Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The boy in the back room

Here's something I've been working on these past few weeks. It's titled "The boy in the back room".

I - April 2013

"... anyway, would you prefer a multi focal"?
"That's not very funny, you know. It's my brain. What is a Dysrhythmia anyway? I mean... J. Lo's ass!".
"Pardon? Did you just say...?"
"Err... yeah. I made it up. Do you like it?"
"I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. What does it mean anyway?"
"It's an exclamation, just like 'Jesus Christ' or something".
"How un-demeaning... for both. What's the reference? Hollywood glitz meets what exactly?"
"C'mon, it's just Jenny from the bloke"
"You're kidding, right? Tell me this is your sick little way of dealing with your stupid tumor."
"It's not a tumor. And it is funny and you can easily use it as an f-word substitute in civilized places".
"Because the reference to Ms. Lopez's behinds is much more subtle, yes; I see your point."
"Anyway, I'm not the sick one with the WW2 memories."
"Thanks for bringing that up. I was just getting used to being the only normal guy around".
"Besides, I told you, I don't know if it is World War 2, World War 1 or whatever".
"You'd think the black and white would be a dead give away".
"You're certainly on a roll today, aren't you? It's not in black and white".
"Whatever man. Anyway, this is my stop. I'll catch you tomorrow at school".
"Sure. See ya' then".
'J. Lo's ass indeed', Patrick thought to himself. His school buddy Terrance was
certainly a strange one at times. They'd taken few courses together but that seemed more than enough to create a mutual base of friendship. Terrance had his quirks (what's with all matching pens, notebooks and book covers? Is indigo a sign of success in studies?), but then so did Patrick. Carrying his MP3 player around, even when going to take out the trash, seemed a bit unusual in his neighborhood,
but he didn't care too much about that. His music collection was one of his chief sources of comforts these days, though, admittedly, Patrick bitterly thought, a very significant source of grief as well. The damned contraption refused to sync with his computer, and when it finally did, there was always a song missing or the wrong album artwork displayed. 'J. Lo's ass!'

II - September 29, 1975

"5 minutes to curtain, Mrs. D.!", the man behind the door said.
"Thank you, Angelo", the smoky voice rasped. Looking at the mirror was an acceptable agony now. After so many years on the stage, there was a certain defiance in the eyes, the ever so slightly wrinkled smile twitched a bit as the ever red lipstick did its bit and the powder covered the rest of the "imperfections". 'Well earned imperfections'. The thought flattered and disappeared quite quickly.

A long road to get to this moment, to this glitzy cabaret. Faded memories of that long deserted house with its surrounding bushes and pink and red flowers still lingered, even now. The years of service in the front lines, that lucky escape on that cold morning partly hidden in Sgt. Hathaway's arms, the very long self-imposed exile, they all had a purpose, a meaning. Not only did they lead here, to this night, but they would also pave the way for a more secure tomorrow, and based on the arrangements that were made and a few hopes, a more private and comfortable existance.
"You're on, Mrs. D.".
There was still tonight though. The smile returned to the somewhat weary and now semi-mystified eyes.
'Break a leg, Blue Angel'.

III - April 2013

He was having that dream again. His sub conscious, probably a bit too amused with itself, offered the experience with a glint of lucidity, which Patrick seized at. This time he would be more than just observer of his own dreams, he would try to direct the flow of thought to a direction his Id had been most reluctant to go - understanding.

The familiar bush fenced house materialized, as expected and Patrick caught a glimpse of a woman staring out one of its windows. He didn't recognize her, but he
was accustomed to that by now. The woman seemed fairly tall, blond and with an anxious look on her face. She was muttering something to herself but he couldn't make out the words.

Next was the bus station, but no - it was a railway station now. A creeping feeling of dread and a strong desire to flee began to overwhelm him, as he was struggling with his breath. Trying to relax, he thought about the
meditation technique Lilly Yang tried to teach him that sunny day outside the Social Studies library. Taking three deep breathes he closed and eyes and opened them again. He was still at the train station, a low hum in the background. "Hey you, you're gonna buy that newspaper or not?", cried the seller.
Patrick looked down: "War", shouted the headline of a skinny 1.5 Deutsche Marks paper. The hum was louder by now and he could almost make out the words. This was new, he noted. Why, though; what's different? What am I to do? "Can't help it", suggested the newsstand guy and faded away.

He was in Paris now, he was sure. Although he'd never been there, Patrick had a feeling of certain familiarity with the streets, the light, even the smell of freshly bakes croissants. With a start, he was awake. "Like moth to a flame".

IV - April 27, 1992

'Another damned curtain call. Damned that Roger and his "club"'.
"It's Mrs. D, you moronic little man! Don't you know who I am?!". There was no reply. The small snickering sound in the distance was certainly no reply to be considered. Adjusting the long shawl over the shoulders had a comforting feel to it. So had the extra lipstick - the best rouge this part of town. And it came with a price, as always. One of the mirror lights flickered for a minute. The delicate circuitry would need to be
adjusted, again.

"Mrs. D, can I come in? It's Jenny". The voice sounded slightly excited, even muffled as it was through the door. "Of course dear, come in, come in".
Upon first meeting Jenny, one would almost always think her out of place here. A slim, short woman with now graying auburn hair, she may have passed for pretty in her days. Those years she would hardly talk about to anyone but a select few. The memories pained her too much, she said, though it may have been the lack of any new notable ones in the years that followed that mattered. To her, the glory of the 40' and the 50', and, though she would vehemently refuse to admit it, the 30', has never truly passed from the world; at least not completely. Some, she seemed to believe, still lingered behind. That was one of the main reasons they connected so well. That, and the ever kindled, low flamed as it was, torch she was still carrying. They had a few conversations about it and Jenny did seem to understand and accept how things actually were though, most of the time anyway. And Jenny did look after her Mrs. D.

"You have to be careful, Mrs. D. Mr. Newsom there is... talking".
"That Roger always talks. He knows who I am, eventually. You know me Jenny".
"Of course I do, Mrs. D", Jenny said quietly. "I... You know you can count on me. Besides, I... I don't know... Mary and Joseph, Mrs. D. I don't know what to do".
Jenny was paler than usual, that was becoming evident now. Her lips were quivering slightly as she struggled for a deep breath of air.
"Mary and Joseph? What's wrong, Jenny? I haven't heard you invoke them since the airline strike of 73' and that was just because... Dear god, what happened? Tell me!".
"She... she is...". Jenny struggled for breath. "Jack Snipes from the Mission read the evening post and he knew how I'd felt, that is how I am and... you and..." Jenny could speak no longer.
"S-she is dead?"
Jenny managed a nod.
The view outside looked colder now. The easy lights and spiraling neons leading men to the "Diva’s Club" shone on just as darkly, luring the wanting patrons into the willing honey trap. But the taste has turned very bitter.

"Mr. err... Mrs. D.? I...". Jenny stammered. Funny, it wasn't like her to make such a mistake, not after so long. "She was the last, you know? There will never be the like of her again."
"No, I guess not".
"I'm sorry, Mrs. D. 'tis the passing of things".
"Yes, yes, of course. In a way, she lives through us though, right? What she stood for, you know".
"What she stood for? She didn't stand for the like of... I mean, You can't really know her... you couldn't really know her like I did. She's nothing like you".
"Well, no but -- what's gone over you Jenny? I've never heard you talk like that".
"It's just that you don't understand, that's all".
"Help me understand then, Jenny".
"You -- I've known you for years with your shows and make up and hair pieces and what not. But she, she was a real lady. A true woman. The 'Blue Angel' they used to call her. I... I've...". Jenny wept silently, unable to speak.
"You've loved her, didn't you Jenny?", understanding dawning suddenly. "You were in love with her".
The shock was quite apparent by now.
"Don't be silly, Mrs. D", Jenny managed, "I'm not like you. I've got Harry and the kids".
"No, I think I'm right. You are like me more than you'd like to admit. Who would have thought? I always knew you were a fan. I mean, that's how we met at first, on the line to the box office. But it's more for you, isn't it?"
"More?", said Jenny. "It's not more. It's special. It's just me and her. You could never get her like I do. You could never love her like me".
Jenny stiffened suddenly. "Yes, I loved her. I still do. You -- You can't know, you weren't there. It was a different time and She was different and even I was different".
Jenny wasn't crying anymore. Wiping the remains of her tears, she was nodding her head continually, muttering to her self. "Yes, I loved her. There. I loved Harry but she... To hell with Harry. I loved her. I love her".
"Here Jenny, won't you sit down. Let me help you".
"No, don't touch me. Don't touch me. You mock me. I see you", Jenny raved. "I see you. You think you can touch her like that, with that dress and make up and hair? You know nothing. Nothing!", shrilled Jenny.
"I only want to help you. It's a terrible shock for both of us. Let me help you Jenny".
"No! Don't touch me. Don't you dare touch me!"
Coming to Jenny's side, Mrs. D. tried to calm Jenny down futilely. "I said don't touch me!", cried Jenny, pushing away, moving askew the carefully placed hairpiece.

"What the hell are you doing, Jenny?"
"What I should have done a long time ago, when I first saw you defile her image".
"Defile?! Jenny, I really don't know what's gone over you but you really need to sit down and have a glass of water or something".
"No, I'm fine", Jenny breathed. "The world is empty tonight, so what is one less diva in the sky?".
With that, Jenny pushed and heaved, struggled and clawed. A few seconds later, she was of the room as well.

The story in the next day's Bay Guardian amounted to a small rectangle in the back pages, titled "The Fall of the Diva". Roger Newsom took some small comfort in the mention of his time honored establishment. 'Bad press is good press', he thought.

V - Late April 2013

"You're still thinking about going ahead with it, aren't you?", asked Terrance.
"No. Well, yes. I have to now, don't I?", said Patrick.
"I don't see why really. Switching majors this late is never a good idea. And this Psych crap! I mean man, I know you dig the chicks there and all, but come on! You need a graduate degree to actually work in it, you know".
"I know all that already, Terr".
Patrick wasn't sure how much to tell his friend. Close as he was to him, even learning some of the details of his more hazy dreams, or as Terr called them (mistakenly, but why correct him?) "Your film noir experience", there were some things he was holding back. Things like his growing acrophobia he was barely able to mask anymore. That was one of the chief reasons he did not apply for Psych courses already. The ultra modern design of the faculty included a spectacular
view of its surroundings, but for him it was like going through vertigo just thinking of those stairs.

"Anyway, what do you think of my theory? Doesn't explain everything?"
"Ah, yes. I can understand why you'd prefer to send it as an e-mail. Very scientific of you, J. Lo's ass. You didn't even check the facts".
"What do you mean?", asked Patrick, nervously going in his mind over the long and repeatedly re-drafted mail he'd sent.
"Well, for one thing, you got the date wrong".
"She died on May 6th, 1992 and you were born on April 28th 1992. I know I'm better than you in Math, but even you can see something just doesn't add up right here".
"Umm, no, I didn't know that. Damn.", said Patrick, genuinely shocked. He'd gone through it all, it all fitted so well but the date was something he did not even look very deep into. He'd known it was late April-early May. He just knew.

"Oh, apparently, and get this - I've found it on some obscure hard core fan site - there were rumors about her death a few days before it actually took place, but those were almost immediately denied by the family", said Terrance, rather triumphantly.
"But I've felt it. I felt that the date was approaching. How else can you explain the sudden increase in dreams I've experience, not to mention their content?", Patrick exasperated.
"Stress. Simply stress and fatigue", said Terrance. "You obviously have some Mrs. Robinson issues," smirked Terrance to a blushing Patrick. "Admit it, you always had a thing for older and powerful women".
"O.K, O.K. Suppose the date thing is wrong and the rumors were correct?", asked Patrick. "I mean, it's all so vivid".
"Two things. You're a student for electrical engineering without any apparent artistic streak in you".
"I'm not sure I entirely agree there, but O.K. What's the second thing"?
"You can't carry a tune if your life were dependent on it".

VI - December 2015

It was snowing early this year, global warming notwithstanding. The street lamps seem to sweat as the melting whiteness drizzled around them, adding to the occasional human breath vapor. The relatively dark corner, packed with overflowing dumpsters and dotted with broken bottles, was quiet, at least.
The nearby club, radiating now more in neon than fame, lent few of its voracious chords at this time.

Yes, some peace at last. An opportunity to light a hasty smoke and think. Those images were swarming his mind again, making very little sense: a house he could dimly make out among thickets of geraniums, a semi deserted bus stop with the sign "BERLIN -45" partly smudged by traces of smog and what he could only term as 'the peek'. It was a memory, he was quite sure enough of that, of a door quietly
opening to reveal someone waxing the hair of their legs.
His own.

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