERE I’VE DONE IT
zero-gravity like a resonating slap complete atrophy of the sense of time and place ridiculous oxygen legs good-for-nothing legs constant cotton-mouth bright-yellow urine and stomach cramps from all the vitamins
the night i met rubin one type got so high that he tried to walk on the ceiling just a bit more and he would take off as all the while rubin was grinding his teeth
according to the stories of my chemistry teacher gagarin was a fucking awesome lover decorated with medals up the ass
she would suck yuri’s heavy balls while gazing at his official portrait hanging just above his head now swollen from alcohol and drug abuse
chemical olympiads were prone to inconceivable airiness
later it became necessary to stick our hero in a nut-house
the fucking drunkard had too much on his mind
according to the official version he died during routine training his remains burned down completely but then again here’s a shred of his communist party membership card with the phone numbers of his girlfriends and drinking buddies
33 years later he was canonized by the sect heaven’s gate on a ranch in santa
fe not far from san diego
39 americans seeking their fortunes committed collective suicide in hopes of a better life on mars some were voluntarily castrated
in accordance with the teachings of the leader of the sect marshall herff applewhite they were to be immediately evacuated by flying saucer
the leader had a hoarse voice and washed out watery eyes
soviet cosmonaut’s day, 12 april 2001, new york city
Translated from the Russian by Vitaly Chernetsky and Dominic Johnson
Tom, Reinhold, Andreas—these are the names to which I've learned to respond. There is nothing pretentious about them, nothing flirty. Only naked calculation. Intent hastily covered with a worthless skin. Assorted déjà vus. The hope for new goodbyes after yet another date. A sold-out laughter. Get lost, you filthy whores! No, stay at least for five more minutes, I'll steal your watches, stamp on your pagers and cell phones, hide your clothes, lock all the doors, close the blinds, so that no one… No, this is madness! But no one argues. In my life there is nothing else worth risking as much as these pitiful moments. A minute, two, three, and then loneliness, a possessed emptiness, a constant yearning for a young tight body, a couple of lines, sweet bitterness in the mouth, mental black-out, sweaty cold hands, the impossibility of overcoming… Tom, Reinhold, Andreas. Fuck off, you fucking whores!
I turned around at the end. I simply couldn't not. See him. He stood in the hallway, naked, worn out, agitated after three sleepless nights on coke. Lost about ten pounds. Sometimes cokeheads look so spiritual, sin shines through their skin. Hot Jew. In fucking amazing shape. He caught my eye and looked down. Down his leg blood was oozing onto the floor. And that's what love is all about. I had to split as soon as possible. I was shaking. His legs were all covered with scars, the strong legs of a gladiator. He took life's blows below the belt. I hadn't have eaten anything for over twenty-four hours. Only sniffed and smoked, and sniffed again. A barely noticeable thin little stream. His face beamed with delight. A liminal state of mind—nothing new. Life compressed into one sentence: WANT SOME MORE? On a silver platter. A powder with well-known properties. I had to fucking split, pronto. The main thing is not to forget anything in the frenzy of packing. Handcuffs, collar, masks. Rubber, leather, metal. GOOD JOB TOM, I told myself when the door behind me slammed shut with a clanging sound. Just like the handcuffs on his wrists. The sleepwalking doorman grinned and stared in my wake. The stagehands stretched out a trampoline. I was again expected to run an obstacle course. A Latino guy, having noticed my mobile phone, pursed his lips in contempt. What was he on, I wondered. I walked into the street after midnight. Should I go back and knock his teeth out? Or let him suck me off? The moment of my departure was captured by the hidden camera. Some amateurs were shooting a film in the gateway. A jaw cramped by the fatal kiss. Alternative cinema enthusiasts. The smell of Manhattan’s night. A city in the throes of dissipation…
I had a suspicion he was turning into a character of mine. Somehow he got hold of the plot. Well, he took liberties with it. Shrinks know how to take out your soul and stuff it with some sterile plastic surrogate. I've had cold hands since childhood. A stuffing that corrodes you from the inside. There wouldn’t even be anything to say in justification. Since childhood maniacs??? were after me. The only way to escape them is to pretend you too are a perv. Hyperexcitability, naked passion, the need to speak out. Why is he blabbering about all this shit? He hopes to tame me. I’m so used to pretending I'm stupid. YOU ARE SO SWEET AND SMART, he says now and then, sitting between my legs and continuing to pour out his soul. My current job is a rehearsal for my future successful career. That's what he thinks. STICK WITH ME, KID. Gradually he slides lower and lower down. My fingers dig into his shoulders. He won’t be able to escape. I already know what's going to happen in a minute, in five and a half, in fifty-two. He works only with queer clients. As do I. We are both social workers. He is absolutely right…
Never submit to anyone. Don't trust anyone. No one, ever.
Who the fuck knows how he managed to keep his act together. He claimed he had never done it with anyone, that with me he went all the way for the first time. Bullshit most probably. I didn't believe my luck. Well, perhaps one more time before this, with that hustler. With a cheap one. One of those funky Latinos from down the street. Fucking junkies. Boxer shorts hanging out. Right there or home delivery. For those not afraid of the consequences. Smelly and funky, but straight. Not a word of English. Communication through gestures. With stupid signs he explained he wanted the guy to fist him. The kid was too high to laugh. Some joker. AND WHAT ABOUT SHIT, flashed in his mind. They jumped at each other like roaches in a matchbox. Smoked some more. This time it was crack. The stench filled the entire space. The host had a beautiful ass and the desire to service. To do anything the hustler wants. Impossibly squeamish in his daily life, he suddenly transformed in such moments and wanted to get down and dirty. Dirty and down. All over. And of course, he wanted to go all the way. Chasing after humiliation, overcoming the pain. He got off on paying for this. The more I worked it over in my mind, the more it seemed that he’d had ample opportunities to practice. More than once. It's funny, but I was getting jealous. Of course, everything was captured by his video camera, all this unworthy horseplay. Someone else's dirty fist inside an ass that belonged to me. Every now and then they would suddenly trip the cord, messing up the recording and filling the screen with static goosebumps…
I hate the way I look on video. I am so pale, scrawny and stooping. A HOCKEY PLAYER’S BODY, as one fucked-up bard said in a love ballad dedicated to me. What a jerk, where did he see hockey players like that? Huge nose and ears, skinny legs, blue veins and tendons that stick out like on an anatomical chart. I hate watching myself on video. I can't believe anyone can get excited by watching this. LOOK WHAT AN ASS YOU HAVE, he exclaims as we jerk off to our freshly baked home porn. AND WHAT A BACK! I LOVE WATCHING YOU SIT ON MY FACE, I laugh nervously and break into a sweat. I like watching myself sitting on his face. He's right: there's something in this…
The love of money. More than anything in the world. Not credit cards, not a bank account, but cash, in my pocket, in my hand, today, now. Lots of cash. Who would have thought so many people were ready to pay for torture and humiliation! I was always interested in the theory of sadism, read scholarly books about professional sadists, but all of it is crap compared to what I learned having become one of them. Who would have thought people pay so much for pain! Cash in my pocket. In the top desk drawer. Lots of cash. Count it, photograph it, throw it around the apartment. Then spend everything earned: restaurants, clothes, drugs, vitamins, books, CDs. And restaurants again. Pay for others. For the others I liked. EASY COME, EASY GO. A complex – vestiges of a hungry childhood. One can buy anything: kindness and love, beauty and youth, especially inexperience and innocence. The supply always exceeds the demand. The slave markets teem with youngsters ready for anything. All this is the mania for numbers, the fervor of dismissing your own body. Long legs, narrow hips, smooth tender skin, frivolous mouth, swollen genitals, arched back, obligingly spread buttocks, fresh meat, tight bellybuttons. High-grade material for soulless experiments. Let them quiver, let them groan in pain, cry bloody tears, issuing forth sweat and sperm. Let them suffer for their greens...
I remember clearly my first visit to the shrink. Psychology books for queers and Jews. That's the first thing that caught the eye. He was one of my first clients. Asked something about rape: could I really? I was still very inexperienced and timid, and said, NOT NOW. NEXT TIME. MAYBE. He caught me saying this, and called again. Awoke a beast in me. Sculpted me into his Master. This took several sessions, a few months of intensive training and consultations. And what did he find in me? A square jaw? Extraterrestrial accent? Certain Aryan features? Otherworldly thighs? My being taciturn and looking grim? The cruel glint in my eyes? Some vague potential? Shaved head? The readiness to dominate? My interest in anatomy? Love of contemplating blood? And did I matter at all in any of this? He breathed new life into me...
The game was Doctor and Patient: TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF. LET'S EXAMINE THE SYMPTOMS. BREATHE. AND NOW DON'T. A thermometer inserted into the urethra, a stethoscope on the balls. Blood, stool, urine samples. I pushed him down under me, put his strong legs on my shoulders, looked him straight in the eye. My cock rubbed against his hole. OH YEAH, TOM, OH YEAH, he begged. I wanted to fuck him raw. I sprinkled coke on his asshole, rubbing the white dust all over his ass with my cock. I spat into his mouth. Freaking out, I bit his tongue in a treacherous kiss. He twitched, sobering up, but didn't feel the pain: coke anesthesia. It was a full moon, I always feel this devilish energy. LIE STILL, YOU BITCH, I muttered through clenched teeth, pushing my cock inside him. Now I owned him. YOU WANTED THIS, RIGHT? NOW GET WHAT YOU DESERVE, YOU FAGGOT.
They call me a monster. They accuse me of selling my soul to the ideology of hatred. They use me to scare children. Wherever I go, everyone turns, exchange whispers and point fingers. My life is like an amusement park: naked twisting bodies in anticipation of rides and a hellish Ferris wheel. Depravity? What do you know about depravity! In my life there have been such sobering moments, when I looked at myself as if from the side, through the eyes of others, of normal people. I tried to understand what shame and morality were. Then I again fell into my nauseating routine. If not me, then who? Who if not me? In my eyes only cruelty and emptiness. Something about Devil's sperm, a highly nutritious product, I didn't finish reading it. Joseph Mengele in his private death camp. The Lord of blue-eyed cloned twins with transplanted organs. Gilles de Rais in a medieval chateau. Sacrificing the hearts of ravished boys to Satan incarnated in an 18 year-old breathtakingly beautiful youth. Demanding vengeance and a supernatural sign. And—as always—no shit! Give myself up to the authorities, confessing. Let them burn me in a square amidst a gathering of the plebeians. Was loved for all the wrong reasons, hated by the wrong people...
Who the fuck knows how he managed to keep his act together. It went like this: I was fisting him and he was telling me about his life, his work and family, his ex, a sadist and alcoholic. Mother barely alive after a heart attack, a heavy smoker, married several times, quite successfully from the financial point of view. Father a shabby Jew, recently out of jail after serving a term for tax evasion. The shrink said he looked nothing like his father: as a kid he found out that his real dad was his father's business partner. The scandal was hushed up after a family gathering. They say he looks Italian, which is true... Time and again he would remember propriety, moaning and moving his hips. He felt completely at ease in handcuffs, they didn't bother him at all. I felt from the inside his hot innards, the fiery trap of his interior. The tensed sphincter, stretched out to the limit. A durability test. Then again about the family, the work, the friends—successful lawyers, doctors, investment bankers (his former clients, half-aces, half-victims, just like himself). A life predetermined and planned out for years to come. No place for random improvisations. And me only a small link in this endless chain – his personal sadist. I tortured his nipples and testicles, probed him with dildos and fingers, lashed his ass with a belt in a frenzy, producing bloody sparks. Confident I was seeing him for the last time. The next day he would call me again. It was still not enough for him...
Somewhere in LA his artificially conceived child was ripening in a test tube. He told me how he went there to select a nice enough egg. He didn’t want to conceive the old-fashioned way: WHY ALL THIS FILTH? LET A SURROGATE MOTHER DEAL WITH THAT, SOMEONE WHO WILL HAVE NO CLAIMS OVER THE CHILD. He zealously prepared for becoming a single father. The name had long been chosen: Sebastian, in honor of the saint impaled all over (an image that haunted him since childhood). A winning plan: the little boy would be playing with his friends in the living room while his dad is in the next room, sitting on a fist. The child doesn't have a notion of a mother. He has inhumanely clever and cold blue eyes. He is stronger and prettier than his peers. Everyone wants to be his friend, fighting for his attention and favor. He despises them all, but condescends to communication and play. He is used to the absence of logic in his world, and therefore trusts only his intuition. He has no compassion at all for the suffering and misfortunes of others. He has a diminished sensitivity to pain. He purposefully breaks a bottle and leans with his little palm on the shards. Sebastian transfers his entire weight onto his palm to understand the mechanism of pain. Hot flushes overcome him, he breathes heavily. At the same moment his father makes strange sounds in the bedroom. The little boy's friends look with horror at his bleeding hand. His eyes fog over, his face beams with a happy smile. He has no intention of stopping the blood. Next time he will try this on someone else, let someone else be scarred for life. But the toys are covered with blood, and the other children are crying and want to go home. Sebastian senses that a strange and lonely life awaits him...
I remember my father chewing gum for the first time in his life. His facial expression, his tense jaws, moist lips, nose. The sweet taste of disappointment. I went into the dunes, lay down on the sand and jerked off, looking at the clouds going wild. The sound of the surf whipped up my impatience. I tried to be happy, but I was always overcome by the fear of retribution. I tried different combinations and mixtures, up to 70 pills a day to lift my spirits. I tried out different ways of dying. In the summer I would smoke myself mad, put on my roller blades and course down the mean sweaty streets of Manhattan, in search of my fate. I prayed to the skyscrapers, feeling a kinship with them. I wanted to end my life right there. For a moment I was happy. Or so it seemed at least...
Sure, you can earn a living through physical sadism, but you can do it through mental sadism as well. This is exactly what he had in mind. Having discovered it some ten years earlier, he decided to become an engineer of human souls. A boa constrictor, a hypnotizer of rabbits. Consultations one-on-one, eye-to-eye across a table. As if on the other side of reality. People opening up all their secrets to him, pouring out their souls. The most important thing is to maintain an appearance of interest and concern. Shit-divers can never relax, not even for a second. Everything is under control: career, family, investments, interest and profits, pension funds, plans for a happy and secure old age. They need help, and they are ready to pay for it. Career freaks love to play victims in bed. And then we come: he or I. We walk out one by one. I am wearing a hockey player's protective cup, a leather harness, a black executioner’s mask. He is wearing a collar and a peaked leather cap. Dumb pop music, it goes out of fashion so fast. Almost as fast as my tastes change. The roles are handed out, let's get on with the action. The waiter lingers for a second over the monitor and sees the secret password: SUPERSLAVE666. Recoils in horror. A couple of hundred for a session. That's what love is about. All the love...
Spiritualism at technical college. That's where it all started. The woman who taught us literature cleverly spun the saucer. The hare-lipped girl Diana burst into tears: the spirit bellowed something about plastic surgery, touched a sore spot. The séances would end in drunken orgies. Candles, shimmering semidarkness, quivering shadows. The teacher grabbed the students, the students clumsily rubbed against each other. The saucer spun all night. Then a few chicks got pregnant, the teacher was suspended, and spiritualism went underground. Evil spirits kept on whispering stuff to me. Something grim and ever more hopeless. Sometimes I wanted to scream. We told each other stories about the funniest incidents in our life. Stupid stuff: farts, someone's sister's pillow pissed over, shit stuck to uniform pants, a neighbor's toothbrush that had been up someone's ass. Fecal lyrics at the back of a school notebook. A clear leaning towards French decadence. Then it was my turn. I stood in front of my classmates and tried to say something, but instead burst into unnatural demonic laughter. This was like a spasm, I couldn't stop it and for some fifteen minutes writhed in hysterics in front of stunned teenagers. Eventually I was shown the door, relieved from the stupid duty of storytelling...
My fingers. A violin player's fingers that still remember passages from Vivaldi and Paganini, Saint-Saëns and Dvozak. Now foul-smelling slime oozed over them. HERE, I BROUGHT GLOVES, I said, handing over a pack of latex gloves. VERY NICE OF YOU, he said pensively, throwing them on the floor. The bitch knew how to be elegant. I liked watching him, studying the habits of a dandy. I remember there was one in our school, a lab assistant. Something about the way he styled his hair. AND WHAT ABOUT YOU? he asked me once when we found each other alone. I WANT TO BE AN ACTOR, I told him trustingly. He looked me in the eye. I THINK YOU'VE GOT THE LOOKS, he said in a hissing whisper, putting his hand on my knee. In the midst of retorts and test tubes…
Bohemianism, high life, private poetic revelation sessions. The sense of devastation in the morning, evening anxieties. A familiar set of mortal practices that flatten your ego into a soft mat for the exercises of someone else's will. Mufflers. The need for total moral control. Vomit in the doorway (a lesbian bar on the corner). New technologies. Yearnings for a strong hand. Maniacal possession. Films with an assortment of multi-colored cocks. In the fridge: booze, jams and spreads, pills and rolls of film. A boy ripens in a surrogate womb. Coke with viagra (the explosive mix). Andreas, Reinhold and Tom – get the fuck out of here... I'M DOWNSTAIRS, OPEN THE DOOR, I WANT TO STUFF IT INSIDE YOU. I couldn’t wait. I was carrying my fist as a present for him...
Moments of sobriety. Moments of repentance and fear. The thought of punishment and retribution. Scenarios one scarier than the next developed in his throbbing mind: a terrible disease, mutilation, serious psychological damage, arrest or a police search, ruined career, loss of inheritance. The shrink thought about this, wiping off the traces of his own blood after another revelry. An empty wallet, the house a fucking mess, abandoned work, depression, ravaged sinuses, cocaine hangover, the pain of a torn rectum, the piercing sensation of insignificance and abandonment. Time to start thinking, time to pull yourself together. After all he didn't want to end up like Michael Jackson, with a tampon up his ass (according to the testimony of his juvenile lovers). Fuck this shit! Time to become a father. The tapes, the incriminating tapes! Never before did he dare watch them sober. The shrink threw his hateful body on the bed, fouled with shit and blood, and turned on the VCR. The picture was pretty shaky. It's difficult to be director, cameraman and actor simultaneously. It turned out even more difficult to be a spectator. "BLOODY F. MESS"—that's how he planned to call his thriller porn series. In honor of some long-forgotten punk band. The shock of what he saw was instantaneous. He was in the grip of paranoia. What if these tapes fall into the hands of the enemies? Or friends uninitiated in the nuances of alternative cinema? Destroy them! Destroy immediately! He stabbed the cassettes with a kitchen knife and tore out the tape. Having dumped them in the bathtub, he set it all on fire. The choking smoke filled the apartment, setting off the fire alarm. FUCKING FUCK! THE LAST THING I NEED RIGHT NOW IS THE FIREMEN, he cried in desperation, tearing the alarm off and smashing it full-force against the wall...
I went out after midnight. 5am, to be precise. There was no sense in going home, I couldn't sleep anyway. I walked across Manhattan to Central Park, an engine for a heart. I no longer sensed hunger, exhaustion or pain. Only an unbearable lightness. Some hidden resources had opened up in my body. After three days on coke. This city was mine. The city that made me a beast. The city that gave me strength and corroded me from the inside. To get off or to die! To cruise to death in Central Park! On a bench or in a grove, next to a picturesque lake lined with the rotting corpses of unidentified victims. To die or to cum! Suck off the first random bum I come by, let myself be fucked raw by some AIDS-stricken punk, swallow a lethal dose. An overdose is a haunting idea. The main thing is to finish writing to the end, before sunrise, before the aftereffects set in. Fuck, how I want to get off! To die before the first wrinkles, the graying pubic hair, the rotting teeth. The show is over, fuck off, you filthy whores! Die young, don’t wait for AIDS or prostate cancer. Andreas, Reinhold, and you too, Tom! Stick my head into an oven, arranging festive fireworks of flaming brains. Without any hope for continuation. To die while getting off...
I decided to save his last message as a keepsake. The shrink called again after a prolonged silence: WANTED TO CHECK IN. COME OVER IF YOU CAN. WANT TO MAKE A NEW MOVIE. A familiar deep voice against a newborn's squeals and cries. Lucky bastard. I started to pack: masks, collar, handcuffs. Rubber, leather, metal. I wanted to fuck this brand new father right in front of his immaculately conceived baby. Fuck first, and fist him later. And then, stretching him out to alien limits, take the fragile head of his artificial child and stick it where it should‘ve come from. I had precise plans. A bloody mess in my eyes.
1999, New York City