Don't Look Back
The Halloween party was supposed to be fun. But instead that's when
things really began to spin out of control, like some ride at a local
carnival that's throttled up too high and you can feel the metal cage
starting to come loose, the lock pins rattling free, this close from
hurling you out into the night. Come as your favorite historical
figure. It was just clever enough that the few invited
professors—Halberstam and Crabtree—actually
came. The bombing had stopped, at least for now. There hadn't been a
bombing raid for over a week. We were in high spirits.
"Bonnie and Clyde—they're from a movie," Damien said to
one couple dressed like beautiful, tragic gangsters.
"And they were real people."
Brendan was dressed like Brad Pitt from Se7en, which wasn't too hard
because he accidentally looked like him anyway, except skinnier. But
not a historical figure, unless you count movie characters as
historical figures. He wore the wrinkled white shirt, the
across-the-chest gun holster, the nice shoes, the five-day growth of
beard. He gestured like a rookie cop with the sacrificial wife.
"This isn't going to have a happy ending, you know," he said, cocking
his head slightly to one side.
"This isn't going to have an ending," I told him.
Several people—including a few girls—were dressed
like Cobb from Inception. Those vests.
Damien was Dr. Strangelove, in black with a white shirt, the creepy
sunglasses, the black leather glove, the chrome wheelchair, the
maniacal accent. He spent most of his time gesturing wildly and
maneuvering through doorways. He never broke character once (except to
drink), and kept ordering nuclear attacks all night.
There was Marion from Requiem for a Dream, bleached out from heroin,
Jack from Fight Club (two Brad Pitts, I know), Selma from Dancer in the
Dark in her frumpy hand-knit sweater, and someone I didn't know was
slumped on a cream-colored couch as Neytiri from Avatar. When she stood
up she left a purple stain. Professor Halberstam was Bob Dylan from
Don't Look Back, slinking around in his shades, full of cool and
shameful self-loathing. Crystal came as Jamie Lee Curtis from
Halloween, in soft feathered hair, a simple white blouse unbuttoned at
the top, and jeans.
Me, I was Sandy from Blue Velvet. Laura Dern was so pretty in that
movie. Blond hair, long skirts, school backpack. Not at all ironic.
Everybody thought the ending to Blue Velvet was satirical, a parody of
the naivety of true love. But not me. I cried at the end to see them
together and happy. I believed that was possible.
Then there was Beverly, dressed like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction.
That was just like her, to come dressed as a character from a movie so
popular at one time that was it was now fashionable to hate. Black
shoulder-length Egyptian hair, crisp white cotton shirt, clam digger
pants. It was so typical. She smoked like she was having oral sex.
"I've got a scene just like this in my story," she said. We were
standing by the fridge. People kept opening and shutting it for beers.
Bottles clanked in the door each time.
"That's interesting," I said.
"Now don't be flip, mommy-o. I worked very hard on it."
"Please tell me every detail," I said. I finished my beer and opened
the fridge and got another one, the cool air pushing against my face.
"Well there's lots of sex and violence, for starters."
"What's happening here tonight," she said, looking around, "this is
pretty much how it's written. Of course the details are a little
different. Oh, and there are explosions."
Damien lit candles on windowsills and tables and counters and the place
took on the glow of a ritual. Outside, the city was deserted. We were
deep into the night. In the distance, there was the familiar sound of
machine-gun fire. And then, like the distant wail of a tea kettle, we
heard the jets. They must have been very low and very fast because
before the sound even registered in our brains the wail became a shriek
and the explosions shattered the windows, sending glass into bodies and
faces, extinguishing the candles. In the quiet pause before the
screaming began, under a gentle rain of sparks falling from a blown
light fixture, I glimpsed Halberstam (I would not ever have the chance
to call him "Professor" again) fumbling to take off his Bob Dylan
glasses, as if something less than darkness was the answer to anything.
Nicholas Rombes has stories in or coming from Oxford American, Significant Objects, matchbook and others. He writes for
The Rumpus, where he serves as film editor.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Lois Poisy.
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