ANOTHER LONG SPELL OF AMBIENT MEDIA CONSUMPTION as I roil in a crater in the heart of my mattress, eschewing any thought that lands with too much smack of real life. Off and on I notice myself considering becoming a filmmaker, though I’m careful not to formulate any concrete idea of what this might entail, nor to consider the odds of there being a place for me in Dodge City’s increasingly insular and self-referential film industry, if that’s the right word for what goes on here.
But I do watch a lot of films, many of them TV movies.
The only one that sticks with me sufficiently to reproduce here is one that played, I think, very late last night and then again early this morning (or else was very, very long and repetitive), starring a pedophile on a regimen of highly-specialized psychotropic drugs.
The moral premise of the film was that pedophiles and child molesters are radically different beasts: both have the same innate, societally abhorrent urge, but one resists it with all its might, while the other gives in, either gladly or under substantial duress. The first category, according to the film’s drowsy narrator, “is to be commended for its efforts to deny its basic wiring, while the second is to be punished to the full extent of the law.”
The name of the male character in this film escapes my memory, so I’ll call him “George,” while the female character, his girlfriend, has a name I remember: Chloe, after an Atom Egoyan film I’ve been meaning to see, though I’ve heard it’s not that great and there’s no reason to think it’ll play on Dodge City TV anytime soon.
George, a pedophile of the type that’s determined to deny its wiring, has been prescribed a trial dose of a psychotropic drug designed to induce temporary hallucinations in which adults appear to him as children, so that he might perform the typical sex act with a consenting adult while at the same time accessing the sense of peace and inner wholeness that only sex with a child affords him.
I remember feeling his pain, however hard I must have found it to empathize with its source. This man too, I remember thinking or hearing the narrator say, is after all a human being.
The plot twist comes early: Chloe — who, until now, has been unaware of her boyfriend’s practice of selectively transforming her into a child — accidentally ingests one of his pills, left out on the bathroom sink, believing it to be one the anti-depressants that she has long insisted she doesn’t take, but in fact always leaves out on the bathroom sink in order to take just before sex, when she needs them most.
When she returns to the bedroom and witnesses George transforming into a child before her eyes, she is naturally (not being a pedophile herself) shaken up. She pulls away, desperate to find her bearings in a room that’s closing in on her, fast ceasing to feel like home.
She crawls backward as her boyfriend — fully-aroused at the sight of her as a child, still under the impression that all is proceeding as usual — pursues, knocking her into a bookcase which falls on them both, rendering them unconscious for a five-minute period of screen time, during which I pass out as well.
WHEN OUR CONSCIOUSNESSES RESUME, the two of them have entered an almost sweet regression into early childhood infatuation, though fraught in this case with the memory of intercourse rather than a faint, unvoiced premonition thereof.
I can tell that not only do they look like children to each other, but, thanks to their shared perspective on the other’s regression, they feel like children as well.
Like a co-ed sleepover gone slightly off the rails, I think.
THE MIDDLE ACT finds them in a state close to bliss, living in their apartment as if it belonged to a much older cousin, someone cool and grown-up and out of town, who would be glad to guide into the mysteries they’re just starting to long to explore if only he or she were present.
They raid the pantry for Frosted Flakes and Swiss Miss, acting like they’re on the world’s longest snow day and nothing’s impossible.
I phase in and out during this section, part of me waiting for the other shoe to drop, part of me fearing it never will or that it already has. I’m wondering if the pill she took will eventually wear off and she’ll be forced to watch George revert to being a man, like some terrible switch-out has occurred and she’s now in a situation she very much shouldn’t be in, while he goes on taking the pills so that she remains child-sized in his eyes, or if they’ll both grow addicted, endlessly re-upping their newfound perspective on the other, until one or both of them OD’s, if that’s possible in this case, or until their supply runs out, which surely one day it must.
Perhaps an excess of these pills will culminate only in a mutual regression to apparent infancy, each squinting in the dark to make the other out.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS comes from further out of left field, drawing me back out of myself for the third act: Chloe is so overcome with terror at the conflicted nature of her relationship with this man she sees as a boy that she becomes convinced he has killed her father:
THE ONLY REASONABLE CONCLUSION SHE COULD’VE COME TO!!
reads an unexpected title card in the center of the screen.
This dead father, the narrator informs us, is none other than George, the man she used to live with and now cannot find.
Falling into her psychic disturbance, the boy-George mimics her fear, behaving as though his mother, Chloe, is also gone, replaced by this girl-child he can’t help but lust after, despite the competing depth of his desire to wail in her arms.
The memory of their parents lingers in the apartment, growing so oppressive it forces them out into the hallway.
NOW THE CLIMACTIC JOURNEY BEGINS: they fall to roaming the massive apartment complex, charging from room to room, knocking on doors, squeaking in baby voices at the neighbors, begging to be taken in or given a clue as to the nature of their orphanhood:
ALONE AND UNLOVED!!
reads another title card.
By this point, they’re convinced that they’re brother and sister.
It’s a tribute to the director’s generosity of spirit, I suppose, that he never has them turn hostile and assign blame to one another. They remain united in their search, convinced that a tragedy has befallen them both in equal measure, scouring the building from top to bottom, then spilling out into Dodge City, off the screen, which remains blank, since the movie has ended, or I’ve fallen asleep.
AS I SLEEP, I hear them knock on my door, as I knew I eventually would. I get up slowly and let them in, saying, “Sit. Sit here for a while.”
They do, still naked on towels on the the footstool I’ve set out for them, looking exhausted and shaken up. I let them sit like this a long time, the TV silent between us, as I put the kettle on to boil, though I have no teabags or instant coffee.
I wait for the boiler to click before venturing to ask what I’ve wanted to ask since the TV Movie began, which is, “Got any more of those pills?”
I’m afraid they’re about to say, “What pills?” but instead they nod and each hands me one, from separate vials, like they’d each had their own prescription all along.
“Are you our father?” they ask, and I realize, with the pill on my tongue, that their doses are wearing off. Soon I’ll see them as children but they’ll see me and each other as the adults that none of us wants to be.
“Not for long,” I answer, getting up and taking a new pill from each of their vials, putting one on each of their tongues like a communion wafer and taking the kettle off the boil, pouring three mugs of hot water for us to wash them down with.