A woman watches a man enter the room and walk self-consciously to the side. She says nothing to her companions, but glances to where he has placed himself against the far wall, while twisting her hair round and round her fingers. He appears flushed from heat, the scalp of his hair damp and shaped into tiny curls. He keeps twisting the gold thick ring round his long finger, and stares into the centre of the room as if trying to deflect anyone looking his way.
The room is full of acquaintances, colleagues, and some strangers leaning towards each other in frantic conversation, voices garish. He stands, hands in pockets now, baggy t shirt with some faded picture in lurid colours. Someone goes across to him, shakes his hand, and brings him into a group standing by a table. He still hasn’t seen her.
He looks alien, he looks like something greased and shiny, while at the same time the outline of him is spookily familiar.
The lights are dull, someone screams in laughter and everyone looks round, some faces aghast at the noise, other smile genially, “Ah Rosetta,” they say, turning back to their companions. People have travelled from all over the country, some pulled in from the far reaches of the land, pushed through snow drifts and car crashes on highways, to get here. Others have walked in from round the corner as if popping out for a coffee. It’s a packed room. It’s thrumming with talk, it’s moving with liquid washing down throats. Its motion is galloping away from itself.
He’s got to drink soon. She doesn’t go near him. Others move through and past them. They’re on a parallel, but hidden behind others, like so much of their lives apart. He stands beneath a light, beneath a picture of an urban 19th century scene, an earlier scene, an early skyscraper, men in huge dark overcoats, hats to hide behind. He looks scared. Someone with brassy blonde curly hair comes to talk to him. He’s smiling, like a man suddenly relieved of burden. But soon his face returns to the worried, preoccupied expression he wore when he came in.
He hasn’t seen her. He shifts his foot to the right. The room is quite dark. She moves to the right. His trainers are untied. His t shirt has a stain on the nipple line. He touches his face, stroking himself like a lover. In the darkness light shines on his face, spotlighting him. He moves left. She moves left. He moves backwards, she imitates. He moves right, like a man uncertain where to stand for comfort. She moves right. He folds his arms around him. She follows. He shifts away, bending his head to his friend, and finally walks to the passage where the toilets are situated.
- Here he could escape through the back door or wait for her knowing what she’s thinking. -
The woman walks across the floor. The door she pushes is pine, heavy striped and knotted, full of pictures of heads of pretty girls. Out the window a man and a woman walk arm in arm towards a car parked up in the car park. The passage way is empty but smells of cigarettes, and damp dogs. Music is piped into the hallway, “Can’t live if living is without you”. She flinches, catches her finger on a pine splinter. It digs deep. Looks like dark blood welting.
She walks towards the other side of the passage towards the window. Leans back against a recess. A column of wood hides her. The window ledge is cold and made of aluminium. A man, with a wonky tie and lipstick smudges on his face, comes from the main room, stands, lights a cigarette. Then the one she waits for comes out of the mens. The other man begins to talk to him. She watches him trying to engage in human communication. The other man is too engrossed in himself to notice his companion’s lack of good words. He scratches his nose. The wait seems interminable. Scratches his balls. Turns away, squints like a blind boy into the far distance where out the window a woman is lounging invitingly against a Trans Am car. All flames and attitude. Then he lights another cigarette. How much taller he is than the little guy. Mark. Mark is the name of the little guy. Gorilla arms and folksy hair. Probably someone who teased little girls into showing what was hidden in their pants. She’s getting impatient. The air seems so stale, staid, solid like pushing through mud. Smoke hits her eyes. She wants to cough.
Gorilla-Mark says, “See ya!” pats him on the back and goes into the mens.
She moves forward.
- Someone comes drunkenly crashing through the outer door like a bit performer in a farce. She tenses. She recognizes the man. Moves forward past the one she had been watching and is out the door holding the guy’s hand. It is a wishing game. Look how blue the perfect sky is! Look how the sun shines all the time! -
There is no distracting, saving angel of grace man who comes through the door, his white charger gleaming in newness and gold. Just the solitary man in front of her. He turns and she moves forward. One foot in front of the other. A foot in black patent shiny leather. She is immaculate except for the dried dirt traces on her feet. Traces like splashes of paint, or markings of possession on cattle. She looks as he always loved her to look. She brushes back her hair now. Gets caught in her fingers. As she moves her hand across her body the sun glints on the brown hair caught in a tear of her fingernail.
She looks like a woman from the supermarket, she looks like a woman from a bar, she looks like a woman passing in a VW Golf. She looks like no one met at high school. Nothing but calmness can be learned from her expression. Her eyes are sharply focused on him. Prey.
At that moment the woman steps forward. There are a million reasons why and a million reasons why not. The moments that got her here, the turns the twists, the decisions and moments of darkness. She doesn’t have to do this. But there is too much noise in her head, too many memories, too much pressing against her.
- Suddenly it rains and she is standing in rising water. And she is carried away by biblical terror.-
The man could move forward, the man could move back. He stands still. He says nothing, nor does she. The moment is so long and yet so quick.
Her arm rises as if to wave. What she carries looks heavy and cumbersome in her hand. It’s uncomfortable in her palm. A bird squeals outside and taps on the window. Party noise, if living is without you, crashing laughter, the beak on the window, the frenetic tapping, a hundred humiliations laughing at her, a thousand media images of happiness, a glint of sunlight. I can’t live.
A movement on the parking lot. The Trans Am. The flames growing along its vibrant side. If only she couldn’t do it; it’s prey; it’s a deer in the woods, it’s a prairie dog trapped and squealing, its cattle hounded and branded, mustangs roped while Marilyn screams, her knees knocking together, and a marriage falls apart.
It’s a million scenes seen.
She squeezes. She pulls. She cocks.
How quickly the silver screams through the air, how quickly the motion takes it away from itself. How quickly it’s gone. And how silent.
Two, like missiles from a submarine: equal trajectory, pointed, mechanical. Focused like the brain of a shark.
After noise comes a crazy silence. Always a crazy silence.
- She stands there. Waiting. Proud and noble. Smoking gun and sirens and screams.-
She runs, out the backdoor. Silence in her head.