Help Wanted: The Figure (WIP)

Before you read: I want to supplement this whole thing with the multimedia treatment The Last Nine Months received but taken to another degree. Proofing this draft will help me see if this is an idea that I want to keep working on or if it’s time to look at something else. I want to know if the story makes sense and if the central metaphor needs further work or to be scrapped all together. If something resonates with you creatively and this seems like a project you’d like to explore then please reach out to me.


The visuals are just crumbs I have laying around that look interesting.


There's a Better Title I Haven't Thought of Yet

Scene 1


A spotlight cuts through the dearth of light. The Fresnel honing the sharp edges of the beam slicing through His curtains at the end of another night. Someone is watching.


This happens most nights; just after crawling into bed, He faces the window. Tracing His sightline through the familiar brightness slicing through an even more familiar darkness, He spots a silhouette. Someone is watching. It's the same, solitary figure every night--staring back. He inhales the weight of The Figure's gaze before forcing His eyes shut and exhales the same dismissive spell that ends this trance a little less convincingly each time.


It’ll be fine in the morning.



Hours of tossing and turning later, He leaves the bed having forgotten about The Figure and its spotlight.


Scene 2


He spends this afternoon sitting on a bright yellow folding chair out in the sun—the dulcet tones emanating from the bedroom spill unapologetically across the front lawn and well down the block of a neighbourhood whose gates are not physical but repellant to the you-know-whos nonetheless. He stares at the fast-moving clouds above--the only thing keeping him from evaporating are his feet nestled in the unkempt grass that draws the ire of the homeowner’s association. His roommates have found themselves in patches of shade scattered across the front lawn; one works on a drawing before laying back and draping a linen scarf over her face. The other pair are beading on the sheet He put out for them—the louder of the two looks back at Him every few songs to recount their best memories of listening to it. Someone nine time zones away is offering to send Him ass pics but He must be in a sun-induced trance because he couldn’t be less interested. The Figure tends to make its presence known when the music gets a little too loud or when His thoughts near the threshold between reflective and meditative. It stares as it paces by—never daring to stop when He’s in a position to respond to the conflict. Sometimes He spots a passing glance of contempt, other times it’s clutched pearls or mouthing some snide remark. But as far as days go, The Figure‘s presence has been unobtrusive and His concentration remains locked on keeping his chair on the ground. Not every intersection of time and space is as peaceful as this one.


Scene 3


He heads inside to finish dinner as the sun sets. He's greeted at the front door by the rich aroma of the ribs that have been in the oven since noon. He unwraps the cocoon of aluminium foil and adds the last of the gelatinous beef stock He made last week. The scents of fresh herbs are carried by a sweetness reminiscent of the unkempt hibiscus bushes He remembers from His front yard back home. Lost in thyme, He reseals the foil and returns the ribs to the low oven. He then removes the tray of mirepoix from the fridge and places it on the counter: par cooked potatoes, red onion and sweet pickles all in a tidy, small dice. After tossing everything into the preheated wok for searing, He checks the temperature of the shallow frying oil in the cast-iron pan on the adjacent burner. It's a little low. Returning his attention to the wok, He adds a knob of butter to the potatoes and turns off the heat to make the dressing: wasabi mayo, honey, dijon mustard--seedy, of course--pickle juice and the obligatory twists of salt and pepper. He adds the potatoes to the dressing. The frying oil was a few degrees from the desired heat—just enough time to slice up the plantain that had been ripening in the fruit bowl. The final plate was fairly monochrome but wonderfully balanced:


Like an expensive dark chocolate, the tender meat melted in His mouth before releasing the flavours of ginger, garlic, honey, onion, habanero, lemon and a hint of soy sauce that had been blending and complexifying during their 5 day marinade. The warm potato salad was covered in the aforementioned dressing. Its rich creaminess was cut through by the green onion and homemade carrot-habanero hot sauce it was finished with. The tropical sweetness of the plantain was enhanced by the lime infused honey it was tossed in. This, coupled with the light, glassy textured crust gave the cook momentary reprieve from the intensity of the other flavours.


This meal did no favours to His arteries but did wonders for His soul.


Scene 4

He goes about the next day or the one after with the usual aplomb, really making the most of another unremarkable night's rest. As the sun sets and the dusk crawls across the outskirts of the city, He’s found himself on an overpass with a few friends. They’re chatting about the card game they played before leaving the house. Someone cheated, poorly, and ruined the hour so they’d stepped outside with a speaker.


With the German Drill paused to converse about the various homes they came from, they spot The Figure at one end of the narrow walkway. Without a word between them, they flank either side of the path and return the gaze they’re all so accustomed to receiving The figure’s stride lacks its usual aplomb as it squirms through the uneven vignette of faces it’s so accustomed to ignoring.


“Gentlemen,” he mutters as it motions to tip a hat that doesn’t exist. The figure visibly shudders as he runs the gauntlet of unsettling stares that should be entirely familiar to him. Bereft of mystery--bankrupt of power--it’s presence is not even worth acknowledging but returning the favour gave the group a good laugh at his expense.


Notes


Scene 1: Short Film

The first section of the room and spotlight could be told through a short film. I think it has a lot of potential for thematically vague but visually striking imagery. All black and white: Grainy and soft, when looking out at the Figure and spotlight but sharp and clearer when looking at the protagonist. Handheld still shots with minimal movement: leaves rustling, sheets ruffling, sound of high voltage drone.


Scene 2: Maybe a photo

I think the visuals are more than clear enough through the words alone but I can visualize a frame that looks really cool. Maybe instead of a front yard its the hill to get down to Sunset Beach. Greens, reds, purples and oranges at golden hour with the buildings and sky in the background. The steepness of the hill would give it a strange dimensionality that might picture really well.


Scene 3: A Painting

This might be a lot to ask but I think a Caravaggio-esque still life of the plate described would be crazy. Maybe it could be framed with a window in the background with a ghost lingering and the Protagonist’s hand pulling the rib out of the meat.


Scene 4: Comic Strip

Visually, I’m thinking of a specific overpass in NV that is perfect. The walkways, the fall, the dark wooded backdrop.

Frame one is the 4 niggas walking down the middle of the road. Heavy vignetting around them. Maybe the foreground has a bit of the bridge, lit by the traffic lights. Perhaps the traffic lights looking like one of those foggy long exposures.

The midground hosts the characters in stride. The background is dark with a deep blue sky that silhouettes to tops of the pine trees in the area. Maybe an silhouetted owl perched on top of one would be cool.

Frames two-four establishes them on the bridge standing in the pathway because it's quiet, cars driving by under them, and then finally someone spotting The Figure who will be represented as a dark amorphous silhouette.

Frames four-whatever are The Figure walking through and their dark veneer falling away to reveal any white dude off the street. Ends with the group laughing.


So:

The Figure is meant to be an exploration of the ways I perceive being marginalized and the interplay that has with my self confidence / self efficacy. When I’m depressed I feel significantly more surveilled than when I’m enjoying myself. I’m always acutely aware that I am not welcome in the neighbourhoods I frequent but when I’m up I enjoy the feeling of being the target of white ire but when I’m down I can’t help but remember the confused faces of every employer when Denver J. Willson-Rymer II shows up in a durag.


The end is a small victory that also puts things into perspective for me. As much as the white gaze is some unspecified boogeyman in my life, it's also the nosy old man I ignore on my way to work. That gaze comes from small, insecure people robbed of their morality by their desperate need for hierarchy.


If working on any of this project interests you then do reach out. If you know someone who might be interested then send me a contact. I'd like to piece it together over the summer but we'll see.


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