Rua Romilda Margarida Gabriel, Prédio Santiago, Itiam Bibi

by | Robert Vaughan - January Day 1

Sense!
I only got two fifty.
Money is money.
All quarters.
Better than pennies.
…eight, nine, ten. Alright?
Up the stairs, second door on the left. Knock twice, wait for permission to enter. We take discretion seriously.
Your hinges need oil.
What’s that?
Sorry, just talking aloud.
Next time, you want emotion, bring double. Just letting you in to hook you.
Fair enough. I’m an easy fish.

**

Last night, about 10 stories up in the apartment building across the street, a figure in a backlit window was either working out or taking it happily from behind. I could only see the silhouette of a head bouncing for about 40 minutes. Occasionally, he or she or they’d look over her shoulder, swing their ponytail from side to side, and continue. It could have been a live-cam-er or even a child bottom-bouncing on a trampoline. Regardless, what caught my attention the most was the two hands gripping the window ledge and imagining, with one over-excited thrust, a topple of maybe 25-30 flights to certain death. The ecstatic energy toward the window, as if performing for the whole mega-city, was enviable. Especially, because I was lying in bed with nothing to do, self-isolating with few symptoms, only fatigue and melancholia and apathy, waiting for this virus to pass, and couldn’t imagine bouncing for that long, that happily, for love nor money.

**

This whole while listening to Diane Keaton read Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem on YouTube trying not to think about narrative structure nor John Wayne, Joan Baez, nor my slew of full notebooks scattered in various apartments and dumpsters and drawers around the world. At times I wished for night-vision binoculars to clarify what I’d seen or wondered if the bouncing shadow was thinking about cottonwoods in river-bends reflecting non-violent political gestures or simply grooving to a very good beat. I’ll watch that window again tonight in hope of an encore. Or perhaps I’d better stick to the green-bellied parrots pecking the leftover papaya peels on our own balcony.

5 Comments

  1. Robert Vaughan

    Hi David, I recently re-watched the Didion biopic, The Center Will Not Hold. So, so much content, just as your piece, which I will get to. But one scene that I found riveting was when nephew Griffin asks about that scene she describes in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” in which she’s at a party on Haight Street in the halcyon drug daze- and a young kid is running around on acid. And she says something (forgive my paraphrase): “well, that was the MONEY!”)

    Which then leads me into your triptych… which I find so inventive, and like Didion, vastly symphonic. Love the fast paced banterish dialogue, the way we’re not sure if its a drug deal, or a sexual “hook” or simply room-mates doing their dance? Then those flights-of-fancy about the person in the window… what hold do strangers have on us? How much do we miss, by way of pandemic, the subtitles of these exchanges via sensory details? You, dear friend, lead a life so exotic that parrots are a daily occurrence. Imagine that, as I watch the snow swirl. Love these imaginative collages- how they overlay, how moments become tangible when captured in time. In richly devised vignettes/ scenes.

  2. Nancy Stohlman

    You know what I love about this is the camera angle, and the way it slowly pans out. At first we are in the wilds with you, camera up so close we are dizzy. Then we retreat and see a tableau. Then we retreat again and see a panorama. And it all starts to come together.
    The whole second paragraph made me giggle. But uncomfortably giggle. Like here: and couldn’t imagine bouncing for that long, that happily, for love nor money.
    It’s a strange a beautiful montage xo

  3. Meg Tuite

    Hi David,
    This is a labyrinth of structure and mystique. I do love that fast-paced jargon up front that lends itself to drugs or sex or maybe peep shows for a quarter a piece? Then the wild ride of a blurry backlit vision that goes on for 40 minutes. “Regardless, what caught my attention the most was the two hands gripping the window ledge and imagining, with one over-excited thrust, a topple of maybe 25-30 flights to certain death. The ecstatic energy toward the window, as if performing for the whole mega-city, was enviable.” The mesmerizing act and danger involved juxtaposed with the envy of the narrator who feels like shit and can barely move. And the backdrop of strange narrative and whole notebooks filled. So visceral as we move from the dialogue, to the visual, to sound, to those gorgeous parrots pecking on the balcony to bring the reader to an exotic place. It moves so smoothly and musically! LOVE THIS!

  4. Koss Just Koss

    Best COVID story I’ve read–with voyeurism and an invitation to roll around in your head. The beginning dialogue, “transaction,” and hook (with its myriad meanings–sexual and literary), for me, also points to and invites the reader to get hooked (whatever hooked is). Complex and effective, this piece. The ponytail reference conjured Fargo images, one of my favorite movie scenes.

  5. Adrian Frandle

    i love how we’re “hooked” from the start (BY a self-proclaimed fish) and then led into a sort of surreal “Read Window.” I found the voyeuristic and optical POV of the second piece intriguing and then the third piece begins with listening, so all of my senses were engaged. How focus is dilated from the little window, to the speaker’s room, all the way out to the entire world before contracting again into the one small window. So much motion!

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