When she was finally crazy because she was about to have an abortion, she conceived of the most insane idea that any woman can think of. Which is to love. How can a woman love? By loving someone other than herself. She would love another person. By loving another person, she would right every manner of political, social, and individual wrong: she would put herself in those situations so perilous the glory of her name would resound. The abortion was about to take place:
From her neck to her knees she wore pale or puke green paper. This was her armor. She had chosen it specially, for she knew that this world’s conditions are so rough for any single person, even a rich person, that person has to make do with what she can find: this’s no world for idealism. Example: the green paper would tear as soon as the abortion began.
They told her they were going to take her from the operating chair to her own bed in a wheeling chair. The wheeling chair would be her transportation. She went out to look at it. It was dying. It had once been a hack, the same as all the hacks on grub street; now, as all the hacks, was a full-time drunk, mumbled all the time about sex but now no longer not even never did it but didn’t have the wherewithal or equipment to do it, and hung around with the other bums. That is, women who’re having abortions.
She decided that since she was setting out on the greatest adventure any person can take, that of the Holy Grail, she ought to have a name (identity). She had to name herself. When a doctor sticks a steel catheter into you while you’re lying on your back and you do exactly what he and the nurses tell you to; finally, blessedly, you let go of your mind. Letting go of your mind is dying. She needed a new life. She had to be named.
As we’ve said, her wheeling bed’s name was ‘Hack-kneed’ or ‘Hackneyed’, meaning ‘once a hack’ or ‘always a hack’ or ‘a writer’ or ‘an attempt to have an identity that always fails.’ Just as ‘Hackneyed’ is the glorification or change from non-existence into existence of ‘Hack-kneed’, so, she decided, ‘catheter’ is the glorification of ‘Kathy’. By taking on such a name which, being long, is male, she would be able to become a female-male or a night-knight.
Catharsis is the way to deal with evil. She polished up her green paper.
In order to love, she had to find someone to love. ‘Why,’ she reasoned to herself, ‘do I have to love someone in order to love? Hasn’t loving a man brought me to this abortion or state of death?
‘Why can’t I just love?
‘Because every verb to be realized needs its object. Otherwise, having nothing to see, it can’t see itself or be. Since love is sympathy or communication, I need an object which is both subject and object: to love, I must love a soul. Can a soul exist without a body? Is physical separate from mental? Just as love’s object is the appearance of love; so the physical realm is the appearance of the godly: the mind is the body. This,’ she thought, ‘is why I’ve got a body. This’s why I’m having an abortion. So I can love.’ This’s how Don Quixote decided to save the world.
Why didn’t Don Quixote resemble these women? Because to Don Quixote, having an abortion is a method of becoming a knight and saving the world. This is a vision. In English and most European societies, when a woman becomes a knight, being no longer anonymous she receives a name. She’s able to have adventures and save the world.
‘Which of you was here first?’ the receptionist asked. Nobody answered. The women were shy. The receptionist turned to the night-to-be. ‘Well, you’re nearest to me. Give me your papers.’
‘I can’t give you any papers because I don’t have an identity yet. I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge and I’m not English. This’s why your law says I have to stay in this inn overnight. As soon as you dub me a knight – by tomorrow morning – and I have a name, I’ll be able to give you my papers.’
The receptionist, knowing that all women who’re about to have abortions’re crazy, assured the woman her abortion’ld be over by nighttime. ‘I, myself,’ the receptionist confided, ‘used to be mad. I refused to be a woman the way I was supposed to he. I travelled all over the world, looking for trouble. I prostituted myself, ran a few drugs – nothing hard – , exposed my genitalia to strange men while picking their pockets, broke-and-entered, lied to the only men I loved, told the men I didn’t love the truth that I could never love them, fucked one man after another while telling each man I was being faithful to him alone, fucked men over, for, by fucking me over, they had taught me how to fuck them over. Generally, I was a bitch.
‘Then I learned the error of my ways. I retired … from myself. Here … this little job … I’m living off the income and property of others. Rather dead income and property. Like any good bourgeois,’ ending her introduction. ‘This place,’ throwing open her hands, ‘our sanctus sanitarium, is all of your place of safety. Here, we will save you. All of you who want to share your money with us.’ The receptionist extended her arms. ‘All night our nurses’ll watch over you, and in the morning,’ to Don Quixote, ‘you’ll be a night.’ The receptionist asked the knight-to-be for her cash.
Kathy Acker, Don Quixote (which was a dream), 1986.