I discovered a Rorschach test this week, a story that revealed more about the listener than it did about the events I described.
I kept telling the same tale throughout the week, breaking the sort of news that is best to get out of the way sooner rather than later, to avoid awkwardness down the line. While I’ve never been much for multiple drafts of a story—I had a reputation at my college newspaper for requiring very few edits—this story refined self quickly, losing extraneous beats and morphing to take the shape of the listeners’ attention spans.
Even though I did most of the talking, it was in their faces, their reactions, their questions and sighs that the truth came out. I’ve never been one to surround myself with people who believe in the kind of morality preached on Sunday mornings, and I’ve respected that everyone has their own code, their own way of seeing the world’s shades of gray.
If nothing else, I appreciate how this week has helped me see their differences.
One of my favorite films of this decade was Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third in a trilogy that checks in with the same two characters every nine years. (I’m already eagerly awaiting 2022, if for no other reason.) Where Before Sunrise was about Jesse and Céline meeting, and Before Sunset finds them reconnecting, Midnight sees the couple years into marriage, raising children together. A series that had been about possibility turned into something about reality.
Midnight takes place essentially across three scenes, the last of which turns from a romantic evening without the kids into a knock-down, drag-out fight, the kind of vicious battle that leaves the viewer wondering if, after two films about coupling, this one is about splitting, an Empire Strikes Back dark ending to the couple’s story. This argument lingers, and feels visceral on such a level that you can see where the actors contributed to the script.
I saw Before Midnight in a theater down the street from me, with a dozen or two other people in the room. And the funny thing about watching that half-hour-plus argument in a room with other people was, nobody laughed at the same lines. The fight was so all-encompassing yet specific that everyone found their own truth, their own moments to relate to. Everyone in that room had engaged in some aspects of that argument before, and very few of us shared those moments.
Linklater might as well have put an ink blot on the screen. But I suppose he already did that in A Scanner Darkly.