“San Vicente” – Fiction by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Bathsheba - Franz Stuck, 1912
Bathsheba – Franz Stuck, 1912

The grand finale of our Summer 2014 Issue is Robin Wyatt Dunn‘s short story “San Vicente,” a surreal, shadowy, sensual, and satirical tale about the purposes of art, the products of revolution, and a few other things we’re kind of scared to examine too closely.

{ X }

THE KUMBAYAH SCENE AT THE END WAS THE BEST PART: The Jews, and the gays, and the Uzbeks, they all held hands and danced in a circle, singing pretty songs. I was crying throughout it, though I knew Janie found it a bit much.  Still, it had great production design, the color was beautiful.  I think they’d actually shot it in 35.  It was a shame we had to watch it over the noise of the generator.

Afterwards we went out to get a cup of coffee from the man on the street;  shootings were way down this month and the air smelled okay to me, so Janie and I stood there for a bit, drinking the coffee and sharing a French cigarette.

“What the fuck was that movie about?” she said.

“I don’t know, umm, overcoming personal obstacles.  Empowerment.  A new spirit of internationalism.”

“It sucked,” Janie said.  Her eyes were hard, and flat.

“Well, I liked it,” I said.  “You can pick the next one.”

“Why would you go to all the trouble of making a movie about a bunch of random people who all hate each other only to have them improbably embrace, sing and flow their tears at the end?”

“Well, Shakespeare had a lot of improbable endings like that,” I said.  “What’s the matter with it?  Besides, people like it.”

“It sucks,” she said.

“Shall we go home?” I said.  “You want me to call a cab?”

“I’ll walk home,” she said.

“You don’t want to walk home at this hour,” I said.  “Come on, I’ll call a cab.”

“No,” she said.  “I’m walking.”  And she took off.  I followed.

San Vicente got a lot weirder after the revolution.  It was not unique in this respect, I knew, but I knew its weirdness was unique.  For one thing, we had no cars at all now, only jitney-cabs.

“Why are you upset?” I said.

“That movie,” she said.

“I’m sorry you didn’t like it.”

“Why did you like it?” she said, her eyes flashing at me.

“Because it made me cry.  The way the Uzbeks and the Jews held hands and sang, after fighting for so long, it was really beautiful.”

“I see.  You know it made no historical sense.  It was essentially ahistorical, that movie.”

“Who cares?  It was a movie!”

While I had plenty of experience walking down dark streets before the revolution, that was when we still had most of our streetlights.  Luckily it was a gibbous moon.  Janie’s eyes looked beautiful in the light.

“Don’t you care that we’re feeding the masses shit?” she said.

“The masses?  I guess not, Janie, since I’m one of them.”

“Why do we need happy endings?” she demanded.

“It’s entertainment.  People work a long day, they want something fun, happy.”

“Who works a long day in this city these days?”

“You know what I mean.”

“It’s just propaganda,” Janie said.

“So, it’s propaganda,” I said.  “What do you want me to do about it?”’

“I’m just trying to understand.  What did you like about it?”

“I liked the love scene.  And I liked the ending.  It made me feel good.  I told you.”

“I guess I don’t go to the movies to ‘feel good’ that way.”

“Why do you go to them?” I said.

We’d only been seeing each other a month, Janie and I.  I loved what her passion did to her face, sculpting her brows into sharp cliffs, and her eyes into knives.

“To learn,” she said.

“Well, I’m sorry, I picked the wrong movie.”

“But I did learn,” she said.  “I learned what I’ve been missing.  You know I supported the revolution.  And now I see how wrong I was.  No one cares about reality.  No one cares!”

“I care,” I said.  “I may just be a tie-wearing tool, but I care.”

“You’re not a tool,” she said.

“I’m not?”

“No.”

“What am I?’

“I don’t know.  Kiss me.”  She stopped on the pavement, looking at me.

I kissed her, in one of those sweet, timeless moments.

“You want to fuck me right here?” she said.

I looked around the pitch-dark street and smiled at her.  “Not particularly,” I said, “Although it’s a nice offer.  Let me take you home.”

“You don’t want to hold my hand, tell me I’ve been a good Jew, and fuck me?”

“I’ll be happy to do that, on the way home.  You’ve been a very good Jew.  Now come on.”

I took her hand and kept walking and she followed, stiffly.

We were at the edge of the small park by her apartment;  the shadows from the moon where huge.

“Why does all art have to be dark for you?  Why do people have to suffer in it?” I said, in a low voice.

“Because that’s the truth,” she said.

“People got enough of the truth here in this city.  They got a whole lot of it the last three years.”

“They don’t even know what it is.”

“And you do?”

“Yeah, I do,” she said.  “People want art that’s better than them.  The pretty people, the pretty lives, the happy endings.  They want lies.  That’s what they want.”

“I guess you’re right,” I said.  “But happiness can be true too.  I’m happy with you.”

She gave me an unreadable look, as we stopped outside her apartment building.  She opened the door, and I followed her up the stairs, watching her round ass.

Outside her apartment door, she stopped and turned to me.  She said:

“You’re not going to like what you see inside.”

“Not a dead body, I hope.”

“No.  But you’re not going to like it.”

She opened the door.

{ X }

I understood, later, that the revolution had been, like so many before it, the little puppet of far larger forces that I could not understand.  I got my public school education and I read the books they told me to.  And I like stupid movies, I admit it.  Movies where the people sort out their problems.  Movies where the actors don’t have leering face-cancers.

Inside Janie’s apartment, I understood just a little bit of that puppetry:  the forces that they try to hide when they want to make you dance.

The apartment was dark, although I could see the moon through her back window flooding into the far corner of her room, shining off the polished slats of the floor.

Janie had the most beautiful dark hair, and in that darkness it was like a rich cloak, and her pale face when she turned to beckon me inside was the most beautiful face I have ever seen.

When I got inside the apartment, closing the door behind me, she began to hiccup, or it was a kind of hiccup, a kind of cry.

“Are you okay?” I said, and I put my hand on her back.  It was shaking, her muscles spasming.

“I need some water,” she rasped.

“Where’s the light switch?” I said, sweeping my hand along the walls as I walked to her kitchenette.  There were none to be found;  the walls were smooth.

“There’s a candle in the drawer.”

I filled a glass from the sink, and lit the candle.  I heard her hiccupping behind me;  so fiercely it sounded like retching.

“You want everything to be pretty, don’t you?” she hissed.

“Here, water,” I said, handing her the glass.  I wasn’t entirely glad I’d lit the candle;  her face looked totally mad in its light.

She drank thirstily, and as she did so the darkness of her apartment seemed to breathe, seemed to swell, as she gulped the water down.

“Fuck me,” she said.

 { X }

I was not quite well after.  Nor am I quite well now.

She was as passionate a lover as I had hoped;  ferocious, and greedy, but loving too.  Afterwards I lay on her bed, the black sheets damp, and she stood naked in the moonlight, pinning her long hair up onto her head.  When she turned back to me I knew something was very wrong;  her eyes were not the same.

“I told you you wouldn’t like it,” she said.  She sat nude in the one chair in the apartment, handsome carved wood, with a narrow back, facing me.

I felt heavy.  I tried to sit up but I couldn’t.  I stayed back against the pillows, looking at her.

“You think you know what you want, a pretty woman, a hot fuck, but you don’t know,” she said, quietly, urgently.  “You think you know what the revolution meant, but you don’t know.  You don’t know anything.  You even think you know how people are.  What do you know about people?”

I made some sound with my mouth, like “unnnh.”  I was unable to form words.

“People are greedy.  Like me.  People are animals, and they want copies.  Children, of their bodies, and of their minds.  They want empires.  Immortality, in a form.  Any form coming.  You know that, don’t you?  But what you don’t know is what they’re willing to do to get it.”

Something came out of the wall, like a laser, yellow and fast, shooting through the air around her head and filling the room with a diadem of poisonous light, a dead theater.

“I wish I could teach you,” she said, her voice from far away.

Something in the wall moaned at her and like some malignant crystal firing light from every surface Janie leaned into the wall, surrounded in light, and I saw dark blood form where her calf touched the wall, like it was feeding on her body.

“I’m better than you,” she said, her voice very different now, masculine, and hollow.

Then the light and the blood twisted back inside of Janie, slowly, taking their time, like a doll pulling the string into its back.

She came back to the bed, and curled up beside me.

“You’re not sorry, are you?” she said.

“No, I’m not,” I said.

 { X }

We went to different movies after that.  Movies that made sense to Janie, that reinforced her vision of the world, a vision much darker than mine, and, I had to admit, a stronger one.

We saw slasher flicks that quoted Sartre, and South American adventure epics filled with hideous flying squirrels that could destroy cities;  we saw religious films with iconography and rituals I could not understand.  The music in all of them was fantastic;  some one-man-band in Argentina was all the rage with these directors, and he was so Protean, and yet so cutting, it was beautiful the music that he made.

When the electricity came back on, the movie house shut down and they got rid of the petroleum generator;  that kind of fuel was illegal now.  Janie vanished along with the movies.  She left me a note, taped to my inbox at the office.  It said:

Arthur,

                Quit this fucking job, you tool.

                It was fun.

               I’m moving to Uzbekistan.

                                 Just follow the Silk Road —

                                                 Janie.

I thought I could never get over Janie, but I did, rather quickly.  And I didn’t quit the job.  It was my best and easiest hope of easing any suspicions at the revolutionary committee, and besides, I actually liked paperwork.  I found it soothing.

I married a woman from the office.  Not as beautiful, but easier to understand.  More on my level.  Whenever they’re playing an art movie at the movie house now, I’ll bring her, and I’ll swear I can smell the petroleum in my nose, and see some yellow spark as the lights fade, and they raise the curtain.

 { X }

 ROBINWYATTDUNNROBIN  WYATT  DUNN  lives in Los Angeles, even when he doesn’t.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s