Date of Birth: 1/12/57
Location: Rome, Italy
YOU AND YOUR PLANE CRASH
The time between him waking up, and his wife, seemed long now. Once they woke up together. They spoke deeply, smoked in bed, and heaped scorn on people, "who just lived." Then they would roll out opposite sides of the bed with joy. They were always together, bound by their contempt for mankind.
Now he sat alone in the kitchen and listened to the birds sing. "Singing," was the human word. He knew the birds were communicating, some announcing where their fences were, and others calling a lovely lady.
He stared out at the hills and lit a cigarette. He waited for more noises. The ash on his cigarette was longer than the part virgin, and it fell. He swept the ash off the table with his elbow and when he looked up he saw a picture. In the picture he was holding hands with his wife and she was smiling. He could see the blue sea in the background and a black man with no teeth holding a large fish. He tried to remember the year but could not. He did know it was the time of "meetings." He called them meetings. He would sit across from his wife and plan. He said this, she agreed, and hoped it would be true. When they walked together in the city she would pull him towards the windows of shops selling baby clothes. He always spoke about the name Sarah, and when he did, she squeezed him tight and kissed him on the cheek.
A door slammed and he heard water running. He felt his fingers tighten around the coffee cup. He waited. He felt a pulsing in his neck and reached up with his hand to feel it. He remembered that this did not happen before.
His wife entered the kitchen with a deliberate walk, past him and to the coffee machine. He listened. The birds had gone, or were quiet, and the hills didn't seem important anymore.
"I guess you don't remember-- again," she said.
He watched her pour coffee and he wished she were going to work that day. He wished he had somewhere to go. She sat across the table and reached for the pack of smokes. She sipped the coffee and put the cup down.
"I'm going to the toilet. But I want to talk, so don't move. Don't move an inch."
He looked at her and could not remember being so afraid.
He looked up at the refrigerator where he used small magnets to put up things he thought were profound. There were several before, some had fallen down, others she ripped off the fridge while yelling. "You and your philosophy," she used to say.
One note was still up. It was typewritten:
"If a God had made this world, I should not like to be that God. The misery of the world would break my heart."
He heard his wife curse in the toilet. Something fell, and the noise shook him inside. He looked again at the picture on the table nearby and saw the changes in his wife, the changes in both of them. Both dressed in black outfits they once drew a comment, "aren't they beautiful together?" He thought about that, and then he thought about the rest of his life too.
His wife kicked at the bottom of the kitchen door and it opened.
She had tied her hair back. She pulled a chair so it grated along the kitchen floor. She sat down. He looked at her face and then looked over to the picture with the sea in the background.
"Suffering, eh?" she said, and she tightened her lips. He could have sworn she was almost smiling.
"Do you have to start?"
"Start? Oh buddy boy you started it. Smitty will never talk to you again. Do you remember crying?"
He stood up leaving the cup where it was. He stared out a window and thought about doing something.anything.
"Don't go away," she said. "We have to talk. It can't go on like this."
He sat down again and heard the drone of an airplane overhead. He thought of the pilot so high up, floating, passing right through the middle of dark, gray clouds and emerging into the blue. He tried to remember what day it was.
"You have a problem buddy boy. I read that alcoholism."
"Liz, listen, just be quiet for now."
"No.I read that drunks aren't only people who drink all day. There's binge drinking. Did you hear? Binge drinking. It's someone who can't stop. That's you buddy boy. One glass and it's all over. You made fools of us."
He started to remember now. He remembered parking the car outside a house and he remembered a green carpet and he remembered people standing in small groups.
"Do you know you peed all over yourself? Everybody saw it. You were doing up your fly as you came out of the toilet. How do you think I feel? They were all giggling. I want to talk."
"You mean yell, don't you?"
"Listen buddy boy, I am sick and tired of your drunken antics. Do you realize what a mess you are? You can't even touch me anymore, look at yourself."
He reached over and pulled back a lace curtain. He felt his eyes move from one side to the other.
"And don't give me that 'news business and war reporter stuff anymore.' You can't control your booze. That's why we live on a hairdresser's salary."
She started to bang dishes in the sink.
He remembered TV news then. He remembered seeing a black woman burnt alive in South Africa. He remembered having marble floors in one apartment and a company BMW. He had some pictures in the drawer of his wife. In the picture she wore a tight black dress and her lips were a deep red. She sat smiling in the front of the shiny car. They ate on the company credit card, traveled first class, and poked fun at businessmen. The future seemed a long way off.
His wife turned to him from the sink and he saw puffs of soap on the end of each of her fingers.
"What are you doing, thinking about your great past again? Thinking about this?" She reached over and grabbed a bunch of old Press cards that hung on a string like a bunch of garlic.
"War hero, ha!" She pulled on the string and he watched the cards spread all over the floor.
"That's all over isn't it? I warned you, God knows I did. But you wouldn't stop. How did you expect your bosses to act? They never saw you sober. Three years.did you count them Roger? Three years and no work. And you know what? There won't be anymore work. You've got a real name in the industry now don't you?"
He felt he was choking and wanted to cry and hold her. He closed his eyes hard. He opened them, stared out the window, and saw the low, gray clouds that seemed to seal his fate. He remembered his boss once saying, "a guy who likes a few beers." His boss grinned then, but alcohol seemed to move into him like he was a vacant apartment. It moved in, set up shop, and put a sign on the door. He remembered falling over a table during a staff meeting. He wanted to grab his mind, to hold it, and stop these images.
He heard the drone of the airplane again.
"That airplane is too low. Listen."
"Airplane? What stupid airplane. I don't want to live like this. Don't you hear me? Eight years.eight years, for what? We are renters Roger, renters. Forty-year-old renters. Who would have dreamed that I would have to support you"?
"It's too low. I'm telling you. Something's wrong."
"The man can think with a hangover! Bravo Roger. Something is wrong. What a revelation. I'll tell you what's wrong. Your drinking brought us to this dump. Your drinking closed all the doors didn't it? I want to make a videotape of you in action, then you'd stop. Even you couldn't touch another glass if you saw that spectacle. I'll make you a news story Roger."
He listened again for the plane.
"You know mother says I should leave. You know I am the only daughter. You know what that means too. I'm 41. It's too late. Do want me to spell it out for you? I thought about it a long time ago, about leaving Roger. I thought seriously, and don't think I'm not wanted. I am. Be sure about that buddy boy. This isn't the end of the line for me. I want to move out."
"I'm going to check it out Liz, something is wrong."
"Don't you move, I'm warning you, don't you move.
He moved towards the door. A wet Press card stuck to his slipper and he kicked it off.
"Time flies eh buddy boy?" She said as he moved carefully around her to the door. "They call it unemployable. Unemployable! What did you tell me then? Didn't you say they just couldn't accept you or something stupid? Didn't you quote me a list of famous drunks? I remember that. You and your lists. You drank. Make it simple, you drank your way right out of the company."
He opened the door and stepped out. He gripped the door handle as hard as he could and wanted to use the door like a shield, to close out her words. He swung it with all his might, but, "drunken loser," escaped and followed him around the corner.
He tried to fill his lungs with the outside air, but his chest tightened and he felt he could not breathe. He stared down the path that led to a long, wooded garden.
He could see the plane now, in the distance, only slightly above the trees. He saw smoke trailing behind it. The kitchen door opened again.
"Hey, I said we have to talk," she shouted. "I want to move my stuff out."
"Look at the smoke," he shouted back.
"I don't give a damn about. Did you hear what I said?"
"He's in trouble Liz, look."
She glanced quickly at the sky and told him," I already told mother I'm coming home, just for a while. I'll find someplace. I'll find someone too. Get back here Roger!"
He passed her right by and headed down into the garden. He heard the engine of the plane sputter. He ran faster. He pushed branches out of his way and stepped over clumps of tangled plants. He jumped clear over a bush and wanted to yell his success. Then he stopped. There was silence and then a great roar. The sun struck him right in the face suddenly. He wiped the sweat off his forehead. He was alone in the dense, green bush now and he looked around. He could not remember ever having been in this part of the garden before. The trees were thick and the grass had made his pants wet above the knees.
"Roger!" he heard in the distance somewhere behind him.
He moved off again and reached a clearing with a small mound in the middle. He took three steps up the mound and saw a large black plume of smoke.
"He crashed, look, he crashed," he yelled to no one. He ran towards the smoke.
He pushed faster and faster through branches that caught in his hair and pulled him backwards. He felt his heart pounding in his chest.
He was alone now but," I'm leaving you," rang out, and seemed to come from every direction.
He ran faster and felt his face muscles tighten in a smile.
He smelled gas and saw broken trees. He pushed two bushes apart and entered a small clearing. A white, shiny wing hung from a thick tree. He stood there and rubbed a scratch on his forearm. The nose of the plane was jammed into the mud. Pieces of cloth and wiring hung from branches. On the ground below a tree he saw the cockpit. The glass of the cockpit was broken and he saw a forearm with a watch glistening in the sun. He stood for a moment and looked all around. He walked over, bent down, and looked inside the cockpit. He saw a man with blood on the side of his face. Blood dripped from his mouth and his eyes were closed. He kept bent down until he felt his leg muscles tighten. Then he stood up. He saw maps on the ground and stared at some pieces of metal with writing on them. He lit a smoke and wondered how a body could fit in such a small space. Bushes rustled behind him.
"There you are, you son-of-a-bitch. I'm not joking Roger. It's over. I want out. Did you hear?"
His wife entered the clearing and briefly glanced up at the wing in the trees. He saw a green leaf in her hair and he wanted to laugh. Her face was red and her eyes new.
"The guy's dead," he told her. "Look."
"You don't run away from me buddy boy. You drunk. You make me sick."
His wife was sweating and breathing hard. She took a look at the wreck on the ground and pushed back her hair. The leaf fell down on the ground.
"I want to talk about money. You owe me," she said.
"The pilot's my age. Go take a look. Head injuries."
"No, you look. You move out. No, I'll move out, why should I stay in this dump. But you pay me Roger. You owe me."
She came towards him and he said, "won't daddy help?" He felt the thud on his temple and he grabbed her other wrist.
"You bastard. You just wait."
"The guy is dead Liz."
"So what are going to do? You're always a great one in figuring out life. Go ahead Roger, make one of your great plans."
They released each other and stood two meters apart. He smiled.
"I said the guy is dead."
"Yeah, I heard. Now you tell me what we are going to do. I told mother everything. She hates you. She always did. If dad was alive he would kick your ass. I remember him saying that he had no time for drunks. He worked all his life and don't you think he liked his job either."
Roger took a white piece of wing and put it horizontally on a stump. He sat down on it and looked at his wife again.
"You better go and call the police," he said.
"I will buddy boy. I will. But I'll tell them everything too. I could have got you in shit a long time ago with your antics. Maybe I will call the police, that's a good idea."
"Tell them about the crash, and this guy," he said.
"Oh no, that's your problem. You and your plane crash. I'm going to pack and you won't see me again. Don't try to call me either."
His wife looked around again. "This garden says it all about you. Look. You've never done a thing in here, all your talk about landscaping and what not. What a mess! God knows you've had the time eh Rog."
His wife tightened the belt of her robe and turned. "I'm taking the car. Call it payment in kind or whatever." He watched as she swept a branch away from her head and kicked a mound of dirt. Her sandal fell off and for a moment her bare foot was in the dirt. He held back a snicker. His wife disappeared into the bushes and moved towards the house.
"Have fun buddy boy," she yelled.
He got up from the piece of wing and walked over to the dead man. He bent over, looked inside again, and then stood up. He took a deep breath and felt all his strength gathering, as if it would be the last time. He cupped his hands and yelled with all his might towards the house, "I said he's dead."