It’s a few hours before another month vanishes, nothing left but memories and an old calendar page (if you are one of the few who still use paper calendars). I hope you have some good memories to take away from July and can scratch off any bad experiences as easily as deleting an old appointment form your calendar (for those of you who have gone digital).
I spent some time this month exploring the topic of vanishing, both literal and metaphor. Some things that vanish impact the individual and others an entire culture. It’s important to take notice of what vanishes whether it be a person, place, or something that we hold dear. We are all recorders of history in one sense or another. Maybe that is what history is, just trying to remember what has vanished.
Have you ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend leave you without any warning? She or he just vanished without a handwritten note, a text, or a pair of burnt boots on the front steps? The end of a relationship is a difficult time but not knowing why your girlfriend or boyfriend left can play with one’s psyche (it’s like failing a test but not being told what questions you got wrong). The movie Wicker Park may have a few flaws but it does a fine job capturing the feeling and fall out of a relationship that ends unexpectedly when a love interest vanishes.
Wicker Park may have a few flaws concerning plot and structure but overall it is a solid movie with fine performances by Josh Hartnett and Diane Kruger. Harnett and Kruger play a couple that splits after one of them vanishes without an explanation. The movie, presented in both present day and in flashbacks, is a story of obsession, of needing to know why somebody would leave without a word, a reason, or a clue. The movie shows us that we may believe we have moved on after a relationship ends but not knowing why it ended has a way of pulling us back in time.
When there is no word, no message, no final gesture before somebody vanishes from a relationship the resulting feelings and fall out can weigh heavily on the mind and heart. Wicker Park shows how such an event can follow us even after we feel we’ve moved on. A person may vanish quickly, but feelings don’t fade as fast.
Wicker Park (2004) with Josh Hartnett and Diane Kruger. Directed by Paul McGuigan.
Anybody who is familiar with my journos will know that I tend to sentimental sketches and ramblings at times. If you are new here consider yourself warned. I once read that if you sit in one place long enough you will eventually run into everybody you know (I’ve spent enough time in bars and coffee shops to think there may be some truth to this). I’ve also read that if you live in one place long enough you will see pieces of your own past vanish (I’ve lived long enough in one place to think there may be some truth to this).
There used to be this just low class enough, just dive enough bar that I frequented in my early twenties. It was one of those kinds of places you would go with friends to drink heavily and try to meet someone (or a least be a wing man for one your friends who was trying to meet someone). It was the kind of place where you would spend a good chunk of your week’s pay on not too cold beer and watered down whiskey drinks. It was the kind of place that had a second rate DJ on Friday nights and third rate bands on Saturday nights. It was the kind of place with long lines at the bathroom and a haze of cigarette smoke (showing my age here) over the dance floor. In short, it was the kind of place that was the source of many good times with friends, many of whom have faded away over time. It’s amazing how we move from being friends who drink together until 3:00 a.m. to friends who occasionally “like” each other’s social media posts. If friendships of youth vanish it stands to reason that the places, those dive bars, would vanish too. There were many nights spent at Dreams with Brad, Chris, Dano, Drew, Ken, and others. Dreams is gone, a fire burnt it to a shell, and I’ve lost touch with most of those friends, two decades can cause people to fade away.
An absence of place (an old dive bar) and friends (moved on or faded away) can make you feel as if a part of life has vanished. But life isn’t a collection of places and proximity. Life is experiences and how we react to them. I went to the upscale bar and grill that has replaced Dreams a few weeks ago. I bought their cheapest beer, took a sip, closed my eyes and realized that the important things will never vanish if you care enough.
One of the great things about horror fiction is it often is a closer reflection of real life than more traditional fiction genres. Talented writers of the horror genre show us a world that is both scary and familiar. Joe R. Lansdale’s “Listen” is an interesting read as a horror story, but it can also be read as a metaphor of individuals who are marginalized.
Floyd Merguson visits a psychiatrist and reveals a troubling condition; he is slowly fading away. In an extended monologue Floyd recounts a series of events that have convinced him that he is becoming transparent, invisible. The violence that occurs at the end of the story would appear to confirm Floyd’s belief that he is suffering from some sort of terminal illness. Lansdale’s story has the required elements to make it a solid horror story, but it can be read on another level. Floyd Merguson’s vanishing, his invisibility, can be viewed as a metaphor. One does not have to physically fadeout or vanish to feel marginalized and invisible. The forgotten, the neglected, the discarded, and the bullied all feel invisible. These marginalized individuals, like Merguson, can recount numerous instances of slowly vanishing, of becoming transparent, of being invisible. And sadly, like Merguson, may come to a similar violent end.
One of the best elements of horror fiction is its ability to show the reader how scary the world around us is, how real life is scarier than fiction. Joe R’ Lansdale’s “Listen” is a well written horror story. If you take a different view “Listen” becomes a scary metaphor, and if we do not listen to this metaphor it may result in violence.
“Listen” from A Fist Full of Stories (and Articles) (2014) by Joe R. Lansdale.