Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ang Lee Broke My Heart

On my way home from seeing Brokeback Mountain I walked through the park and passed a young hipster couple in pseudo workout clothes. She, clutching her coffee and he swinging his water bottle as she trailed ineffectually after him. I heard her say, "Say something. Just say something. Man, you gotta say something." If you've seen the movie that will crack you up.

Before I talk about the movie I have to talk about the experience. Friday afternoon, Brooklyn art house cinema, lunch time, gay cowboy love story. I'm not expecting it to be a sold out crowd. And I'm right. I am the very first person in a 300 seat theatre. So I, of course, pick the very perfect seat. Center, center. It's my right, I was first, I did not ask 70 gajillion questions at the candy counter and then go to the ladies room for a gab even though the movie started in 5 the women in front of me at the concession stand. So I sit, I take off my jacket, I arrange my candy and water and turn off my cell phone before the aforementioned ladies come in. They sit, I kid you not, in the row directly in front of me and 1 seat to my right. One of them even makes a point of saying, "Don't worry we aren't going to sit in front of you." Whatthemotherfuckingfuckbitch? A whole god damned movie theatre and you have to sit close enough to me to directly influence my experience of the film? Do you actually want me to listen to your yeast infection story? Do I look like someone who might have just the special insight you're looking for on the subject? So I moved back 2 rows, sacrificing the perfect seat for the superior viewing experience. There were 5 people who ended up seeing the movie. Those women stayed where they were, I was 2 rows behind and 1 seat to their left, a lovely Hispanic man who kept his cell phone on and answered calls during the movie sat to the extreme right of the row behind me and one other lone woman skinned in at the last minute and sat in the row in front of me 6 seats to my right. I know that sharing the viewing exprience with other live humans is part of what going out to the movies is all about but I really could have done with a less intimate version of that. There's a reason I didn't decide to go at 8pm on a Friday night. There's a reason a didn't go with a friend. But anyway.

More background.

I used to sleep with a married man. I also walked in the park with him, went grocery shopping, went to the movies even, went out to dinner, took long car trips, argued about Plato and a number of other things. We saw each other on and off for over 20 years, we couldn't spend the whole time naked. Well...we could, really, we couldn't. After a while you get old and you occasionally need a rest.

I've wanted to write about how that feels, why it happens or, more importantly, why it continues to happen. I've tried to write about it. A lot. Somehow I couldn't quite get it to work.

Fucking E. Annie Proulx and Larry McMurtry and Ang Lee made it work.

The movie was beautiful and familiar and crushing and, of course, I loved it.

It captures the normalcy, the dogged everyday quality, the exquisite regularity of a long term affair, of loving someone who, for whatever reason, you can't be with. I could add for instances here, tales of carrying a change of underwear in my purse for a year, tales of changing a whole weekend of plans for a chance to travel to..the upper west side, tales of spending three hours waiting for a bus after being dropped off in a small New England town unexpectedly, but they wouldn't really get across the emotion in the way that Brokeback Mountain does. They wouldn't help you to understand the decisions that come along with those tales the way that the movie does.

Years of beating each other up (not physically, like in the movie) at the end of a weekend. Something about lashing out that makes feeling the pain simpler. Something about knowing that you couldn't possibly do this 24/7 and yet still not wanting, not being able to, end it. Something about the fierceness of their reunions makes sense to me.

Some will say it can work, that they could have at least tried. Yes, that's true, I know that. It worked for my dad. But a lot of the time, I might even say most, it doesn't. And I knew that going in. So did Ennis and Jack.

I'm not even sure why I'm trying to follow essay format and give examples from the movie to match to life. All I can really say is "Go see it, that's what I meant to say.". I'll also leave you with a piece of fiction I wrote. Like I said, it doesn't capture what I wanted it to exactly but it's probably the closest I came.

Back at her apartment she pointed him toward the kitchen and went to change out of her work clothes. She never knew what to do at times like this. Did you really slip into something sexy and let them know you wanted them or did you pretend this was a friendly get together? There was Theresa too. Was he still with her? She compromised. Washed her face and under her arms, freshened her make up, stripped naked then put on just a pair of flannel pants and a tank.
When she came out he was drinking a beer, checking out her music.
“Since when did you go all country?”
“It’s not all country. There’s some stuff from the old days. Probably some Floyd, something you can get behind.”
”Well there’s definitely something I can…”
He looked at her sideways with a grin.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
She headed to the kitchen. While she opened her beer she heard Madonna come up on the stereo. They sat down on the couch and started to talk. Slowly at first but the discussion heating up. Her job, his job, him going back to school, politics, her going back to school. While she got particularly wound up over a point he lay back with his head in her lap to listen. She kept talking, currying his hair with her fingers, enjoying his admiring looks.
When she cooled down verbally he reached up to her neck and gentled her to him, close enough to breathe each other.
“You are so beautiful.”
His tongue along her lips, his lips nuzzling her face and neck. She wriggled down to lay on top of him, giving as good as she got.
Like their discussions, their kissing got heated, more insistent. His hands rediscovering her breasts, hers reflexively gripping his ass. She kept trying to think that something might be wrong with this but her skin demanded all her attention and then he flipped her over. He liked to be on top, in control. He didn’t mind when she was aggressive but only when he said it was time for it.
Suddenly he stopped and just looked at her. Her eyes flew open. He was just an inch from her face looking in her eyes, not quite touching lips.
“I came here for a reason.”
Pounding heart joined by a lump in her throat.
“I want to tell you something.”
It was all she had. Could he really be here for her, for that?
“I’m getting married.”
There was spit caught in her throat. She couldn’t swallow it. She was trapped, suffocating. All her energy in keeping her face neutral. Had to get out, get away from him now!
He looked hurt.
“You’re squashing me, I can’t breathe.”
Her face was neutral but her hands and feet were scrabbling, shoving him off her so hard that when he lifted his weight she fell onto the floor. And she could see that if she hadn’t looked so pathetic he would have laughed.
“You OK?”
Now the challenge was not to cry.
“You want another beer?”
Escape to the kitchen. Her shaking hands trying to open the bottles would give her extra time. But he heard her fumbling and came in. From behind he enclosed her in those arms and felt her tremble.
“Why?” she asked.
The reasons didn’t really matter. She knew all the reasons, she just kept waiting for one that made sense. He’d been with Theresa for years. Not as many as with Mags but steadier. Theresa was an architect, made good money. They had college, mutual friends, a dog; they’d already made a life together. This was the next logical step.
Love isn’t logical. And Mags loved him. Had for years on end. He loved her too. It had to be love if she was willing to break all the rules to be with him.
“You OK?” he asked again.
“Yeah. Well, no, but yeah.”
“You want this beer?”
He opened it for her and watched as she took a long pull from the bottle. A part of him wanted her to beg him not to. Give him a reason not to get married, something other than a lack of spark. Who leaves a woman after 10 years because there’s no spark? An idiot. And that’s just what his family would say and his friends. So he’d tried to ignore the spark issue. Easy enough for the most part but sparks burn and smolder. Inside him a jolly little blaze was developing from being so near Margaret. She ignited his body but also his mind and his heart and no matter the practical reasons for not marrying her he couldn’t forget her or even stay away from her.
Where do you put that sort of connection?
She wandered into the living room, stopped the CD player, turned on the television. He sat next to her. She handed him the remote.
She looked at him.
She looked away.
An hour later she was asleep, her feet in his lap and he had to go. His cell phone had been off for hours. Theresa would be wondering what happened. He needed to get back to his motel and be ready to leave on time tomorrow.
Mags woke up when he slid out from under her feet. Silently she watched him gather his things, put on his shoes. Only when he knelt to kiss her did he realize she was awake.
“I’ve got to go.”
She nodded.
“I’ll see you soon.”
“I meant what I said.”
“I know it was ages ago but I meant it. If you marry her I can’t see you anymore. I have to draw the line somewhere.”
He smiled, started to pour on the charm.
“But why there? It’s just a piece of paper.”
“It’s a commitment.”
“I was committed to her before. You knew that.”
Mag’s eyes changed the smallest bit and it said everything. She hadn’t really known, not until now.
It turned his fingers cold to realize that. Changed the whole meaning of his engagement. But it was too late to stop now.
For lack of anything better to do he smoothed the blanket around her and kissed her forehead. He kept hoping some words would come to him but they didn’t so he just had to get up and go.


  1. Wow.

    I'm really glad I stumbled upon 117 Hudson.

    I still haven't seen the movie, or so many others. Oddly, Capote opened in my hometown this weekend. I guess they are bringing it back for Oscar time? I don't think there will be big lines of locals in my suburban town to see Capote (I'm trying to go tomorrow). And I would absolutely have to travel to see Brokeback Mountain. I hope to soon.
    And I haven't seen Walk the Line yet!

    Well--lookee there--it's 1:41!!

  2. It's a gorgeous movie. I also saw The Squid & the Whale this weekend and it's worth a peek, but probably even harder to find in a theatre than the others.

    Let me know what you think about Capote, I haven't seen it yet and I went to school with Hoffman and I want to support his work.

    Walk the Line is gorgeous, too. Totally different than the others but a lovely story.

    Man, I just missed you, I clicked the computer off at 1:30.

  3. Well, my hopes for Capote are slim tonight, but maybe later this week.

    You went to school with Hoffman? He's just great. I'm really anxious to see him in this role.

    The Squid & the Whale is also on my missed list. I did see Munich and Good Night and Good Luck--two whole movies in a theater!

    Oh, good. Only 3:33 PM