When I was 6, I had a tiny brown cat. Josie. As in The Pussycats. She had these cosmic eyes like inkwells, so iridescent and reflective that I swear I relived the bullshit Mirror Stage of development all over again, hypnotized into a brand new identity. Our parallel bond was solidified the night she brought a lacerated baby bunny into my room. As a gift. Cats do that. Everyone says it’s because they think we’re too useless to hunt, but I like to think of it as a test. Her sable eyes tacitly asked me, “How will you react to my innate need to kill?”
And I knew I was supposed to be horrified. To shriek, to run to my parents’ room. But literal animal magnetism pushed me to my hands and knees, and I put my face as close as was sanitary, and I just stared. Absorbed it. The glimmering sheen of the viscera, the pallid organs juxtaposed against the cherry bomb-blood. In short, I passed.
Josie soon understood that, although I accepted her, I couldn’t do the same for her gift. So she gave me a different one: the pleasure of watching her stain her whiskers scarlet, listening to her crunch bunny bones like rock candy. I tried to tamp down my rising peppery envy by forcing my brain to think the words, “disgusting monster disgusting monster disgusting monster” over and over again. But somewhere in the back of my throat, a pilot light ignited.
I’m saying this because right now, I’m straddled over the body of a bassist in a could-be-worse surf-punk band, and his blood is soaking through his flannel sheets, and for once in my life I’m not scared. Crimson is calming. I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t calming.
Like in my 11th grade anatomy class during dissection day. Staring at the wet mound of pale red flesh soak through the brown paper towel, I thought, “This is probably the only time you will ever touch a cow heart in your life,” in blinking neon letters. “You are not good at math and science. You will never pursue this as a career. This is it.”
And when my razor cut through that ropy muscle of the aortic valve, oh no, I loved it, and I hated that I loved it. When my gloved fingers probed the chordae tendinae, quite literally tugging this dead cow’s heartstrings, an involuntary pang of desire slapped against my own chest. When it was over, I pulled the rubber gloves off my sweaty hands and tossed them in the overflowing trash, pausing to stare at the pile in the bin — rubber gloves and human sweat and cow carrion that, if not for the tell-tale tang of formaldehyde, could’ve been blackberry jam. I imagined spreading it on toast and licking the knife clean. The coolness of the blade against the metallic flavor of the blood. Steel on iron on red on fire in me. The match was lit.
Again, just like with that mangled bunny, I knew the euphoric glow snaking between my ribs was wrong. Every primal instinct in me screamed that I should see fear and disease and death in the carnage, but somehow, on an even more ancient impulse, I saw beauty.
And that’s what I’m seeing now, staring at our sanguinary reflections in this goddamn bassist’s full-length mirror. I know, I KNOW slasher flicks have socialized us to associate sex with violence, but I promise you, we weren’t even fucking.
A few hours ago, I’d been leaning against the back wall of some gentrified bar by the waterfront, smoking a joint and trying to look as effortlessly cool as someone trying to look effortlessly cool possibly could. There’s no way I would’ve admitted it to myself at the time, but I was waiting for him. The bassist from the could-be-worse surf-punk band. They’d played at the bar earlier that night –– the lo-fi reverb of their effect pedals was still buzzing through my bones, generating enough buoyant energy to convince me that anything could happen. That maybe I’d better stay out late just in case the septum-pierced guy onstage slappin’ his Gibson to a song called “DOOB TUBE” comes up and ask to leaves with me.
And, somehow, he did. Well, kind of. He eventually breezed out the building’s back door, running his fingers through his tousled hair, and I pretended that this simple act didn’t make my heart threaten to explode out of my chest, Alien-style. I held out my joint towards him as an offering, a way to wordlessly say, “Great show! Also, I smoke weed which is shorthand for ‘I Am Cool and Chill.’” He took it without even mentioning the omen of my blood-red lipstick drenching the tip.
Then… we just talked. From the venue to his Subaru to his couch to his bed. Just talking and talking and talking. Talking until the birds sang apocalyptic hymnals outside his window. Talking until the syntax of our sentences turned to slush. Talking because the sound of each other’s voices needling through the navy night was preferable to the dull, repetitive, lonely hum of the A/C.
Eventually, around the hour of the wolf, he laid his head on my shoulder, then drifted down to my chest and closed his eyes, murmuring, “You’ve got a fast little rabbit heart.”
And I do. I do have a fast little rabbit heart. And his saying so activated it, and my hands that were lazily toying with his hair were suddenly shaking because I knew that those were the last words that would ever drip down his chin, and the implicit power embedded in that knowledge is the reason I’m picking bits of surf-punk bassist guts out of the gaps of my teeth.
There’s something undeniably intimate, erotic even, about biting through a man’s intestines. I thought about ending that sentence with an “isn’t there?” but it’s not a question. I don’t need you to agree. I don’t need you to approve. I’ve done it and you haven’t. My only regret is that I called myself a disgusting monster earlier, because the pendulum is swinging back the other way. I can see clearer now, straight through to the immutable truth calcified in the marrow of my bones: There’s nothing more gloriously gorgeous than a woman embracing the hunt.
Mia Vicino is a film critic, screenwriter, and bookseller at Powell’s City of Books. She is based in the surreal disconnect between reality and fantasy, where she writes for Willamette Week, Much Ado About Cinema, and film-reviewing site Letterboxd (under the pseudonym “brat pitt”).