On the Sinking of Titanic
There is a moment when you hear the shutter of the camera, although there is no camera (shudder), no snap shot. But there is a snapping-into-place that happens nonetheless. Bowties and tuxedo jackets, dark silk and white lace, necklaces and pocket watches all clasp together, form a scene. Or, rather, reform a scene. Everyone is acting in this reenactment, every- one a character, every floor a stage. But what snaps into place is not what one might expect. The evening hangs like a button, precariously threaded. There is a delicacy involved here: the chandeliers and tea services, the popping of corks, spoons of sugar, melting ice, silver polish. What snaps into place—what you remember—is not what you imagine you’ll remember. What you remember is that we are all so very good at acting. (The Unsinkable Molly has passed out on a pressed pillow, but don’t worry, she’ll revive; she’ll make it till the end.) What you remember is that the pockets of this smoking jacket are lined with artifice. What you remember is that even when the ship is not sinking, the “ship” is “sinking.” What you remember is that while there is no sign of an iceberg in Alabama, there is always an “iceberg” in Alabama. What you remember is that the stage laugh is genuine, the genuine laugh on stage, that a friend is a stranger, a stranger a friend, that a cocktail party never really ends in the sense that the spirit, the soul of the thing, is still with you the next day. A different costume, sure, but equally made-up. You never leave the “cocktail party.” You always gesture wildly for attention. You always wave your hands around with the hope that someone sees.
There is a moment of silence, and then, there is not.