She was very lively, though one could see she had undergone a massive ordeal. She was whiter by far than the hospital's bedsheets; her eyes, without make-up, seemed bruised and swollen, like a weeping child’s.

What she was recovering from was a form of pneumonia. “My chest and lungs were filled with a sort of thick black fire. They had to cut a hole in my throat to drain out the fire. You see," she said, pointing at a wound in her throat that was stopped with a small rubber plug. "If I pull this out my voice disappears," and she pulled it out, and indeed her voice did disappear, an effect which made me nervous, which made her merry.

She was laughing, but I didn't hear her laughter until she had reinserted the plug. "This is the second time in my life that I felt — that I knew — I was dying. Or maybe the third. But this was the most real. It was like riding on a rough ocean. Then slipping over the edge of the horizon. With the roar of the ocean in my head. Which I suppose was really the noise of my trying to breathe. No," she said, answering a question, "I wasn't afraid. I didn't have time to be. I was too busy fighting. I didn't want to go over that horizon. And I never will. I'm not the type."

Perhaps not; not like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, both of whom had yearned to go over the horizon, some darker rainbow, and before succeeding, had attempted the voyage innumerable times. And yet there was some common thread between these three, Taylor, Monroe, Garland — I knew the last two fairly well, and yes, there was something; an emotional extremism, a dangerously greater need to be loved than to love, the hotheaded willingness of an incompetent gambler to throw good money after bad.


Truman Capote

in Elizabeth Taylor (1974)


A Capote Reader

© 1987 by Alan U. Schwartz


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