one is the oneliest number (chapter 25, part 2)

(image courtesy Powerhouse Museum Collection)

Lang makes notes to draw this out for a few more moments in order to fully underscore their physical and psychological distance.  The music bridges over to the next montage that begins with Edna sitting on the patio in the garden at her favorite restaurant in the suburbs, eating a salad, reading a book and stroking the cat in her lap. Robert opens the gate and sees her.  His face drains white; look at his hand clutching his hat to his chest.  She stands up, sending the cat skittering to the floor.

Lang likes the fixation on hands that has emerged.  Lang should go home soon to meet Elle for breakfast.  She can’t remember if the focus on hands was accidental or intentional, but it works. The piano and cello continue their debate while we cut to a shot of very pregnant Adele standing in the sunshine brushing her honey blonde hair—her face twists with pain and darkness blooms on her white nightgown.

Then back to Edna framed by the porch posts.  She points her finger in the air and yells at  Robert: “You are the embodiment of selfishness.  You protect yourself and never consider for a moment what I think or how I feel.” She pushes the mewling cat back with one foot.  “I suppose I am what you would call unwomanly but I have got into a habit of expressing myself.  It doesn’t matter anymore what kind of woman you think I am.”

Cut to Adele in bed, staring up into the camera, clutching the sheets while a stoic nurse takes her pulse and back to Robert, looking wounded.  “No.  I only think you are cruel, as I said before.  Maybe not intentionally cruel, but still… forcing me into disclosures which can result in nothing.  You want me to bare a wound for your pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power to heal it.  And you call me selfish.”

The music notches up again while the doctor and nurse confer at the foot of Adele’s bed.  They turn say something to Adele’s husband, who nods his head grimly and pulls on his coat.  They used the phantom camera for the shot of him running out through the yard where the children are pushing dolls in their strollers.

Edna grabs Robert’s hand:  we see her speaking heatedly but hear only the cello and piano.  She pulls his hand towards her heart and holds it there and they walk together down a tree-lined road.  He lets himself be led.  He says something, she bats him with her book, and he finally smiles.  He draws her close.  He is speaking earnestly; she leans into him, smiling.

There’s a nice slow shot of Adele’s husband running with a tragic expression on his face.

Robert tells Edna, “I lost my senses.  I forgot everything but a wild dream of having you as my wife, but I realized what a cur I was to dream of such a thing. You belong to him. You can never be mine.“

Edna opens her front door, takes his face in her hands, kisses him all over.  He closes the door behind them.  She says, “I give myself where I choose.  If my husband were to tell you, here, take her and be happy, she is yours, I should laugh at you both.”

Close shot of Adele’s face against a pillow, drawn into a rictus of pain.  The hand with the wedding ring grips the bloody sheet.

There is a knock at the door.   It is Adele’s husband.  She says something to him and and shuts the door.  Edna’s narration is a voice over:  “Good bye, my sweet Robert, tell me good-bye.”  They kiss ardently.  “It was you who awoke me last summer out of a stupid, life-long dream.  Oh!  You have made me so unhappy.  I have suffered, suffered!  But now we shall have each other.  Nothing else in the world is of any consequence.” Dwell for a moment on her childish smile.  “But I must go to my friend. You will wait for me?”

Edna emerges from her house.  She shuts the door behind her.

Adele’s mouth opens to scream.

Lang leans back in her chair and massages her scalp.  It’s almost there.  They’re riding the razor’s edge between pathos and bathos, chilling and cheesy, and it’s almost right.  She wanted the individual concerns to blend together, and they do.  Juliette would call it un ambigu—a banquet at which a wide variety of dishes are served together, an ambiguous conflation.  Lang likes how smiles are countered by grimaces of pain and how the romance, which has been a major impetus of the plot up to this point, is suddenly rendered silly.  Every character seems pitiable and culpable, alone yet connected in their desire to be real, heavy and real, expressing how mass requires gravity to really matter.

It needs just needs one more layer of imagery, one more level of ambiguity.  Lang replays the sequence and follows the husband when he runs out the door.  Her eyes catch on the little girls playing at the edges of the frame.  They had been so lovely that day in their pinafores and ringlets, she couldn’t resist getting several shots of them.  She finds them now: the six year old pushing the doll in the stroller, the little one dancing with hers, the four year old holding her doll up to the camera so we can see her blue glass eyes and her hair made of real human hair.  She’ll cut these glimpses in here, here, and there.

It’s perfect.

Once again, Lang is overwhelmed with a wave of amazement.  Image, story, dialogue, music, pacing and performance all come together and it’s like watching an explosion in reverse; a million different particles fly together and somehow fit.

This is exactly how she felt when Eleanor was born.  The Bichat Claude-Bernard Hospital in Paris, 4 am May 19th.  It had been the unified effort of the mother on the bed, the mother holding her hand, the nurses in the room, the muscles of the womb, egg and sperm and luck, science, nature and magic and the child herself that brought that magical creature into this world and neither Rosemary nor Lang could do anything but smile and sob as they knew perfection for the first time.

Of course, since then, nothing has been the same.  If Lang had a picture of them in her wallet she would pull it out now.  She and Rosemary were together five years before Eleanor was born–five wonderful years of mutual adoration followed by thirteen years of love, respect, competition, miscommunication, sadness, loneliness, and loss.  Two mothers, two artists, two modes.  The number two is bipolar, bipartisan, and bilingual.  Being one of two removed Lang from the center of the universe and then Elle came along.  Two plus one.  Three is the magic number.  With three you’re really juggling.  But with three, someone always feels left out.

One is the loneliest number.

She could call right now; she could bring them all back together.   Lang looks at the clock:  5:53 a.m.  She should have quit long ago.  If she rushes, she might still have time.

There are hardly any other cars driving at this hour so Lang drives unimpeded.  The sun is awakening at the edge of her periphery and her world is turning toward the light.

*

*

Question:  I know, this is a weird one.  If you have read what came before, I’d love to know if it worked or not for you.  Please tell the truth.  Is this scene too visual to work in writing?

About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

7 comments

  1. 2&4&12B&24 9 18A 14B 22 12A 18B 20B&7&16A&16B 14A
    15A&15B 11 23C 3B 3A 19A&19B13&23A&23B&21A&21B
    20A 6 10 21C 25A&25B&8&17A&17B&5&1

    To answer your question, it was very clear to me, it also
    seemed to be moving the plot along, while not one of my
    favorite chapters – I feel that Lang’s project is drawing to
    a close here – and she suddenly feels the need to be with
    her daubter. These chapters with Lang working on the film
    occur frequently and I feel their place is to strengthen the
    role Drew’s movie is playing. Though from what I understand,
    the character Edna kills herself, and some elements here
    suggest a less tragic ending is in the works, for Edna at
    least. Perhaps Lang’s movie has a twist, where things get
    darker again?

    Writeing has olny rough guidelings with no clear rules – every
    Fo pae can be successfully pulled off by the write author, the
    question isen’t does this or doesen’t this work. The question is
    can I pull this off?

    RUST I feel is very visual, but illistrating the complex landscapes
    required for a Rust graphic novel, seems like too much work so I
    used text instead to describe them. Often I wonder if the sheer im-
    pact of stark and wild Skyland can truly be captured in words, but
    sometimes I wonder if such flights of fancy can truely ever
    be chained to the page.

    This was very clear in context. How interesting it was is a matter
    of taste, but all the events are visible – You whent for Visiual – and
    I’m sure it’s visible at least, the cat held my attention, and for some
    reson I pictured Edna wearing blue, the scene of the childbirth felt
    black and white to me, or Sepia. Everything else in vivid ferocious
    tones. There is my impression. I hope it is helpful. :)

  2. i have to admit i’m getting lost here and when lang talks of adding another layer i feel completely overwhelmed. sure its easier when there aren’t these breaks.

  3. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to keep up with these chapters, Anna, but when I read your comment at Averil’s, I thought I’d come over to see what you were referring to.

    Flying just a little blind here, I can say that if the story of the film is important here, it didn’t feel that way to me as I read it. I kept waiting for Lang to have some epiphany or thought about it that illuminated something about her own life. I felt I needed that, or the promise of it, to make me focus on the movie’s story rather than hope I could get through it quickly in order to get back to your story. Does that make any sense?

    Maybe there needs to be some subtle signal at the beginning of the string of scenes you describe that makes it clearer to us why they’re important. If they’re important because this is Lang’s work, she’s passionate about it, and we need to understand the feeling she has about it that takes her away from her family, then they need to be richer — we need to understand the druglike hold this art has over her. (And I don’t mean that as if it’s a bad thing.) We absolutely have to experience these scenes on as deep an emotional level as Lang does. We need to feel what she feels about the scenes a little more than know exactly what’s happening in them.

    (I just went back and read part one of this chapter to try to make sure I wasn’t saying something completely off the mark, but I can’t tell.) I wish I could help, but I need to know more of what you want to do here, before I can say if I got it or not.

    I think the visual can work wonderfully in writing. I’m fascinated with trying to get people to see what I see in my mind as I write certain things. Or at least something that makes them feel some of what I feel as I’m writing it.

    • Wow, Re– this is really helpful. Perhaps the balance is uneven and if I go deeper into Lang’s interior, it will balance out the visual. I’ll try that. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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