- Grant Access
- Track Account
- Gift Paid Account
|Location:||United States of America|
|Every exhibition day, the Theatre of Sin is packed to the edges.|
They come from all around town, these gawkers, from the rich houses old or custom-built, from the casual cloned buildings of suburbia, from the low-rent apartments and haphazard overgrown lawns of the northern neighborhoods by the interstate. They rub shoulders in the crowd, moving like a herd as they press in at all sides of the amphitheatre. There is a wash of perfume and cologne and sweat in the air , a muddy sludge of sound and scent that rolls you along with it as your nerves no longer tell you where you stop and the roil begins.
Today it is a black man, young and fit and scarred, who sits naked on the stool in the centre of the theatre. He is undisturbed by the crowd around him, by the eyes shocked at his humanity. He is breathing through a cigarillo, eyes half lidded and attentive to nothing at all.
Mothers point. Fathers draw back in mock affront. The sinner, they whisper. Look at him. The sinner.
A man in a suit comes out from backstage, shouting for silence. He's red in the face, buoyed by some passion or righteousness, some sublime force that could drive him here to this mockery, this mayhem. His hands jerk in the air like tormented flags, flying for order, flying for silence. The roar of the crowd settles to a murmur.
The announcer points to the black man. He makes no introduction. Then he leaves.
We are all silent, waiting for the show. The black man takes his time, sucking on the cigarillo, eyes half open. And we hang there in the silence suspended, incapable of moving from this anticipatory control.
"I lead a virtuous life," he says.
A murmur rises from the press of bodies, a rumble he doesn't notice.
"I led a virtuous life," he says, and his voice is deep and dark and smooth. He doesn't move. Like a costume-maker drawing out velvet in preparation to cut, to sew, to form, he draws out those long vowels, savors them like dark chocolate and mysterious things. "I lead a virtuous life. I nodded to the men. I bowed to the ladies. I pet the cats and scratched the dogs. I led a virtuous life."
Sinner, rises the sibilance from the back of the crowd unbidden. Sinner! Sinner!
We are all caught in his spell.
"That's where I go wrong, though. I was an athlete. I was on scholarship. I played good. Played hard. Practice when they told me to. Practice when they didn't. That's where I go wrong. I thought 'here's the world.' You know, that game. 'Here's the world. And the world makes sense. And the world is pretty much kind. People are pretty much good.' And I walk in that world, and I get to thinking, 'You know, I'm pretty good too.'
"Then I hurt a man. Hurt a girl. Wasn't my fault 'less it was. I hurt a guy. Real sorry for it, and I get to thinking, 'What's this? What's this? Ar'n't I a good man?' Go on. Make a mistake here. Do something wrong and I think, hey, I like it. Two holy books, three gods say it's wrong, I like it. Get to thinking, 'Must not be so good. Must not be good at all.''cause there's a dark spot in me, and you know that spot. I didn't know it was, but it's in all of you like you've all got a dick, a cunt, you've all got naked skin under those pretty clothes. Doesn't mean nothing. Just we're human. I didn't know that then.
"Thing is I let it eat me. I was no good? I'd be no good. Bit like Richard, you know the man, old Shakespeare's man. I was determined to be a villain. So I was. That was what was left, right? Once I knew that, once I knew fear of my own humanity, that dark bit that's in us all like a gallbladder and bile, it was my own monstrous humanity got up, done me in.
"So I come to that place. What do you do? I mean what do you do? I come and I see there ain't nothing. Ain't nothing. I walk here. I remember thinking while I was walking--there was a rock in my shoe. My shirt, it didn't fit right. My socks were all scrunched and uncomfortable. That's what I thought. Then I don't think nothin'. I come here. I sit. I tell you all about it. That's what you do. Man, it's what you do when there's nothin' else, nothin' else at all."
He never looks up. He doesn't turn to face us as we gawk in cultured scandalization. I have no reason to think he does.
"You'll be down here too," he says. "One of you. Some of you. It's the way you go. You'll be down here too. I led a virtuous life."