Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Indifferent Moon

How many of us have ever been bound and gagged – against our will?
     Tied to train tracks?
     Dangled menacingly from a towering precipice?
     Poisoned at dinner?
     Shot at the opera?
     Bludgeoned with a decanter?
     Pushed down the stairs?
     Left hanging from a cliff?

When all is said and done in the theater of life’s violent final act, when the butler and the gardener are hanging their heads in the vestibule – when Angela Lansbury is sipping her breakfast tea, the maid scrubbing the blood from the sitting room floor – somewhere there is an empty stage left standing, upon which a chemically-unbalanced young father crushes his infant son, a teenage girl vomits drain cleaner into a pillow case, a mother shoots herself in the neck – Jack Nicholson shows his canine teeth.

Is the melodrama of murder the sanguine face we put to each foul act, each dark stain left marking the actor’s departure?
     Is the gun drawn in the first, always unloaded in the third?
     Or is it more likely to be pressed to the temple of a kneeling man, his head recoiling at the bullet’s release, a seizure of helplessness setting him to a blossom-lined avenue, a hundred thousand toy G.I. Joes tumbling the assembly chute, racing to meet the deadline of disfavor in an awakening world.

Have we taken the awkward, ugly duckling of real horror and dressed it to kill, putting Baby Huey in Fred Astaire’s shoes?

Red velvet curtains close on the scene, an epitaph is scrawled across a yellow box, the screen goes dark, the imagination concocting each dirty deed done cheap, every rat divorced from his lungs, every damsel carried into shadow – every Gene Autry and John Wayne left tipping his hat with the barrel of his gun.

We are raised on such pantomimes of death, their turgid play-acting reflected in the glassy eyes of Mr. Drysdale’s wife poised in her balcony seat, the miseries of the world the farthest thing from her mind. And yet, even the elite in their perfumed aeries are visited by the terror of the real, awakening to blood on the sheets, a husband slumped into the bath, crimson clots decorating the tile – all the lurid details every True Detective lingers for.

The macabre improvisation of life’s surrender is a story only ever told after the fact, no clues left for a magnifying glass to discern, no guilty tears coming from the broom cupboard, no tidy resolution in the garden, no mustached constable licking his pen, taking indecipherable notes – his cursive loops like the wayward path of fate, circling the tender wrists of a virgin in her nightgown, her underwear blocking her throat, her head a black and purple bulb expressed to an indifferent moon.