POLANSKI in the water

In Gupter Puncher/Oli Johns on March 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm


[Note: If any Poles are reading this, I’m sorry for slaughtering your language.]

the judge told me to stand up so I stood up, but he didn’t say anything, he just looked at me, and after a while he rapped his hammer against the wood and it-…it didn’t sound quite right so I looked back at my attorney, who wasn’t the same as he was a minute ago, he was now Ben Kingsley…and he nodded at me and pointed back at the judge who was still rapping the hammer against the wood, but when I turned back the judge was different too…he had turned into Morgan Freeman, or he had always been Morgan Freeman, and he was looking at me in a very harsh way which made me think, God, he’s after me, he’s fucking after me, and his hammer was after me too…his hammer, it was making a strange sound…not a whack, but a beep…a lot of beeps…

I put my hand out and felt around and found the beeping thing and pressed a button, and it stopped.

the hammer stopped and Freeman was telling me something I couldn’t quite hear, so I was about to ask him to repeat what he said, but then the volume came back and I could hear him, and he was telling me to come to the bench so he could tell me how guilty I was, and I looked back at Kingsley and he was gesturing me forward, but there was something wrong with him, he was sweating, and when I moved to the left a little I could see a woman behind him with a gun to the back of his head, and she looked distressed, and…and I knew her, didn’t I? It was…no, it couldn’t be…but yes, it was, it was Sigourney and…and Freeman was shouting at me to come to the bench again, and before I knew it I was at the bench and he was in front of me and above me, impossibly high up above me, and he was telling me again that I was guilty and what did I have to say about that?

I’m not.’

You are.’

No, I’m not.’

Yes, son, you are.’

And he stared at me for a few seconds and then asked for an explanation of my actions that night, and I looked at the painting behind him, with the three panels and two men eating and something in pieces in the middle, and I said,

She wasn’t a woman. Not a woman.’

Then what was she?’

A robot. She was a robot. A machine.’

And in my hand there was a book, some kind of book about robots and I had it open on a page and I was reading from the page, telling Freeman, telling the whole court that ‘robot was a Czech word, and it was associated with the workers and…’

She wasn’t a robot, Mr. Polanski,’ Freeman said.

And then I had a woman in front of me and a knife in my hand and I was telling Freeman that more women were robots than he realised, than anyone realised, and I was using the knife to cut open her arm and as it opened wires came flowing out, lots of wires, so many wires, an impossible number of wires and I tried to pack them back in but there were too many so I gave up and dropped her and told Freeman that with all due respect I was right, I had always been right, but he didn’t seem to care as he was picking up the hammer again and…beep, beep, beep…

I opened my eyes and stared at the wall and waited for Freeman and Kingsley and Sigourney and the robot woman to fade out, and as I waited I tried to remember what the replacement would be, and briefly I couldn’t recall anything, no world at all, but then it passed and all that had ever come before came back and I remembered that I should be expecting the editor to phone.

I blinked a couple of times and felt across the sheets for Mani.

She wasn’t there.

I rubbed my eyes and looked at where she should’ve been lying, but she really wasn’t there. Gone for good? Taken the kids too?

No, she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. She was out, that was all. She’d taken the kids into town, taken them skiing or something…moje Mani malo.

Then I thought of Sharon.

Sharon…Sharona of Verona…moje Sharon piekne

I looked at the phone and expected it to ring. It didn’t. But it should, it must’ve been at least eleven. Why wasn’t he phoning? Krosnoludek bezwartosciowe.

I lifted myself up and out of bed and put my feet on the cold wooden floor and then counted to seven before running into the bathroom. I turned on the gas and waited a moment, thinking of something, a detail of the film and how I could fix it, but then I went back on myself and said, no, you’re in Switzerland, man, what can you do from here?

I couldn’t do anything, not really. I turned the water on and made sure it was boiling then got in and stood under it. I told myself to get out after two minutes but the water was too hot and it was too cold outside, like the Count’s castle back in the 60’s, on that roof with the professor, the idiot drunk, what was his name?

I stayed under the water for half an hour, unable to motivate myself to get out. I sang old Polish songs, and the Stones, and the Small Faces, and other songs I used to sing before Sharon left.

Moje Sharona piekne. Why was I thinking of her again?

I turned the water off and got a towel and wrapped it around my waist. I moved out of the bathroom quickly, away from the mirror and my pathetic chest. Who wanted to look at themselves after forty anyway? It was masochism. Nic smutna.

I walked around the chalet, through most of the rooms and past the windows and talked to myself.

You’ve gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing…ever do.’

I dropped the towel and stood in no particular place in the living room and talked some more.

Gotta get a fuck, get a fuck, get a fuck…before they put those bars on me, sweetheart.’

I walked into the kitchen, naked.

Yes, they got me…they got the guns and they came and they got me…yee-ha, USA. Cowboy fucking magic…well, you got me, sure, but you never really got me…no, Sir. You can’t get me…you can’t get Roman Polanski…can’t cage Polanski you fucking nothing nobody ants… krosnoludek bezwartosciowe

I picked up the bread my assistant had brought me the day before and put two pieces in the toaster.

You know who I fucking am? Do you know? Yeah…but I don’t think you know…you hear that, Jack? You think they know? Do you think they have any fucking idea who they’re playing with…who they’re fucking with here? Who they’re fucking with…yeah, they got me, but I let them…I let them get me, Jack…you can’t put genius in a cage, man…you can’t put Polanski in a fucking cage…pathetic ant people…mrowka smutna…nothing, never do anything useless nobody ants…you know it, Jack? What? Sorry, what Jack? It was you, was it? No, wait…you thought it was you who was doing it? You think you’re the fucking magician, Jack?’


The toast popped up and I pulled the butter out of the fridge and buttered it.

You’re not a magician, Jack…you’re not anything but a prop, my prop…you’re my prop…little piece of wood that I put on a stage…la, la, la…dance, prop, dance…listen to my chord…listen to my chord…can you hear-…listen to my fucking chord…my fucking melody, Jack…moje drogi stronnikmrowka smutna Jack fucking Nic the dick, in the doo-doo-doo, lally…’

I finished buttering and stopped my singing.

You’re an old man too, Jack…you’re old, I’m old…but…but I had more than you…I did, I had more…and I’ll leave better than you, Jack…I’ll leave better…better than you…’

I took the toast back into the living room and sat down on the couch. I sat there for an hour, talking some more, singing, still waiting for the editor to phone. But he didn’t. Was there still a film? Had they taken that away too? Fuck it, I didn’t care. It wasn’t much of a film anyway. Brosnan wasn’t anything to shout about, and McGregor…well, he was okay, but it wasn’t exactly anything difficult we were doing. It was just a rest, a vacation film. And what did it matter anyway? I was safe. I’d been safe for years.

I sat a while longer, picking cold crumbs off the plate, and when I was done I got up and went to my study to get the things. I thought about writing in the study, but it was colder in there so I brought the things back to the living room.

First, I laid out the Japanese alphabet, the hiragana, the katakana, and some basic Kanji. I picked up the pencil and copied out the characters. Then I tried some sentences.

After writing almost a page I put the pencil down and moved the Japanese stuff out of the way and replaced it with Bismarck. There was no writing for this, just reading and analysis.

Bismarck was caught between the Catholics and the French, and the divisions that existed within…’

As I read I thought about Bismarck and how clever he was to adapt and outmanoeuvre everyone the way he did, and I thought about how it might have been possible, if I had lived through that era, for me to have done the same. I thought about how rare genius really was, and I thought about all the other ants out there at this very moment doing nothing with their lives whereas I was still learning. I thought about how much and how often and how deeply I thought and how no one else thought as much as me, and how fucking ant-like they were and how exceptional I was. Then I thought further about my exception. I questioned it. Was I exceptional, really? I knew how much and how often I thought, and I knew the others I’d met didn’t think as much as me, but what about the rest of the world? What about the scholars and the academics and the other directors I read about? I had no concrete answer, just an easy faith that it was true, so I left it and went back to Bismarck.

Bismarck was caught between the Catholics and the French, and the divisions that existed within…’

Next up was the art. I put out the one by Klee, the one that looked like an electrified fish, and stared at it.

What did it mean? I didn’t know. It looked like a child had drawn it.

I looked at it for another few minutes or so then stopped.

The phone still wasn’t ringing. What was that idiot doing?

I shrugged, put Klee to the side and moved on to the next thing. Moje Schiele piekne.

I laid out Schiele’s nudes and stared at each one. They were sad, they were lonely, what else? I couldn’t think properly. I could only think of the artist. The natural successor to Klimt, dead at 28, sent to prison for fucking minors. But he didn’t do it. I knew he didn’t do it.

I thought a while longer about Schiele and his short life then switched to the biography Mani had left me.

For the last thirty-eight years of his life, Martin Ramirez was confined to the mental asylums of California.’

I read the same paragraph again and again. He drew his pictures on whatever he could find, with crayons, on paper cups…he drew pictures of trains and tunnels, escape and movement.

Trains and tunnels, escape and movement…

Trains and tunnels, escape and movement…escape, movement…escape…

A while later I woke up. I didn’t know what time it was.

I looked at the table and saw the newspapers. The assistant must’ve already been. Damnit, why didn’t she wake me? Did I ask her to? I couldn’t remember. Probably not. What did I need to be awake for, really?

I picked up the newspapers and saw a note on the front that said ‘ignore page seven’.

I turned to page seven.

There was an interview with that black guy…the one who did Ray. I didn’t like him. The guy had no character. No depth.

I read what he had to say.

If that had been my kid, Polanski would’ve been missing…period.’

What’s this? I read it again.

That motherfucker. Missing, huh? You wouldn’t even get past the rope to touch me, let alone make me missing…disappear, missing… jebana debilka. Fucking motherfucker. How did he even know me? Fuck. He didn’t know me. He was a name picker. He’d scooped me up and talked about me to sell something. What were you selling, black guy? Huh? What were you fucking selling that you gotta use my name like this? Motherfucker. Suki.

I put the newspaper down and kicked the table leg.

You think you know me, Black guy…nigger? You think you know how it was? Huh, nigger? Suki?

I told myself he didn’t know anything. He wasn’t there. None of them were there. The ones who backed me, Woody, Hoffman, Jack, they knew it. They knew what’d happened.

I stood up and walked to the window and looked out at the snow. It looked exactly like Italian snow, the snow I’d seen back in Italy by the Count’s castle, but it wasn’t, it was Swiss. Fucking Switzerland. Turncoats.

And it wasn’t like it was clear-cut. I knew that. I had known that for years. But it was defendable. It wasn’t like I had chased her in cold blood. It wasn’t like I’d followed her anywhere. No, she’d been sent to me, and she’d wanted the pictures taken, and that thing in her drink…man, what was it? Nothing big, nothing to worry about. Everyone was doing it then, it just made it better, that’s all. And now they called it what? Date-raping? The date-raping drug? Well, now, yes, but not then, and it was never rape. It was never fucking rape.

I opened the window and walked out into the snow, but as soon as I was out there I realised I was naked. I ran back inside and to the bedroom and put on some clothes and a scarf and gloves then came right back out, with the same thoughts in my head, the same defence, because I knew I wasn’t guilty and…

I picked up some snow and threw it at a pine tree nearby. It missed.

fucking defence, why did I even need it? Why was I still dragging this up after thirty fucking years? I went to prison, I took the punishment, and…and for what? I didn’t even do anything. Maybe, it wasn’t clear-cut, fine, okay, I could understand that, it looked bad what I did, but it wasn’t. Everyone knew it wasn’t, not really. It was just perspective, a perversion of the details…it wasn’t rape…they knew it wasn’t rape…thirteen was bad, but from the perspective…from my perspective, it wasn’t that way, it was different…it was a seventeen year old I was fucking…and it wasn’t because of the drink, it was because…fuck it, I knew what it was down to…not that I could say the truth of it…not that anyone would listen…

I picked up some more snow and made a ball.

I knew she’d said ‘no’…but…no, she didn’t actually say it, she said she said it, but she never actually said it to me…not properly anyway…she may have said it once or twice, but not when I was inside her, not when I was fucking her…and that’s the thing, that’s when you’ve gotta say it, if you’re gonna say it…but she didn’t, she never did…

I threw the snowball and it hit the tree and fell into pieces.

And why would she? No meant no, sure, but saying and thinking were two different things moje suka malo…and the truth of it…not that I could ever say it, but the truth of it was easy…she was higher than she’d ever been…with the genius of Chinatown, for fucks sake…why would she be saying no? Why? I was a fucking genius…super mensch…those ants knew it didn’t happen often…they knew it…and…

I picked up more snow and threw it at the tree. It missed.

I was better than her… ‘I’m fucking better than you, bitch…suki…what do you think about that? You want the truth? I’m better than you, and I’m better than the rest of you too…and I don’t feel a fucking thing for any of you…I pity you…all of you…to go through your shitty little lives and be less than me and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it…fucking ants…mrowka smutna…’

I put my hand in the snow and kept it there. A stupid, simple thought came into my head, a line.

You’re as cold as the snow.’

It was Sharon, wasn’t it? ‘You’re as cold as the snow,’ she’d said.

Was I?

I took my hand out and thought it out. It wasn’t true. I could feel, I had felt many times in my life. With Sharon. With film. With Mani. With the kids. With Jack. With the girls I didn’t know, all the girls…with the girls I’d fucked when I’d been with Sharon. When I cheated on her again and again and again. When I hated her for forgiving me. When I looked at her like an ant. When I bullied her in Italy. When I talked down to her. When I told her how pathetic she was and how it amazed me that someone who could speak two languages could be so fucking bland.

Wasn’t that still feeling? It wasn’t noble, but it was still feeling…

I went back inside and sat down on the couch. I sat there for a long time, perhaps two hours, thinking about all the terrible things I had done in my life. I hadn’t ever tallied it up but, looking back on it now, I was pretty sure the bad outweighed the good.

I was an asshole. Worse, I was a monster. I did deserve prison after all. More prison. Years of prison.

I looked at my hands, at how small they were.

But I didn’t deserve it for rape. I was many bad things, but I was never a rapist. I was a sociopath maybe, but never a rapist. And was I even a sociopath? Not such…just a little cold, maybe monstrous once in a little while, but not permanently. Maybe arrogant too. Yes, arrogant. But that wasn’t a fatal flaw…arrogance was forgivable. And for me, why shouldn’t I be forgiven? I had done good things too. I knew I had done good things.

I looked around the room, trying to draw in the good things. And there they were. On the shelf near the TV were the DVDs of all my films. They weren’t the studio versions, they were my own cuts, the flawless visions. My good things.

I got up and picked out The Fearless Vampire Killers and stared at Sharon on the back. She had red hair and was sitting in the bath with soap bubbles over her breasts.

Those breasts without the holes…that skin which wasn’t skin anymore…

God…moje Sharon piekne…she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

NOTE: This story got out of control, and has been cut into two parts. The second part will be posted next week.

  1. This is very good, as always. It’s disjointed, but I think that works because thoughts are disjointed, aren’t they? Or, they are if you aren’t well. I don’t think this was an easy piece to try. It would have been easy to make him sympathetic, it’s always easier to write that way. But, I don’t think you’ve made him sympathetic, and I like that. I’m not sure how deep you’ve gone with him, because this is only half of it.

    I’m interested to read the rest of it, and then I’ll have a better idea.

  2. Is Polanski really that much of a racist?

  3. Daize – The second part goes back in time. I don’t know if it picks up any depth along the way. Probably not. Is depth just balance? Is that what you mean?

    Marcella – I have no idea. But i figure it’s more convincing that I’m in his head if i go to extremes. I guess i did make him a little reluctant to use the ‘N’ word, which might show that he’s not really racist, but that he really just wants to say the worst word possible to Jamie Foxx? I don’t know, where does racism start and end?


  4. I found this very convincing, especially all the deception and self-justification. Like Marcella I wondered about the racism – though he could be, for all that he’s Jewish and a Holocaust survivor. Actually, that’s the aspect that I’d like to see explored – the interaction between being traumatised yourself and going on to behave abusively, rather than compassionately. Like the kids who are abused and grow up to become child abusers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: