MORNING MOVIE SCENES
INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – DAWN
Bright sun wrenches me out of sleep. Bright through a break in the dense clouds, through a crack in the curtains. Later today, the sun will not set, but involute.
Thoughts of terrible news rise; I read the headlines before I slept. My dream dissipates with the sun (before it does, I remember sliding down an enormous muddy hill into an arctic lake, the only light an orb in the sky like Sputnik). It’s overcast again. I am alive, and not just alive, but here, now. Off with my silken sleeping wrap!
Backstage (adverb) 1
1: in or to a backstage area
2: in private : SECRETLY
INT. APARTMENT HALLWAY
(tumbling through the dark)
Stopping in front of the bathroom doorway, I think of doorways everywhere. I think of an early morning in a parallel universe and hear five gramophone seconds of Ella Fitzgerald’s Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. I balance my phone teeter totter on the sink and play the song in the rising steam from my shower. The song plays. She sings, going high and low as she pleases. You, you are watching, a performance by me, for me, but also for you. This is captured on an imagined screen, and you are imagined too. I am cinema: every little motion is spontaneous choreography under stage lights. Hmmm and mmm, I hum and sing along. The water shimmers down from the showerhead, my dry hair fills with life waters, the soap dragging across my brown magenta belly, leaving velvet tinglings.
This is a small morning spell. Stepping naked out of the warm waters, I shake off each of my limbs with drama. I am flush and fresh, calibrated. I run lotion over my body, then dress. If you pressed your nose into the crook of my neck, your cheeks would flush with my warmth, and you’d smell ginger.
INT. APARTMENT LIVING ROOM
(everything, including me, vibrates under the atmosphere’s weight)
With my laptop in tow, I step into the living room and am enveloped in grey muted dimness, like the moors are just behind the city buildings. There is a soft light from a long way away, filtering through the clouds, descending from unknown heavenly sources like a fine mist into my widening pupils, along the floor, under the couch, before being snuffed out. Sitting, my laptop warms my thick thighs. I am alone now, in my own private communion with the present and the crushing expanse of time and death. I wonder if this present moment is the most important moment of my life. I play songs as the backdrop to these scenes, my soundtrack.
The Beatles pop lullaby Good Night plays, and reminds me of the pastel, orchestral credits that recall old films, violins and French horns. I see myself in black and white. I wonder if I have lived this day before too passively and now return to live it better.
There are heightened moments in between each beat of Roxy Music’s A Really Good Time. Turning to pick up my lukewarm coffee with a flourish. Sweeping my foot across the floor. Typing a single sentence. I, my dear lone self, privately, might be worthy of a film––or at least this collection of fanciful scenes that are only cinematic through my eyes.
Can a black 30-year adult woman be this rousing, this lighthearted? I think of the cinematic moments I have loved that give me this same feeling, like Almost Famous, every white person on the bus singing Tiny Dancer. Well, I think I’m saying yes, because I understand and can feel it too, right now, my own warm triumph, that melancholic nostalgia, that sailing cool.
The vase shakes to the rising swell of ROSALÍA’s RENIEGO – Cap.5: Lamento, and I rise operatic, a wide, long shot sweeps across my face, light shining in my irises. Sometimes I’m Happy plays, by Sarah Vaughan, and I am reclining in my chair with the allure of a lady at a jazz club in 1955. I stick out my tongue and shake out my wet afro, and wonder if someone is watching on a cosmic screen. Future humans peering down through a looking glass. The spirits from the ether, or the spirits of those who came before.
INTERCUT TO LONELY THOUGHTS –
(thinking out loud, I sit down on the ground)
I am alone in my little home right now, my roommate away, and all of this is only possible in my aloneness. I have been alone a long time. I have said again and again, you shall not have me, nor you, nor you, and you too have put me off immediately.
My aloneness strives for something holy, precarious, a delight that only makes sense with balanced ingredients. Ingredients of 1970’s classic pop rock, solo slow dances in a pink velvet dress, licking a plate of whipped cream like a delicacy. But sometimes, I admit, it’s just plain loneliness, an empty space. No real someone to hear the click and clack of my keys, to shiver when they feel the microscopic gusts of air from my imaginative flourishes.
I sing along with Rufus Wainwright on my remote, and I am lifted up again.
I remember Saturday mornings like this one as a kid. Vacuuming as my favorite Saturday morning chore. I loved the vacuum, the giant roaring log I lugged around the house, because I felt strong lifting it up and down the stairs, and underneath its roar I sang in private, sang like every pop singer that ever lived, the handle my microphone, and only the spirits picking up my frequency.
INT. APT LIVING ROOM, AGAIN
(rising, coat on, halfway to the door)
And now I hesitate, for it is strange and unsteady to say I am content. I’m remembering and envisioning and performing. On my tiptoes, I spin in sync with my mind, dance across the floor, hoping my neighbors can’t see me through the windows. What metaphors to describe these cinematic sensations? Yellow bowls and yellow measuring cups to measure out a glowing potion? Green orbs rising flush from the apartment room floor? There are jolts from the far underground, furious tumult of the steam engines’ roars.
I’ve hardly done any work. At this point in the movie, they would play a bittersweet song as I walked away. I’ll walk outside and get more coffee.
EXT. E 102th ST MANHATTAN – LATE MORNING
(the clock spins)
I hurry to the local shop, guzzle more coffee into my belly, sit in a cloudy corner, and type words that will perplex me later. It is an hour, or two, later, and a baby crawls away from its mother at the table next to me, its small paw touching my black boot, grasping my bag, repeatedly. It is time to return home.
It’s quite sunny on my return, and my pupils blur and shrink. I stop and breathe in the smog and spring air (and one pungent sweet smell, from the dumpster on one side of me and the bakery on the other). Let’s step in tandem, and look both ways before we cross the street. My foot hovers shakily over the dark road, like it’s the edge of a well, an entrance to deep waters covered by a few remaining beams. In a second, I imagine the cross walk’s white painted lines are these beams, rotten wood panels covered in bright green algae and turquoise thrills and auburn grains. The ball of my foot will be enclosed in water soon, in the underworld of the well, the grainy wet life force, the path to the center of the earth and portal into space time.
EXT. LEXINGTON AV
(hovering across the road…)
My walk, as my foot descends and rises again, is across these five city blocks, my sweater swaddling me sweaty, my face flushed. I keep my remembrances in my satchel. I concentrate all my grace into my steps. Everything is this step onto this street, in this corner of the city in spring. I’m a milkshake melting on the diner’s counter, surrounded by music, flowers. Delight rises and retreats, slips through my fingers. My hand drags across my left forearm and someone, someone’s hand is my hand too, like virtual reality, we are crafting this moment as sweet mercy. My right eye widens like a lens as I pass that last brick wall back home.
The trees have blossomed today, and magically red tulips appeared in the flower beds overnight. It was not quite magic. It was the workers who planted the flowers on their knees in the dead of night and disappeared again.
Are my little dramas not beautiful, but concocted? Maybe the watchers are the only ones to confirm my inventive fancies. Maybe my vision has merit. I undergo changes and reappraisals in every second. I am welcoming you into my daily cinematic landscape.
Zebib K. A. is a psychiatrist, writer, and cinephile living in New York City. She can be found at https://medium.com/@pegasusunder.