"You're the fantasy girl, aren't you?"
—Bruce Willis to Jane March in Color of Night
Indian & Spanish? French & Chinese? Black & White?—
what collision of genes made this perfection that has just rear-ended you,
wearing a yellow scoop-necked blouse, eyes flashing diamonds,
voice a whisper, "I've got no insurance. Please don't bust my chops."
You can't help talking to yourself when she appears: "Here she comes,
wearing a backpack like a little girl, and falls into his arms."
It could be corny, but it's not because she's young and beautiful,
and nothing's corny about beauty and youth. Instinctively you know
it doesn't matter if someone leaves a diamondback in your mailbox,
if a red Ferrari tries to run you down, if you find a hose
flooding your living room, and stand on the veranda clutching
a butcher knife as tympani roar in your ears, and the house alarm
goes off like a scream. Later, as you clean up, harps will play
her theme and she'll appear. "Hi. Remember me?"—a breathy
intake after "hi" and "me," as if she's run a marathon. "There she is:
an angel dancing on the head of a pin," you'll say, transfixed
by her flowered dress through which a pubic halo gleams,
by lips and teeth so perfect they could be superimposed. Kissing,
she breathes "Oh, oh," as porno music surges—strings and electric
fuzz guitar. You make love, slow-motion, in the swimming pool.
When the scene cuts to hang-gliders, it's not corny; and when she leaves you
strapped by one hand to the bed, you laugh; it's just enough depravity.
It doesn't matter if she screws half of L.A., including women—
if she stabs her therapist thirty times, hangs an S & M freak by his heels,
carves "Rich Bitch" into his hide, and slits his throat—if she used
the same body moves, same whispers, same smile she's using on you.
It doesn't matter if she cooked for them too—ahi with steamed
greens and rigatoni perfectly arranged on white bone china—
if she wore the same ruffled French maid apron, nipples glowing
through, slim derriere (butt is too blunt; ass, too crude) with its rose
tatoo bared as she bends to pull perfect sourdough biscuits
from the stove—yours; she broke into your house to cook for you.
(Chimes in her theme now: sex and danger sautéed.) It doesn't
matter if she has multiple personalities: one a murderous boy,
one a slut who wears a gash of red lipstick, glittering hoop earrings,
mascara thick as tar. You know, because she's young and beautiful,
your worst suspicions can't be true. You know you'd enter hell
to save her, lightning flashing as you sneak past a gigantic
welded Jesus, then cages, clanking machines, griffins and krakens,
racks and screws. Satanic choirs can't mask the sobs
that glide down like wounded birds around you as you push—
through spiderwebs and blood—upstairs to find her, lash marks
on her back, hands nailed to her chair, driven psychotic
by her brother, crazed himself by child abuse: the only sin
the 1990's can't forgive. You know you'll face him
with his crucifying nails. You know that just as you saved her,
she will save you with a spike between his eyes as he's about
to sand off, inch by inch, your skin. You know his death will purge
her madness, but that someone so young and beautiful can't live
with fratricide, so she will climb—in thundering rain, as lighting
flickers like a faulty bulb—an iron ladder that beanstalks up.
You follow her, begging, "Come back." Souls in pigeon form explode
heavenward as, her wet shirt a sacrament, she stands on a roof
patterned like a waffle iron. She wants to jump—like someone else
you loved but couldn't save. This is your chance to be redeemed,
and so you plead, "Come back to me. . ." She reaches for you
like Eurydice. But death's wind flings her down, so you jump too,
catching a chain and then her arm as she swoops by, both
of you penduluming over the abyss where tiny car-lights cross
and twitch. You're not afraid; you know you'll swing her
to safety, then clutch each other in the rain as her theme rises—
strings this time—while lightning blinks off—on—off—on.
Your own madness broken too, you watch the credits to see
what name goes with so much beauty and youth. Jane March?
Absurdly plain. You hit rewind, pop out the tape, then plod
to bed and let your wife, with no gaffer to backlight a transparent
gown or bounce diamond-glitter off her eyes, with no director
to coax out each breathy line, with no shadowy, hellish past,
only the usual dark and tortured human history to heat her kiss—
with only her arms, that would have pulled out of their sockets
if she'd dangled like Jane, to draw you back into her body,
back into this flawed and precious life.
from Reading the Water, published by Northeastern University Press, © 1997 by Charles Harper Webb.