Sunday, May 8, 2011

20/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by We Were Wealth by Wye Oak

Detective Penelope James entered the room. The police photographer was snapping photos of the two bodies, splayed out on a bed in the middle of the room. The flash went off rapidly, schizophrenically lighting the dark room. The walls were a muted shade of moss green. Various pieces of Scandinavian furniture populated the space, and layered with artsy magazines, books like The Pale King and Gravity's Rainbow, organic and sustainable clothes, and quirky tchotchkes spoke of a couple who aspired to the heights of pomo bourgeoisie sophistication but missed out on the whole ironic bent of the movement.

The bed itself was untidy. Perhaps lain in recently, but more likely a struggle. Detective James crouched down (detective work involved an lot of crouching, and the uttering of knowing 'mmm's, whether justified and required or not, at appropriately vague moments in order to preserve the mystique of the endeavor in the presence of other department employees or witnesses), and looked at the edge of the bed. The sheets and bedspread was still tucked under. A struggle then. She stood up.

The bodies were holding hands. The woman was face-up, staring at the ceiling, mouth slightly open as if she were sighing. Her free hand was resting across her stomach. She was clothed in a green dress that looked like it could have adorned a schoolteacher in 1965. She was wearing one silver ballet flat--the location of it's mate was not immediately apparent. The man was face down. He was wearing a brown suit (who wears a brown suit these days?) His free hand laid across a pillow, and it was holding a cell phone. There was no visible sign of trauma on either one of them.

She turned and looked around the room again. Across from the foot of the bed there was a tall walnut dresser. The top was neatly arranged with a variety of camera lenses and other related equipment. In the center sat a DSLR. Detective James retrieved a pair of gloves from her pocket and donned them. She picked up the camera and turned it on. She found the preview button and pressed it. The photo was off-kilter and underexposed; she had to turn the camera upside down to make out what the image was of--it was the two bodies on the bed. She let out a 'mmmm'.

"Has anyone touched this camera?" she addressed the room. Everyone looked up and nodded or said 'no'.

"Has anyone been in this room since the bodies were discovered?" she asked.

"Only their cleaning lady," said a police officer.

"Mmmm," said detective James. She pressed the next button to the first image on the camera. It was the man coming through the door. The next showed him looking shocked, then angry. He was yelling something, then he sat in a chair in the corner. He yelled some more. He got up. He pointed to the camera. Then the viewpoint changed--now it encompassed the bed, which was neatly made. It must have been sitting on the dresser as she had found it.

Many of the next images were dark. Occasionally there were some blurs--the man and the woman transiting quickly through the frame. This is awfully convenient; the camera must have a stop motion feature, thought detective James. Then the woman sat on the bed crying. Periodically the man stood over her, pointing and yelling. Then the man went out of the frame for a while, and the woman collected herself. then she got up and left the frame. There was nothing but the bed for dozens of images. Then the man came into the room. He started to undress, near the bed, but stopped and redressed. He turned around and looked at the camera. He came closer to the camera, peering at it and looking very angry. Then he turned at some stimulus from off-frame. He moved closer to the bed, yelling more. The woman came back, and spoke something to him. The man became calmer, then sat on the bed. He looked up at her, speaking. He held out his hand and she moved closer. She sat on the bed next to him, and they embraced. Then with one hand, when he wasn't looking, she slipped off her shoe. The next frame showed a tangle of the couple's legs. More frames of struggle. Then the woman was straddling the man, her hands firmly over his face. His hands reached up limply, then they were lax on the bed. She stayed in that position for a few more frames. Then she was gone.

For a few more frames, the man just laid on the bed. Then he started to slip off, and landed in a crumpled heap next to the bed. More frames where nothing happened. Then the woman came back. She stood over the man, arms akimbo. There was something in her left hand. She walked to the dresser, and placed a prescription pill bottle in front of the camera. It was too close and too dark to read the label, and the bottle blocked the view of the bed. Then the bottle was gone, and she was walking back to the bed. She sat on the bed and opened the bottle. She emptied the bottle into her mouth. She coughed up pills. In the next frame she was on the carpet collecting sprayed pills. She sat down again. She laid down next to the man, and adjusted her position several times. Then she was still for all the remaining frames. A stripe of sunlight appeared on the far wall, and marched across it, growing bigger. It turned into a fat rectangle and crept out of the frame. Then just the bodies. Then the first frame again.

Detective James turned off the camera and put it back on the dresser. "I think you'll find a shoe in that man's throat," she said, in a monotonous tone, to the room of police people. "Check her hands," she added.

She opened the top dresser drawer. It was filled with five shoebox type containers (though their owners being hipsters, they were actually fabric covered and probably marketed as a 'storage solution' and purchased for some relatively exorbitant price). Each box was labeled with a range of dates. The left-most box was the earliest box in the drawer. She closed that drawer, and opened the next. It too was filled with faux shoeboxes. The date sequence continued. This was a later set of boxes. She opened the other drawers, and the right-most box in the lowest drawer had the latest date. She reopened the top drawer and opened the earliest box. It was filled with three-by-five prints, punctuated by manila separator cards with a single date.

She sampled prints from the last box. The man was sullen, often facing away from the camera or walking away. She skipped to earlier boxes. A rainy window, with the man and woman reflected in it, standing side-by-side, embracing. A fair where the man made fun of a corndog then ate it. A dinner at a posh restaurant with lots of laughter. Then she moved up to the first box. The print showed him sitting at a table, mouth open, mid speech. The next showed him shaking an extended arm, smiling warily. The next shot was a different setting, a cafe. More talking. The next shot was a different setting, a cafe. More talking. She slipped up the first print from the first day. It was of the man, standing between stacks of books in a library, looking perplexed and annoyed.

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