16. The Image

There is an image of a girl looking at a man from behind. The man stands in front of her, staring ahead. He wears sunglasses. Maybe that’s a scar or a shadow on his cheek. This image attracts.

What is the woman’s expression? Maybe she’s watching his back with surprise. He’s just said something like, “I eat raw animal intestine.” After saying this, he turns, and she stares at the back of his head with surprise, confusion, and the melting of an image she had built in their short time together, as either friends or lovers.

Her expression depicts or dramatizes an inner picture of him, an image that had begun to develop from the time they had first met to now. Bold and mysterious, curiosity and suspense to sudden and explosive disappointment or regret or just plain disgust. Her expression, a cluster of two inked eyes, a few lines at the forehead, and an ambiguous bent oval for a mouth remains as it always will be in that image, but the fact that she’s looking at the back of his head, the fact that she appears to have erected that countenance as a response to some word or action by the man with the sunglasses suggests a list of prior expression.

But it also promotes a likelihood of futures. Because the image may want the viewer to consider what the woman will do as a response to “I eat raw animal intestine” or “I never want to see you again” or “I just don’t like cats and never will” or “I hate Italian food” or “I have an untreatable disease.”

It could be, however, that the woman is not dramatizing something said by this man who wears sunglasses at all. It could be that her expression is more about some disruption to the normal progress of expected events. She’s not watching or “looking at” the back of his head; on the contrary, she’s waiting for him to respond to an occurrence some distance in front of them.

These people were walking together on a street and they’ve just been confronted by a gang of thugs, young thugs barely able to sprout hair on their faces, accosters with knives or bats. “Give us your money or else,” one of the young thugs orders, and the woman’s expression goes from anticipatory (for they were on their way to dinner or to a retirement party) to blank astonishment. Out of all the pedestrians in the city, out of all the lovers out for walks, we are accosted, we are threatened, we must deal with this now.

Her astonishment is made even more blank at a deeper linguistic response, which may be termed inappropriate, given the direness of the situation. For at the moment that she turns to see what her companion will do (give the robbers his money, which is a cowardly act, a practical response, or an act of charity; disentwine and proceed to club the boys with lightning fast Kung Fu kicks; or stay frozen in fear) she wonders momentarily at the speaker’s use of the plural “give us” rather than “give me” in his request for the money, and she’s watching the back of the man’s head for his own reaction to the deep-seeded impulses of language or insanity. She just finds it odd for the robber, or this robber, to so imply the fair or utilitarian “us” rather than the self-absorbed “me” in such a sinister situation.

The woman has responded to something “between them” or something “beyond them.” There is, in either case, disquietment and ambiguity. We don’t know if they will escape; we don’t know if they will repair the rift that has developed between them; we don’t know if they will ever return to the place where they originated or whether they will build new futures to accommodate or compliment or animate their lives. What we do know is they are committed to one another at this very moment and that something about the image reminds us of the birth of children, the flight of birds, the normal course of day to day harms.

Good Day.

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