deaf, lovelife, screen

A Quiet Place

more tales of dating, meeting, relating, eating….  also, horror movie A Quiet Place gets shredded, magic mushrooms, bluebells forever, and spot the punctum

 
Stuck by this River
Putney. The south side of the river. Almost 7pm, several weeks ago.
 
They’re sitting on a raised park bench by the river embankment on a warm evening coming off the back of a hot day. Their section of the embankment is peaceful and calm and far from the racket at Putney Bridge. Sitting facing the beautiful water, neither of them saying much, a peak moment that should be romantic – but isn’t. 
 
The river is laid out flat. The evening sun bounces off the skin of the water as briefly it shivers with the after-ripples of a row boat sliding upstream. It’s a coxed four racer. The coxman is hale and mid-life with a red face and a red beard. He’s wearing an old green bicycle cap with a pirate patch on the peak and a cricket jumper draped across his shoulders. The cox has a small dog sat in his lap and he’s drinking wine from a crystal glass, smiling at the dog, then at the light, and perhaps at the oarsmen doing the work, and surely just broadly pleased at the momentary brilliance of his situation. 
 
The woman and the man watch from the bench. The man smiles ruefully. He turns to her. Ever worry other people are having a better life than you?
 
She laughs. She draws out the thought. Possibly, she says. More carefree, perhaps.
 
More fun.
 
She looks at her lap. This is fun, she says with a tone.
 
This isn’t fun. This is nice. Fun would be all this, then dinner, film, and sex.
 
She shakes her head. Why are we talking about sex?
 
Putney by the River

Her phone rings. She looks at the screen, says she doesn’t recognise the number, but takes the call anyway. The caller’s the woman she defriended last year and then refriended over the winter – Myla, who must have changed numbers when they were on their break. They start talking about Prosecco for their combined birthday party. She looks peeved. 

He walks over to the river and back to the bench at the end of the call – when she tells him a story. You know, Myla’s got great boobs. You’ll see, she says. But when we first became friends they looked terrible. They hung wrongly, horribly. I told her you’re not wearing the right bra for your boobs! Go get a proper fitting! So many women don’t know this, all their lives. After the fitting she was transformed. Now she’s got an OBE and is telling me what’s happening at my party. 

 
Is there a moral here, about good lingerie getting you far in life?
 
No.
 
I read an article recently about the history of the suit. A tailor from Saville Row said 95 per cent of men dress to the left. I was amazed.
 
I thought that was common knowledge.
 
Not in my small world. Why so many penises to the left? What’s wrong with the right?
 
She stares at the river. She knows he’s watching her, waiting, but she doesn’t reply.
 
Maybe it’s something to do with how the ballsack hangs, pulling the penis across. 
 
Why are we talking about ballsacks and penises!!!?
 
You said bra.
 
You said sex.
 
Across the water, on the north bank of the Thames, the sun drops down behind Fulham Football Ground. He says, Come, let’s go eat.
 
They roll their bikes towards the main road – past the clapboard rowing clubs, flags flying from the balconies; along the back of a Victorian terrace and beyond the redbrick Edwardian mansion blocks, stacked up high. Past the south approach to the bridge, which is dense and hectic with cars, cyclists, buses, and walkers with eyes glued to their phones. 
 
There’s a Brazilian restaurant at the top of the high street close to the cinema. They stand outside and glance at the menu and she says let’s eat here. He says, fine. Then through the window he spots the communal salad bar and immediately his gut cries don’t do this. There’s a whole street of other places doing food. But sometimes a course that’s been decided upon cannot be reversed. They go inside, crossing the salmon-pink floor tiles to an orange and black table with electric-turquoise vinyl seating. 
 
They sit. The waiter comes over. He is tall and from that high up his words fly away from his lips, carried off by the ceiling fan. His speech explaining the complicated serving system is missed. As they contemplate the salad bar and loading up their plates, he says, I didn’t hear a word of that. I don’t know what I’m doing. And so she explains it all again.
 
You’re very patient.
 
Even after she demonstrates how the Meat Yes, Meat No cards pinned to the side of their table are supposed to work, he still gets into a muddle with the beef. She watches over his plate as he eats and she keeps flipping the card to Yes, prompting the waiter to bring more trays of meat. First chicken, then pork, then lamb, some extra beef. He chews away and does his best but wants to say the truth, that this food is terrible. Never, ever all-day buffet – could this be his tip for a happy life? But the larger issue is all the dead animal. He tells her as they split the bill it’s possible his meat-eating days are closer to being over than he realised.
 
A Quiet Place, Film Poster

Jumpers

At the cinema, they are the only two people in the auditorium. And then one more person arrives just as the film starts. They have big state-of-the-art seats that move and recline, with rising foot rests and swivel trays big enough to hold a large drink, popcorn bucket, and a bag of sweets. But they didn’t buy any snacks and regret this missed opportunity with the fancy trays. 
 
The film is A Quiet Place. It’s been out a few weeks already with many people saying it’s amazing, scary, and very clever. He never says No to clever.
 
The premise is simple but smart: dark and gory and extremely violent aliens take over the world and kill anything that makes a sound. (We never discover why the aliens are so violent.) Most of the people on planet earth have been wiped out before the start of the film. Except for the leftover few who realise that the aliens are blind but their hearing is acute, and to stay alive you must keep perfectly silent. Make a sound and you’re dog meat.
 
A lot of the film takes place in silence. This provoked newspaper comment pieces on the current state of etiquette at the cinema – how some audience members spoiled it for others munching on their snacks. The film raises other issues worth dissecting – horror always carries subtext.

A Quiet Place is short and pared down with a singular storyline following the fate of a family of four trying to eke out a new life in the woods. One of the children is profoundly deaf and the whole family already use sign language, giving them a starting chance of outsmarting the alien space invaders. 

 
When not being mute, A Quiet Place is extremely loud and close-up and is good for frights and jolts. There’s also a neat plot twist involving feedback from hearing devices, which he could relate to. However, they agree that in total the film felt slight and maybe untrue to its own premise.  
 
It didn’t make sense, she says.
 
He nods. Typically, as a genre, horror is more concerned with sensation than internal logic.
 
You sound like a college lecture. She wriggles her nose. What I want to know is, how did they rig up all those lights at the farm without making a sound?
 
As she says this, an ambulance passes by, its siren screaming. He says, I understand aliens wanting to kill humans for their racket. 
 
Sure, but why did the family need all that farmland and those silos? And how did they get all that sorted?
 
He shrugs. I have no idea. I specifically didn’t like the knitwear.
 
The knitwear?
 
All those chunky jumpers they had on. Did you see? And the cute bobble hats. No? The family looked like they fell out of a hipster camping catalogue. The dad’s jumper had elbow patches. Him with his craft beard and Emily Blunt in her homemaker’s dress and cardi, folding towels, baking bread, etcetera. 

A Quiet Place, Emily Blunt
chunky knit
He pauses for breath. The jumpers looked very new, did you not notice? Do you think they made the jumpers themselves? Before, or after the apocalypse? 
 
What are you talking about?
 
I don’t know. I kept being drawn to the knitwear. Like the fabrics were saying something.
 
The jumpers didn’t bother me.
 
A Quiet Place, Movie Still
the bobble hat

They cycle the short distance to the train station. From there, she heads south, while he goes east. There’s something not right about them jumpers, he says. Mark my words! It’s the last thing he says as her rail carriage doors slides shut.

A Quiet Place, Movie Still
two more knits, one with elbow patches
In bed, he thinks about not having sex, and then pictures several jumpers hanging on a washing line. The jumpers are set against the backdrop of a flawless blue sky and are dancing in the breeze. 
 
The jumpers remind him of semaphore. But signalling what? He worries about the consequences of the thought not followed. He once lost his wallet. At the time, at back of his head, he knew it had slipped under the bookcase and that if he’d only looked harder, rather than rushing to cancel his cards immediately, because Vela insisted, then, well, life would’ve been simpler. The wallet showed up a couple of weeks later. 
 
The unfollowed thought in a story might save the day, solve the crime, stop the killer. But then also there are many elusive, evanescent thoughts simply leading nowhere, that you’d be better off letting go of right away. Instead you slavishly keep pursuing them round your brain, over and over, which is a brand of madness. But, how do we know which thought to follow? And which one to ditch? And who says we can manage our thoughts anyway?

Roland Barthes
a smoking French intellectual wearing a green pullover
Camera Lucida
Let’s take this from another angle. And then we’ll get back to A Quiet Place.
 
On Monday 25 February 1980, in Paris, the French philosopher and writer Roland Barthes attended a lunch hosted by François Mitterrand – who would in fifteen months become Socialist president of France. Mitterrand enjoyed the company of intellectuals – to gossip and keep up with the world of ideas. 

After the lunch, Barthes decided to walk home to his apartment on rue Servandoni. At about quarter to four, Barthes paused before crossing rue des Écoles. Witnesses reported seeing Barthes checking left and right before stepping into the road. However he failed to spot an oncoming laundry van and was knocked down. Unconscious and bleeding from the nose, Barthes was taken to hospital and kept in over night. The next day, Barthes’ publisher announced that the writer’s condition was stable and there was no cause for concern. But Barthes was not released from his hospital bed. And he never would be. (He died in hospital on March 26, 1980.)
 
Back at his apartment, a stack of finished copies of Barthes’ new book Camera Lucida awaited his autograph. The early reviews for this unique study of photography had, so far, been quite disappointing. Critics had expected a semiotic masterpiece on the elusive visual art form, a totalising encapsulation of what to make of and how to think on photos. 
 
But with Camera Lucida, Barthes had composed a gentle, emotional, and quite personal essay in 48 fragments, with a guiding narrative concerning how photography and a bereavement had become painfully intertwined in his thoughts. Reviewers were puzzled by Barthes’ preoccupation with personal sentiment and the absence of any theoretical rigour. Had photography escaped the grand master of signs and semiotics? 
 
Barthes seemed less concerned with teasing out the laws of photography, than with using the subject of photos as a way of pointing up the parts of life and experience that resist elucidation. See, it’s true, the thoughts just keep sliding out of reach, defying even the philosopher’s grasp – because it’s love, and it’s death, and it’s about missing someone, and because these are things we all struggle to articulate, let alone comprehend. 
 
Through Camera Lucida, Barthes tracks personal meanings in a digressive style that is awkward to read in places. And yet, after all these years, and after so many other learned texts on photography, Camera Lucida, which actually, in truth, says very little about photography, continues to be one of the most popular books on the subject. 

Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes


In the meantime, what makes a good photo asks the Annoying Son

It’s morning, it’s breakfast, he’s pointing at the framed photos hanging on the opposite wall. Is it composition, lighting, technique?

 
Is it subject matter?
 
Right. Or the kind of camera you use. Old cameras versus digital? 
 
Or could it be the individual response of the viewer that makes a great photo?
 
The Annoying Son looks doubtful at this vague, woolly suggestion. I think it’s good composition, he concludes, then takes the conversation off in another direction. And with it the moment passes, the opportunity to explain Barthes’ celebrated insights into how the photo and the viewer connect. 
 
Let’s do it anyway; reminding ourselves as we do that Barthes’ theory of the one-two of photography is just a proposition, not something that’s been scientifically proven. 
 
In Camera Lucida, Barthes asserts that often there are two levels of apprehension occurring when the viewer regards an image. The first level is the public dimension: the palpable subject matter of the photo, and the context and possible meanings which derive out of history, culture and aesthetics. This Barthes calls the studium; describing the studium as being ‘a kind of education’. 
 
And then there is another level to a photograph, the level beneath, or beside the studium – often a small detail or minor feature of the composition which captures our singular attention. This detail Barthes calls the punctum. ‘Certain details may “prick” me,’ suggests Barthes – who helpfully provides readers with a string of examples of what he’s talking about.
William Klein, Little Italy, New York 1954
‘What I stubbornly see are one boy’s bad teeth.’ 
(William Klein, Little Italy, New York 1954)
Idiot Children in an Institution, New Jersey, Lewis H Hine,1924
‘I dismiss all knowledge, all culture… I see only the boy’s huge Danton collar, the girl’s finger bandage.’
(Lewis H Hine: Idiot Children in an Institution, New Jersey, 1924)
 
The punctum may not hook you, suggests Barthes. But when it does, the minor detail reaches out and subsumes ‘the entirety of my reading; an intense mutation of my interest.’
Paul Nadar: Savorgnan De Brazza, 1882
‘The punctum for me is the second boy’s crossed arms.’
(Paul Nadar: Savorgnan De Brazza, 1882)
 
The eyes lured by the folded arms move the photo to another place of meaning: ‘the punctum… is an addition: it is what I add to the photograph and what is nonetheless always there.’
 
This notion of the punctum as a subjective event can fruitfully be carried over to other art forms. Often when the punctum ‘pricks’ us, as the viewer becomes pierced by an item from a book, or a play, or a film, we may find, with some digging, that the item is loaded with larger meanings than is first apparent. 
 
Which brings us back to the nigglesome knitwear of A Quiet Place.

A Quiet Place, Movie Still

 

If They Hear You, They Hunt You
The next morning, cycling to work, he figures out the jumpers from the film. The knitwear punctum decompresses in his head, finally exploding to life as he flies through the traffic lights at Oval, taking a sharp right by the cricket ground. 
 
At last he gets what the knitwear means to him – the knitwear is a manicule pointing to the film’s dubious soul. Every horror movie has its subtext and it looks like A Quiet Place has grown an ugly one.
 
The film’s pattern woollens are the kind of gear certain dudes wear during the colder months. Specifically urban middle class white males. The knitwear is craftsy, artisanal, almost anti-consumerist, while showcasing a certain level of affluence.  It’s the type of knitwear that often comes with a beard – and so it is in A Quiet Place – and also signals an unimpeachable set of liberal political values. 
 
It’s these unimpeachable values that mask the problem with the film-maker’s choice of alien, even though arguably the problem is blatantly obvious the whole time. The violent alien in A Quiet Place is seemingly everywhere, and is big, angry, and dark.
 
In this political moment of Black Lives Matter, Taking a Knee and #resistance; during an era of a raised consciousness for the plight of the disadvantaged; in a time of white anxiety over alleged demographic displacement; of dog whistle messaging; and the received wisdom of some that these days it just isn’t safe to speak your mind – along comes A Quiet Place saying hush, don’t make a sound, or the big, dark angry alien will bite your head off. 

A Quiet Place, Movie Still
He wondered, is A Quiet Place a white survivalist horror? The silent majority’s riposte to Get Out – Jordan Peele’s astounding race satire of 2017? 
 
The Silent Majority 
From 1961 to 1966, a liberal-minded US Supreme Court issued a series of binding reformist pronouncements under the leadership of Judge Earl Warren, re-situating the rights of defendants as central to the American justice system. The reforms ranged from the Exclusionary Rule, which renders evidence obtained without a search warrant inadmissible, to police officers being required to notify suspects of their rights. Also, defendants who couldn’t afford a lawyer were to be offered the services of a court-appointed attorney. 
 
These changes followed decades of a rigged system leading to countless miscarriages of justice, largely against the poor and excluded. However, many conservatives felt the justice wing of the federal government had gone soft on crime. ‘As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame,’ declared Richard Nixon, accepting the Republican nomination for president in 1968. ‘We hear sirens in the night.’ Notice this reference to the sound of the fury. Against the loudness of a criminal minority, Nixon promised to speak up for ‘The Silent Majority’, the victimised many, he claimed, forced to suck it up by a liberal cabal intent on privileging the rights of the suspect few.
 
Nixon’s silent majority became a signature term used through his time in office. He merely channeled the views of the diffident many, said Nixon, as he railed against conservative bugbears such as anti-war protestors, civil rights activists, hippies, drugs, pornography, and a liberal Supreme Court. (Off the record, Nixon also listed the black community as a personal bugbear of great concern.)
 
The silent majority was a reactionary call to arms that largely disappeared from the right wing lexicon after Nixon was turfed out of office for being a crook. But recently the silent majority has been revived, invoked with belligerence by the current president, notably during his populist general election campaign.

A Quiet Place, Movie Still

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Said the reactionary to the silent majority. Have you had it up to here with diversity, social justice warriors, gender neutral toilets? Do you believe that WhiteLivesMatter isn’t really so dumb, and where’s the offence in it anyway? Are you thinking what I’m thinking, but are fearful of saying so for being branded a reactionary, or a racist? 
 
In A Quiet Place – #stayquiet – white folk in faux-rustic clothing endure in silence while assailed by appalling depredations coming at them from all sides. You so much as yelp and in seconds dark creatures rip you to pieces. If they hear you, they will hunt you, runs the movie’s tagline. In the rural communities featured in the film, all the victims are white. 

A Quiet Place, Movie Still, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

 

Eventually there is a reckoning. The father in his knitwear, the mother in the cable-stitch cardigan, they both reach for the rifle as they prepare to waste some aliens at close quarters. 
 
But it’s not quite as simple as that. No matter what the US gun lobby may claim – that guns are all you need – the aliens are hard shelled creatures, and it requires more than two barrels of lead to take them out. First the alien has to be made vulnerable. Only then can you shoot it dead. And the way to render the alien vulnerable? Spoiler alert – you do it with white noise. Aliens hate it. White noise is their weakness, it causes their fleshy underbelly to show, leaving them exposed to gunshot. 
 
Ah, the neatness. White noise – the stumbled-upon hack guaranteed to vanquish the enemy. The silent majority triumph by turning up the volume. When you put it like that, the politics under the schematics of A Quiet Place sound a bit rancid. 

Had they watched a reactionary movie by mistake? Drawn inside a cinema in Putney on a warm Thursday evening – lured by good reviews and excellent word of mouth. Gulled into enjoying white survivalist propaganda? Well and truly Trumped.
 
So, some may say, Yes. But others, No, not so. Not at all. Ridiculous. He did wonder though. 
 
Not that he was suggesting – seriously, not suggesting for one second – that the writer director John Krasinski consciously plotted a hate movie, then cast himself and his real-life wife Emily Blunt as co-leads for the production. A good liberal like Krasinski is unlikely to have wilfully set out to make a scary movie which doubles up as a shrill rejoinder to progressive screen hits like Black Panther or Get Out. Krasinski probably didn’t even think about race. Tapping into the rising swamp of white cultural resentment was no doubt also far from his mind. Nevertheless, A Quiet Place is wide open to accusations of smuggling white backlash tropes through the box office. And quite a prodigious box office return it’s been, with a sequel already planned. 
 
A Quiet Place, Movie Still, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds
The next occasion they met, he updated her with the latest on the knitwear. He told her he’d figured it all out. See, he said. I went with it, I followed the thought. 
 
By now it was the weekend, but still warm. They were down in Kent, walking through silent woodlands. We saw a Trump movie he shouted, and we enjoyed it!

She looked at him suspiciously, Are you sure?

Bluebells in Kent
 
The woodland was carpeted with bluebells stretching into the distance. The sunlight flooding through the gaps in the treetops lit the flowers in different shades of violet and blue. 

He rehashed his theory on A Quiet Place. He admitted at first glance it seemed far-fetched. But that after a while she’d find it pretty irresistible. Run it round your head for a day, he said. For him, by now, there was only the one way of thinking about A Quiet Place, with the lead family’s egregious knitwear the gateway motif to the movie’s unlikeable core. 

She listened to all he said, but offered nothing in response. Later during their walk she twisted her ankle. He was watching her from behind and saw the left leg go over. At the pub at the end, she propped it on the chair next to him. She said, Look, you bad-luck provider!
 
She’s called him this before. By text, with a smiley face. She claimed she’d had a lot of bad luck since they’d met, too much to be just a coincidence. Maybe it was so. In the time they’d been involved, she broke a tooth, she’d had two bad colds (telling him that she never normally gets colds), her car was bashed into, her dad got very sick, and now her ankle was twisted and swollen.

More Bluebells in Kent
 
They barely speak on the train going back to London. After nine hours of just the two of them, what is left to say? The carriage is filled with warm, pink people. His hips hurt from all the walking, but he says nothing out of respect for her ankle. She tells him he hasn’t eaten enough today, to have the quiche she bought for him. He looks out the window, at the trees and villages flooding past, the outlines blurry in the fading light. He considers the allegation of being bad luck. How can you be another person’s bad luck? And are you morally culpable? The absurd idea spins round his head, which he notices is otherwise quite empty. That’s how the bad thoughts operate, they repeat and repeat while chasing all other thoughts away, and he has no idea how to stop this from happening.
 
Bad thoughts, stupid thoughts, useless thoughts, destructive thoughts. Philip Roth once said he wrote fiction all day to get away from his stupid thoughts.

Magic Mushrooms

 

Should’ve Taken Acid
These ruminative loops may stem from life issues. They are also the product of brain activity taking place in what neuroscientists call the default mode network. This default mode network is a web of overlapping hubs in the brain – from the hippocampus to the medial prefrontal cortex – where the brain talks to itself about itself. 
 
The default mode network is the place where the brain develops bad habits, composing what the woman currently sitting opposite him – watching him as he eats his quiche – calls negative internal scripts. This is where alcoholics tell themselves pernicious stories – like, I really have to have that drink. Or where the depressive will repeatedly berate themself, himself, herself, for being a rubbish person, who should’ve done better. 
 
The writer Michael Pollan radically suggests that one way to counter the default mode network’s (DMN) destructive tendencies, is to take psilocybin – magic mushrooms – or LSD. It is a venturesome medical theory that he claims is slowly gaining clinical purchase. Pollan points to emerging research which indicates that hallucinogens temporarily short-circuit the ruminative loop and shut down the DMN – and in doing this may help with battling addiction or depression. Hallucinogens can also lessen death anxiety in terminal patients through easing the ego to sleep.

It's a Trip
It’s a trip
It was a serious case of repetitive thinking that started Roland Barthes fixating on photos. The spur was the death of his mother, with whom the writer had lived for much of his life. It had been three years and cognitively he just couldn’t get past her demise. Locked inside grief, Barthes went looking for the absent parent in old photographs taken through her life. 
 
The photos of his mother that Barthes sifts in Camera Lucida are never quite right though – they don’t reveal the person he missed, they are never precisely his woman’s face as he knew it, even if objectively it is his mother he’s looking at. And then, at last, he comes across a picture of her aged five taken in a winter garden – an ancient image which captures her spirit. This discovery causes a subtle, yet seismic shift in Barthes’ view on what a photo means. 
 
For the rest of the book, as far as Barthes is concerned the essential drama of photography is the way it foregrounds absence, departure, and the inescapable reality of death in life. ‘He is dead and he is going to die,’ he moans, flipping looking through archive images from the 19th century. 

Portrait of Lewis Payne, Alexander Gardner,1865
‘He is dead and he is going to die…’
(Alexander Gardner: Portrait of Lewis Payne 1865)

 

We’re all going to die, becomes the general complaint  – a prefiguration, argues Barthes, that photography forces us to contemplate. Is this really so? Are Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr actually death cults? More reasonably, did Barthes develop a sixth sense during his long hours spent with old snaps, that his own time on this earth was runing down?
 
Barthes couldn’t stop himself thinking about mortality, and the photo archives returned him again and again to the subject of loss. It is a preposterous image perhaps, but magic mushrooms might have helped the great thinker move on, to break the stasis – psychoactive pliers severing the negative thought loop. Or maybe he was already getting there himself, by seeking brighter, sunnier thoughts to bring into his life. His new project, the manuscript he worked on the morning of the accident, was titled ‘One Always Fails to Speak of the Things One Loves’.
 
Was this the semiologist’s conceptual upgrade, his glass-half-full reset, summoned to chase away the blues? Was the great Roland Barthes plotting a gratitude journal – as they are called in the self-help community? 

Loser Redux
His day out in Kent ended at home with a skim through the backpages of Camera Lucida, and whiskey. The hips ached, but the thought of the bluebells made him feel happy in the moment. He could write this down – call it in praise of small joys. No doubt we might all of us feel the gain from listing the good things and downplaying the bad. 
 
A gratitude journal. Hmmm, where do I start…?
 
But he couldn’t get it going. He sat there and watched himself failing to do it – there was too much self-consciousness in the room. He remembered the time he said to an ex that they should note down the things they liked about each other – given how readily they listed their faults – and she burst out laughing.

His mind wanders. He reads an interview with the novelist Sheila Heti, intrigued by her eulogy in praise of life’s downers: ‘Only in the pursuit of failure can a person really be free,’ observes Heti, ‘Losers may be the avant garde of the modern age.’ 

He thinks of the special tang that goes with happy sad. He reflects almost fondly on how melancholy filters the light.
More Bluebells in Kent


A week passes. They meet again. Her ankle is strapped, but there are no signs of a limp. They are drinking tea in a cafe next to a cinema. His favourite cinema in London. They’ve just been to see a film with subtitles.

 
I saw my friend last night, she says. 
 
Instantly he knows which friend: the ex she doesn’t much like much; the musician.
 
We went to dinner. We talked about the film
 
Film?
 
A Quiet Place. He really loved it. I explained your theory, and let me tell you, he did not like your theory at all. 

You surprise me.

He dismissed it on the spot.
 
You and him used to be, you know, together. Of course he’s going reject my wacky reading – a complete stranger who slept with his ex. I continue to like my theory.
 
Yeah, me too. He asked if you’re black. 
 
Me! Black?
 
He couldn’t imagine a white person interpreting a Hollywood movie like you said. 
 
She stirs her tea slowly. She’s thinking hard with that closed focus she has at times. Using the attached string, she lifts the tea bag out of the cup and flips it into a small bowl in the middle of the speckled table. She does it in a way that makes no drips. He admires the dexterity. He says if he did that with his teabag it would be carnage, mess everywhere.
 
There you go again, she says, spitting your negative scripts. Santosh [not his real name] said your view on the film couldn’t be true for the simple reason that as a person of colour, well-attuned to cultural racism, he’d have sensed if there was something off. He said it was the same for me, that as a woman of colour I’d surely know if I was watching a racist movie. As I didn’t, it proves you’re wrong.
 
Shame.
 
To be honest, I think he’s just cross he didn’t think of it himself. He claims none of the critics called out the film for being racist. 
 
He smiles. Wow, you two really talked about me. I’m surprised my ears weren’t burning. He start to laughs, knowing the kickback’s coming.
 
We discussed your film, that’s all.

Thought you’d say that.
 
Later that day, he thinks again of bluebells, her ankle, bad luck. And, for the very last time, he thinks about knitwear at the pictures. Once more, waiting for sleep to come down, he sees bright patterned jumpers flapping in the breeze. It’s boring and it is annoying and he wants it to stop. He gets out the iPad and types in a search, simply: Is A Quiet Place Racist? At a glance, the answers that come back are mixed, some say Yes, while others say No – with some of the NOs enraged and militant at the suggestion.
 
The Google results are not a proof of concept. But knowing that at least some people had similar ideas about the film negates the thought itself finally – and that’s all he needs. And shortly he fell asleep. And there was great silence.

A Quiet Place, Movie Still, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
 

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