Excerpt from Exposure

Cary Lochtenberg

 

Max comes on deck, bathed, dressed for dinner, all spruced-up in a casual way. He has a drink in his hand. He stands staring out, lights a cigarette, and begins talking out loud to himself.

Max: God it's so bloody hot...So still...but beautiful...

Max squints out into the darkness. Shakes his head. Rubbing his eyes, running his fingers through his hair in a tense, impulsive manner.

Look...at...that! What is it? Candles? No, that's impossible...That's completely weird...Cosmic Candles? Shakes his head again I'm losing my mind.

Max takes a slug of his drink, draws on his cigarette, and leans forward, out over the railing of the dhow. The water is illuminated by flickering light. It's as though thousands of little votives are floating about on its surface. In the meantime, Indi has come up on deck, she hears Max speaking to himself. She watches and observes/studies him for a moment without him having a clue of her presence.

Indi: Well...If you really want to know, I'll tell you what that is. It's phosphorescence. Phosphorescent algae.

Max turns, looks quizzically at Indi, slightly taken aback.

Max: Excuse me? I missed that. What are you talking about? What do you mean?

Indi: What do I mean? I mean exactly what I said. It doesn't change anything. I s'pose what I'm really saying is it doesn't alter the beauty...or the poetry...or whatever it is you're seeing in it...It's just information... You asked what it was, and there it is. It's like seeing a brilliant, red, hot burning sun in a city, and you think you're having a revelation, or an epiphany or something...and then someone tells you that it's so red because of pollution. So what do you do with that? You either let your balloon get popped, and let yourself feel completely disillusioned, or you continue to believe in it. In what it means to you. So, what it comes down to in the end is how you choose to see it.

Max, who until now was staring back out over the railing listening intently to Indi's every word, every slight inflection in her voice, turns and stares at her again. He cocks his head.

Max: I know you're going to think I'm throwing off here, but I've got to say, I don't have a clue what you're talking about. And the thing is, an edge to his voice I don't know whether to take you seriously or not.

Indi exasperated but trying not to show it: Look, that's just fine. Take it any way you want. Before continuing on she stops herself, takes a deep breath, and noticeably changes tone. So...Maestro of the cocktail hour...What are we drinking?

Max: Oh...some concoction I found under the bar. Now, the way I see it is, as we're on the topic of choice...He flashes her a cheeky grin. We've got a very important decision to make here. We could call it Phosphorescent Punch...or then again, Phosphorescent Folly, or...if we were throwing caution to the wind, only we can't because it's turned so still...we could just go ahead and call it Liquid Light...Ah hah! That's it! That's that we'e drinking...Liquid Light. He swivels on his heels, and with great flourish proceeds to pour a drink, handing it to her in an exaggerated manner. As she takes it, the corners of her mouth curl into an almost imperceptible smile.

Indi taking a sip: Thanks. Well, whatever you call it...It's delicious. Dangerously so. It tastes like fruit juice...

They raise, and clink glasses.

You know the stillness? This strange stillness that seems to be making you so uneasy? If it makes you feel any better, it's that very stillness that lets us see the flickering of... now what was it you said? Facetiously. Hmmm, how'd you describe it? Max goes to speak but Indi continues. Oh, that's right...I think it was the flickering of "Cosmic Candles"?

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