PLANES OVERHEAD make such constant, unseen noise that the sky seems to be on a one-track program of belching and grumbling. It seems to be in disagreement, or trying, maybe too hard, to get something across. Maybe some of it’s heat lightning; maybe some aspects are echoes of other aspects.

 

Under such a thing, we make our way back and forth to an exciting brand-new Dodge City venue called BERGMAN ONE.

 

No one knows how it came about or who opened it, or even who runs it — sometimes, it seems, the things we think of or wish for turn out to exist, as if reality were more in the catering-to-our-whims business than it usually gets or takes credit for being.

 

What BERGMAN ONE is is a place to discover the (unparalleled, unsurpassable, super-human, etc etc etc … etc) films of Ingmar Bergman.

 

But not just to, like, watch them. That’s easy enough to do anywhere. No, what BERGMAN ONE is is a place to discover the films of Ingmar Bergman for the first time, again and again, every day if you come that often.

 

It’s a place — it does, I’ll admit, look like an ordinary theater — where you enter and, no matter how many times you’ve been there before, it’s always your first time. You’re 22, a junior in college, at that point in your life where sex has started to seem not just cool and brag-worthy but also tied to slashed hives of writhing monsters, the irrefutably dual existence/nonexistence of God, doom, dark snow, silence, outrage, madness, viciousness … the persistence of the medieval throughout the supposedly or avowedly “modern,” the way we all play our roles, never more so than when we “refuse” to play them … the way in which the transcendent ideal can be renounced but never escaped … the myriad cruelties required to achieve true selfhood and dignity, more undignified with every step … we’re at the point, every morning at BERGMAN ONE, where we’re just starting to feel a burgeoning totality to life, a sense that we’re not all just ebulliently on the up-and-up-and-up, but that there are countermovements and counterweights fraughting things in there as well, secrets from ourselves, unpopped bubbles of derangement … and the dimness of the woods, the harshness of Protestantism, the nearness of the Arctic, the depths that people crouch in and pull each other down to so as not to be so alone, resentful though they always are at the intrusion …

 

I could go on and on like a real 22-year-old, but I won’t. But I’d like to. That’s how good it feels to hang out at BERGMAN ONE.

 

Every day it’s the same rotation — Seventh Seal, Virgin Spring, Wild Strawberries in the morning (the early months of being 22), then a heavy middle period of Shame, The Silence, Winter Light, Through A Glass Darkly, The Hour of the Wolf, culminating in Persona, which we tend to watch a good 30 times in a row (this is the swollen heart of our collective 22nd year), then an attenuated later period where we get through the whole TV versions of Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander, and some of the color ones like Cries and Whispers and Autumn Sonata (when we’re all coming to terms with the nearing reality of turning 23 and facing Senior Year, applying for post-grad stuff, etc etc), then a kind of stunned postlude where we watch the not-even-all-that-good stuff like The Serpent’s Egg and The Passion of Anna, just hoping to come enough back to reality to carry on with our in-comparison hopelessly minuscule and low-energy lives.

 

We write the same furious, revelation-juiced notes in our journals every single day. Then, exhausted, we all go out for late-nite Chinese and DISCUSS: “He’s just so right … about life!!” we all agree.

 

We are self-consciously aware of ourselves sounding like Woody Allen acting out Woody Allen talking about being obsessed with Bergman in the actual 70s, but this only adds to our wattage.

 

All summer, we start each day as 22-year-olds and end each day as 23-year-olds. That’s the cusp we toggle on and around. Amazing what a world of difference Bergman makes between them.

 

*****

I WOULD HAVE SPENT THE REST OF THE SUMMER in this state, starting every single day with The Seventh Seal and ending it in rapt awe at what a testament to a life split between or trying to unify God, pain, and art Fanny & Alexander truly is, and would have done so gladly, like one of those rats you always hear about that just keeps triggering its dopamine center until it dies from dehydration, had it not been for the RABBIT INFESTATION.

 

But the rabbit infestation, and its — I’d say — strange results, put me in a different mindset. It returned me, for one, to my natural age of 26, forcing me to let go of 22/23 like dropping a guy off a cliff or building after losing hold of his fingers in one of those stock action movie set-ups.

 

What happened was that all these rabbits were around everywhere — like everywhere, like you almost couldn’t get your feet through them to the sidewalk. You were crushing one or two with every step, wearing a compacted mass of five or six as shoes before long.

 

Perhaps the rampant sexuality of the Bergman worldview had spread to their species, and this was what it had gotten them.

 

It got gross quickly; then it got weird.

 

The way in which it got weird was that, overnight, all the dead and living rabbits were removed and replaced with glass replicas. There were replicas of the intact rabbits, in the positions they’d last been seen in, as well as replicas of all the crushed rabbits, in the exact positions (don’t ask me how they got the glass to mirror the crush of flesh, fur, bone, &c) they’d last been seen in.

 

It was like a display set up by the Dodge City Police Dept. for Future Police Generations to study, in hopes that they’d figure out, historically, what the problem had been, like a recreation of a crime scene … or perhaps, more hermeneutically, to determine whether, with the benefit of hindsight, it had been a problem at all.

 

*****

I WAS OUT exploring this exhibit one night, imagining myself to be a member of that Future Police Generation, filing a report to myself, reminiscing on my now long-bygone-feeling Bergman days, when I was approached from behind.
He appeared behind and then beside me on a dark residential street exactly like the villain in The Flame Alphabet does.

 

I was trying to think of that villain’s name (Molloy? Malone?) when he told me that his name was Internethead.

 

He didn’t ask my name and I didn’t try to tell him.

 

He told me, kicking a glass rabbit aside with the toe of a boot, that he was the only man alive who’d “made it to the End of the Internet.”

 

“Just as you would a book or a workout,” he said. “Or a series of Chemo sessions, or a list of Names.”

 

He went on to say that, now that he’d put the entirety of the Internet behind him, he was about to dive “back into the flesh pool.”

 

I took a step away from him.

 

“Ha,” he said.

 

His head bulged, especially in the region of his left eye, in a simultaneously internal and external way, as though a second head were in the process of bursting up and out through his first, main, one.

 

If he started bleeding frantically right now — or at any point in however long this scene ends up going on — I would not have been (will not be) at all surprised.

 

He displayed, I realized, the exact symptoms of the New Flesh from Videodrome, as if the whole Internet amounted to no more than what VHS and TV, in the end, amounted to. He was a character cribbed literally from David Cronenberg, without even minor adaptation or reinterpretation — like an actor made up to star in one film who, because shooting got done a bit early one day, wandered across the lot and onto another set and slipped into the shooting of a completely different film, in exactly the same role, to everyone’s apparent satisfaction.

 

It’s a relief to be so totally open, for once, about my influences.

 

Waking me up from this reverie, he says, taking in the sweep of the glass rabbits surrounding us, “You know the little-known story of the Dodge City Genocide?”

 

I have to admit that I do not.

 

“Well,” he says, his bulge fulminating, “it was one of the worst.”

 

I can tell that we’re walking, on our way somewhere.

 

We pass through endless fields of glass rabbits, regarding which he says, “Try to let this metaphor support rather than obscure my point.”

 

I agree to try.

 

“It was,” he says, “an untraceable Genocide, as the worst ones always are. No visible bodies, no one to say for sure that it happened.”

 

My silence inspires, or at least permits, him to continue.

 

“In the middle part of the last century, some Elements came to Power in Dodge City that set about purging the place utterly of what they termed Ghost Detritus. They were heavily influenced by the theology of Daniel Paul Schreber, who wrote endlessly and, for them, convincingly, about, depending on what translation you use, a highly undesirable demographic of ‘Floating Trash People.'”

 

Internethead buzzes and shivers in a way that I’d describe as Nearing the Edge of the Human. Then he goes on:

 

“This Element turned its dark attention to this demographic in Dodge City, dubbing it Ghost Detritus so as to avoid any translation ambiguities, and set about radically exterminating it. The thing is, this Ghost Detritus left no record. Their bodies — living and dead alike — do not show up in photographs. There is no record of their ever having possessed residences or objects of any kind … families, jobs … no trace. So, you won’t be surprised to hear, this Genocide has been especially easy to Deny.”

 

We’re standing beside a car now, and I know it’s only a matter of time until Internethead tells me to get in.

 

“Most of the citizens of Dodge City, if you ask them about it, will manifest no difficulty in Denying that this Genocide ever, in any form, occurred. The chilly presence of Ghost Detritus drifts naturally in and out with the winds of history, is the most you’ll likely hear, from anyone, on this topic.”

 

“Aw, I bet you say that to all the towns,” I half want to tell him, but he has a gravity that’s hard to interrupt. It’s hard to know whether a man who’s made it to the End of the Internet ought to be the first or the last one you listen to.

 

Now he’s opening up the car, dabbing his New Flesh with a handkerchief. He might be crying.

 

He says that he’s going to drive me way out into the desert, to see the remnants of the City that once was. “It’s some Prelapsarian, if that’s the word, shit,” he promises. “From before the Genocide. You will not, I promise, feel like Denying what happened after you’ve seen it.”

 

I initially express concern about being driven “way out into the desert” by a complete stranger such as he, but he just laughs and says, “Man, where I’ve been, I’ve seen and done it all … all I ever wanted to do and then some. It’s out of my system.”

 

He makes a fluttering motion with one hand, to show that “It,” whatever had been in his system and that I’d been afraid might pose a threat to me, has gone off to join the other air.

 

“Sorry about the mess,” he says, indicating the Qdoba bags that I’ll have to clear away to sit down on the passenger seat.

 

I exhale as he starts the car. Glass rabbits crunch as he backs up. I worry about the tires, surprised to find that I now very much hope we get where he wants us to go and aren’t halted by a flat on the way.

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