Gena Rowlands confessed on only one occasion that she almost left John Cassavetes while filming Opening Night. There was something about the slap, the lunge for it, that shred both her & Myrtle Gordon’s nerves. She demanded edits to the script that never came. She demanded touch ups of rouge after every scene that did. When she poured the J&B, that was real, too. The drinks just kept coming, take after take. At night, she’d curl up in the bed in Myrtle’s big loft room and fall asleep leering at the cavernous white walls. The coverlet was red as shame and the roses in the crystal vase on the wet bar. John bought her fresh flowers every day after shooting, and still, she could only interpret that color as a gesture of anger, of rage. Adversary. Do you love me? she asked at every opportune moment, in the hallway of the hotel, dusty crimson and smoking. Agony, she added, as she leaned in, radiant and glowering in top lighting.
Penelope didn’t pine for Odysseus. She had the suitors. Like Camille, openly out of love with her husband in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt. Sometimes Camille dons a black wig with a bob for flare; sometimes a red sheet with nothing underneath. Sometimes she asks for this and this and this, and other times she flings china on the floor and strides barefoot through the shards. That’s life, she says, picking up the telephone or climbing into Prokosch’s Alfa. That’s life, she says as the Tyrrhenian Sea swells against the sun. You could cut your teeth in this business for quick cash and a commercial. You could be the nude body in the bed, flagrant and fucked. O Beauty, show me a world that squares with my desires.
I am older now, less patient. I’m not waiting anymore.
Last week, the man I won’t admit I’m in love with, who is a filmmaker, recommended I read Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart’s The Hundreds. Increasingly, I find myself writing flash fiction, and the premise of The Hundreds is that each essay is only 100 words. I enjoy constraint, as well as Kathleen Stewart. I would like to read The Hundreds, but I am under quarantine and, thus, even more frugal than usual. Several months ago, I threw out my shower curtain because it was ravaged with black mold. I have yet to replace it. When I wash, the tile floor spackles with sudsy water.
On this same walk, he spoke of the stretch between the words in his mind and how they appear on the page, the wish to close the gap between language as it is thought and language as it is written. I do not know what I don’t know, only that his arsenal is images, his desire incommensurate with need. He sees the world in frames, which is a type of language, the screen another kind of page. Both exercises are world making or rather (re)making the world anew.
Occasionally, I send him my poems, and he responds with paragraphs of feedback with a clarity that feels like cleanness. In these instances, I am reminded: he is also a writer. When he writes my words back to me, they settle into something new.
On our walk I said none of this. Perched between the spasm of sensation and sentence, I was even more prone to verbal uncertainty off the page than on. The impossible utterance: a pressure point piercing through me.
I listened and asked questions, and we continued to chat haltingly, but with ease. Some people passed us costumed in masks; most wore tired faces and bare mouths. In an auditorium of light, the visible world glistened gold. Closing my eyes against the brightness I was reminded: I am living, out here, in the open, all the elements shifting, unsaid, amongst us.