He thinks of her sometimes. The girl who saved his life. Who demanded that he save himself. He thought she was being selfish, but it was he who was the selfish one.
Alexandria the Great.
He doesn't know her last name. Never did. But her first name means leader of men; he thinks it is fitting. Roy is simply another word for Red. Red Walker. Anyway.
He still knows every treasure in her box, he knew her house was burned, her horse stolen, her father killed, by angry people. He knew that she picked oranges with her mother and sister and her friend from India.
Roy loves oranges now. He never had an opinion of them before, but now he craves them constantly, as powerfully as he used to crave M-O-R-P-H-I-N-3. He does not devour the fruit; instead he rolls them in their bowl, tosses them in the air a few times (as if throwing them at God instead of The Priest, but like her, without any real malice) before carefully peeling them and eating them section by tiny section. He observes their color and the dimples over the peel and the smell of sunshine... He only eats California oranges, and he wonders if hers was the dimpled hand to pick it.
He wonders if she still has any of her milk teeth, or if they all have fallen out, to be replaced by her strength. Her courage. Her tenacity.
He wonders if she'll have a gap in her teeth like her father.
He is pondering the state of her dentistry when a young woman stumbles against him, spilling her drink on the only suit he has. He catches her out of habit; he's used to catching people when they fall now, like Alexandria did for him. He is pulled back to the present.
This young starlet, however (he can tell she's a starlet - her brows are soaped and perfect, her hair is bright yellow, and she's wearing heavy make-up and a short dress), giggles at the drink she spilled and trips away on her high heels. No doubt in search of another cocktail. She glances back, though. As if to say "come hither," her red lips pouting. But like the Indian in his story, he can barely stand to look at her. She is much too bright - it blinds him. He has no idea what color her eyes are, and he does not care to find out her favorite food. Her favorite book. It's probably some trash by Fitzgerald, he rationalizes.
The starlet climbs on top of the grand piano and does the Charleston, her heels slicing painfully into the wood.
Just another wild Hollywood party.
He's had enough.
Roy Walker leaves the party behind, the women trying to reform him (back to alcohol and drugs and things that make everyone numb. Not since Alexandria has Roy had a drink. Prohibition no longer affects him). But he's not enslaved by that anymore. Alexandria has freed him, like Otta Benga had freed the slaves in the story.
He jumps into his auto.
His mind is curiously blank as he drives back to his house.
It's a small place in a family neighborhood, never to be the site of a huge bash. He was lucky to pay it off before the market crash. Roy is still working, but he worries sometimes about Alexandria and the overrun fruit picking industry. Then he remembers her teeth.
As he enters, he drops his keys in the dish by the door and follows a well beaten path to his office.
Only here does he relax.
He sinks gratefully into a soft leather chair. There is a table in front of him, covered in papers and many pots of colorful ink. His dog, Jack Russell, curls up on his feet. Roy can feel the heat of him sinking into his toes. It's delicious.
He begins to write.
Very slowly, in different colors.
It's quieter this way. He doesn't have to learn to type. And to go this slowly allows him to smooth out the rough edges, and the little girl in his head to interrupt him, make suggestions. To ask why?
The words come like a steady stream tonight, a rainbow of color. It's always this way, when Alexandria pops into his mind. She's a tiny, toothless muse. And he writes the story that he began, that she manipulated into something of her own, despite his best intentions. Or his worst ones.
After a while, his eyes start to burn; he rubs his brow. Everything is blurry, so Roy takes a break. He stands and feels the vertebra pop in his back. Rolling his shoulders, he wanders into the kitchen towards the acid green bowl that holds the pile of California oranges. He settles at the table and begins carefully peeling one, giving a small section to Jack Russell at his feet.
He should get some sleep, he knows. Tomorrow (or, later today) he'll be receiving a new script, and he will have to begin choreographing the stunts. That's what he does now. He went from stunt man to paraplegic to stunt man again, and now years later, he was choreographing dangers for others to undertake. He wonders if he will be planning any explosions, like Luigi in the story.
It worries him, a little. Before, in the flickers, you could see his face sometimes. And he hoped Alexandria would be watching when that happened. That she would see him, living. (She did not want him to die. He does not want to disappoint her. He never crosses his fingers anymore, not even for luck. He promised.) But lately, he has been behind the camera. He wonders if she looks for him. A lot has changed in tinsel town since he recovered the use of his legs. Most recently, they have learned to talk. Because of this, many silent film stars, including Her, had been let go. No one wanted to hear their voices. Roy no longer had to avoid Her on sets or at parties. Who knew where She was now.
And now, he is writing.
He is taking the Bandit and putting him down on paper, as best as he can remember through that haze of depression, morphine, and alcohol. Going slowly, with the colored ink, helps.
When he gets stuck, he pulls out the picture that she drew for him, of him, of the smiling Red Bandit and the girl who loved him. Whom he realizes was not Nurse Evelyn, but rather, the artist herself. She can pull the story out of him, even now, from far away. It has structure and purpose, a better purpose than tricking her into finding pills.
He knows, however, that this story would be better in her vivid, beautiful imagination. The moving pictures are still black and white. He wants to create this story in the lushness of color.
What he really wants to do was track her down in her orange groves and create a magical world for her. He wants to somehow help her. A strange Miss Havisham for a strange little Pip. Although he feels sure her mother would never allow it, not after she fell. Again. Alexandria's fame had been his infamy, and the doctor had to report to her mother how she had gotten hurt when she was on the mend.
So he has this story, their bandit lifestyle, to keep her nearby. The picture that she drew him. A bowl full of oranges. Alexandria has his face in the flickering black and white, and hopefully, someday, a bright and colorful moving picture to see and recognize and lose herself in, the way he once found himself in the same story.
He pulls himself up again, up the stairs to the washroom. Mindlessly he cleans his teeth before inspecting his face in the mirror. There are wrinkles around his eyes, around his mouth. It's strange how his face has changed over the last decade or so. He feels a bit like the mystic; his body is a map. The scars on his back from the surgeries, freckles that his mother told him were angel kisses, and the wrinkles that were starting to show. They tell a story, tell him where he's been, how far he's come. Roy flips off the light and crawls into his bed.
It takes awhile to fall asleep. It always does. It's hard to turn off his brain. His mind skitters like a Faulkner novel over the three morphine pills that Alexandra once gave him, which in his depressed eyes constituted a nap. He thinks how three is a powerful number in faerie tales. He has collected so many stories over the years. The library downstairs is full of them. Their bright bindings shine like jewels. Some of them aren't even in English, but the illustrations, though black and white, hold him captive. His favorites are the books of the Hindu legends, so different from the Greek or the Norse myths, even as he finds common threads that bind them together. But their names hold magic, even as he trips over them. Never would he have thought it possible to stumble over vowels. But it makes him feel like Darwin, to carefully turn over the leaves in books and catalog the characters and the plots. Hanuman makes him smile the most.
Alexandria loved the monkey in their story, and he had maliciously killed Wallace first. Looking back, Roy could not understand how he could have been so cruel to that girl. The only thing he could think was that he had been enslaved by his depression, by the morphine addiction, by, by, by... He could make those excuses, and he does. But it is not enough anymore. Which is why he took pen to paper.
Close your eyes - what do you see?
Rub them. Do you see the stars?
He opens his eyes again, unsure if he has slept or not.
Outside the window, the sky begins to turn from black to blue to purple to pink to orange.
No moving picture could be so vivid.