Dec 2, 2009

The better part of midnight, I'm coming home with wine and bread. For those in need, on a drizzly night and drear. I step over the legs of a man asleep under a bus shelter bench. You wouldn't come outside unless you had to. I cross the street. The blinds on the crab restaurant window are falling. Everywhere curtains are drawn. I walk on.

I notice a woman in the distance, walking toward me. Same side of the street, a hundred yards away. She's screaming something. I walk faster. At 40 yards, she's blonde, shirt no sweater, hair tied up, in her 20s maybe. Just out of graduate school, I'm guessing. And before that, private college. Private everything. It's in the way she walks, the way she screams, the tone of voice, she's heard powerful authority figures up close.

She stops by a man sitting on the curb. Now I understand: they're together. He's wearing a white button down shirt and jeans. He's long legged, hair cut short. Like the nerd babies down at EA Sports. He's sitting on the northwest corner of Kirkham and 46th. Under a street light thick with mist and moths. I slow down to take in the drama. “What are you doing?” She's screaming. Over and over. “What are you doing?” The emphasis is on doing. “What are you doing?” The man doesn't answer but the body language says, “I’m leaving you. I’m done.” His head is bent over, legs spread, arms resting on his knees, fingers clasped, as though an IED just went off. He's trying to figure out who lived, who died.

And you know right away from looking at them, from hearing her screaming and his anger. His horror. You know what must have happened. He was betrayed. That was the IED. The images of her, maybe just in his imagination, have detonated. He has seen her underneath her lover, he has seen her responding.

Do you remember that scene in Visconti's 1960 film, Rocco And His Brothers? Alain Delon and Annie Giradot. Do you remember the scene when Rocco finds his mistress in the arms of his younger brother, Alain Delon. Rocco takes immediate revenge. While hoods hold Delon, Rocco takes the girl, by force, but there is a moment, more nuanced in some film versions, where after resisting the Giradot character gives in. She responds to Rocco. Fully. Delon is faced with the cruelest fickleness and promiscuity. He is condemned to hopelessness and cynicism forever....

I'm thinking of that as I approach the couple. The girl notices me and says something. He looks over his shoulder and says it doesn't make any difference who hears since, 'you've already woken up half the neighborhood'. I walk past, I don't look at either of them. 'I don’t see you', I'm thinking. 'I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t want to know.'

And yet I do. I want to know everything. I want you to tell me everything, from the moment of conception. I may be able to help. I've played all these parts myself...

But of course we let people have their dramas by themselves, even in a public place. Still, I would like to make a stage play out of it. Improv Everywhere. Actors popping out of trunks, appearing out of the shadows, coming up out of the manholes, like they did in those train stations in Europe. But these are twilight zone actors. They can actually play the different roles in these people's lives. Including the lover. And Nina Rota in the background.

Act 3 will be years later. They'll see each other again and they'll remember that night on 46th and Kirkham, in the damp and drear. "Was it 46th or 45th?" "No, we lived on 46th..." It will be awkward to remember such a thing. There'll be regret. Each will remember it differently. One or the other will be defensive. She will apologize still again, even as she wonders about his secrets. They will agree it was an untimely end. They will finally agree it might have been a mistake to react so definitively....

So I cross the street like a whippet on a leash and head down toward the ocean.

“I didn’t do anything,” she's saying. Over and over and over. “I didn’t do anything.” The tone is so plaintive, so genuine with apology. And every other word is 'think' or 'want.' ‘I wasn’t’ cheating on you,' is what I'm hearing. 'Not like you think? Did you think I wanted him? Did you really think that? Yes, I was lonely and you were off in your anger and who knows where were, where have you been, there are questions I could ask you.... but I didn’t want him. I don’t want him. It was nothing. It was just something that happened. I didn’t care about him. I don’t care about him. I’m sorry. Just stop for a minute.’

All of a sudden, he starts yelling. And now you can hear the wound itself. I linger by a parked car to hear better. I try to see through the car, but the windows are tinted. I go back a few yards in their direction. I'm thinking, 'well maybe I can do something'.

But what?

I could go up to them. I could say, "Do you know anything about the blue Morpho butterfly? Yes, well it lives in the Amazon rain forest. It's the most beautiful butterfly you've ever seen. The shade of blue is exquisite, unimaginable. If you saw it it would take your memory away. Literally, it does that. Here's something else. It defends itself by having such a bad taste that all its enemies know to avoid that taste. it's in their genetic memory. And here's something else, the Morpho lives for just a month. That's all. One month. All that beauty for just one month."
"And that about sums it up," I would say to them. "Just a different shade of blue. Don't you see. You're on the flip side of something fabulous. Don't give it up. That's all. Okay, then. Back to your fighting. "


Anjuli said...

With these street side occurrences you don't need to waste time watching's sad to try to imagine what was going on with the couple- often when we make a decision to do something...even when we think it is not an important decision- we end up suffering the consequences.

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