Excerpt
© Genni Gunn, 1991
Reprinted by permission. All Rights Reserved
 
Iím standing in the cool night air. Two things happened to me today. So I figure, why not cause the third, then I can relax. I know. This isnít matches and war. Well. Perhaps it is about matches. Or mismatches.

Number one concerns Gary. We have been living together for two years, stuck in an old movie now in syndicated reruns. Brief personal details about Gary for context: he trims his toenails every Thursday night before taking a shower; he can accuratelytype 87 words a minute without using a Spellcheck; and he views everything as black or white, leaving no room for possibilities.

So what happens is this: I'm lying in bed, thinking apathy. Not the concept, just the word. Meaningless. And suddenly, it becomes transparent. A window. Stare through it long enough and you forger its there. Like riding on a train, watching landscape hurtling in reverse. And there I am, in stationary mode, observing the chaotic race to an uncertain past. Standing still. Going backwards. Back words. Fitted to music, they transport you to distant pasts and brief intimacies.

Which brings me to number two: Lenny. Distant, past, brief and intimate. A guitar player. That's the music part. Window blurs. And there we are in a B-grade black-&-white movie. Cigarette smoke swirls between our faces. We're saying goodbye. No. That's the problem. We never did really say goodbye. Picture it yourself. It's an old storyline: we're on the road together; he has a wife back home; he wants us both. I fall in love; suffer a while; then leave him. Predictable ending. Only difference, I don't die.

Ever noticed how there are only two kinds of women in these movies? Ones men love and ones men marry? And how heroic the men are in their transgressions? Tortured souls. Creatures of integrity. Choosing between love and responsibility. Of course, the women are punished (implication being it's their fault): one sentenced to ruin or death for love; the other sentenced to a loveless marriage. The men get both women, and ride into the sunset -- unscathed heroes. Have a Kleenex.

So there I am, in bed, blankets over my head, posturing drama. Choreographed into another B-grade movie. Christ. I've always been much better at freestyle. You know this storyline too: woman must choose between man and career. No juggling in these movies. It's an either/or. Picture blurs. Time passage. A year:

Either you spend some rime in town, Gary says, or we're through.

Double ambiguity. Either/ors are ultimatums thinly disguised as choices. It only takes an "n" to expose them for what they really are: neither/nors. So I choose one, and we call it a (com)promise. Though what Gary promises, I don't know. Imagine for a moment the scene:

It is morning. The man is leaving for work. The woman stands at the door, wearing a demure dark dress with a white lace collar. On her feet, spiked sandals Ė a symbol of her former life. The man strokes her cheek, gives her a condescending smile as if to say, "the naughty girl has been saved in spire of herself." Violins. She waves, dewy-eyed. He drives to work smug in his heroic deed. Unblemished. The audience stirs, perhaps a little saddened that so virtuous a man could love such a woman. There's never any marriage in these movies, although he might propose in the final scene, but only when he discovers that she either has an incurable disease or has been fatally injured in an accident. She dies in his arms. Final close-up: man's face, stoic. One rear rolls down his cheek. Credits. Have another Kleenex.

Well. I'm very much alive. Still wearing spiked sandals. Still think Laura Ashley dresses make good bedspreads. However, Iíll admit, I fell into part of that movie. You see, Gary came along not too long after Lenny and, hey, he sure looked good, comparatively speaking. Organized. He took over my life and managed it like his. I let him. Truth is, I needed a little managing. Too many jagged edges. And there's nothing like a straight man. Ploughs a narrow road. You just put one foot in front of the other. No falling in ditches . . .
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