Cut Short

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 8 minutes.

Selected tracks: LCD Soundsystem “Someone Great” and Anton Karas “The Harry Lime Theme”

Strands of Jack’s dark hair peaked through the space between his fingers. He let his shiny, soft hair through the cracks at the length he wanted it trimmed. I stood behind him, making eye contact in the mirror. I held the buzzing electric clippers at my side. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Just buzz the hair that’s between my fingers,” Jack reassured me. “But I  like your hair long. I like running my fingers through it,” I pleaded. Jack smiled. “It’ll grow back soon. I promise. My hair grows pretty fast. And don’t worry about cutting my hands. You won’t. And even if you do, I’m sort of a masochist anyway.”

I hesitantly began trimming the hairs from the back of his head. When I was finished he took the clippers and shortened his sideburns. Eventually he trimmed what little facial hair he’d been able to grow. He then paused, evaluating his hairdo in the mirror. He was visibly unsatisfied. “I didn’t make the side even enough. I’m gonna have to shave them off.” I looked on in horror as he balded the sides of his head and left the top close in length to how it was before. “How’s it look?” Jack inquired. “Actually, not that bad,” I responded with surprise. Jack smiled again. “I would have left one side unshaven, but I didn’t want to be that pretentious douche you always see in the Mission.”

After Jack used my shower to rid himself of stray hairs, we lay together on the rug in the center of my studio, cuddled, and talked.

In the late afternoon we took the 43 to Fort Mason for Off the Grid, a weekly gathering of food trucks. Jack ventured off to find a Korean barbeque truck as I stood in line waiting to order a palak paneer burrito from an Indian truck. Hoards of nomadic diners swarmed around the queue, inside the ring of trucks. As I stood waiting alone amongst the crowd, I found myself missing Jack’s company, even for the slightest time. It was an alarming realization. To allow myself to be so emotionally attached to someone threatened my emotional balance. Yet, in the same breadth, investing myself in a partner balanced me like I never had been before. The conundrum vexed me as I continued to stand, famished, in line.

Once I sat down to eat my specialty burrito, Jack walked up with two crab tacos. “Not my first choice,” he said. “But still pretty good.” We decided to stroll beside the marina as we ate. Early into our walk Jack got a text from a friend who was coming to visit. In addition to these preset plans, he worked early the following morning. Our day had to be cut short. I saw Jack to his bus. Since our schedules don’t coincide, I kissed Jack goodbye, not knowing when I would see or hear from him next.

I awoke the following morning craving Jack’s kind and gentle touch. My conundrum had already been revisited. That afternoon I went to a screening of the classic film noir “The Third Man”, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. At 1pm the lights inside the Castro Theatre dimmed. A single spotlight illuminated a miked lectern, stage left. Out of the darkness, a mustached man in his late sixties walked up to the lectern. A SF Film Festival staff badge dangled from his neck. He went on to somberly dedicate the screening to the late, deceased director of the SF Film Society. He articulated the director’s boisterous, opinionated personality, passion for film programming, and the profound impact he had in his short ten week tenure as director. Although I knew neither the speaker, nor the one he spoke about, I found the speech to be quite moving. Once the brief dedication concluded, the spotlight faded and the 16mm reels began to spin.

The opening credits rolled over the vibrating strings of a guitar. I was instantly reminded of the score’s playful theme, an antithetical guitar melody to the film’s dark subject matter. As the film progressed, I found a deeper reading in Anna Schmidt’s part of the story than I had in past viewings. She mopes thoughout the film, destroyed by her husband Harry Lime’s murder. Nothing can break her depression. When word reaches her that Lime faked his death to escape the authorities, she refuses to aid in his arrest. Orson Welles’ Harry Lime is so charming and charismatic, it’s easy to imagine the joy he brought to Schmidt’s life.

It pained me to admit it, but I missed Jack and had an irrational fear of losing him to whatever end. I didn’t want this sort of emotional chaos, but it came with the territory I had entered. Had opening myself up to let Jack in been worth the internal turmoil I felt? Was there I way to avoid that turmoil without giving Jack up? I turned to Harry Lime for an answer: “Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

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