Selections from True Stories by Sophie Calle:
THE PLASTIC SURGERY
When I was fourteen my grandparents suggested that I needed plastic surgery. They made an appointment with a famous cosmetic surgeon, and it was decided that my nose should be straightened, that a scar on my left leg should be covered up with a piece of skin taken from my ass and that my ears should be pulled back. I had doubts, but they reassured me, I could change my mind up until the very last moment. In the end, though, it was Doctor F. himself who put an end to my dilemma. Two days before he operation, he committed suicide.
Some time in 1984 I received a call from a stranger by the name of Mâkhi. She wanted me to go to the apartment where the two sisters who “adopted” her had lived and, within six months of each other, died, both aged 90. Mâkhi had inherited their possessions but for months had put off this first visit to a place haunted by their decrepitude, their death and their ghosts. I went there for her sake. I photographed the abandoned house so I could give her the images of what she was frightened to see. I asked to keep the sisters’ portrait and some diaries. The entry for December 25, 1980, said: “Saw Nothing—Nobody.” And, for 1981: “Christmas—Nothing.”
I saw him for the first time in December 1985, at a lecture he was giving. I found him attractive, but one thing bothered me: he was wearing an ugly tie. The next day I anonymously sent him a thin brown tie. Later, I saw him in a restaurant; he was wearing it. Unfortunately, it clashed with his shirt. It was then that I decided to take on the task of dressing him from head to toe: I would send him one article of clothing every year at Christmas. In 1986, he received a pair of silk gray socks; in 1987, a black alpaca sweater; in 1988, a white shirt, in 1989, a pair of gold-plated cufflinks; in 1990, a pair of boxer shorts with a Christmas tree pattern; nothing in 1991; and in 1992, a pair of grey trousers. Someday, when he is fully dressed by me, I would like to be introduced to him.
I was in love with him, but he had decided to leave me. To soften the breakup, he suggested a farewell trip of one week in Seville. I liked the idea though it seemed painful. So, I accepted and we went. On the last day, seeing my tears, H. told me a secret. It was a terrible secret, which had poisoned his life. And he was confiding it to me. Only to me. At the very moment he was depriving me of his love, this man offered me, through his confession, the ultimate proof of our intimacy.