I suppose I could begin with the movie I had due back at the video store tonight: Ogniem i Mieczem (trans. With Fire and Sword). It would best be described as a sort of Polish Three Musketeers – a 17th century swashbuckling battlefield drama about a group of heroes fighting against a group of unquestioningly evil and barbaric villains, and naturally it involves a beautiful woman.
What struck me most about this movie was just how dickish and cruel these brave heroes actually were. Oh yes, their battlefield atrocities were righteous and valiant. All the dozens of men they slew were surely deserving. Clearly their individual lives were worth more than the combined spilled blood of all their wretched and worthless foes. Blessed be to them, those good and benevolent butchers we so venerate.
Just once, I want to see an Indiana Jones type movie, where at the final standoff between the unquestioningly good guy and the unquestioningly evil guy, a random old woman appears out of nowhere and shoots them both to avenge the slaying of her son, an innocent employee of the bad guy’s lair, disposed of thoughtlessly by the good guy in Act 1.
Alas, I digress! The film was due back at the video store later tonight, which required my reluctant effort to put on clothes, throw on shoes, and get in my car to drive a laborious 3.5 miles to the video store oh so far away. A couple blocks away from the store, the road was blocked from what appeared to be a most recent accident. Naturally, it was a minor annoyance.
Is it not terrifying that road deaths are marginalized to being minor annoyances? Would you want your final hour combined with the pain and heartache of your loved ones to be a minor annoyance for the few people between whose destinations you lie?
I don’t know if anyone died. Perhaps they did, perhaps they didn’t. My life is changed insofar as I had to park and walk the rest of the way to the video store, and fatality or no fatality, that personal reality of mine remains unchanged. But really, how annoying – being forced walk. Such cruel fate.
The streets were busy with pedestrians, the bars were flowing, and in the midst of red ambulance lights glimmering off the windows of the local shops, live bands were playing in outdoor patios in which happy couples sat to drink and enjoy a warm Austin winter night. Boy and girl, man and woman held hands and embraced to the sound of Beatles covers and smooth jazz improv with no direction.
I was dressed in baggy cargo pants and a stained undershirt – as if I had just gotten off a blue-collar job. My hair was ragged and my face was unshaven – as if I was a sleep-deprived new dad, or rather a lazy graduate student. In short, I was in no condition to enjoy a nightlife, which made it all the more tempting to do so…
…I imagined sitting down and ordering a pint across from an imaginary single woman, who would glance me over and determine my lack of kempt appearance was an indication that I was harmless, because honestly, who goes out in cargo pants to pick up chicks?
“You’re not here for the nightlife, are you,” she would say.
“No. I was returning a video to the video store and decided to get a beer on the night’s behalf.”
“Ooo… video stores. Sexy.”
“If that’s what turns you on… you’re not here for the nightlife either, are you.”
“What gives you that idea?”
“Women only go out to bars if they’re either with a boyfriend to fight off all the suitors, or an entourage of obnoxious best friends to ensure that only the most overconfident of douches will ever be able to get to her.”
And that’s how it would begin. I wouldn’t call it a one-night-stand. No, there is something cheap and vulgar about that, as if it’s not about the passion but rather the conquest. This would be two people, floating alone at sea, briefly finding each other in passing, and calling out to one another Ahoy! to remind each other that, outside of their forlorn boats, there still exists humanity. These two sailors would pass in the night, and carry with them a memory that would give them enough hope to carry them to land’s first sight…
My perverted imagination could find no concrete image among the crowds before me – there was no single woman sitting alone in an outdoor bar patio. Only couples. My imaginary woman would have to do. I wonder what she looked like.
I ordered a coffee from a kiosk and headed back to my car. The paramedics and police were still there, but beyond the wall of emergency vehicles, I still couldn’t make out what was going on. I forgot a coffee lid, so I leaned against my car parked across from the scene and looked at the lights flashing red and blue against the Austin skyline behind it. It was strangely complimentary – the red and blue lights from the vehicles blended with the neon ornamentations of downtown skyscrapers and foreground clubs. The accident ceased to exist as an accident, and began to manifest itself as an urban artwork, a dazzling array of colors to paint a picture of …of what?
Cars were whizzing by me, their headlights exposing me to the world. Surely the drivers were wondering what a homeless man was doing leaning against a car, gazing at an accident. As for myself, I wonder…
…in my final hour, will there be some bloke nearby watching the scene of my death while nonchalantly drinking a coffee, admiring just how nice the lights of my rescuers look against the backdrop of gleeful urban apathy behind them? I do hope that guy will write a blog entry about me that night, whoever, or whenever he is.