All Stories, General Fiction, Romance

Cinema by Evelyn Voelter

I’m in our living room and the sun is hitting the couch in your spot just how you liked it. I always wanted to close the curtains so it wouldn’t fade the fabric, but today I leave them open, like you would’ve wanted. I suppose I’m daydreaming again because I swear I hear your voice. But when I turn to look at you, your spot is still empty.

I always thought of us as cinematic, inclined to play cosmic roulette, liable to end in flaming glory, not like this. Live wires and wild cards, like us, burn down casinos.

I see our movie now. New York City plays itself. It starts just the same: In a jazz club, you across the room from me, drinking a sidecar. Every Hollywood cliché.

“What do you think of the quartet?”

I didn’t know a question so straightforward could sound flirtatious.

“I’m not a fan of Fusion.”

You look impressed.

“Are you a fan of a cocktail?”

That first night was a screwball comedy, a battle of wits in black and white. Our tongues were foils, our quips parries. The dialogue leapt off the page. People would never believe it was all improvised. We would be an instant classic.

I remember technicolor days in local coffee shops. You reached across the table to hold my hand, playing with my red nails and drawing little circles with your thumb on my knuckle. I throw my head back in an open mouthed smile. Beach waves shining in the sun.

“When can I see you again?”, you always asked right before you left.

“Is tomorrow too soon?” I smirked.

“No such thing.”

You kissed me on the forehead then pulled my hand so we were both standing.

“What about tonight? We can see a show…”

“If you insist.”

I beam even bigger. You kiss my smile. And just like that you are the flourish of a long wool coat and a bell over the door. My world is filled with hanging stars. I swear I can see them reflected in my green tea.

In the montage, we kiss in subway cars and sing in the street and laugh at dinner parties. The audience would get the sense that we were always together. But soon they would realize our highs had reciprocal lows. We were a rollercoaster. The best scenes would be our screaming match in Little Italy or how we waltzed on the top of the Empire State. How I miss being loose change in Manhattan’s pocket.

In the end, we were fire and bourbon, a flash in the pan, beautiful and temporary. We would burst into fireworks and the crowd would share our dramatic tears and furious yelling. My sobs would mix with the salt water on the deck of the Staten Island ferry. We would be glitter and ashes. Cremated. The box office would change their titles in a few weeks.

I would let them believe that was the end. We would never meet again at an off-Broadway show. You would never ask me to a midnight dinner right there outside the theater. We would never ride the Roosevelt Island tram at 2 am and get to talking about us.

“Sometimes I think I was smarter back then than I am now”

“And other times?”

“I don’t think at all”

We would never kiss under the skyline.

And even if I did include that, I would leave out the rest.

I would leave out how I tried to make sidecars in our first kitchen, and how you always told me I made your favorite ones, and how I knew it wasn’t because I made a good sidecar.

I would leave out how you played with our children in the yard and showed them the constellations and taught them how to dream and me along with them. I would leave out all the nights we sat by the fireplace and you held my hand while I read Joan Didion. I would leave out the Tuesday mornings when you burnt my coffee and how you hummed while you read the paper. I would leave out everything that hurts now. Everything that I miss.

You were my matinee.

My favorite outtake is from Eva’s first day of kindergarten. When we took the day off of work and had a picnic in the backyard. “We’re running out of time, love.” I said into your shoulder. “What time do we need besides this very second?” I should have listened to you. I should have savored every second. Slowed down more. Committed to pen and paper all the shots that any producer worth his salt would have left on the cutting room floor.

Maybe we stopped being dangerous years ago. Maybe the cognac cooked out of us. When we chose each other in that little stained-glass church. Your boutonniere was crooked. All or nothing became a negotiation. We parlayed our bets. Maybe you preferred what we had to the supernova. But it’s easier to wish for mutual destruction when you’re the one at the graveside.

If we had the movie version instead, I would never have heard you go upstairs to find an old board game in the middle of the day. I would never have heard you singing to yourself in the kitchen. I would never have heard your silly slippers squishing to the rhythm of your walk. But our house wouldn’t feel so quiet now.

And now I could wonder where you were and picture you in an old jazz club drinking a sidecar. In my mind’s eye, you look dapper in your perfectly pressed suit, like Gatsby. I could pretend you’re alive and well without feeling the ache where you were cut out of me, without feeling the hollow.

I knew the theater lights would go out and the band would go home and the cities would turn dim. But this isn’t how I imagined it at all.

Evelyn Voelter

Image: – Black and white picture of a reel of cinema film laying on a white surface.

8 thoughts on “Cinema by Evelyn Voelter”

  1. Beautiful. It’s like a prose poem which is bristling with so many superb lines. I read through it twice, trying to pick out my favourite, for which there is a great deal of competition, but I chose ‘How I miss being loose change in Manhattan’s pocket.’ – what a gorgeous image. In short, I really enjoyed reading this metaphoric description of a relationship through the eyes of the cinema.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Evelyn,
    An absolutely brilliant story that expresses loss.
    This is poignant, heart-breaking and so relatable.
    I am very interested to see what else you have in your writing locker.
    All the very best.


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