Volume III, Issue IV Winter 2004

Shakespeare on a Rollercoaster

The mall's neon lights glowed brighter. The reds and deep blues and purples rioted in his sight. The very air crowded his face. He could not feel his feet touch the ground. This disconnect pitted melancholy against curiosity.

"Sometimes I think I'm just drifting along without really seeing, without tasting the air, without touching," he said, stepping away from a showing of "Shakespeare In Love." "And then I see a film that makes me really see, to feel again."

In the moment he said it, he also wondered how to make that heightened sense stay. Mushrooms maybe. No, the velveteen buzz tunes you in for a few hours but then fades, leaving only that sense of being scrubbed raw with a wire brush from the inside out.

Divorce did it once for a few months.

How to feel deep. How to stay sharp. How to really see. That's the noble question.

Urban Mall "Sometimes I want to cry," he told Mary Lou. "I see the beauty, but just snatches, like somebody's pulled back the curtain for a split second on the big truth and then let it fall back on life again."

Walking past the shops, he saw things but not people. He didn't know this until he sat down to write later. Why no people? He saw the Cinnabons and soft pretzels, their lighted glass menu ads looking far more enticing than the actual goods in the case. He saw the angles, the tiles and colors, the ToonTown quality of Horton. He felt his film-inspired passion slipping away with each step. The melancholy closed around him as he thought of his wife waiting at home, no doubt asleep, plain and passionless. Where was the car? Two flights down to Pineapple, right at the jeweler's across from Mervyn's, and then down the elevator to Orange? He counted the hours he'd collected in the past ten years searching for his car in this maze of fruit-inspired confusion called a parking garage.

They walked toward coffee. MaryLou talked about the film class she shared with Pat. All Woody Allen flicks, taught by a professor of religion, she said laughing. He laughed too, thinking of the audio clips he'd found the other night on the web while searching for sites on King Lear. He stumbled on a Woody Allen website where he downloaded an audio file from "Annie Hall"; it was the scene outside a movie theater when a puffed-up professor gasses on about Marshall McLuhan. Woody overhears and tells the academic he's full of shit. Woody then produces McLuhan right then and there to tell the guy he knows nothing of his work.

"Don't you wish life were really like this?" Woody asks the camera.

"Yes," he said to the memory. If life were like that, he could hunt up Shakespeare and ask him how to make love stay. The boy must have understood passion to write so much so well.

"Is marriage the enemy of passion?" he would ask.

"Is life really such a rollercoaster clunking machinelike skyward toward a climax of questionable comedy only to freefall into sadness?"

They ate red pie chased by black coffee. They talked about work and the house; trouble with women and Pergo flooring. He liked his mother-in-law, more than his own mother. He felt comfortable telling her things. She listened. He did not feel judged.

His own mother seemed too eager to please, demanding of recognition, and maddeningly smarmy. And Dad the Baptist, ever the proselytizer. He made it tough to be friends. He was almost 40 for God's sake, he said, seeing as quickly the irony in his blasphemy. When would the man stop preaching and start being a friend?

Shakespeare There must be a little Lear in all of us when it comes to family.

He laughed at the thought of Shakespeare on Space Mountain. Bill would approve of roller coasters, he told MaryLou, of that he was certain. The writer would understand the twisting turns, the weightless freefall of infatuation, the utter inability to see beyond the next rise, the clear trajectory through giggling joy to tragic end. Yes, Bill would love the roller coaster, tossing off jerkin, jersey and pantaloons at every turn to land naked, weeping and splintered on the wooden stage, bare for queued generations to question.

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