Scene 43, Take 1: Interior, Sushi Restaurant

Nicky Beer

after Park Chan-wook & Choi Min-sik
The actor does his best to put death in his eyes.
He holds the live, fist-sized octopus before
his face and murmurs I am sorry I am sorry
before the cameras roll. Action. He stuffs
the squirming animal in his mouth. Tear.
Tear it a bit more, the director says. The actor jerks
the tentacles in his hand to the right
like a grotesque typewriter. Ping! he thinks
as he grinds his jaw. One tentacle slings itself
about his nose like a drunken friend.
He wonders if the animal, before it suffocated
in the dark acids of his belly, would catch a glimpse
of the thing that had made people want to use
his face—or rather, the lack of a thing:
that he was completely empty. Not stupid,
or cold, or cruel, but a windy place in which
everything that was not him always fit
with great ease. He was less of a man and more
of a storage space, suitable for personalities
ranging from Businessman with a Terrible Secret
to Homosexual Trapeze Artist-Detective.
He looks at the bluish knuckles of the key grip
and already knows how to play him
on his deathbed. When the actor stares at him-
self in the mirror, he thinks of snowfall
on the ocean, flattened spoons, the empty
column above the mercury in a thermometer.
He suddenly wonders if the octopus is female,
if he’s doing something unseemly. Perhaps he’ll be
able to play women, too, and summon the complicated
geometries of their saddest smiles. Sometimes
he worries that he’ll run out of lives. The remaining
tentacles cling to his chin in a comic beard, a few
rearing up to gesture back to his face, as if to say
Him, him. He’s the one, Officer.

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