I suggest the image of a man and a woman. The woman has just finished showing the man pictures of dogs, a boyfriend, an old house; and she has put the pictures away and leaned back on the bed to look at the ceiling. The man is sitting on the bed, turned towards her, supporting himself with one arm, enjoying his angled perspective on her face. It is midafternoon, overcast, quiet. The uncertain light enters through a window above the bed. Continue reading I Suggest
ANNA: Just keep talking.
DAVE: I can’t think of anything else to say.
ANNA: Talk about anything. Talk about the house you grew up in.
DAVE: Okay … well … we had high ceilings and a black metal fireplace.
ANNA: Uh huh.
DAVE: My dad put it in himself. It didn’t have a mantle, so we hung the Christmas stockings on a console stereo that had three handles on the front, one for each kid… We had a cat named Balthazar–Czar for short. Big cat. Black and white… I wonder if he was really big or I was just really small…
DAVE: Our dog was named Ginger. I remember the day I came home and my mom was crying because it was the day Ginger got too old and had to be put to sleep.
ANNA: Do you hear water running?
DAVE: No… Mmmm-maybe… No…
ANNA: It could be an underground spring. We should find it. Get up.
DAVE: I am up. I never sat down. Here, put out your hand. Are you sure you hear something?
ANNA: This way. It’s too narrow to hold hands. Try not to bump your head.
DAVE: I don’t hear anything.
ANNA: This way.
DAVE: My best friend and I played ‘Johns’ in the back yard. Why was it called ‘Johns,’ you ask? Because John was the coolest name and so we both got to be called John, and we were tough guys who could do anything…
ANNA: I think this is a passageway.
DAVE: If the Johns were stuck in a cave, you can bet they would find their way out. They would just punch their way out or something.
ANNA: Oh shit! Oh shit… Ow ow ow…
DAVE: What is it?
ANNA: I twisted my fucking ankle.
DAVE: Oh, lord. Well, sit down.
ANNA: You’re right, it’s hopeless. It’s hopeless! … Nice echo.
DAVE: That’s the spirit.
ANNA: Okay, talk about your childhood some more.
ANNA: Come on, what else did you and your best friend do.
DAVE: God, I’m so sorry about this.
ANNA: I know, I know. … Look, I’ve had a great life, even if it ends now. I got to move to America. I got to fall in love. When I was a kid, both of those things seemed impossible… And now I get to die. That’s something else I never thought would happen, somehow. It’s an adventure, isn’t it?
DAVE: Are you serious?
ANNA: Well, sure! We get to meet God!
DAVE: You know I don’t believe in God.
ANNA: That’s the beauty of it! If he exists, you get to meet him whether you believe in him or not. You get to find out. Where’s your scientific curiosity?
DAVE: Maybe I’m going to hell.
ANNA: You don’t go to hell just for not believing.
DAVE: Says who?
ANNA: Says me.
DAVE: Or maybe we just die.
ANNA: Agh! You’re really depressing sometimes, you know?
DAVE: Can you talk about what you did as a kid now?
ANNA: Okay, yeah… I went to the Black Sea every summer. I had allergies, terrible allergies, and the doctor told my mother to get me out of the city. We weren’t rich. My grandmother rented a room in a shack in a village close to the sea. I helped in the garden. We grew cucumbers for pickling…
DAVE: Do you think we would have liked each other if we had met as children? What if in some alternate universe we lived in the same country, the same town, the same street.
ANNA: I would have thought you were cute.
DAVE: I would have thought you were cute too. I’ve seen pictures.
ANNA: What did you like to do most when you were a kid?
DAVE: I rode my bike around. I rode it everywhere–a Huffy with a long black seat.
ANNA: I never rode a bike when I was a kid. I was afraid of them. Still am.
DAVE: Where was your favorite place to be?
ANNA: By the Black Sea, dropping rocks in the water.
DAVE: We had a lake, a reservoir, near our house. I rode my bike there and dropped rocks in.
ANNA: That’s where we would have met!
DAVE: Yeah. I can see us there, dropping rocks, drawing pictures in the sand, inventing games out of nothing, capturing bugs, wanting to hold hands but being shy. You’d hand me a stone you’d think was pretty, and I’d make it shiny in the water and rub it on my shirt. I’d look hard for one to give you. We’d stay there by the water until it was too late, and our parents would begin to wonder where we were. The crickets chirping, the air growing chill, our stomachs beginning to grumble. Not wanting to be called home. Not yet.
ANNA: Just keep talking.
Their bare feet thudded on the wooden floor. He struck a match and lit the candles on either side of the stereo cabinet. He blew out the match and held it’s carcass in front of him, waiting for the red coals to turn to black before dropping it in the waste basket.
“Why did you light the candles?” she asked.
“I like the way they make the room look. I like the way they make you look. I like the way they make me look.” His hand released a giggle in her, but she turned away. She looked at a picture on the wall, transformed also by the light of the candles.
He returned to the stereo cabinet and put on a compact disk: New Orleans style jazz music. He turned it down a little.
“Why did you put the music on?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered, but smiled at her. They fell back on the bed.
She listened to the jazz music and thought about the candles. They were props, and she was the third prop. And he was the fourth. The room itself was a prop, and the bed. She dug her elbow into the bed. She reached around him to grasp the comforter and squeeze hard. She imagined a little being way inside her who was cataloging all these props and looking on with detached amazement at the way they interacted. The light from the candles touched the wall, which also reflected the trombone sounds coming from the speakers. The bed creaked. At the center were the two human bodies, with their various limbs, their nervous systems. They were trying to fit together. Trying and failing and trying again and succeeding. The candles flickered. The CD skipped. He fell off the bed and onto the floor with a thud and a knock.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“I’m all right,” he said. He lay on the floor for a few seconds without moving. Then she saw his hand reach up. She grabbed it and kissed it.