For Christopher & Rooster
i. There is no way to tell what the middle-aged woman who sits alone on her bed is thinking at the moment the pale morning light enters the room and spills across her nakedness. Perhaps she is musing on the escape plans of the businessman reading his evening paper while his dark-haired wife in half shadow fumbles absently at the keys on the piano, already bored with their young marriage, the brown door on the wall behind them a simultaneous oasis of possibility and statement of oppression. So many curtainless windows and closed doors highlighting the clever illusion of paint: vacant squares and rectangles that provide no true escape, merely egress into yet another Hopper interior that tells a similar story, trapped as we all are inside our own cubicles of memory and the compulsion to revisit regret. People at work fascinated him. It wasn't the actual work itself that deserved such attention, but those performing the work: some unobtrusive clerk or secretary, their sexuality cocooned in tight office clothes that constrain more than they entice. You would think the world had gone deaf or that these numbed people, self-absorbed and lost to each other, had nothing left to say, buried beneath the night's sadness inside a diner or an automat with its stale berry pies locked behind small glass doors. A woman wearing a white hat sits at a table sipping her coffee with one glove on-- the night presses its black face against the window behind her. A pretty blond usherette working at a local theater slips a dark sierra between herself and those watching a film, then descends into the Technicolor cinema playing in her own head. And along Main Street one bright Sunday morning in late summer only a striped barber pole is awake enough to make any noise. ii. So many dusks have piled up here, identical blurs, collected like discarded cans of used motor oil. This is a landscape where you might expect something startling to occur at civilization's last outpost before the frontier-- a spaceship to appear overhead, a blonde wearing red lipstick and driving a red convertible to pull up seeking directions to Hollywood. But nothing like that ever happens in this place, just the hunched shoulders of an innocuous middle-aged man checking on his three red gas pumps with their insufferably blank white faces bolted upright alongside a deserted dirt road that empties abruptly into pine woods. Hopper's buildings and shadows are always more expressive than the people who reside in space that feels unoccupied. So, Gas is less about the attendant and his gas pumps than the vista of trees and sky that exact a quiet whimper from the man himself--or is it the viewer who makes this utterance--as both are overwhelmed by the certain nature of Nature's indifference. And while the man tries to keep busy, his station clean and well-lighted, open for business, the only business to be conducted on this road tonight concerns an aging man and his thoughts as darkness descends around him, and darker still lurks further down the road at the vanishing point, that bend where the forest dissolves into green pines gone shapelessly black. iii. Hopper's people wait alone, even when others inhabit the same room. We are left to imagine what it is they are waiting for--the way late autumn sunlight casts itself on the side of a white house, evoking a particular emotion that cannot be easily communicated. Hopper's people stare blankly out of open windows and framed doorways. We are left to imagine what it is they are looking at" perhaps some tragedy undergone years ago, but remembered still-- or a premonition about to arrive, the ineluctable approach of sorrow. Hopper's people have nowhere to go, static in sunlight or daydreaming on a train. We are left to imagine where they come from and where they are going-- perhaps, if they knew how carefully we have been observing them, they might pull down the window shade or go back indoors, shamed by what their clothes fail to hide. iv. When for the last time I touched the cold alabaster of my horizontal father's hands and face, both gone hard as marble, it was like gazing at one of Hopper's railroad scenes. No train in sight, it having already passed this junction, and no future trains on the schedule. A vacated station house was all that remained strung with long shadows cast by early morning light or seamlessly blending into the sunset's encroaching darkness. Stretch of empty track leading to nowhere.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2013|
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