Studies in Film Noir I.1
Thought I’d do something weird this weekend and post something I wrote a long time ago. This is really just to make sure it gets into a book, specifically I’m Not a Fanboy Vol. II. I might review it Monday. Anyway, warning for very, very strong language, very frequently. Adults, keep your kids away if they got here through my Pixar review series.
Rob scaled the stairs up to his apartment. His mind was coated in a haze. He tried to blink it away, but it just wouldn’t lift. His jacket weighed him down like it was made of lead. He kept up the stairs.
He noticed that his pants were getting heavy–his wallet, his boots, everything. His vision got hazier. He collapsed on the stairs and stared up at the ceiling. Out of sheer coincidence, his wallet fell out of his back pocket.
The haze lifted.
Filled with desperation, he reached over and tore a patch off of the worn leather of his jacket. The haze lifted again.
He rose slowly, and started tearing off more and more—the more left behind, the more he could see. By the time he had reached his apartment door, only underclothes and keys weighed him down. Yet his vision wasn’t 100%.
He drove the key home into the lock. The pins aligned, he turned the knob and he dropped the keys on the ground outside. The haze was almost gone.
Faith stood in the hallway, just outside the kitchen. The light from the hallway silhouetted her now mostly naked man. She saw the trail of clothes he’d left behind.
“Jesus, Rob. Y’look like shit.” She positioned herself under his arm and sat him down on the couch. “Here, I’ll go get your–”
She inhaled sharply as she felt his hand grip her wrist–too tight. Her eyes snapped back to him, confusion, not anger filling them.
“No.” He closed his eyes as he rolled over to get his right shoulder closer to the ground. Even with his eyes closed, the last remnant of the haze persisted. He wondered why it hadn’t lifted completely.
“No? Honey, that shit out there is worth more than our TV. I’ll be right back, then you can tell me what the hell happened to you.” She evaded his grasp this time–he wasn’t even trying. He was too busy mashing his face into the couch to care.
Rob cared again when he felt the weight of it drop to his feet. He recoiled, and curled up on the couch. Faith didn’t notice, and came back with a can of Coke.
“Now,” she said, running her fingers along his hairline, “what happened?” She maneuvered the can underneath his lips.
He took a sip, and spat it out. It was bitter. Faith put it on the table behind her, and took his face in her hands. “What happened?”
“There was a fight.”
Faith smiled. “Some fag think he could take my man?”
A bright flower of pain bloomed behind his eyes. He looked up in shock and confusion. “Why would you say that?”
“What do you mean?” She was worried. She looked at him, now so unfamiliar—weak and stupid. He looked like he was trying to get used to where he was—the apartment he’d bought for them.
“Why would you say . . . that?”
Another firework went off in his skull. “That!” His eyes shut tighter against the pain.
Faith was stunned. “What the fuck happened to you? You stay back for one drink, and suddenly you’re Mary fucking Poppins?”
“Would you just fucking—AGH!” He was blinded by another shock through his head. “Would you just quit saying that shi—GRR!” He held on to his forehead and bit down on his tongue, tasting blood.
If Faith was worried before, she was downright scared now. “Honey, what the f—what is going on?”
“I don’t know!” Rob opened his eyes for the first time since he’d sat down. When he looked around, all he could see was red, black, white, brown–hate, filth, murder and greed. “I don’t know. I got into a fight.” Another flash. “Okay, I started a fight, then–”
Faith waited. “What? What happened next?”
“How fucking comp–”
“Jesus Christ, Robert.” She got up and stormed across to sit on the kitchen counter. “Now you can’t even stand cursing? Do you remember who you are?”
“Then who are you?”
He tried to meet her eyes, any attempt to communicate the guilt now running through his veins. “I’m. . .”
“Baby, you’re scaring me. Who are you.”
“I’m. . . I’m Skinhead Bob.” Rob looked with shame at the paraphernalia coating their floor. Boots–special order from a guy in middle America. Swastika patterned soles. Wallet–homejob, swastika patched into it. It hung from a chain connected to his pants–coated in patches, various hate slogans, dirt. His eyes scanned it all with a newfound conscience.
He looked at the bookshelf–or the shelf they could barely afford to call a bookshelf. Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, more.
He looked at Faith. Beautiful, naive Faith. Faith, whom he had taught to hate. The woman he thought he loved, now a monster in his eyes. He watched her study him with fear and tears welling in her eyes. He looked at her and knew that he couldn’t be here a moment longer.
“I have to go.”
As he got up to leave, Faith stood in his way. “Go where? It’s wet outside. You don’t have shoes. You’re practically naked!” She sighed as he tried to get past her, still. “Just, please. Come back to bed. Sleep it off. It’ll look better in the morning.”
“No. I can’t. Not–not now.” He stumbled out into the hallway and vomited on their doormat. Faith watched helplessly as he slunk down the stairs, not even looking back.
Jake climbed the stairs to his apartment. He winced as the bruises fought for attention in his mind. He looked at his fingers, bloody and swollen at the ends; his nails broken. The lights in the hallway flickered in and out, like the black flowers in his line of sight. He kept it together long enough to drive the key into the lock and let himself in.
Colin was waiting on the couch with the lamp on when Jake came in. He was set to give him what for until the drop of blood hit the floor.
“Lord in Heaven, Jake. You look terrible.” Colin got up and helped Jake most of the way to the couch. They ended up settling for a kitchen stool. Jake leaned back on the counter as Colin went to get ice.
“What happened?” Colin asked from the freezer.
“There was . . . a fight,” Jake replied slowly. He tasted the blood in his mouth. His left eye barely opened, the right one was swollen shut.
Colin came back from the kitchen with the ice. He slowly and carefully placed it over his lover’s right eye. Jake winced, but didn’t push him away. Their eyes met.
“Honey,” Colin said, “we have to get out of here.”
“No! I am not doing this goddamn tango again!” He shoved the ice from his eye and tried to storm off to the bedroom. It became a limp the second time he stood on his left leg. It became a hobble by the lamp. Colin had easily caught up to him by the time he collapsed outside the bedroom. “Even if I don’t,” he continued wearily, smiling at his own grim joke, “my point stands.”
“What point? You just got the bejeezus kicked out of you!” Colin sat across the hall from him and handed him the cloth. “I mean, I leave you alone for how lo–?”
“No.” Jake took the ice-filled cloth and placed it wearily over his eye. “I like it here. All the best cafés are in walking distance–”
“And that’s your point?” Colin extended his leg to run his toes up and down Jake’s calf. “Honey; we aren’t welcome here.”
“Some shithead does not reflect the opinions of the entire town.” Jake straightened up, taking his leg back with him.
“We don’t live in a town.”
“Whatever. My point is we’re here. We’re–”
Colin rolled his eyes. “I know. The thing is, they haven’t gotten used to it yet. And they might never.”
“Everyone we hang around has, Colin.” Jake wheezed and spat out a puddle of blood onto the floor. Colin tried not to wince.
“But–however surprising this may be to you–not everyone in the world has,” Colin pleaded. “I mean, why don’t we just move out to the coast? They’re better there.”
“Everybody. Everybody who counts.”
Jake shook his head as best he could and tried to stand. He wobbled to his feet and resumed his path to the bedroom. “We have jobs,” he said, “and friends. And lives. Are you saying we just drop everything we’ve worked for and run off?”
Colin got up and went to the doorframe of the bedroom. There he saw Jake lying down on their mattress, wincing at everything.
“Well, maybe I am.”
Jake glared at him in the pale moonlight.
“Maybe I’m saying that the still lingering hate is too much to deal with. Maybe I’m saying we could be happier elsewhere–in the sun. Maybe I’m saying that everything we’ve worked for isn’t worth the beatings and graffiti.
“Do you remember why you said we should live here?”
Jake buried his head in the pillow.
“Do you?” Colin asked pointedly, moving to Jake’s turned back.
Jake mumbled something incoherent into the down of the pillow, along with a teaspoon of blood and spit.
“Pardon?” Colin asked, knelt at Jake’s back, hand on his shoulder.
“Because this was the first city.”
“First city to what?”
“Legalize us. Legalize gay marriage.”
“And actually call it ‘marriage’,” Jake finished.
Colin crawled into bed and held Jake’s head to his chest as he felt Jake’s arms wrap around his torso. “What I’m saying is that history. . .” Colin mused for a moment. “History . . . history sometimes isn’t as important as right now. And right now, you’re beaten to a pulp in my arms in this shit apartment with our hyphenated last name.”
“I know what you’re saying, Colin. And what I’m saying is; we met here. We both grew up here. It used to be beautiful, before. . .”
They both knew what before meant. Only Jake knew firsthand how hard the war had came. The west fought valiantly, and won; but sometimes, the hate remained.
“Well, before everything,” Jake finished. “And this city is still the first. The first of the world. Here. Honey; that’s why we’re here with our shit apartment and shit jobs and shit everything. This was the place where our ancestors first got married. Well, not our ancestors, but our–”
“I know what you mean.” Colin slipped down so their heads were on an even keel on their one pillow. Jake flipped over to be spooned. Colin obliged.
“Do you think the hate will ever go away?” Jake asked into the darkness.
Colin sighed and paused. “No.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because. A society like this always needs someone to hate,” Colin replied, eyes still shut. “But if we stand up for whoever’s being hated, we’ll be fine.”
“As long as you’re standing with me,” Jake said, slipping away.
“Even if they kill me, I’ll be by your side.”
And as the 1.15 train passed in the distance, they drifted off to sleep in unison.
Read Part 2 Here!