disclaimer: I do not own this beautiful movie, but I do own this fic. It was previously posted on my friend kaali's account under her own name because of personal reasons, just thought I should put that out there in case people run off to the mods about plagiarism and such. this is my story, and one i think i'm always going to be the most proud of.
dedication: i don't know. true love, i think? i've never been so emotionally involved in writing something before, and the message of this story might not be very clear but i feel like it's resounded in me for a very long time.
warning: i don't think there are really any content warnings i can give. i don't think i ever swear or even make a sex reference here, it's long and sweet and light and a more than certainly whimsical type of story. for those who haven't watched the movie, STOP what you're doing and go watch it. it's called 'the fall' and it's directed by tarsem singh and starrs lee pace, it's a very vivid story, lots of eyes magic and incredibly moving.
notes: i haven't edited anything out of this, it's the same as when i first posted it, so i think a few minor spelling errors or grammar fudge-ups still stand
even moar notes: take a chance on me, take a chance on this story, take a chance on this movie. and if you loved it enough, one or all, please leave a review. :)
It's beautiful. I'll keep it with me forever.
His hands are graceless, calloused fingers, an indention in his the little finger of his right hand paler than the rest of his palm, gleaming almost silver from the time he'd tried catching bullets in an act and survived. Riddled with littlest cuts that look caused by paper, to linear gashes with their own history, peppered over his skin - and even like this, as cliche as it might sound, there is a story to each and every one of them, though he might not care to remember and specify, he knows, each bruise, each wound was a brick earned, cement as he built himself upwards.
He wouldn't have fell as hard, otherwise.
She turns his hands over in hers, little palms and grubby childlike fingers - he can hardly believe they are fit for picking oranges. But Alexandria is adult-like, trapped in the body of a child, still coming to life with the awareness of the world around her, learning a little to be wary - but never of him. Her other arm hangs askance from her, held up in a cast of stiff bandage and he's had his fair share of broken bones, but on this little girl it looks...well, strange...when she walks she does it stiffly, like a doll with no joints because of that stupid cast and he may have laughed, if he weren't in a position to do so.
Roy...Roy can't feel his legs.
And the adult child trusts him, she pokes the skin underneath his eye, the silver of a scar there, kisses his cheek wet and citrus sticky. Says; "Roy, Roy - story." as if she somehow understands that she holds the pieces of him in her hands, like the old marble of tombs dug up in archaeological sites and suffocating behind the glass of museums. Pieces of a wreck. A washed out stuntman. History all the same, the little details, forgotten. Later no one sees his confused smile in the darkened theatre (that was actually a small hospital room, but Alexandria liked the sound of the word, theatre) when they cut his stunt out of the movie, cut his fall, his spectacular spiralling notion shattering fall. He feels like he's had his soul erased, stolen from him. But Roy figures, he can't miss it, because you build yourself up knowing you'll fall and you have to gear yourself for disappointment because Hollywood kisses and kills you and Alexandria is so small in his hands, and her eyes are like glimmering brown dust of mocha beans and she wants to hear his story, she wants to hear about Roy.
So he tells her.
And then there are men like Sinclair, hair smoothed back and gleaming black as shoe polish, with their smooth Mediterranean good looks, even smiles and suits that kill a man thinking about. Men like Sinclair who always get the girl, who stand beneath the sun and move like gold only because the heroes, all the gun spinning tactics and train jumping fiascos are dealt with their Shadows. For the picture, Roy was Sinclair's Shadow. So he knewhe was better, because the stuntmen are the cojoneses that make the lead hero. And even if Roy was replaceable, no one thought stunts like him, no one thought of flinging themselves off a train bridge to death and that was all Roy.
For a moment, falling...falling Roy felt like death, like God. like he would never land.
But he did.
He landed where Alexandria was, where she'd survived her own first fall. With her scrawled note fluttering in through the window, cut diamonds through the paper, spelling appalling enough to make him start - and she'd come in, obnoxious and tart, snatching it from his hands and stomping out and he'd called her back, called after her, because...he didn't know why. He wanted to know how she got that cast, if he wasn't the only stupid looking one and she'd said; "I fell."
And Roy had told her a story because he…the landing, the landing was craptacular, and he wanted to leave, he wanted to sleep and never wake up. Just like in the stories. And Alexandria with her gap teeth, and her taciturn braids, the clap of her shoes against the floor when she came to see him, see Roy- it was bright, and Roy was God again, but playing with something precious. Juggling an intricate house of cards because Alexandria was an adultchild but she was still only a child, and she brought him oranges and spilled his coffee, and he'd peel the skin off the fruit and feel that grudging adulation and felt that he was gearing up for his own fall, his last fall this time and Alexandria would help him.
He would leave her behind.
But life wasn't fair, death was hardly any different. The pills were a placebo for the other man, the twist in the tale, his own liberty stolen from him. Roy used to do his jumps on his own terms, now he couldn't even die on his own terms, he couldn't walk, he couldn't keep the girl, the girl sat in the car dabbing the ladylike tears from her eyes, careful now in case she messed up her rouge and Sinclair was smoking cigarettes and smiling and his manager was going over disclaimer and responsibility papers just so he wouldn't sue, because because.
Alexandria falls, again. She splits her head open and he can feel his ribs clench around his heart, his throat and he'd been a rotten god because he should have known. He didn't deserve to be a God, even of his own stories, he'd crossed his fingers on himself, he was the masked bandit, because he was a coward, who believed in foolish stories and fancies and never saw the ground coming till it hit him and killed him. And Alexandria was an adultchild and he was a false god, and she wouldn't listen to him when he told her don't believe me, I'm a liar, a gypsy, a joker and a fool - don't believe me, I tricked you and she shakes her head and face red and blotchy, eyes groggy from sleep and grief she feels but doesn't understand, because why, Roy? Why're you doing this; Don't kill them, why is everyone dying, why are you killing them?
"Don't die, Roy - no. But I don't want you to die. Don't kill him, let him live, Roy. Let him live."
But I have to, this is the truth. They kiss and kill you, kiss and kill you, and you don't deserveanything, you're lying to yourselves, things like virtue and honour and camaredie don't exist in this world and it might have in the beginning but not in the end and he's going to finish the story, he might as well. "You wanted to hear it," there's tequila loosening his tongue, and his heart clenches tighter, chokes with failure. Because he fell. "Let me finish it. It's my story."
"No." Her tears, they're for you, for Roy. And-
-And oh, you are a fool, somewhere a man is drowning in pool barely as deep as a pond. Governor Odius holds him down but that's not it, the man can't feel his legs, he doesn't want to, he won't get up. And the mystic vomits up birds, escapes from wailing lips, gums red and toothless like an old man babe, has his hair torn off his head like a never been Samson, and flung across the trees he loves so much, beaks spasming up his gullet, uncoiling deep in his gut, feathers and dust and old old nostalgia. The Indian's big dark hands held tight to his rope turban, brilliant almond eyes dark but never quiet, there's a knife held between his teeth and he looks into your eyes and slashesthe lifeline. Oh! A man huge and gleaming dark under the sun, the ground keening under the pound of his sure bare feet, saves a girl, and every arrow is like the pelt of a whip back, and he struggles and he carries and he stumbles and he falls back, dead and free at last. Darwin in that ridiculous trim coat, hankering like a child, handling a chimp close to his chest, cradling his own genius and not knowing a name to call it by. And laughing, a burst of a thousand fireworks light up the midday sky with smoke, and a whole city's foundation falls - luigi, luigi, luigi. Two legged and now in too many pieces, smokes and burning like bacon. Dead.
And some where, here. There's a paper thin circle in her hand, she takes a bite out of it, insolent and ignorant and holds it up to his face. Roy asks, is asking, "Are you trying to save me?" and she is uncomprehending, and her brows furrow because who cares what does that mean eat it quick I offered didn't I?
"Are you trying to save my soul?" he asks, looks for the loophole, the fancy light tricks, the hidden trap door.
Alexandria doesn't understand.
"Are you trying to save-"
she sobs, and therein lies the conviction, like she would have grabbed him by the shirt if she could have. "No. Mine too."
And so, there are men like Sinclair. And for one brilliant moment, Roy was a Shadow, Roy was God.
And people made their own stories, people decidedtheir fate. When Roy brought that little girl into the story, she became his daughter, small and dependent on him, when he did that therein lay a duty of care, a responsibility for what would happen, he'd made the story theirs. Aint nothing to it.
Sinclair was an asshole, he got the girl, he got the charm, he got the glory. But he was only villain because Roy spun him as one, Roy let him become his own villain, Roy was the one who tortured himself, because no one else gave the right for Sinclair to make him feel like a washed out nobody if it wasn't Roy.
So when he got out of that nunnery of a hospital, still unsteady on his feet, because he got better, He'd wanted to. Alexandria had healed up, and was probably going back to what she'd been doing before, picking oranges. And Roy had to live by example and survive, He healed, not brand new, not enough to do the crazier stunts like he used to, but enough to suffice, he still had that daredevil genius with him, on his side.
Robin, one legged and pirate with his little dog comes to pick Roy up from the hospital. He's a good man, and he's...he's Roy's friend. He's still working on movies, gag stunts and such, and it's admirable how a man at his age can still find work in the business. Roy is chagrined, won over and there are a few more movies the man is working on currently, he's friendly with the director's and Robin says he can let Roy back on set, if Roy would like to watch, just to get back in the gist of things and Roy Walker appreciates this, it feels like a warm soldiers handshake when Robin takes him by the hand. It sends a deep slow spreading ease through his bones, something very much like relief.
He goes back to the shoot, teetering on crutches and watching the progress, smiling a little bit wide, and maybe crazy at the stuntmen. It helps the healing process, he wants to get better, and maybe he makes a suggestion here or there and he helps out. He's not dead. Not yet. He's just gearing up for the next jump, the next spectacular leap. There's a little money from it, and for the months recuperating out of the hospital Roy slums it up in cheap motels, or when his pride feels flexible enough he'll stay at Robin's house. Up and Down. Here and There.
He doesn't know if he feels a little free, or if he should. His cage built around him, has wheels round the bottom, arms outspread, it moves with him.
And he is trapped in the fingers of a child, held up against his brow and kissing him.
I fell again.
I heard. Everybody's heard. You're famous.
Are they angry?
Yeah. But not at you.
"Roy," Robin sat out on the porch, it was three ocklock in the morning and Roy stumbles down the garden path, two buttons of his shirt missing. At the sound of the old man's voice he's stopped like a dear in the headlights, he's been caught coming back late like a teenager who tries to sneek back home past curfew. Drunk off his ass, sweating tequila. He doesn't know why he drinks, he just does. And old habits die hard. "Sit down."
He pats the wooden planks next to him, disgruntled and eyes no nonsense.
He dumps his jacket, kicks off his shoes and he's a man emerging from an ocean working unsteady feet on the swaying shore. Slumping next to the pirate, skipping a mental thought process and thinking nothing until he hears the sound…?
Like pebbles in a jar, clanking around glass walls when shaken.
"You can't take these anymore." Robin mutters once he's sure the bottle in his hand has the young man's attention. "You have to stop."
Roy scratches the stubble on his jaw, threads his fingers across his mouth and gives a very hoarse chuckle. It's mirthless, self depreciating. "Where did you…"
"This is my house, I have every right to check. And I'm worried about you."
"You shouldn't be," Roy says almost brightly, and knows he's not very convincing. "I only take enough for the occasional pains, only once in a while, I wouldn't lie to you, Robin – it's once in a while, a blue moon, honest."
Robin sighs, like the oldest willow tree creaking against a breeze, weighed down with age. "These are bad for you – you remember, you almost, she could have died..for you and these stupid things.."
"How could I forget?"
"Those are my conditions Roy."
"To stay at your place?"
"No," The old man is as sober as Roy is drunk. "To stay your friend."
He dumps his chin onto his slackened hands and rocks sidewards and back, drunk and thoughtful. "You drive a hard bargain, I should have known, you Italians –"
"Roy, my parents are Irish, you know that –"
"No, you, you shut up, I'm the leader, I'mthe hero – that's…that's my Achilles heel, I needthem, you know, luigi?" He looks up beseeching and not completely tame. "I need them, it's not so hard these days. I'm not sick. But sometime's…sometime's I can't sleep, and I need them to sleep-"
Robin is balding, and sick to the throat with his ravings but he shakes his head. "You don't need them, Roy. You only tell yourself you do."
He goes quiet at this, fingers numb, pinch his nose, mop at his brow. There's an agitation in him building up, building up. "I could never forget, you know that, right? What it was all for, she used to listen to me…I used her…"
"It all ended well, so it's fine."
"No it didn't," he snaps loudly, as drunk people do. Pitches his words using his outside voice and flails with bitterness. "It didn't end well. Maybe for me, I'm learning better – but she's not, she's back to picking oranges, our situations don't change, I'll never see her again. I told her, Robin, she's so stupid, but so am I, I for telling her, and she for believing otherwise because I told her…there aren't any happy endings, not with me."
"And that's the problem. I can't sleep thinking that, that it neverchanged – and I think of it all the time, she's gap toothed and giggling in my dreams, five year old and much much smarter than me…sometimes in my dreams she goes back to picking oranges, and she falls again, and she breaks something other than her arm, sometimes it's her legs, her spine…I let her live in the stories, and I think I was right to tell her, kids like stories, you know? I want to go back to being a bandit, to kidnapping the princess, to wondrous fantasy, but I can't do that – I can't want that, because somewhere she might be suffering for it, for making her think that the world is a great fantastic fucking place when it's a dump, I'm not a hero anymore, I don't deserve to be, I'm not a hero and I can't delude myself and go back to that, every time I close my eyes I think of deserts, and elephants and spinning dervishes…so, I need sleep, dreamless sleep, so I need those pills…" He is raving, stark raving mad, overwhelmed. "Would she think any less of me? I don't depend on the pills, I just need them once in a while, to not dream, a little, you know what that's like…"
There's something no one except Robin knows about Roy, but everyone assumes otherwise on the topic. Robin knows Roy never fought in the war, not like the Americans in 1917, his brothers, his country men clashing with German soldiers on the Merne river when their great country joined the offensive. Robin couldn't either, because he only had one leg. But Roy was making movies, and he never went, he wanted to – Oh god, had he wanted to. But Roy was afraid of dying, he'd told Robin one evening, drunk as a skunk, as he was now, at least in stunts he had a say, he knew when it would come, he could meet the ground halfway on a fall – but on the battlefield…bullets fly, and it catches you off your feet, death, it's sudden, and not on your own terms. That made him a coward, down and finger crossing coward. He never quite forgot, but he regretted it, war would have been grand in a sense, but he couldn't die that way, and he couldn't serve his country and Robin called him a college man.
"So you won't move forward, because you assume she can't?" he demands, exasperated and angry. "What dumbass notion is that?"
"I don't know," he mops at his glistening eyes. "I don't know."
"Roy, you're already her hero – you made a promise to that girl, I don't quite know what the hell you mean by elephants and all that babble, but it seems you have an obligation to that kid. Hero? You have to set a goddamn example, so if you never see her again? So what? You seethis?" And he rattled the morphine hard and vicous, cocked the lid against Roy's temple like a gun barrel. "This will be the end of you. You make too many assumptions on the state of things in other places, you have no control over what happens to her now, so fine. But you have control over your life, so get your damn act together – be the hero, live up to those words, don't talk the talk and chicken on the walk. Don't be a coward, you don't have the excuse anymore. And if you loved that little girl enough, you'll know she put faith in you – so stop talking gibberish, and stand up, get up, and man up!"
"…I can't just change, old man."
"You can't know," Robin hisses. "If you won't even try."
In the end, he lines up all his jars on the bathroom sink, rolls up his sleeve and he can't…he just can't.
He needs and gets Robin's help to flush it all down the toilet, the old man directs him like Roy's a limb-numb child again, like he's helping a him across the street, emptying all his pills into the bowl.
Then the old man gives him a packet of cigarettes and says he'll teach Roy how to smoke, it won't be the same. But it will get better.
Not the time to sleep, now. Not the time to sleep. Wake up. Wake up, its not the time to sleep now. Wake up. Don't pretend to sleep. Wake up. Not the time to sleep now, Roy!
He can't win. That's because our masked bandit is a coward. Yeah. He never took an oath, he's a fake. He's a liar and a coward.
No. He had his fingers crossed. He has to die.
I don't believe you.
Don't kill him.
There's nothing left for him.
He wasn't her father, either.
She loves him.
She'll survive, she's good.
I don't want you to die. Roy. Don't kill him. Let him live. Let him live. Don't kill him. Roy? Promise? And don't cross your fingers.
Show me your hands.
One evening, he takes his beat up old car down the boulevard with the cover down. 1933, the prohibition act is over. The stars glitter like sparse and far between jewels, his legs work fine, work the automobile past gold gilded pavement and emblazoned letters, past the names and the billboards and down to an old grill bar, just out of the way. He wears sunglasses, perched up in his wind rattled hair, slings his jacket off and takes his steps into the bar, feeling the liberty of his own steps, he can do it. California heat burning the back of his neck when he orders a drink, perspiration on his forehead good natured and real, condescension pooling down his glass around the coaster. There's a woman, of all things, sitting on the counter top - young, polka dot skirt and painted red lips. Her skin is dark, and she talks sweetly to him, in smooth unbroken english.
He's charmed and frusrtated by the imprint of memory he can place onto her, try and find the little nuances. Like a game.
Her accent is vaguely Southern, and her English good, colloquial though - no older than sixteen, fluttering her painted curled up eyelashes at the boys posturing by the jukebox. At that age, bold and a little bit stupid, endearing maybe. She's looking for a man to buy her a drink like most girls are, he doesn't ask what she's doing out on a weeknight, her skin is dark and her eyes are foolish bright and Roy buys her a drink which he knows is off his conscious for having too much ice and not enough kick.
"Why, sir. You're a gentil man?"
He laughs into his glass, almost chokes. He's a bandit. A few years ago in dirty sheets without strength to go to the bathroom down the hall. But now, he's a gentleman and he thinks of bandits and his bandit daughter and wonders her too wise to turn this way should she reach the age, too wise for boys and jukeboxes, that her head will always be filled with elephants trekking Mediterranean water, and blade spinning Indians and princess stealing bandits. It must be so. Alexandria with her serious eyes, yet who giggled at everything he said, who wanted to know his story, who saved him.
And the girl at least has that much in common with Alexandria, she giggles too much, though flirtatious and out of her league, because he's older. And he's looking for his bandit daughter in her kholed eyes, and he smiles slow and almost sleepy happy, safe.
"No, no." He says, and she sips her drink. Ladylike with booze, fashionable to the disgusting bite of it. "Never that."
She laughs, high and distracting. It makes Roy want to laugh too, this dumb youth. Not wise like Alexandria who he will never see again.
"Smile for me." He tells her. His eyes are soft, and her cheeks heat up at the sudden sentimentality of his gaze, the lingering offness, she can't put a finger to it, but it's flattering and disconcerting and she does. She smiles wide and flawless.
Her hair held back in yellow ribbon, is curled in tight little ringlets, black and gleaming - not wild and errant, flying from braids. Her English is flawless, copes with the rising culture, she has no accent, no broken hesitation in her phrases. Roy puts the money down for both their drinks, gets up and pats her head like a father...tall and overwhelming, a safety blanket. She is not Alexandria, the nostalgia feels like the slow blue ache of autumn rain, and it's California. He will never see Alexandria again, it kills him a little, makes his fingers twitch for a cigarette to drive the pills from his mind.
Her smile is too white, too even.
He won't ever see Alexandria again, it's impossible. Not unlike a fairytale, where nemesis meet on dusty old roads, or lovers and brothers reunited after several years, it can't turn that way, and he'd be a bit stupid to hope for it. His fingers twitch, and he thinks of the pills flushed down the toilet, and he has a pack of smokes in his shirt pocket, to drive the thought of pills away, it's alright to dream about Alexandria, Robin said it was alright.
And this girl...she wasn't his gap-toothed bandit daughter, and Roy could only imagine Alexandria, in a few years like memory apart from himself, a sweet dream.
He gets back into his car, drives back home and into Robin's study. It's still early in the night, he filches an old faulty biro and a sheet of corporate movie studio printed paper, he writes.
They work on another movie together, a damsel in distress, burning building scenario. Roy is excited about this one, it's dangerous, it sets his mouth in a grim line and his heart running at a thousand paces a minute.
He'll be working with Sinclair again, it's a year since he came out of hospital and the star looks as smooth as ever, as untouchable. He smiles at Roy when the director gathers them together, but Roy only nods in greeting, because he frankly doesn't give a damn. No one is going to hold his hand. He's lost everything, but he's alive now, he has nothing to loose, and he already defeated Governor Odius in his head, and he realised what an underwhelming villain he was, gleaming cufflinks and smooth smirks and all.
Roy is his Shadow again. He does his job.
In the days that follow, Shevisits the shoot. The first time he sees her, after so long, after she betrayed him, left him for Odius(Sinclair) he's surprised, a little unprepared - she's in red, a button up blouse and a long skirt standing by Sinclair's trailer, he remembers the flare of her hips, the sweetness of her mouth, how she'd cry and do to look so pretty doing it, like Roy was some damn moviemaker, like he was worse, a member of the audience to cater and worship her. Because he'd been surethey were written in the stars, the high-rise actress falling for the invisible stuntman, like a princess running off with a bandit, a street rat. But she was nothing but a ragdoll, fooled him, made a mockery of love...and deserted him. He'd worshipped her.
Her eyes widen, she holds a hand to her mouth, says Oh, my...Roy. Roy...! The tears come, on cue. Glisten pure and perfect, her kid gloved hands clutching his arm, her perfume smells like strawberries and something sick sweet and dizzying. She is bad for him, like opium, she drugs him and deceives him and he'll have no part of it, not anymore.
She's desperate, and she takes his face in her Lilly hands when he turns away. Beseeches him, not to love her, but to believe her, because she's an actress, isn't she.
She is close enough to kiss, and he could have. Oh, Roy would have. He's a stuntman, he has survived fires, and falls, tumbles and bullets and slighting a man by kissing Sinclair's woman would hardly be frightening. Sinclair's woman, the words spills like ash across his brain, once was mine. Poor man, Rich man, Poor man, Rich - but like a Shadow, Roy only wears the skin of another man, he's the double man, the behind-the-scenes man, the takes-a-bullet-and-dies man, and truth was, him and Sinclair are probably in the same boat, tied to a woman so grossly unreliable, a deserter that he pities the day Sinclair is bedridden, or the day a calamity befalls him, because starlets flee whenever they suspect the shine is lacking and...he should have known...in the end, the princess is fickle and stupid and he won't fall for it again.
She's expecting him to steer her behind the trailer and kiss her senseless maybe, to burn down in defeat and prostrate before her in love - because thats what happened in the movies, wicked women were forgiven and once more became saints. She does not expect him to shrug her off, pry her fingers from his face and laugh at her. The laugh of an adult to a stupid child, distrustful and uncaring.
"Oh, darling," he tells her, smiles lopsided, roguish. "You're a fool."
He doesn't look back.
There's really something about California that Roy couldn't imagine being without, the air there; the weather, it's hot and burning, from the matted humid air of a traffic jam to the crisp clean bite the ocean coast takes from your lungs. Everything is vibrant bright and burning, from the grass that must be kept wet lest it dry and cackle to flame, a sharp green, to the coast that's blue and blinding when the light casts off the waves. Money feels hot in your palm, crisp dollar bills smoking on the edges, coins branding your insides like silver, like magic bullets.
Funnily enough, you can hate and love for it.
His shirt sticks to his back, it's six years since his accident. And he takes off his hat, mops his forehead with the back of his hand, squints against a sunrise.
Sometimes, these days he has the odd longing for the bitter sweet of oranges.
It's twelve years later, he doesn't look it but he's thirty five now. He's making his way out of Hollywood, there isn't much need for an old stuntsman, and thirty five is dinosaur years he tells Robin with a grin, small and lopsided, he doesn't have a wooden leg to go on with gags like Robin did. And the older man raises his sherry in toast at this, having fast gotten out of the business a few years ago.
For a stuntsman his face has been left unmarred, women find him lucky in that aspect. He still has a smooth clean paned face, or at least the last girl told him, and he shaves every day. His hair hasn't thinned and he smiles, he's thirty five whether or not he looks it. His body is lean, almost too leanRobin grunts eyes rheumy and laughter lines digging at the edges. The dog is still alive, just as old as Robin, with its sleepy head laid against Roy's boot and Roy scratches it's wobbly side almost absentmindedly.
Nothing too spectacular, mind. Just little stories, here and there, articles - some have been published in magazines under appropriate pseudonyms, some (-like the tale of the six men, the bandit and his bandit daughter-) he penned down and kept in the back of his drawer, private and a homage to the past. Too precious to share for money. He thumbs paper, and pours out words thick like dictionary ink, and there are cuts on his fingers, writer's callouses, little tinier scars. For he can't stand type writers, they jarr him and send horses thundering through his head.
Roy writes. He's surprised himself that he does. But it feels right, it feels like it's what he should be doing, he'd been doing it since the accident, since the little girl and he hasn't stopped. As a stuntman it feels right, because he sets up the action in the movies for the movie makers, he's the invisible spine of the show, the Shadow...and as a writer, he's invisible God, he makes the story, the elements are correct. It is empowering, it is benign, it feels grounded after the fall.
Of all the silly places, of all the silly places to meet her - it's in a library, undramatic as it may be, underwhelming it is not. He didn't recognise her at first, just a pretty young thing with hair closed up in a no nonsense bun, and a pert little nose buried in the latest issue of a cowboy graphical novel. She wore reading glasses, rimmed blue and his heart stuttered to a stop by the her chair, palm glancing off the polished wooden surface of the table, and she looked up impatiently, at his terrified wonderful eyes because he aksed very suddenly why...why wasn't she supposed to be picking oranges.
Her eyes flash with anger, that spirit he knows so well. She opens her mouth to snap him clean in two and then her jaw slackens. "Oh." she says when they lock eyes. "Oh!"
And he's shaking, smiling and grinning madly when his mind floats away from him and she gaily screams near to take the roof off the building, and without further ado launches herself at him. "Roy! Oh, Roy! It is you!" She's giddy and taller, still small though, and she remembered him - she remembered him. Her weight jolts him, slight as she is, and he's laughing, and fingers brush the the little curls at her nape, he's smoothing the hair away from her face,"I can not believe -" she claps her hand over her mouth to silence herself, but her blue-gray eyes (-long lashed, a slightly sculpted brow, no more baby fat-) are alight with something he knows all too well when she points to the 'Quiet' sign above their head, and hushes him. Had her eyes always been like this, the dust motes gold around them when she whispers to him. "It is you."
"Alexandria the Great." He says, and she grins and he wonders when she got so, so...? "I thought you'd forgotten."
She clicks her fingers and crosses her heart, whispers like they're thick as thieves, a blood oath. "Never."
Something in his chest clicks into place, when she single handedly tosses her book shut and manages to drag him between the aisles, she orders him, quite simply, to walk.
He raises his arms, rolls his eyes and takes his steps forward and backward. "Fully functioning." he tells her wryly, and her eyes are glassy wet when she laughs.
"I see you," later they are sitting on the wide steps into the building, her legs folded underneath her, skirt covering her legs. Picture perfect propriety. She must be seventeen now, Roy is still adjusting, he can't take his eyes off her. She is so very new. "Everytime I go to the movies, I was seeing you in your stunts, and watch many movies many many times to make sure it is you."
He clicked his tongue, arms on his knees and his back against the steps. "Why'd you do that?"
"Well," she murmurs, then laughs awkwardly when she brushes a strand of hair behind her ear. "I thought mamma lied to me, maybe, that you are fixed...sometimes I think I imagined seeing you, because that would be easier."
"I'm sorry." He says, not knowing exactly what he's apologising for, but knowing that there is something he feels sorry for, painfuly so.
"Don't say that." Alexandria smiles. "I liked watching you."
"You're a very silly girl, Alexandria." He reaches over to ruffle her hair, like he would a child, because she's Alexandria. Except that doesn't quite work anymore, she ducks from his hand and laughes, pokes him under the eye almost hard enough to blind him.
"I never forget," she says, while he's still recovering, her accent is still there thick and rolling, but no longer difficult understanding, her wording is still raw. It makes him wonder. "About the stories, you always told them the best."
"I'm glad." Roy doesn't think he can say much more, except. "You're still a bandit?"
"Of course!" she says, and giggles. Still the same, Alexandria always giggling at whatever he said, lighting him up from the inside, making firecrackers in his head. "Oh, but I do not pick oranges anymore, since you were asking before. I work in the city now, no? It is better. Odd jobs here and there, a maid and these things...mamma let me, doctor warned her about my falling, so she give me permission to come to the city, I make enough money to send back home and after work I go to the movies. Or the library, like now. What about you, Roy?"
Roy Roy Roy, she's always saying his name, he wonders if it's etched into her heart like that. Roy.
"Stunts." He says.
It's late afternoon, the steps are red like tangerines and cast her face half in light half in dark, but her smile is always there. She's slim, slender in a way that reminds him of the wispy branches of the trees back home, stealing into farms and palming apples, bruising his knees and yet holds herself with her own custom made dignity, spirited yet grinning, like the days where she would have ripped her grubby note from his hands that first time, like today laughing at him, like her smiling against his elbow on a dusty old hospital mattress, throwing orange peels at his head. Alexandria.
"Have you fallen any of this time recently?" She demands of him, looking him over like it's her responsibility. She doesn't like lying, and he won't, not to her.
"Just a few stumbles, here...and there."
"Here and there?" She echoes doubtfully, but in good heart.
"Yes." He smiles, and then she turns to her side, digs through her satchel for a sheet of paper and a pencil. She looks like a schoolgirl, rather than a librarian, she should she let down her hair, they would frame her lovely heart shaped face so beautifully, he can't call that the face of a child anymore, her lips are too full and her mouth curved so, those blue gray brown eyes of hers he'd thought of as mocha clearly shone like the colour of dusty jewels. He couldn't name them. She scribbles on the sheet, tears it off and leans close, pulls his hand towards her, he lets her. Her skin is warm against his, her fingers long and graceful, soft but not fanciful, they are deliberate when she pries open his unresisting fingers and places the paper there, presses it into his palm like a piece of holy church bread. It feels like a kiss, and she tells him;
"This is my address, alright?"
He opens his mouth to query, but she smiles benignly and pats his hand, then she folds his fingers over the paper, keepsafe keepsakes. "I stay with an old family friend, she...saves letter for me," and then abruptly she stops, ears colouring red (or maybe, he can't tell if it's her, him, or the orange sun fall that paints the blush on her cheeks), starts. "Though you don't have to write, Roy. This is just in case -"
"I could walk you home."
"No no, I am not to go home now," she replies, like she's the adult here. She's had a habit of using that tone once in a while, back then. "I have, 'nother shift, somewhere else."
I could wait, he wants to say, I've been waiting all these years, I could wait. But Alexandria lays her hand on his cheek, between a pinch and a pat and kisses the skin under his eye, on his scar, it's all very chaste and her lips are soft there, his eyes flutter shut for a moment and then she withdraws smiles at him, plain as day, without folly, Alexandria stands up with the sun at her back. He dreams of horses, and blue cities sweltering under a desert sky, the scattering of lotus petals and Alexandria. The sun against her hair, she looks like she' burning, burning like a city at night, like citrus, burning California.
She's gone before he can catch his breath.
He goes home, back to Robin who'd told him many times that he couldn't do gag stunts. I've had my leg chewed off by savages, sawed off by criminals and even had a harpoon through it. You can't do gag stunts. Gags are not for you, Roy. You're a college man.
Roy smiles, thumbs his paper, writes a letter to Alexandria. Except it's not that simple, he feels like he's writing a letter to a country, a piece of his soul, his self and it becomes more than just one letter...it's papers among papers of stories, pages clipped together and bound in envelope. Which he promptly rips in half and crumples into the trash.
He can't give her stories, she's a woman now, a young lady with slender wrists and his hand feels more appropriate on the small of her back rather than patting down her head and Roy tears his fingers through his hair in agitation. If he sends her stories, he might love her. He can't.
So he writes other things, about the movies he's been in, his more stranger stunts, about his childhood in LA, breaking fire hydrants and dancing in their splash, stealing into vineyards.
He sends them and thinks he might love her.
I buried the old man's teeth in an orange skin, it is in a field now, I like thinking that it has been growing...the Indian on the farm had been asking if maybe the orange tree that would grow up there from it might be having teeth! Remember what you tell me that time, Roy? That the spirit strength is in the teeth, the man's soul, that's why he put it in a glass by his everynight. I do not remember much, only that he was very kind to me, and in my dreams he was the mystic, and in my dreams Roy, you were always the hero. The masked bandit.
Her lettering is painstakingly neat, not like his which are like the etches of a knife scrawling against wood, deeply clumsy, haphazard. Between her bad grammar and his handwriting they are a match.
And he writes back, almost always promptly with other ditties. He dares not speak a word about how she saved him, because if he starts he doesn't think he'll stop, and it's a dangerous road from there.
You're seventeen now, aren't you? You write well, I'm impressed.
And even in her letters, on paper he can hear her laugh, her smile against his skin. Wonders if she smells like citrus.
Letters don't cut it, and Roy all but camps out at the library these days hoping to catch sight of her. On a Thursday his efforts are rewarded, when he corners her for coffee. An open cafe with little tables, she's impressed, but not overawed, she has her pride - Roy doesn't let her pay for anything and she almost throws a fit about it. Except she huffs and spreads apart the plates and the tea to place a tin rectangular box onto the table, it's old and rusted along the edges, a long time ago it might have been used to keep chocolates.
"Look." she tells him, and she opens the box. draws out paper cuttings and paper-mâché masks, crayoned drawings and little silly oddities. He knows that box. "Remember?"
He picks up the mask, first by its strings, almost reverently, carefully - careful now. He can't be blamed if his fingers shake.
"See!" she crows. Her white dress clashes horribly with her click clack flat red shoes, and all of a sudden this girl child, he knows she's his - she must be, and he's hers. It can't be any other way, after all, she's carried his soul with her for so long, how could it be otherwise?
His mouth feels dry, he swallows back a choke of air, and asks her, like that time before when it wasn't her. Breathes deep and fluttering. "Smile for me?"
You remember a lot for someone who was very young then.
You cried for me, too.
He takes his beat up old car down the street, blinks at the paper in his hand at intervals, turns the wheel and goes down unfamiliar roads and crosses. The streets are tighter, with buildings stacked clumsier over eachother, it's a dustier old urban neighbourhood that speaks of immigrants and lower level income. There are few trees, and even his ugly automobile looks pleasant when contrasted with the setting he now navigates through. Soon enough the street lights will turn on, show up the sidewalks in murky light, and makes the fire escape railings shine like licorice.
He stops the car a little off onto the road, one wheel climbed on the pavement so he is tilted on a slight angle. Roy thumbs up his sunglasses to peek at the four level building sandwiched between what looks to be a kosher butchery with rosary's stretched across the door frame, and a liquor store where a loan shark squats coughing against a street lamp. Eyes turn onto him, curious. The white man has come forth on a four wheeled mystery to the area where white men nary go. Roy Walker is not from a rich family, he spent his childhood in other people's groves, not working mind, but stealing oranges for sport cutting his palms on sharply playful branches, early callouses to compliment future ones. Hs father had owned a vineyard, his mother was a Scottish woman born and raised in new york - yet he has known little else but the Californian sun, and its magnificent heat. He was well loved, went to college to amuse himself, learnt architecture and agriculture. Drank his fill and skipped out on the war. Learnt how to be the ghost in those brilliant brilliant moving pictures. Not even college sounded pretty after that. And Roy had been very good at almost dying, each and every time.
Two boys with branches, rolling cans across the pavement for play stop by his car. Curious and awed by the man with the sunglasses, he rolls down the window and opens the door to put his legs out. Talks to them and listens to their accented questions about his car, their excitement is catching. It's an old car, they reason. He agrees. Why don't you sell it? No, I can't do that. This car is like my family. Eh? It's old, mister. Just like me. You have a dog, kid? No. Got a cat, though. If your cat got old, would you put it down? What do you mean, mister? Put it down, put it to sleep. Sell it. Would you? Well, no mister. See, exactly. No, no mister. That's different, you can't compare a cat and a car. It's different. How's it different? Just is.
He asks, gives his best attempt at a Hollywood smile. "Is there a girl called Alexandria who lives in that house?"
They look at him suddenly somehwat hostile, a suspicious warning. "Maybe. The Landlady would know."
"I knew her when she was a kid, did you know?" he eases them up with a smile, "she has gap teeth. You can't really tell now, but she really did have gap teeth, and she was so small, just about your age."
It works. "How do you know the Romanian girl?"
"We both fell," he says. "And so we were in the same hospital. I used to tell her stories."
"How'd you fall, mister?"
"I used to be a stuntman." and that got them ll types of starry-eyed and crowing, asking him if he knew Charley Chaplin. "Once, a swell guy, that Charley."
"You're not her boyfriend?"
Roy opens his mouth, hesitates -
"The landlady doesn't like that type of business, she's an old fashioned jewish broad. One of the girls there had a tom, he used to sneak in, and he'd always get caught. She's mighty crazy."
And then a gasp, the open and close of a faulty iron door, and Alexandria in her slippers. A long shift that covered her skin and gave little glimpse of anything but her hands, for the first time in his life, she was speechless. Rendered so, momentarily of course. "Roy!" she exclaimed, tucking her night robe around her shift and pattering down to his car. "What are you...?"
He is suddenly very cautious, has he made a mistake, somehow? Did he misread an invitation, the paper with her address catches her eye and she comes forward to shoo the two boys away. They grumble, and are off. "Oh, Roy!"
"Am I making trouble for you?" He worries.
"She is not here right now, the landlady." she cracks a grin, over the shock. "I did not expect you."
"Is she strict much?"
"She is from Romania, like my parents. Very...old fashioned. However," she tastes the word, her mind has been eager for all sorts of words these years. "She has gone in, for synagogue preyers this night, she will be back soon."
"You could not have known."
He stands up from his car, diverts his eyes. Her hair is down he notices, it curls around her shoulders in wisps of heavy brown like langurous smoke twirls too heavy to be carried easily by the wind. Like charcoal smoke. He should not look at her too straightforward. "I'd like to be with you sometimes, take you to the parks out."
Her face lights up, her skin dark and smooth with summer. No Helen could rival. "I work very much."
"But you're free, sometimes. Right?"
"Hm. Landlady will never throw me out - she is relative."
"Oh." He stands a little straighter, makes the mistake of meeting her bright bright eyes and falling in love with her all over again. "Can I drive you around, once in a while, Alexandria?"
"Only on Saturdays." She says, looking at him askance from beneath her lashes, bashful almost. "Is it alright?"
"It is. It's perfect."
Dangling off the edge of a precipice, held on by green silk careens through the air a masked man in hakama, then leaps. A burning god, magnificent hero, burning through cinder strewn air. Drops to the ground, from perilious heights lands. On his feet like a cat, on an Aegean hot day, insurmountable, undefeated, her conqueror. Talks to her in tongues strangers could never understand, her wonderful conquerer. Bandit.
Alexandria, who sleeps on the tide of cars riding down the dark roads, plaits her hair between shifts of working hours, slips on her business working brown hoses and watched the pavement, longing for the breeze that will arrive and occasionally snatch up newspapers, and once or twice, like a familiar friend pull on the edges of her straight laced shirt, her braids. Her days are in a colour none but her could imagine, few in the world, no, not even prophets could convey - in the train there is the flash of Mediterranean blue, like an ocean city in cool shadow, and in the fruit stalls every Wednesday she smiles at the red of strawberries like the blood red oath on the indian's forehead who was so silly looking in his blindfold, she carries cardamom and vanilla in her satchel, imagines doves on the railing of her fire escape. She is a stilted child, with dream snippets in an adult's life. Peter Pan had nothing on her.
Roy once tells her that she makes him feel like a child.
There are at one of the parks, the big laked one. With the imported trees from somewhere in Asia, he mentioned, that in spring, they are supposed to burst with pink flowers. But at the moment, her hair is still wisping out from her bun (no braids today) on her free Saturday because Roy's car was a top down old one and the wind ran through. It made her face numb. Like a smile. His long shifted legs propped on the rise of a tree root, and his head pillowed by his folded jacket, a hat on his chest. Like Huckleberry Finn.
"You laugh so much, you smile so much." He explains in that way of his. "You must know some secret of this world that I don't - to be so at peace with it. Am I wrong?" And then his eyes are alert, and almost panicky, looking up at her frantic and almost lost for reassurance. "You are happy, Alexandria. Aren't you?"
Most old men who are with young women, even not like that - they feel old. But Roy doesn't even feel young, he looks at her with such eyes. He is not in the folly of an old man who likes to pretend for a time that he is temporarily young when a pretty ornament is by his side, he doesn't even have grey in his hair. His eyes are so trusting, so searching, so curious - they could swallow her whole, and have that almost feverish concentration. And he enjoys too much, the climbing of trees and the telling of stories to seem anything but a child when he has such eyes.
He is like in the hospital. He relies on her. He is her responsibility. His temples are framed with his hair, brown and thick to run fingers through, he looks endearing when he drives with his glasses tucked back in that hair sometimes. But his skin is sunwarm, tanned slightly, like a man's. A roman nose, having been once or twice broken and set with his own hand, possibly. The silver of a scar beneath his eye. His large warm hands. A straightforward laugh. The burning need to be oh so honest, his eyes.
"Are you not?" she challenges in return, a lilt of a smile in that same tone she was known for so in her youth.
"You are?" He presses on.
"Yes, I work. I met Roy again. Why not be happy?"
She lifts the basket onto her lap, and concentrates on peeling the oranges she has brought because, his eyes are too much like helpless gratitude, and even she could not look into it and stand stoic, unwavering. Oranges are familiar, like the grove on the outskirts of town where she is saving up money with her sister to buy, perhaps, someday. For mother. In memory of father.
She has them separated in slices and pieces, so good with a knife. She passes him a plate of them, the nice looking plate that she normally keeps polished in the glass cupboard with all her nice minimal silverware, but she took out into the sun for Roy. The grass tickles the skin behind her knees, her skirt is folded over her skin, she did not wear stockings today because it was a holiday, and she needed the feel of the green.
"I thought maybe you would hate me." he says in the heart of a confession, when he sits up and his shoulders brush hers against the tree trunk, sat side by side.
She is surprised, beyond words. He fills in the gaps, explains after a pause. "You see. I told you stories, about ideal things. And you were only a child. I made you believe in beautiful things, adventures, heroes, magic and daring - I thought that if you believed in them so strongly, only to realise that everything was a lie -"
"It was not a lie."
He looks at her. His eyes are the colour of grey rivers widening, widening into the crystal sea. Even to today, he still reminds her of something like a destroyed forest, like the rippling stillness of water, the stillness of lonely thought. "You can't always live in stories, Alexandria."
He frowns. She'd said that a little forcefully, louder than she normally would, with mouth almost severe and eyes no nonsense. "Because life is not a fairytale, reality is harsh. And the stories were a brief reprieve, like a magicians show. It's an illusion. Paupers do not turn into princes overnight, there are no princesses, no bands of super men ready to fight evil - and when you realise that...why don't you hate me? I have not been with you, all these years. I, as good as abandoned you. I didn't save you."
She shakes her head, and wipes her orange juice covered palms on the grass. Looks up at him, with a small smile at his confusion and wiser than he will ever be. His Athena. Leans a little on his shoulder, cheek on his arm. "Silly Roy."
He closes his eyes, when she glances up at him from this angle, rested against him, he is even more handsome.
"Silly Roy." Fingers against the sleeve of his shirt. She has missed this, it has been so long since the days spent in that half cast hospital room, with his head lolled and sleeping right next to hers. "You are always the hero, of course you are real. Never doubt it."
How could she love him otherwise?
No, you should ask someone else. There's no happy ending with me.
I still want to hear it.
The science, or rather, the motivation behind his life with Alexandria was simpler than Roy understood it to be. It was peppered with guilt, and gratitude and such desperate anguished longing that it could not help but reverbrate through the core and marrow of his bones. His heart.
He remembered before, the table they'd set her down on, her bandaged head as she lay still as any corpse. He'd bitten his nails till he worried them to the skin and when he could finick no further his fingers, he fouled his mouth with liquor and dredged the guilt till it was a knife in his gut, wrenching upwards and slitting his throat with a grief and hate for himself he could not bear. For he was such a man - such a fake god, to have taken a girl's love for her father and used it to his own means, tricked her M-O-R-P-H-I-N-3, consciously did so, and she was so pale under the tube lighting. So still. He feared her dead. Dead so young and he so wretched.
He'd enchanted her, lied. Weaved stories as liars do. Used her. Captivated her with light tricks and mirror illusions, spun a fantasy that could not be.
He wants to tell her the exact number of stars there are in the sky, the location of where the moon goes when the sun rises, every love story, all the ditty of songbird by the lake, grant her more than a dreamer's heart, brilliant, stronger.
It was simple really. Now that he knew her again, a second time. He wanted to give her the ending she needed - as he had taken from her. He wanted to give her everything.
He's a thirty six year old man now, she's eighteen, it isn't right. "Nineteen, I turned last month." She speaks. "I do not look it, no?..what was your question?"
Roy has a spoon fiddled round his fingers, and his mouth forms a sheepish curve, he doesn't have the heart to put to distance himself away from the problem, neither the courage to go towards it. He doesn't think he'd survive. "You said your birthday is in December."
"I was telling a lie," she says tartly, reluctantly ashamed, yet righteous in her decision. "You would have gotten me things if I had said it was a month ago. And since it has now been passed, you cannot get me things, which is good now."
"Who says?" Roy is decidedly wounded, she reads him so well, too well. With all her lashed glances that she has always used to carefuly gauge his mood. "Who says I can't?"
"It will not be...sporting...of you to try." Alexandria takes a stab at the ice-cream they share between them, her elbows on the table.
He frowns, mouth twitching downwards and his eyes serious. "That's very cruel."
"I do not want you to be feeling obligated, Roy." she says quietly, and her eyes meet his, soft and meaningful. "There is nothing for me to forgive you for. You must not be feeling so hurt and sorry, is no need for you to carry something silly to the grave."
"...You're very cruel, telling me that." He plucks up her untouched glass of wine, breaks the stare and downs it. Suddenly bitter. "I don't forgive myself."
"Please do," Alexandria has such patient wise eyes, they are all for him, sometimes he feels it so. "You don't have to feel like you have to see me all the time -"
"But I want to see you." He pushes forward forcefully, enough to give them both pause. But he recovers himself quickly, "Alexandria, I want to see you."
"Oh, Roy." she says and pats the hand he's got clenched white on the table.
"Or...do I bother you?" he has trouble with the words, they come out hard in his throat, and he's very suddenly afraid.
"No, how can you be bother me?" she smiles. "You're the masked bandit, the scourge of the south east - "
"You're different, yet you're still the same, you're too grown up to be my bandit daughter anymore." said tightly. "Yet not at all. I don't know, Alexandria, if I can be a bandit anymore -"
"You're very strong, you're grown up and you're free. You don't need a hero, and I was never a good hero." He is suddenly breathlessly telling her all of this, tiptoeing round the edges of a dangerous cliff. Oh, he can't torment himself anymore. "I'm not your father, Alexandria."
"...What are you saying?"
"I can't look at you as my daughter any more." He admits, and cannot look her in the eye. What he sees there might break him, and he can't stop halfway. "Please."
When I fall asleep. You have to go.
Because I don't want you to see me like this...
Later that night, he drops her by her doorstep. The light above the fire escape flickers on, and an old woman's face flits suspiciously behind the blinds. His jaws is so tense, and niether had said a word the whole way back. Alexandria stops before she goes in, turns around to look at him, her eyes are troubled, worried even. The streetlights paint her dress lemon yellow, and shadows in the hollows of her throat, her hair is clipped up, she looks so beautiful, so never his. She worries her lips says. "Roy."
He closes his eyes, he cannot beg. He shouldn't.
"Roy." A feather light touch against the corner of his jaw, her hand fleeting yet meaningful reminds him of a mother's, or a wife's. Except, she looks at him with a stranger's clarity, does not fogg up her perception of him, will always see him as what she has chosen, and so clearly. "Roy, don't be so angry."
Her words are caught in her throat. He doesn't want to make her cry.
"I'm not angry," his mouth sneaks up a little, in a smile that would make him sick should he see it in the mirror. "Just needy. I feel like the child."
"That's because you're forever young." She answers with a soft smile, her fingers tender. "Alright."
"You're alchemy." he breathes. Damns the woman behind the blinds, he does not care if she hears, she could never understand. "Alexandria, you only make me seem so."
"I love you, Roy." she says shamelessly, and remorselessly. His mind attempts to reason before his heart can run away with his wits, because she cannot mean it the way he'd love to hear it. Her eyes are sincere, the colour of jewels. "So don't disappear."
"I won't." he says quietly when she does not let go. Her touch is a soothing balm, yet a maddening flame that makes him so thirsty.
She smooths her touch down the line of his jaw as she retreats, tucks her hands back under her arms. "Promise? And don't cross your fingers."
"I won't." He smiles a little wryly at his familiar traversed before part of the script, raises his palms up, fingers spread apart as far as they can go. A man with his hands in the air, dropped his weapons, oh there is no surrender more painful and divine. No sweeter. "See?"
The problem was not his back. Not his spine. Not his legs. Do you know? It's a band of five heroes, each persuing his own birlliant death - and a princess, pink and poisonous as oleander blossoms. The problem is his heart, broken. And eyes, lost. Caught in a fever dream.
Wakes up underwater, a mouthful of blood. Open your eyes, Roy.
Makes the mistake of taking her out to a bar, once. He isn't sure, exactly what he was thinking, she can tell from the flit of his lashes against his eyes, the tenseness of his brows just moments from springing. Roy pats out a cigarette from the pack in his palm, lights it - the bar top gleams like good mahogany and she has her hair down, has a soda bottle with a straw in it. Of all the things to drink.
"Prohibition only ended a few years ago." He tells her by way of remark, all the time he smokes he looks at her like he has waited for her to tell him not to. Like most women do. Or even excitedly, ask for a joint to try. "And for some of us, it never started."
"You mean you, Roy?" she tilts her head, eyes bright through a haze of smoke. Of course she knew he smoked, that he drank, every man had his weakness, what others would name vices. But Roy had no vices, to Alexandria, he could be silly, prone to accidental bouts of selfishness, guilt, but he had this way of blinking and smiling, a twitch of his lips as if he could be befuddled and enchanted in one sentence. It would matter little for him to stop smoking. When she leant her head on his arm on evenings in parks, the crisp sleeve of his shirt was always white and clean, with that tinge of smoke from rolled up cigarettes, warm as oak burn - real.
"Of course." His mouth twitched then, a quick half smile that soon chipped into a grin. "Soda pop and I don't agree enough to get along for long enough."
There's the sheen on his skin under the hot lights of the bar, its warm and makes the skin where the first two buttons of his shirt are undone, gleam. Tanned hands propped on the table, body angled towards her. Tequila. Liquid courage, perhaps. Or just pain killing solution.
She can only be there to stop him falling too hard to the poison.
"How does it feel?"
"Not much. Not too different."
"Will you..miss it?" His feet are folded at the ankles. And he tugs his collar around his throat, the heat of a californian night pressing down on them. She watches him down a shot like flavoured tapwater. It doesn't quench him, by the way he looks at the bottom of the glass, frowns so slightly. "...much?"
"No." she can't tell if he's lying. It's not easy to gauge him, now that she isn't five anymore. And she's dabbed peach perfume behind her ears, and her dress is pretty - she isn't five anymore.
And then at her doorstep, he is pressing a brown bag into her hands. It's heavy. He is sober drunk, yet he had driven so meticulously down the road. But, his eyes are feverish, he's very tall. And soda wasn't enough to make her remember why she let him this close to the building anyway, the aunt upstairs might have nagged her for it. Yet her doorstep is little more than a fire escape, and she has surpassed all curfews anyway.
"This is it. It's all of it," he says, his offering grasped in her hands. "Take it. I didn't think I would finish it, it's taken me weeks to fix it. It's been in the back of my drawer for years. I never forgot. Alexandria, and then I saw you again, and how could I leave it alone?"
She schools herself, she must not lecture him. She should be sensitive to him, considering he has admitted that he will not do another stunt, that he has quit. Had said, not many stuntment did his job that old. "Thank you."
"Read it, all of it." Promise?
"I will." Yes.
And then there's that exhilarating moment where her heart stops, and they realise how close they are standing. The silence isn't a silence, because each star seems to be whispering over the hush of his breathing and her held breath. Roy is so tall. His head is dipped a little. Blood seems to pool right beneath the surface of her skin, like a warm summer blush, or the heart thundering flush of a five handed ace at a card table. Strange. She can now see that his eyes were just a little bit more grey than green. And that sweet lime tinge of citrus tequila that hovers over him, and did not quench him, did nothing to close the fever. That he might kiss her...seems...seems - "Come in?"
She startles the both of them into reason. Roy starts back, and opens his mouth, hesitates, closes. Then; "Your relative?"
Aunt? Damn her to hell. "It is fine. You're drunk."
"Not really." And they both know it. "Tipsy, a buzz. Not drunk, you soda pop girl." He snatches up tendrils of her hair, fingers only a little clumsy, proves his coordination, he could rest his chin on her head, should he ever wish it. "Alexandria, as wise as you are. No. I won't come in. I don't know why you asked."
She doesn't know either. He withdraws, blinks at her, and then a slow smile - she isn't cruel enough to kiss him on the cheek like she would usually, it has come too naturally to her not to hurt him in some measure.
Alexandria closes herself behind the door. Tears the parcel open before she can here the start of the engine, and the lull of wheels leaving out onto the road.
Alright, close your eyes. What do you see?
Can you see the stars?
Every paper crisp like cinders against her skin, words painted like the blood of the soul, the pen the glued together pieces of a sparrow's snapped ribcage. Effortlessly, painstaking. Roy. There are the five men again, who were really all parts of Roy to begin with. Otta Benga, Darwin, Luigi, the Indian, the Mystic and the Bandit, even Odius. An adventure, a burning legend, and a love story not so much romantic as it was written so much in the sunset across a desert sky. Tongues, and words, the writers inside the margin of a book could not imagine capturing. The whirring of a gold lasso that spins the air with sharp heat, cutting into the moon when it is flung up. Her Roy, her bandit, her carrying away, carried away childhood spirit dust.
Like a wet breath the rain falls. She reads of the bright sheen of grass blades that touch past our shins, skimming the skin of naked legs, dancing. A blue city, like a brother mirror of sky, mediteranean building blocks of oceans, domes that strike up the land. The slow twist of trout in a river, silver to black. The mist of blood flung up above a battlefield, heavy soft like legends and grief. Nymphs caught in the nude. Leviathan wrestling warriors. The rustle of ashes as a breeze carries away a temple, black gleaming dust on the pecs of cinder gladiators. Ladies with scented handkerchiefs held to their mouths in a scorching heat, fanning their necks with their intricately painted fingers. Such life, such life.
Roy who looked at her every day like she mattered. So much. like she could not be dissolved, insoluble in the mediocrity of the city. Like the sun, could not face her. Who truly thought his heart, like a stone, like the tiny bright speare of yellow bleached in the sky so hot to the touch, yet Alexandria holds her fingers up and wide against the sun, in these small hands she could engulf him. But never need extinguish. His thick dancing brows, tilted like cruising wings. Who downed tequila like he could not be quenched, yet he must try. Talks to her, her bandit, her childhood wanderlust, lost in Alexandria. Who with arms flung upwards, she turns around and around in the long hover of trees, dancing in gasping gestures, into the grassy scorching dry tongue of their heroic imaginings, mocked by the undulations of an orange peel around her knife and his fingers, prying open, spray citrus sweet.
Roy who saw her as so brilliant, who painted her in words that not even Mona Lisa would dare call flattery, of such adoring, sweet suffering adulation and worship, and love and love and love. And she who can only open her arms to him, because she never let go of him, her hero, her fatherfriendloverhero, conqueror. Who is so so Roy. Who eyes quavering, brave - crash all walls and finaly kisses her the day after, enough to steal the wisps of her breathing away. Mouth hot, like a man in a desert, sand caked and skin broken. Kissing her like she was a well to drink and drink from, and he was so very dry.
Her story teller, her lie-spinning, truthfuly confused, yet sure, yet lost, can't-swim-lost-without-her Roy.
"Good bandits." He tells her, like she understands. And she does. "are thick as thieves, so never let me leave."
She hooks pinkies like they are kids with nickles and marbles. And closes the blood oath, steps her feet on his feet, raises herself on tiptoes on the leather of his shoes, collects on that height difference. Seals the distance.
We're a strange pair, aren't we?
end notes: just feeling incredibly sated after all this. i literally fall in love with life every time i think of this movie, i think it'll always have a place in my heart. as will you, if you choose to give me a review. hugs for all the world and god bless you.