Street Scene

boy meets girl

Something out of a movie called, The Lover’s Duel. Boy meets girl in street scene while girl above looks on yearning for her own scene, perhaps, while the couple below posture and prepare for their dance, their duel without pistols standing guard in defense of their heart; perhaps he plays it cool, casual and all-the-while ready to pounce when the moment is correct; or even when it isn’t. She is cautious of his eyes, his necktie and the bouquet of daises, perhaps, wrapped in thick paper, the weight of her workday world still lays in her handbag; and conforming into his world and their world, the men, in a scratchy wool skirt suit and functional heeled clogs; wretched painful things and now self-consciousness creeps in with the morning rouge cream dried and flaked, the mascara caked, the hair-do a bit lop-sided, as the afternoon hour takes hold and his words attempting to get her into a diner booth or a bar stool or, perhaps, and really, the mattress upstairs. But if this is true and they stage and prepare in this moment for a shootout of wits, perhaps, that ever illusive shedding of clothing for the exposure of complete vulnerability necessary for copulation will occur in due time and appropriate course of actions like firing of guns; it is after all 1941, love has just begun. All-the-while, the girl above looks on like an unconcerned observer or, perhaps, the ever-wise gossip columnist. Maybe she knows more about her, or about him, than she shows or maybe she just wants them to move along and get happy already. Maybe she just wants the photographer to take her picture too. She has more to offer than the dueling couple below. “See me,” she tells him with her eyes. “I am up here. Distracting you from the eventual bloodbath below. It will be horrific. Tragic. Lovely and tender too. Take my advice, stay away from that down there on the street. He’s conniving and she’s harried. Won’t be long now. Nothing to see anymore. Photographs of families don’t quite cull the wonder as photographs of lovers do. Take a picture of her when her stomach is bulbous, like a purple onion, when her ankles are swollen and sore and the first kid is hanging off her arm, a mouthful of spit, but wearing a fashionable coat but moments away from needing to make a poo. When his hair isn’t slicked into a do and a yellow sweat-through t-shirt clings to his shoulders from putting a socket wrench to the Olds. Or perhaps later in a crisp green scratchy uniform, like hers now but with a name tag and insignia and a belt with a fresh knife and place for a magazine of bullets and hooks for grenades intended for surprise attacks in battle; real battle in real war, not this playful hands-in-pockets dalliance you see now. Guts get ripped out for real. Hearts break from shrapnel and bullets and fall from the sky, burning sometimes, in pieces. Hey, I’m up here, photographer. Down there only gets worse. Casserole dinners with frozen peas and cream of Campbell’s brand mushroom soup and arguments about making ends meet. No frills for Christmas this year. A tree, perhaps, and some wrapped boxes, but keep the bank account balanced for a new furnace.  Can you take that picture? Who wants to see that? The frantic moment, perhaps, when her womb becomes placenta abrupta and he speeds his Olds through stop lights and past people just walking to live and nearly bludgeoning a few with the chrome bumper; flattening hard-working, tired pedestrian feet with the budget retreads he purchased from that shop in the Bronx where old men sit and drink from little mugs on little saucers; his vortex veins look like red tributaries flooding into milky delta plains, steady lines of sweat, microscopically vibrating, infused with static electricity, perhaps, dripping down his forehead, take that picture instead photographer, that is actual life, what the boy and the girl do now, that’s just for play, that’s not real, I am real photographer, up here, perched on this window sill, you know what’s gonna happen down there. And soon.”




PHOTOGRAPH from the Charles Cushman Collection: Indiana University Archives

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