horror films

My insomnia has returned, so I've started watching some of the horror films my roommate has laying around. At first I enjoyed the mindless entertainment, the bad camera angles and hackneyed writing. Late at night, alone in my room with just the glow of my laptop's screen showing brief shots of some monster that was no doubt very scary in the designer's mind, I could pass out. In the morning I would read the Wikipedia article about the movie to see which characters died.

One evening I actually paid attention to the movie and I started thinking how tragic it really was. These characters died completely senseless deaths--they were in movies but it wasn't cinematic. It had no emotional impact. It was expected. It was meaningless. I started to write obituaries for the characters that died in the movies. I mourned their passing. I made sure that they were remembered, that their deaths were not in vain.

I thought of a character I had created for a zombie apocalypse story. She was this pathetic and desperate character who felt trapped in her small-town life and was perpetually unhappy. I thought about how, if I ever wrote that story, I probably wouldn't have the heart to kill her because she is so beautiful and sad and lonely. I decided that if the zombies did kill her, it would be a sad moment. The characters in horror films and zombie apocalypse stories need to be real people. They need to have their own hopes and fears and when they die it needs to be the tragedy that it really is.

I don't think people are ready for that. They watch horror films so they can feel that cheap cinematic terror. It's already halfway there. Pity and fear, right? They're tragedies, every one of them. We just need to mourn for them.


ninety-degree angles

I was browsing books with a girl who was worried about the number of days in a year and the number of degrees in a circle. She asked me if I'd ever wondered about that and I said I hadn't, but I actually kind of started to right then. I said "There's probably some correlation there."

She nodded but didn't respond right away. She said "I guess that makes sense. I mean, we just kind of go in big circles, right?"

"Right." I ran my finger along a row of short story anthologies and selected one at random and started flipping through it. I read the phrase "It would be useless to repeat what Jane said." I decided to buy it.

"It's kind of bizarre to think about how we just sort of made up numbers that we've been using ever since." She smiled at me. "So, did you find anything fun?"


in the dark

Every important conversation I have had for the past six months has taken place in the dark. It started six months ago today, actually, when my girlfriend and I decided to take a vacation: a road trip on I-5 south, no plans, no itinerary, no warning. During the day it was all laughs and adventure, but as evening wore on, and we were tired or drunk or whatever, that's when things got serious. But the important conversations came when we were in the car, or the cab, or the hotel, and the lights were off. That's when we'd talk about the things that would change us forever.

It wasn't just her, or just then. I was on my laptop in my bedroom and my father came in and sat down on a chair--it was about eleven in the evening and the screen provided the only light. I was in my living room after watching a movie with my sister. I was in the car with my friend. I was outside of my girlfriend's apartment. I was on the roof of my sister's building. I was walking my friend home from the bar.

Always in the dark. I'm not sure why, but every fight, every promise, every shoulder to cry on, every piece of advice. No light. No eye contact, no facial expression. Just the promise that someone else is there with you, in the dark. I don't know if that's why, but it's a lot more comforting.


missed connections

I've been reading personal ads recently--specifically I Saw U in The Stranger. Some of them are fascinating, some less so. I'm trying to figure out what it is about them that really draws me. Is it the desperate prose, the way one person carefully recounts her encounter, the way another seems to be avoiding any details which might give her away?

Their words are laced with the romance of a late night, maybe after a few drinks. I know the feeling all too well. 'You were driving a gold Honda on 51st on Thursday and backed up a long way so I could get past. Thank you. I was in a rush. I really wish I could make it up to you with coffee or drinks.' 'Was it me or the band you were looking at all night Wednesday? I thought you were more interesting than the music.' 'I recognized that contemptuous look, but you didn't see me walk past. I want to make you smile some time.' They are words that hope for a response but don't want one. It would ruin the magic.


cigarettes and ennui

I stand at bus stops with a cigarette clenched in my fingers, carefully distanced from the rest of the passengers, gazing into the distance with a look of mingled disdain and listlessness in my eyes. Occasionally I look at the people walking past. I don't nod or smile at them, but our eyes meet, even if just for a moment. The stream of smoke I exhale with such contempt hangs in the air like my breath on a cold day--like I exist in frigid isolation. I occasionally glare at people who look too long.

Yesterday someone walked past and smiled when our eyes met, and my carefully constructed image of ennui collapsed on itself.


just like old movies

My roommate has this friend who I despise. She comes over sometimes and my only thought is 'please go away' but it's like my brain sort of stops working. But I feel so alive when I'm shouting at her, when trading these lines that I would never, ever say to someone I felt even the slightest amount of affection for. All these passions that lay within me--I'm not a passionate man--wake up.

I'm the only one in this house who stays up late and she seems to have the same tendency. We were alone and shouting and I caught her wrist before she slapped me and then there was a beat and we were making out, whispering lies to each other, all passion and old cinema. In the end, of course, she'll be left with the telegram, crying and smiling. I can see the closing shot now, me in my sunglasses, riding an airline off into the distance.

They don't make movies like that anymore, so I guess I'll have to live them myself.