It's 4:05am. The man from the bodega - everyone calls him "Tommy" but everyone knows that's not his real name - gave me a cigarette. Again, I swear it's my last.
I sat in my usual spot across from the post office and another bodega, this one is closed and the slatted-metal security door pulled down and locked. Someone has painted the name "Hank" on the metal.
"My feelings for you, Hank, are like a bowl of... fishhooks. I can't just pick one up at a time. I pull one out and they all come so I just leave them alone."
That's Meryl as the brassy, cosmetology-school mom, browsing and reminiscing in the Disney gift shop with her son. I think of it, smile, and take a drag on my smoke.
I just finished watching Great Expectations. I know, I know, I'm bouncing from one movie to the next. The "Hank" bit is just a snippet of this psychological free-association-cabaret. But Great Expectations... the Alfonso Cuarón version with Ethan Hawk and Gwyneth Paltrow... I think it's one of the essential narratives to this jumble of pieces that is my life. I revisit it every few years.
When I started in the travel business, my first 'big catch' of a client was a man named Pedro. Pedro the king of Juarez. Everyone knew what he did but no one talked about it. He told me once about how he loves scuba diving in Cozumel but is deathly afraid of sharks. "I see one coming and it looks like he's wearing a checkered bib and clutches a knife and fork in his fins." I gave him a DVD copy of Great Expectations when I visited him at his rented condo in Aspen. He chuckled and said he likes Robert De Niro.
I would watch it late at night from my basement room on Lake Street In Sugarhouse, Utah. Nights not so unlike tonight - pining over loss.
Near the end of the film, Ethan Hawke shouts at a townhouse window after his night of artistic and financial success and with it, of cruelly cutting himself loose from the past and inventing himself in New York. "I did it! I did it! I am a wild success. I sold them all, all of my paintings! You don't have to be embarrased by me anymore. I'm rich! Isn't that what you wanted? Isn't it Great?! Are we happy now? ...Don't you understand that everything I do, I do it for you. Anything that might be special.. in me.. is you."
I remember how close to the nerve those words came and of weeping over these scenes AND over the music and imagery in the end credits. I do love Cuarón. He tells a story that speaks to me. He also directed my favorite of the Harry Potter films: The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Tonight I had a different feeling. Before, when Hawke had shouted those words to the window (where he thought Estella could hear him), I boo-hooed over some love that was gone; that had abandoned me for some other and left me to pick up the very messy pieces left of my life. As I said, the first time was in Utah and it was over A. Shortly after that I ran into Pedro and he was the big fish whose private jet I rode... Through Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria... Through Park City, Deer Valley and Aspen....Scottsdale. A nefarious character who is probably responsible for the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands of people; many of them women. Of course I didn't know this little detail at the time. And there are other details to this story that I won't tell right now, but it's definitely a juicy chapter of my life. And no, I've never killed anyone or trafficked in illegal substances... that I'll admit to.
Tonight I watched to see what I would recognize of New York from this film that was released in 1998. The same year I performed multiple roles in Romeo and Juliet and then left Brigham Young University for another life.
Now I live in New York. Now I'm the one who 'paints.' I do wish I could shout to a window saying "I AM A WiLD SUCCESS! I'M RICH!" Ha ha ha. Trah La La. Ah, well. I have had my successes and who knows... Anyhoo, tonight I wasn't weaping over some lost love. But over that person - that presence that is the "anything that might be special in me." And I realized I wasn't ever weaping so much over some lost love, but over myself. Over that little god that dwells in me and each of us, that spark of the divine that motivates and propels us to create or to love or to recognize goodness in another person or of a color or a shape. I believe this is the essense of what makes us weep... and laugh. We glimpse the beauty of it and we want others to see it too. Not only for their own enjoyment but also to validate that it is, indeed something inside of us we recognize reflected in the outside world and not simply some fanciful delusion. Of course it's actual people, too, don't get me wrong. But I also think it's something more. And something very much alive. LIke Dorothy clicking her ruby shoes (I know - ANOTHER movie completely - but think about it). That living soul who dances just beyond our reach at all times, but also so often manages to be here for us when we call. Like grace.
I walked home from my smoking spot and passed under the scaffold set up for renovating the cleaning business on my street. A drunk man was draped over some of the bars and began mumbling trills of Spanish at me. He staggered behind me and his Latin ditty lilted with him. Words I recognized but did not completely understand. I stepped up to my front door and turned the key. When I entered through it and the glass and iron heaved shut, I could still hear his trills echoing lightly off the newly cleaned and painted tile and stair railing in my hallway.
Now here I am, typing.
I wish I could tell you, right now, all about the years that have gone by. Or about what has changed and how I am different from the first time I saw Great Expectations. I still struggle with smoking. Or from the first time I read the book - I listened to the audible version of it on many a subway ride, actually. Did you know Dickens wrote two endings? I like the relationship between Joe and Pip better in the book. Joe is such a delicious character.
But I do like that they changed some of the characters' names in the film. Pip is just so 'pippy.' I like Fynn. Yes, it's a bit on the nose. And, of course, I like Estella. And I love Anne Bancroft in the film: Nora Driggers Dinsmore. Without her this thing would have been terribly boring. She looks at Fynn from her face painted an inch thick with marbly white.
"Chica Boom Chica Boom Chica Boom Boom Boom." She grins a wide mouth of perfect teeth. Later she tells Fynn that 'Ragno' means 'spider' in Italian.
It may be that writing a blog post at 4am is not the best move when weaving together ideas. You get a choppy night of wrestling with fish hooks. Maybe it will make sense in the light.