People in France have a phrase: “Spirit of the Stairway.” In French: Esprit d’Escalier. It means that moment when you find the answer but it’s too late. Say you’re at a party and someone insults you. You have to say something. So, under pressure, with everybody watching, you say something lame. But the moment you leave the party. . . As you start down the stairway, then—magic.
You come up with the perfect thing you should’ve said. The perfect crippling put-down. That’s the Spirit of the Stairway.
“All those women,” the director says, “all chanting and protesting againstHustlermagazine, saying porno turns a woman into an object. . . Well,” she says, “what do you think a dildo is? Or donor sperm from some clinic?” Some men may only want pictures of naked women. But some women only want a man’s dick. Or his sperm. Or his money. Both sexes have the same problem with intimacy.
Because the killer has to come back. The killer has to talk, to tell this story until it’s used up. Other stories, they use you up. To the only audience a killer can risk having, his victim. Cassandra on her bed of moss. The microphone hanging above her, connected to a tape recorder and a transmitter broadcasting to a sheriff’s deputy perched on rocks across the canyon. Far enough away he can swat mosquitoes without giving himself away. The headphones over his ears. Sitting on the ground, crawling with ants. All the time, listening. In his earphones, birds sing. The wind blows. You’d be amazed how many of the killers come back to say good-bye. They’ve shared something, the killer and the victim, and the killer will come to sit at the grave and talk about old times. Everyone needs an audience.
“Every breath you take is because something has died.”
Something or someone lived and died so you could have this life.
This mountain of dead, they lift you into daylight.
The Missing Link, he says, “Will the effort and energy and momentum of their lives. . .” How will it find you? How will you enjoy their gift? Leather shoes and fried chicken and dead soldiers are only a tragedy if you waste their gift sitting in front of the television. Or stuck in traffic. Or stranded at some airport.
“How will you show all the creatures of history?” says the Missing Link.
How will you show their birth and work and death were worthwhile?