Illustration by Milano Chow
Vice: When you were a kid, were there any writers in particular that made you say, I’m going to move to New York and do what they do? Richard: Yeah, any of them that were drunk and had a lot of sex. For me, it was actually Dylan Thomas. But it could have been any of 30 others that had those qualities: Drunk and sexy.
In this story the narrator mentions how girls always had to put up a token amount of resistance to sex back when you were younger…There are still pockets of that today. But from the little that I know of it, it seems like sex is often thought of as completely recreational now for people in their 20s. You know, girls casually getting ass-fucked on the first date. There wasn’t too much of that in the 50s and 60s. I mean, even Jack Kerouac was really hung up. The way he talks about women and women talk about him, it seems like it was an ordeal.
esterday there was a pretty girl sitting with her girlfriends in front of my wife and me at a movie and most of the time all I could see of her was her hair. When you were sitting behind girls in classrooms in grade school, their hair could drive you crazy. It wasn’t even actually alive, but it had more personality than most people because of the strange way it was involved with the girl it belonged to. It was out of your reach while being right there, completely exposed. It was like spying on someone sleeping. In third grade I was crazy about Mimi McLellen. That was her name. If I try to picture her, there’s no face. Her dirty-blond hair is in a big bouffant. But no one that young would have worn a bouffant like that I don’t think. And this was 1958 and hardly anyone would be wearing a hairdo like that until Jackie Kennedy showed up two or three years later. I lay in in my bed at night thinking of Mimi McLellen, and then fantasizing getting hit by a car so that she would take my hand, and I could tell her that I loved her. In the sixth grade there was Janet Edelstein. It is probably Janet’s hair I put on Mimi. Because Janet did have a big dark blonde bouffant, preserved by hair spray. People call that hairstyle a “helmet,” but it’s more like a silken mist, a soft fragrant mesh of crystallization. The young girls wore white blouses with ring-neck collars and cardigans and culottes. Maybe a delicate gold-colored chain necklace, and tennis shoes or Bass loafers and bobby socks. Many of the girls had breasts by then. Janet’s were larger than most. She was another one I never revealed my feelings to. A year or two later, maybe even three, we chanced on each other somewhere and we talked and it turned out she’d had a crush on me in that same period. That seemed tragic. It was Shakespearean. I can’t remember when I started masturbating, but it was long before I could come. There was no ejaculation, but it felt just like coming. We thought there was something perverse and inferior about jacking off. Having sex alone. I had this technique for excusing it where I wouldn’t start until I could give myself a hard-on without actually touching my cock. Thinking of those fantasies now, I wish I could see them as if they were movies, because, since I was so ignorant about sex, it would be cool to see what I was picturing. There was a great Mad magazine spread in the 60s featuring photos of 3-D versions of children’s drawings—photos of everyday objects constructed as if the children’s drawings of them were accurate. Like a stubby little airplane with different-length wings that pointed in different directions, and propellers on them that looked like broken matchsticks, and dripping misspelled words on its fuselage. Human works that don’t hide the crudity of the approximate nature of their representations are the best. Anything people do is a failed representation, a translation or degredation, of an original. At the same time, the little I did know about the mechanics of sexual activity when I was 13 was plenty. Drawing a pencil picture no more detailed than an infinity sign with a dot in the middle of each side of it, and directly below that a little hut or beehive that had a triangular patch of scribble in the bottom center of it was enough to give a boy a giant hard-on. I spent half the eighth grade having to walk with my schoolbooks held in front of my jeans to hide the sideways bulge. Sometimes a few drops of liquid would escape just from the friction of the fabric stretched across it. When I eventually got a finger or two inside a vagina, at 13 or 14, it was like being ordained into a new dimension, almost supernatural. I went for a long walk afterwards, furtively passing my fingers under my nose every few hundred yards. That odor was a trace and insignia of my new kingdom, like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. I didn’t have full-scale sex until I was 15. My only interest in her was that I thought she might let me have sex with her. Sex drive overcomes almost everything. Many have died behind their dicks. After all, where does reckless aggression come from but testosterone, and where does testosterone come from? Many have died and many around them have been totally fucked. And often greatly liked it. But this unlucky girl didn’t like it, or very much of anything else, as far as I could tell. She was a waitress at a Big Boy drive-in near the university. She was 19 and a hillbilly from Appalachia and she was not just narrow-minded and ignorant, but dumb as a rock and about as energetic. I flirted with her when I’d go in for a hamburger. I told her I was a pre-med student. It wasn’t long before she’d given me the key to her apartment. The making out was not relaxed. It was like hacking through wilderness brush that clung to your ankles and scratched your face, as you struggled on, further and further, your heartbeat racing, because the incentive was so powerful. Namely female genitals: Dripping wet pussy. In the end, her pussy wasn’t even very wet, she was so nervous and put upon. Fucking her was horrible, though god knows I couldn’t get enough. Even once her clothes were off and she was lying under me on the bed, she didn’t participate, but resisted for appearance’s sake, all the way through full penetration, which she refrained from giving any sign of joining, but rather lay there stoically, performing only a last symbolic hip buck or two of denial and refusal. I understand there still are cultural strata where this is standard behavior even among married people. Thank god for pornography. Thank god for the sexual revolution and the pill, and rebellious, fun-loving girls. Though I can’t deny I am still repressed and American enough to like sex dirty. And I do love hair. Because it’s dead but personal and because I’m moved by the futility of its attempts to warm and protect the places where it grows. RICHARD HELL