Bunny and The Body (1990)
[NOTE: At one of the first performances of this work, I wore a black cocktail dress that had belonged to my friend Tim Paul’s mother. During the course of the performance, I literally tore the dress from my body. In subsequent performances, I dispensed with the tearing, and just wore the torn dress. It’s one of my more distressful costumes, and helps to explain the opening line.]
I’m a little upset at the moment, so you’ll have to bear with me here.
It’s partly because it’s still so close to Easter,
and I’m kind of terrified by Easter;
always have been. As a kid, growing up Catholic,
I always thought it was some kind of mystical experience.
Later, I thought it was all the bad pastels.
Recently, I realized it was dietary.
See, I have these food allergies: certain foods
are rather difficult for me to digest.
Growing up Catholic, as a kid, Easter meant
a steady diet for about a week of hard-boiled eggs and chocolate,
two of the foods that are hard for me to digest.
So what I thought was a mystical experience of Holy Week
was actually gastric distress.
Now, each year, as Easter rolls around, my body remembers
that period of stomach upsets, and I experience a state of anxiety.
And the real problem is,
Easter is unpredictable: you never know when it’s going to happen.
Suddenly, one day you look at the calendar, and say
“Oh my God, it’s Easter! Y’know, suddenly I’ve lost my appetite…”
And the other thing is, Easter always means my birthday’s coming.
Now, as a kid, that was great because it meant presents, and more
foods that I’m allergic to, which meant, as a kid,
that I’d get sick and have to stay home from school.
Now, it just means I’m another year older,
which is enough to give you gastric distress, cake or no cake.
And then, this year, it’s all been complicated by … by …
by my making the kind of mistake I’ve sworn I’d never make again.
I fell in love with someone …
who was in love with somebody else.
Perhaps you’ve heard this one before?
Perhaps you’ve lived this one before?
Sometimes I think it’s the only one there is.
Story, that is.
Because that’s what I’m actually upset about, there’s no avoiding it,
I need to tell you about … Bunny.
That’s what I called him, though never to his face.
It was kind of appropriate: he was cute, but nervous and quick to start,
kind of like his cat.
The first time I met Bunny, he was trying to outbid me in an art auction.
I got the piece: an untitled work by Nayland Blake,
made out of pressed flowers and sperm on paper.
Like I said, appropriate.
This event provided a conversation starter when I ran into Bunny
at a dance concert six months later.
Now, here, here, here we have
the moment of my big mistake.
If I had made a full-fledged pass at Bunny that night
at the dance concert, things would have been different.
But, see, growing up Catholic, I was told
that even thinking about having sex with someone,
especially when he’s the same gender as you,
was a very big sin, and since I had been
conceptually sinning with Bunny all evening,
well, it made me self-conscious,
so I decided to bide my time a little before asking him out.
Now they say, he who hesitates is lost,
and that sure was the case here, because
although I found ways of seeing Bunny again,
I didn’t make a full-fledged pass at him until it was much too late,
because, by then, he’d met the Doctor.
Yes, girlfriends, I got dumped for a Doctor.
And not even a full-fledged Doctor, a Would-Be, a Hopeful,
Of course, it’s much more complicated than that.
Especially that I fell in love with Bunny.
It wasn’t really what I had in mind.
Initially, my impulse was just to get into his pants.
But it turned out he was much more of a person,
much more of a mensch, than I had counted on.
and I … I … I …
I had forgotten how really lonely I was,
and pretty soon, one thing just led to another.
Pretty soon, instead of concentrating my attention on
Bunny’s provocative crotch, or his cute little behind,
I found myself engaged by Bunny’s personality,
his likes and dislikes, his whole collection of personal quirks.
I even found it possible to reveal my own personal quirks,
well, some of them, …
okay, a few.
But performance artists kind of collect personal quirks
the way other people collect butterflies, or stamps.
It’s part of our mercurial charm,
our “undecidability” (for you theory queens out there).
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the night when Bunny finally
told me about the “other man,” about …
about …for some reason, I have a real problem remembering this guy’s name.
Owen? Warren? Otis? Oscar? Osbert?
well, anyway, this Doctorlette he had met in Philadelphia.
How this was someone he thought he might get married to,
if you call moving 800 miles to be with someone marrying them.
So I did the only reasonable thing: I …I … I choked.
I should have—
I should have—
Oh, why is it so much easier to say “I should have”:
a. ordered him out of my apartment.
b. ripped his clothes off then and there.
c. been more supportive and understanding.
Well, we all know the interpersonally-gifted answer here
but what I did was to rage, and rationalize, and finally,
I turned to him and said: “Dump him!”
Yeah, well, I wasn’t rational at that point.
I mean, what could I have been thinking of?
What girl in his right mind wouldn’t want to marry a doctor,
someone who could support him in style, and monitor his every health need,
given the alternative of getting mixed up with a
36-year-old performance artist
who’s made a career out of trashing his old boyfriends on stage.
A performance artist who’s made a career—if you can call it that—
out of talking about his love life.
A performance artist who wishes he HAD a love life so he could
fucking stop talking about it!
Now, now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m not really blaming Bunny for any of this.
It may seem that way, I know,
but that’s really not the case.
Having grown up Catholic, I put the blame entirely on myself.
[strikes chest with fist]
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Besides, Bunny grew up Catholic too, and
probably feels bad enough about this whole business
(especially if he’s in the audience tonight).
But really, I don’t blame Bunny for anything:
falling in love with him was entirely my idea,
entirely my need.
And it would be different if we’d actually had sex.
Because then it would be so much …worse.
Because … because …because, you see,
the body remembers,
the body doesn’t forget.
The mind forgets, but the body remembers.
Long after the mind has forgotten something, it’s still there in the body.
Doctors say that all of our body’s cells are replaced every 10 years or so,
but I think the old cells tell the new cells stories,
so that the body can go on remembering.
Can remember every hurt or kindness enacted upon it:
every injury, every needle, every indignity, and
every caress, every embrace, every kiss.
And that’s what Bunny did that I can’t quite forgive or forget:
he kissed me.
Long after my mind has forgotten Bunny’s charming personal quirks,
long after my mind has forgotten Bunny’s real name—
but can recall with remarkable clarity the name of a Doctor in Philadelphia—
my mouth, my lips, my tongue will remember Bunny’s kiss.
Because the body remembers,
the body doesn’t forget.
The body remembers,
the body doesn’t forget.
28 March 1990