Author: viennacantabile PM
This is what I remember. This is how it was. This is how we were. Before and after the rumble, as recounted by an unnamed Jet. Movieverse. Revised 12.02.09.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Angst - Words: 1,838 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 7 - Published: 08-03-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5274070
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I definitely don't own West Side Story. I do, however, have a very nice collection of bakeware that Ido own. Not that you're interested. :)
Note: Revised and edited on 12.02.09 to include Anybodys, because that HedgehogQuill hor somehowmanaged to turn me into an unwilling fan. Sigh.
Straining so hard against the strength of night,
they fling their tiny voices on the laughter
that will not burn.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
At a formal dinner once a professor of some science or other, wanting to make small talk, had pointed out a few insects gyrating above a candelabra. He had told her that it was the visual impression of an even deeper darkness beyond the light that drew them in. Even though they might be eaten, they had to obey the instinct that made them seek out the darkest place, on the far side of the light—and in this case it was an illusion.
—Ian McEwan, Atonement
This is what I remember.
The door, banging open as we spill into the night, each of us a live wire, a scorching coal glinting with electric impulse. Each of us ready for anything and everything but what the night has in store for us.
And we are laughing, drunk on the giddiness of being alive. It is our time, our place, our now. We own the streets. We own the night. Now is forever; forever is now. It is so easy to forget the implacability of time in the recklessness of youth.
Riff, swaggering down 10th with world and time and jazzed-up life enough for all of us resting at his feet. And all the while the target of the world's best marksman on his back; all the while his clock running down, sand slipping through the glass counting seconds, minutes, hours until the mechanism we call life shudders to a halt. Going, going, one last gasp—bang—gone.
Graziella hanging, loose and lazy and catlike, unconcerned, off the condemned man's arm. Hair like flame, twisting and rippling in the fading sun. So sure, so utterly unconscious of fate knocking on the door. Three short raps; one long. Hello, it says, you've been expecting me.
Ice, as unnaturally still as is natural for him and no one else to be, with only the slightest rise and fall and measured footsteps to mark him as alive and not pale, bloodless marble immortalized a few streets away. Breathe in, breathe out. He is tense, coiled tightly as a spring and ready to let go, fight, win. To the victor goes the spoils and victory is what he can already taste, sweet and melting and smooth on his lips. Almost there. (He won't say goodbye, because he is coming back.)
Velma, lingering, eyes watchful and wary and always on him, absorbing every last trace of his presence. The sense of emptiness in her tightly-folded arms won't go away no matter how hard she bites her lip and swallows her words; he is so far away she can't breathe for fear he won't find his way back, and if she loosens her hold one little bit she'll never be able to stay. She needs him, wants him, is afraid for him, lets him go, and this is why he returns for her. I'll come for you by moonlight, he says, and she believes him. (She is one of the lucky ones.)
Action, bursting, exploding like sparks struck from flint, a hot iron in the snow. Fighting, always fighting, raging against something he knows is there pressing up against his face, ready to smother him and take him all the way under as far as hell goes, even if he can't see it. It is not tonight, but tomorrow? Who knows.
Anybodys, eager and ready and willing to do anything to prove that she belongs, that she is not just somebody's, anybody's, nobody's, she is theirs. You're my family, she says with every futile punch she swings, you're the best thing in the world. Some of them think she's stupid, some of them think she's cute, some of them don't think about her at all, but none of them take the step that will push her away once and for all. You're my family, she whispers, you're my place where I belong, and every time they knock her around she almost believes it's true.
A-Rab, cracking jokes and heads and snickering just a little too loudly. Life is a party, life is a gag, we live, we die, that's it. Time's up. Move along. This is what he says. But he still doesn't know what life is. He still doesn't know what death is. It won't be much longer 'til they overtake him.
Baby John, so wide-eyed and wondering. Before the dawn breaks he will see three bodies abandoned by their souls, torn apart by blades and bullets and crushed by the weight of millennia of human discord. Innocence dies. The world descends, singing of birds and flowers, into madness. History repeats itself, and tonight is no exception.
And the rest of us, following them down the silent streets and through the night, the ends of our cigarettes lit up and sputtering like fireflies born already dying, all in one blazing moment of finality captured in the ashes caught by the wind and drifting to the ground. Stars burnt out on everything but that brittle husk of life we don't know is really death. Meteorites taking one last plunge through the atmosphere—the air is so clear—and into the deep unknown. What a beautiful way to go.
This is what I remember.
Two bodies, lying still and emptied and so solid against the pavement. There is nothing there anymore, and yet there is everything in this connection between corpse and concrete.
Snapshots of fear in the streetlights. Frightened, upturned faces that look their ages for the first time. There is no hiding from the truth: this is not a game anymore.
Ice, role unfulfilled and unresolved, pacing, face set. There is guilt and there is the here and now, and he knows which is more important, which to put aside for a better time. That there will be no better time is a moot point, irrelevant: time is against all of them. There is only here, and now, and staying alive to face the dawn.
Velma, hiding relief in the recesses of her mind that she is not one of those wailing women across the city tonight, drowning in loss and loneliness. She holds the bereft friend in her arms, holds him with her eyes, drinking in the beauty of him, almost giddy with inopportune love. He is here. Safe. That is all that matters.
Graziella, clinging to all that is familiar, knocked off balance and out of sync with the world, blindsided by what should never have been possible. In the blink of an eye, a boy is swept away by the tide: everything is gone; nothing is the same. It's the strangest, saddest feeling she never could have imagined before; but now she knows that it doesn't matter, that life (or is it death?) doesn't wait for imagination to catch up to it, anyway.
Anybodys, feet pounding against pavement, fleeing the night. You can't outrun death, whisper her shadows, and she only puts her head down and sets her teeth and chases the wind, because even if you can't escape the darkness, you sure as hell can try. Run. Run. Don't ever stop. Don't let it catch you; don't let it pull you down. Run.
Action, shaken and stunned into brutality. A little boy in a man's world, suffocating and starving in an airless terrestrial nightmare, screaming and shouting with no sound. This is how he hurts. This is how she should hurt. And this is how he makes her hurt, and this is how he watches himself as he is swallowed up by the sea. This is how he goes down swinging.
A-Rab, jittery and laughing hysterically. He can't stand still, can't stop moving, because if he does, it might be true and they might really be dead and how can life be a party if all the guests are lying eyes wide open and empty on concrete? He waits, prickly and on edge, but there are no R.S.V.P.s from the other side of the night.
There are only figures like this phantom, a lover come back to haunt the living from the dead, shrouded in shadows and keening laments for the soul that faces its journey through space and time to a place she cannot follow. Stay, she pleads, and the physical force of her will and her painful beauty is almost enough. But even she is powerless to bind soul to body, stop the relentlessly mathematical chronology of time, and halt the dying of the light.
Baby John, draping her in mourning so gently, reverent as a priest in prayer. Ave Maria, gratia plena. He is so very young, but in this starless blackness his face is as old as the earth, groaning in sorrow. Forgive us, say his hands. Forgive me, say his eyes.
And we, shadowy thieves of the gray twilight hours, cannot do else but retreat from the lovers and the fighters and the people of this broken-down, patched-up world as stars retreat from the wailing moon, bereft of the fire that is always just out of reach of her fingertips. We live; we die. Time's up. Move along.
This is what I remember.
A sunset like all the colors of creation splashed onto one huge canvas, butter-gold and tiger-lily orange and violet iris streaked and mixed with the coming darkness to paint a wash of blood-dipped red tinged with black. A mass for those about to die: requiescat in pace.
This is how it was.
We never knew there was death stalking us while the cicadas shrilled that humid summer evening. There was only life; beating, pulsing life, held in flesh too fragile to contain it when ruptured by the bite of cold metal. Life, spilled out in a river of rust and iron onto the cool hard stone underneath a road to nowhere. Life, sticky and drying in the shadows as the last footsteps died away.
This is how we were.
Heedless, careless, convinced the world and life were ours forever. Sailing—holding the sky in an insubstantial vessel made of dreams. And we were all of us there, together, flickering and gasping and fighting as hard as we could to stay aloft in the brilliance of our flight. Burning, flaring for one defiant moment before the fall. Fireflies in the night.