The following post contains graphic images of horror, creepiness, and violence against women.
Despite her popularity and success in France, American-born entertainer, Josephine Baker, never attained the equivalent reputation in the land of her birth. In 1936, at the height of her success in Europe, she returned to New York, hopeful that her merit and solidified status as a respected performer in France would override any considerations regarding her race. She was to star in a revival of Ziegfeld Follies, but undercurrents of racial prejudice ran through the criticism. Later in the run, she was replaced by a white woman. TIME Magazine wrote at the time:
“[Josephine Baker is] a washer woman’s daughter who stepped out of a Negro burlesque show into a life of adulation and luxury in Paris during the booming 1920s […]. In sex appeal to jaded Europeans of the jazz-loving type, a Negro wench always has a head start. The particularly tawny hue of tall and stringy Josephine Baker’s bare skin stirred French pulses. But to Manhattan theatre-goers last week she was just a slightly buck-toothed young Negro woman whose figure might be matched in a night club show, and whose dancing and singing might be topped practically anywhere outside Paris.” – TIME, February 10, 1936
“I ran away from the United States of America, because of that terror of discrimination, that horrible beast which paralyzes one’s very soul and body.” – Josephine Baker
“I believe our nightmares make us woke to the horrors of reality.” – I said that.
This was her dream on her last night in New York before returning to Paris.
Before waking, I dream I am lying in a cradle-like bed. It is hot as if I were being cooked alive. I try to set my body free, but am haunted by my own ghastly movements. My head swims with voices as if my violent agitations had their own words. I gasp for air, but the attempts feel in vain.
I slowly rise from the prison of the small bed. My tiny feet gently slip onto the floor. I look around the room. I cannot see anything. My eyes sink deep into the black space. I walk across the room reluctantly. Hands lay their palms before my eyes. I wonder if my eyes are closed or if I am sleeping. I struggle to see that which hunches in the dark corner, breathing deeply. It is waiting patiently for me to come.
I walk cautiously, hoping I do not feel the tingling of claws. It is there, lurking in the shadows. I smell its vile odor as if it is playfully dancing before me in the pitch black. The ground is greasy and I feel worm-like creatures slither between my toes. They crawl onto my skin and sink into my flesh. I feel myself gradually wasting away, until I hear the crackle of my bones. My head wants to look down, but the strong claws of a creature behind me grasp my chin firmly in place. I do not struggle.
The creature withdraws and just when I think I am set free, I realize there are bodies. They are hunched together. I cannot see them clearly. They lay their hands on me and shred my clothes with their teeth. I am pushed up against them as if dancing with all of them. They fall upon me, jabbing their hard sharp bones into the available cavities my body has to offer. I feel dry lips brush against my cheeks, my forehead, and my lips. When I try to wipe away their kisses, I feel a thick, muddy stream and a hard plate where my cheeks would have been.
I am led into another room. I grope the walls and switch on the light. The beings scamper away, frightened.
A large mirror is before me. There is a woman standing inside the mirror. She is wearing a white sequined dress, which in the light, reveals her thin, delicate body. I can tell she has been raped. She is standing with me, against them. She is 13 or 30, though I cannot tell as her face has fallen into the pit of sores, with acne as the ruling matriarch. She was beautiful once. Her eyes are sunken in while pulsating a purple hue. Her cheeks are savagely devoured. She is balding and black strings stream down from the top of her scalp. She smiles at me. She taps the mirror. Tap. Tap. Calling me to her. I raise my fingertips to the surface where the glass is but a fragile wall. She desperately pushes her palms against the glass, eager to hold my hand, but I frown because she can’t. I move with her and she follows my movements in perfect unison. She continues to smile. I see she is missing her teeth, but the six she has left are blood-stained and brown. She opens her mouth and presses it against the surface. I follow her. She presses her tongue against the glass, desperate. Her tongue is purple and worms crawl slowly from her tongue onto mine, slithering and intertwining, the glass melting away within the domain of our locked lips. I pull away from her kiss.
I turn around. I want to wash my feet. I want to wash everything away, but voices in the shadows say, “Don’t use the water. Do not turn on the faucet. The gushing is loud. We want to sleep now.” I hate them, but I must obey. I have no choice. They gurgle and laugh delightfully.
There is a large black bucket in a white bathtub. I lift the bucket and fill it slowly with water from the small sink, which whispers down the pipes. The bucket cannot be filled. Only a small amount of water is in it. I return the bucket to the bathtub. I sit on its edge and lower my ravaged feet into the bucket. I focus on the lingering grime on the tiles. I dig my nails into its small dirty spaces. Spiders and roaches scamper the walls. I smile. The water in the bucket begins to boil my feet. I feel claws tingle up and down my spine. It is the woman. She has stepped away from the mirror. She kisses my neck and slides her snake-like tongue across the back of my neck. She sinks her fangs into the back of my neck, but I stop her. I am tired, so tired.
I turn around. She is beautiful. Her hair is silken black and coiled in onyx tendrils. Her face is smooth and tan. I make crude circles on her face with my fingertips as if it were soft and thin like water. “Enfuis-toi, ma chérie,” I whisper, over and over again, but she simply laughs, “We have been here before. We have been loved so much and yet you return here. You don’t remember?”
I hold her beautiful face in my ugly hands. Her skin is warm, irradiating my fingertips, which I gently run down her soft neck and slither my tongue down the silken slope of her throat. I want to drink her blood, but I suddenly recognize her.
“Qui es-tu?” I ask.
She replies, “You are me,” and I wake.