ESCAPADES by Charity Coleman
“Who are you? I’m Maria. Will you play with me?
Would you like one of my flowers? You have those, and I’ll have these.
I can make a boat! See how mine floats?
No, you’re hurting me! No!”
(Frankenstein, James Whale: 1931, Universal Pictures)
Eye of lynx and wooden head, yeah.
(I often arrange flowers while wearing black leather gloves)
Mademoiselle takes risks.
I’ll leave you the roses… because of their thorns.
Good does not always do good.
The child is resting. Please lower your voices.
Isn’t my flower pretty? Do not say that word.
She was so pale, so fragile.
Stop, I’m having fun.
“You have stolen death because you’re bored.
There’s nothing good playing at the movies in San Francisco.”
I unmoored my boat (or jumped ship, depending who you ask), and left San Francisco for New York. If all else fails, you can always go to the movies in New York. Lately I’ve been adrift, archiving the names of girls who are led astray or abducted. Sometimes they escape to tell their stories, starting complicated affairs with the media or going undercover.
Fantasies manifest, unfolding in stories. In one of them, we go to Hart Island, Celine and Julie and I. We name our boat The Wicked Pavilion and we go to Hart Island, these girls and I, to exhume the remains of Dawn Powell from her pauper’s grave, stealing old shoes from the abandoned shoe factory where the women prisoners worked. We bring Pepto Bismol for Dawn Powell’s phantom-skeleton stomach woes, and we put her back together with the magic pill trick. We don’t stay long. We leave Hart Island with its bones and ghosts. Someone says something about Natalie Wood falling overboard and drowning in the dead of night. Wet wool socks and a nightgown.
In the boat, we have a conversation about Marie from Au Hasard, Balthazar (Bresson, 1966) and Little Maria who gets thrown in the pond by the monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein. They are somehow the same, Maria and Marie. Daddy wasn’t quite vigilant enough. Marie is cold and wet and she eats the miser’s marmalade or whatever, starving. Bites into an apple, obviously. Little Maria is warm and dry and then she drowns. And there’s Mouchette, rolling down the hill with that white dress in tatters, sullied, sullied, and she also drowns.
Celine and Julie offer us more candy. Dawn Powell rasps in a papery hiss, half-there: “Marie and Maria both really bother me, but mostly Marie. Her lassitude makes me antsy.”
Marie laid it all to waste, opting out.
The Wicked Pavilion passes under a bridge, idle waters lapping at recollection, reminding me of the film Something Wild (Jack Garfein, 1961). Carroll Baker plays Mary Ann, a high school student who is raped while walking home through the park one night. Garters and the crush of his weight.
Morton Feldman was originally asked to do the music for the rape scene, but Aaron Copland ended up with the job and too bad, really, as the piece Feldman composed is the perfect antidote to a rape scene—sweet and unassuming— but the people have spoken, and they want a drum roll. Ralph Meeker plays Mike, a passerby who stops Mary Ann just as she’s about to jump off of the Manhattan Bridge.
Mary Ann is held captive by Mike. Marie undresses at the miser’s cottage. Little Maria gives the monster her flowers. Mouchette goes home with the drunkard.
Sometimes the tables turn. Slap of the oars on water…
Miss, you lost your squirrel!
–collage by Leah Loscutoff< Previous Article