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Best Screenplay

In Fiction on May 2, 2009 at 8:00 am

Oscar remembers only two things about Dr. Weisman’s office: a framed print of a watercolor depicting a nautical scene, and a tissue box with horribly rendered flowers.

— How was your weekend? Dr. Weisman asks.

— He watched some DVDs on the couch, pants off and a beer in hand. Sometimes dick limp out the boxer flap. He would get hard and superimpose the silhouette of his dong onto the woman’s face on the screen. Ha, best supporting actress.

— You seem to be speaking of yourself in the third person.

— Best foreign film: your colonoscopy.

— Very funny, do you always speak of yourself in the third person?

— He’s got this idea for a screenplay, sees all the scenes in his head.

— By he, I assume you.

— The movie begins with a close-up on a man’s face, so close all you can see are his eyes. He’s crying. One tear is already down his cheek. We don’t know what he’s crying about until the camera pulls back and we realize he’s at the museum looking at a Vermeer.

— That’s a nice image, do you enjoy art?

— His father is dying, which might explain why he’s more emotional than usual. He doesn’t usually cry. Anyways, he goes about his day. The details are not important, but how they intersect. We’ll get to that later. What’s important is about in the middle of the movie, on his way to the hospital, he passes a young woman, a nurse. They’re on the sidewalk, on opposite ends. The WALK man lights up and everyone begins to move through the intersection. That’s when they pass each other, the man and the nurse. The camera zooms in, slow motion, to when their shoulders touch. It’s a heightened point of the movie, where the music swoons. The rest of the movie follows the nurse throughout her day. Only thing is, it’s like a Rorschach inkblot – the entire movie is a mirror of itself, with the man and nurse as vectors whose actions and feelings are congruent to each other. Each correlated incident, the precedent and subsequent, is exactly the same time apart from when their shoulders touch. For example, her going to the dry cleaners is chronologically equidistant to when the man spills coffee on himself. She picks up her mail, he writes a letter to someone. She grabs her keys, he locks his door. The entire movie will be full of these signs. The audience will be aware of their chronically imminent, yet never manifest union.

— I gather you’ve thought about this for some time.

— Who?

— I mean, I gather he – the writer of the script – has thought about this for some time.

— What are you talking about?

— Never mind.

— Anyway, we follow her around, until – ultimately – she goes to the museum. By this time everyone knows she’s going to the Vermeer. She sits down and the camera zooms onto her face directly to the eyes, just like the beginning of the movie. Two enormous eyes, imagine that.

— What happens then?

— She slowly begins to cry.

— Is the nurse nursing the man’s father?

— No, that’s the beauty of it. Everything in their universe is connected except for the most likely and obvious thing. The camera cuts into black at the exact moment when the tear on her cheek is at the respective place on the man’s cheek when the movie opens.

— What is the movie called?

— Best Screenplay.

— Seems like you’re trying to be clever.

— That’s not my problem.

— How far into the script are you?

— It’s only in my head.

• Originally published on Writers’ Bloc on 2 March, 2009.

Jimmy Chen maintains a blog and archive of his writing at the The Embassy of Misguided Zen. His chapbook, Typewriter, is published by Magic Helicopter Press. He lives in San Francisco.

  1. This piece just molested me sideways.

    I’m sure I had something even more clever to say here, but I can’t think now.

  2. i wrote a screenplay called Gamers, it is my first and last screenplay, nicely done.

  3. You should seriously think about writing more. The chapbook going to be bought, fly through the air to the Boogie Down Bronx, and read (by me) on the 1 train, as ap.

  4. thank you people. good times.

  5. An Unreliable Witness blames Facebook for making us all speak in the third person. But when you’re constructing movies in your head in the third person, now that’s real class.

  6. I have an urge to write in multi-person now. He does, don’t I.

    (that’s code for, I liked this, and it inspired me!)

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