Every Single Important Person
seeing the future
[Image: I watch a video on TikTok. A young woman puts her phone down in front of her, bending towards the camera. She zooms in closer to her face as the dialogue cuts in over the low riff of the background music. What happened at the girls’ camp, Peppermint Patty? Her eyebrows raised slightly, mouth in a soft grimace, she takes a couple steps back from the lens. I finally saw the Little Red Haired Girl that Chuck is always talking about. Looking away from the camera, she tips her torso forward so her hands fall to her knees. Her open curls fall over her shoulders, over her Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” t-shirt. The corners of her mouth turn downwards. And you know what I did? I cried, Linus. She brushes her hair out of her face with both hands and an exasperated laugh. I cried and cried. Her hands on her hips. Better give me my blanket back, Linus’s voice responds, I don’t think I’m ready for this. She rolls her eyes back towards the ceiling and stares up with her mouth agape, one leg bouncing at the knee. I stood in front of that Little Red Haired Girl and saw how pretty she was. The woman touches her hand to her heart for one quick second before sweeping it away. She slips in and out of lip sync with the dialogue. Suddenly I realized why Chuck has always loved her, she crosses her arms—and I realized that no one would ever love me that way—and uncrosses them to wave her hands asynchronously towards herself with soft wrists. I imagine a light waft of air hitting her face with every gesture. I started to cry and I couldn’t stop. When she folds forward again, her lower body is out of frame, her face in semi-profile towards the bottom of the screen. I made a fool of myself but I didn’t care, I have a big nose and my split ends have split ends. Her hand clutches her heart and she seems to mouth the unspoken words “oh, my baby.” And I’ll always be funny looking. And I think I’m gonna cry again. She’s so pretty, she just sort of sparkles. The ceiling fan above her is turned off, but its lights are on, and the small disco ball hung from the center glows against the back of her hair. I’ll never sparkle. I’m a lead fence, I’m a plain Jane. She waves her hands across her chest and back, up over her head and around, reacting with silent screams, clutching her face as she listens. The overlaid text in the corner reads: the charlie brown writers forgot to put a trigger warning on this. I did not think I would cry at a CHARLIE BROWN SOUND, but here we are. JUSTICE FOR PEPPERMINT PATTY.]
The other night, Phil and I watched The Future. I saw it when it first came out, in 2011, and was reminded of it in December when Chelsea and I discussed my manuscript, and one essay in particular where I describe seeing Miranda July walking in SoHo on the corner by Val’s apartment. I can’t remember the dialogue exactly, but Miranda July’s character has a fantasy of being watched as she does all the tasks of her day, Chelsea explained. If she were watched, she theorizes, then she might not have to make or even do anything. There are some potential resonances with your ideas here. I, of course, did not remember this scene nearly twelve years later, so I watched it again.
When July’s character, Sophie, first meets Marshall, they’re speaking on the phone. She’s been trying and failing to create a dance to post on YouTube, and on this day chooses to distract herself by calling a phone number she’s found. Sophie and Marshall talk about the weather, comparing the shape of the clouds outside their respective windows and the relative position of the sun; they realize they’re both facing East. She decides to gauge his distance from her by screaming out her bedroom window, hanging up first, so that he won’t simply hear her through the phone. She calls him back and he tells her he couldn’t hear it. After their affair begins, we see them lying on the couch in his apartment. They mainly face the same direction, with Sophie lying over him, her back against his chest.
I was cleaning the kitchen and I felt like you were watching me wipe the counter. But like, as if it was fascinating, you know? Like when a celebrity walks their dog, or buys groceries or something like that. That’s how I felt all day.
And that’s good? Hmm. Maybe we could work out an arrangement, ‘cause I’d like to watch you.
Yeah, I think that would be very boring for you, especially when I sleep.
It would make me very happy to watch you all the time. You’d like that?
I mean if it was really 'all the time,' then yeah, I wouldn’t have to do anything ever. I wouldn't have to try.
I had you totally wrong. I thought you were more…
I don’t know, independent.
Their affair continues, Sophie leaves her partner Jason (Hamish Linklater, his mop of curls matching July’s too perfectly not to get an honorable mention) and she appears to have moved in temporarily with Marshall. After drawing a bath for Marshall’s daughter, Sophie’s inspired to create her dance. She shrouds herself in a large yellow t-shirt, entering it upside down to slip her feet through the sleeves, and reaching upwards slowly. The fabric stretches taut over her head. She undulates across the floor like the almost-fluid wax inside a lava lamp before she stands, her legs emerging further through the sleeves, her head still covered and her arms tucked into her torso. She moves on tiptoe and raises her legs slowly into the air. Marshall appears at the door, finally watching. He watches Sophie turn against the wall, tilt a painting with her shoulder, then step back and spin. She stops dancing and the shirt falls from her face. Sophie and Marshall look at each other, each caught off guard realizing that it wasn’t how they thought it’d be. He exits the doorframe.
[Image: On Tik Tok, a woman brings her hand to her face, blocking the view of her mouth. I’m convinced, she says—she scratches her nose as she begins to speak, her rings catching the light—that every single important person, she removes her hand and holds it up in front of her—her elbow on the desk, palm down and open—or important…She stops short, quiet. Her hand swivels back to scratch her shoulder at a nervous pace. Her eyes shift around the room, all white with white floors. Her two gold necklaces swing gently in front of her chest, but not against it, a clue to the forward angle of her neck, the trajectory of her seated posture. She grabs a pair of magenta tweezers off the desk in front of her, where it had been centered between two white AirPods cases. Her hand settles in her lap. I lost interest. I don’t want to talk about that anymore. She grabs the phone and as she lifts it up the room tilts to the left, shaking as she stops recording.]
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