دینی آکسندینکتاب: هیچی نیس، آرام باش / فصل 4
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
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متن انگلیسی فصل
DENE OXENDENE TAKES the dead escalator two steps at a time at the Fruitvale Station. When he makes it up to the platform, the train he thought he was missing comes to a stop on the opposite side. A single drop of sweat drips down the side of his face from out of his beanie. Dene wipes the sweat with his finger, then pulls the beanie off and shakes it out, mad like the sweat came from it and not his head. He looks down the tracks and breathes out a breath he watches rise then disappear. He smells cigarette smoke, which makes him want one, except that they tire him out. He wants a cigarette that invigorates. He wants a drug that works. He refuses to drink. Smokes too much weed. Nothing works.
Dene looks across the tracks at graffiti scrawled on the wall in that little crawl space underneath the platform. He’d been seeing it for years all over Oakland. He’d thought of the name in middle school but had never really done anything with it: Lens.
The first time Dene saw someone tag, he was on the bus. It was raining. The kid was in the back. Dene saw that the kid saw that Dene looked back at him. One of the first things Dene learned when he first started taking the bus in Oakland was that you don’t stare, you don’t even glance, but you don’t totally not look either. Out of respect you acknowledge. You look and don’t look. Anything to avoid the question: Whatchyoulookingat? There is no good answer for this question. Being asked this question means you already fu@ked up. Dene waited for his moment, watched the kid tag in the condensation on the bus window three letters: emt. He understood right away that it meant “empty.” And he liked the idea that the kid was writing it in the condensation on the window, in the empty space between drops, and also because it wouldn’t last, just like tagging and graffiti don’t.
The head of the train and then its body appear, wind around the bend toward the station. Self-loathing hits you fast sometimes. He doesn’t know for a second if he might jump, get down there on the tracks, wait for that fast weight to come get rid of him. He’d probably jump late, bounce off the side of the train, and just fu@k up his face.
On the train he thinks of the looming panel of judges. He keeps picturing them twenty feet up staring down at him, with long wild faces in the style of Ralph Steadman, old white men, all noses and robes. They’ll know everything about him. Hate him intimately, with all the possible knowledge about his life available to them. They’ll see immediately how unqualified he is. They’ll think he’s white—which is only half true—and so ineligible for a cultural arts grant. Dene is not recognizably Native. He is ambiguously nonwhite. Over the years he’d been assumed Mexican plenty, been asked if he was Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Salvadoran once, but mostly the question came like this: What are you?
Everyone on the train is looking at their phones. Into them. He smells piss and at first thinks it’s him. He’s always feared he’ll find out that he’s smelled like piss and sh@t his whole life without knowing it, that everyone’s been afraid to tell him, like Kevin Farley from the fifth grade who ended up killing himself the summer of their junior year in high school when he found out. He looks to his left and sees an old man slumped down in his seat. The old guy comes to and sits up straight, then moves his arms around like he’s checking to make sure all his stuff is still with him, even though there’s nothing there. Dene walks to the next train car. He stands at the doors and looks out the window. The train floats alongside the freeway next to cars. Each of their speeds is different: The speed of the cars is short, disconnected, sporadic. Dene and the train slither along the tracks as one movement and speed. There’s something cinematic about their variable speeds, like a moment in a movie that makes you feel something for reasons you can’t explain. Something too big to feel, underneath, and inside, too familiar to recognize, right there in front of you at all times. Dene puts his headphones on, shuffles the music on his phone, skips several songs and stays on “There There,” by Radiohead. The hook is “Just ’cause you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there.” Before going underground between the Fruitvale and Lake Merritt Stations, Dene looks over and sees the word, that name again, Lens, there on the wall right before he goes under.
He thought up the tag Lens on a bus ride home the day his uncle Lucas came for a visit. When he was almost at his stop, he looked out the window and saw a flash. Someone had taken a picture of him, or the bus, and from out of the flash, the blue-green-purple-pink afterglow, the name came. He wrote Lens on the back of the bus seat with a Sharpie just before his stop. As he got off the bus in the back, he saw the bus driver’s eyes narrow in that wide mirror at the front.
When he got home, Dene’s mom, Norma, told him that his uncle Lucas was coming for a visit, up from Los Angeles, and that he should help straighten up and get the dinner table set. All Dene could remember about his uncle was the way he used to throw Dene way up in the air and catch him when he was almost gonna hit the ground. Dene didn’t necessarily like or dislike it. But he remembered it viscerally. That tickle in his stomach, that mix of fear and fun. That involuntary burst of midair laughter.
“Where has he been?” Dene said to his mom while setting the table. Norma didn’t answer. Then at the table Dene asked his uncle where he’d been and Norma answered for him.
“He’s been busy making movies,” she said, then looked at Dene with raised eyebrows and finished with “apparently.”
They had their usual: hamburger meat, mashed potatoes, and green beans from the can.
“I don’t know if it’s apparent that I’ve been busy making movies, but it’s apparent your mom thinks I’ve been lying to her all this time,” Lucas said.
“I’m sorry, Dene, if I gave the impression that my brother is less than an honest Injun,” Norma said.
“Dene,” Lucas said, “do you wanna hear about a movie I’m working on?”
“By working on, Dene, he means in his head, he means he’s been thinking about a movie, just so you know,” Norma said.
“I wanna hear,” Dene said, looking at his uncle.
“It’ll be in the near future. I’m gonna have an alien technology colonize America. We’ll think we made it up. Like it’s ours. Over time we’ll merge with the technology, we’ll become like androids, and we’ll lose the ability to recognize each other. The way we used to look. Our old ways. We won’t even really consider ourselves half-breeds, half aliens, because we’ll think it’s our technology. Then I’m gonna have a half-breed hero rise up, inspire what’s left of the humans to move back to nature. Get away from technology, get our old way of life back. Become human again like we used to be. It’s gonna end in a reverse Kubrick 2001 human-bashing-a-bone sequence in slow motion. Have you seen 2001?”“No,” Dene said.
“Full Metal Jacket?”
“I’ll bring you all my Kubrick next time I come up.”
“What happens at the end?”
“What, in the movie? The alien colonizers win of course. We’ll only think we won by getting back to nature, back to the Stone Age. Anyway, I stopped ‘thinking about it,’ ” he said, and put up air quotes, looking toward the kitchen, where Norma had gone when he started in about his movie.
“But have you ever really made any movies?” Dene said.
“I make movies in that I think of them, and sometimes write them down. Or where do you think movies come from? But no, I don’t make movies, Nephew. I’ll probably never make one. What I do is, I help people with little parts of TV shows and movies, I hold a boom mic above the shot, long and steady. Look at these forearms.” Lucas lifted an arm and bent his wrist, looking at his forearm himself. “I don’t keep track of what sets I’m on when I’m working. I don’t remember a lot. I drink too much. D’your mom tell you that?” Lucas said.
Dene didn’t respond except by eating the rest of what was on his plate, then looking back to his uncle for him to say something else.
“I’m actually working on something right now that hardly takes any money to make. Last summer I was up here doing interviews. I was able to edit some of them, and I’m up here again to try to get a few more. It’s about Indians coming to Oakland. Living in Oakland. I just asked these Indian people I met through a friend of mine who knows a lot of Indians, she’s kind of your auntie, I think, Indian way. I’m not sure if you’ve met her though. Do you know Opal, the Bear Shields?”“Maybe,” Dene said.
“Anyway, I asked some Indian people who’ve lived in Oakland for a while and some that just got here not too long ago a two-part question, actually it’s not a question, I tried to get them to tell me a story. I asked them to tell me a story about how they ended up in Oakland, or if they were born here, then I asked what it’s been like living in Oakland. I told them the question is meant to be answered in story form, whatever that means to them is okay, then I left the room. I decided to do it confessional style so it’s almost like they’re telling the story to themselves, or to anyone and everyone behind the lens. I don’t wanna get in the way in there. I can do all the editing myself. I just need the budget to pay my own salary, which is basically nothing.”After Lucas said this he took a big breath in and sort of coughed, cleared his throat, then pulled from a flask he got out of the inner pocket of his jacket. He looked off, out the living-room window, across the street, or farther, off to where the sun had set, or past that, back at his life maybe, and then he got this look in his eyes, it was something Dene had seen in his mom’s eyes, something that looked like remembering and dreading at once. Lucas got up and walked out to the front porch for a cigarette, and on the way said, “Better get to your homework, Nephew. Me and your mom have some stuff to talk about.”—
Dene only realizes he’s been stuck underground between stations for ten minutes after ten minutes of being stuck underground between stations. He breaks a sweat at the top of his forehead thinking about being late or missing the panel. He didn’t submit a sample work. So he would have to waste the little time he does have to explain why. How it was originally his uncle’s idea, how it’s really his project, and how a lot of what he’s proposing is based on what his uncle told him in the short time they had together. And then the weirdest part, the part he can’t present, because he doesn’t totally understand it, is that each of the interviews, the interviews his uncle actually conducted, came with scripts. Not transcriptions but scripts. So had his uncle written the scripts to be performed? Or had he transcribed actual interviews and then turned them into script form? Or had he interviewed someone, and then based on the interview, made a script that he would rework, and then had someone else perform the reworked script? There was no way to know. The train starts up, moves for a beat, then stops again. A staticky voice from above drones incomprehensibly.
Back at school Dene wrote Lens everywhere he could. Each place he tagged would be like a place he could look out from, imagine people looking at his tag; he could see them seeing, above their lockers, on the back of the bathroom stall doors, on the tops of desks. In the bathroom stall tagging the back of the door, Dene thought about how sad it was to want everyone to see a name that wasn’t his, a name written to no one, to everyone, and to imagine them looking into it like it was a camera lens. It was no wonder he hadn’t made a single friend in middle school yet.
When he got home, his uncle wasn’t there. His mom was in the kitchen.
“Where’s Lucas?” Dene said.
“They’re keeping him overnight.”
“Keeping him where overnight?”
“Your uncle’s dying.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I wanted to tell you. I didn’t think it would happen like this. I thought it could be a nice visit, and then he’d go and—”
“Dying of what?”
“He’s been drinking too much for too long. His body, his liver’s going.”
“Going? But he just got here,” Dene said, and he saw that this made his mom cry, but only for a second.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her arm and said, “There’s nothing we can do at this point, honey.”
“But why wasn’t something done when it could have been done?”
“There are some things we can’t control, some people we can’t help.”
“He’s your brother.”
“What was I supposed to do, Dene? There was nothing I could have done. He’s been doing this most of his life.”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t fu@king know. Please,” Norma said. She lost hold of the plate she’d been drying. They both stared at the pieces of it on the floor between them.
At the Twelfth Street Station Dene runs up the stairs but then looks at his phone and sees that he’s not actually gonna be late. When he gets to street level, he slows to a walk. He looks up and sees the Tribune Tower. It’s a faded pink glow that seems like it should be red but lost its steam somewhere along the way. Aside from the plain, average-height, checkered twin buildings that are the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building complex just before I-980 on the way into West Oakland, the Oakland skyline lacks distinction, and is unevenly scattered, so that even when the newspaper moved down to Nineteenth, and even though the paper doesn’t exist anymore, they keep the Tribune light aglow.
Dene crosses the street, toward city hall. He passes through a cloud of weed smoke from a gathering of men behind the bus stop on Fourteenth and Broadway. He’s never liked the smell except for when he’s smoking it himself. He shouldn’t have smoked last night. He’s sharper when he doesn’t. It’s just that if he has it around, he’s gonna smoke it. And he keeps on buying it from the guy across the hall. So there it is.
When Dene came home from school the next day, he found his uncle there on the couch again. Dene sat down and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and stared at the ground waiting for his uncle to say something.
“You must think I’m pretty despicable, what with me turning into a zombie out here on the couch, killing myself with the drink, is that what she told you?” Lucas said.
“She hasn’t told me hardly anything. I mean, I know why you’re sick.”
“I’m not sick. I’m dying.”
“Yeah, but you’re sick.”
“I’m sick from dying.”
“How much time—”
“We don’t have time, Nephew, time has us. It holds us in its mouth like an owl holds a field mouse. We shiver. We struggle for release, and then it pecks out our eyes and intestines for sustenance and we die the death of field mice.”Dene swallowed some spit and felt his heart beat fast like he was in an argument, though it didn’t have the tone or feel of an argument.
“Jesus, Uncle,” Dene said.
It was the first time he’d ever called his uncle “Uncle.” He hadn’t thought about doing it, it just came out. Lucas didn’t react.
“How long you known?” Dene said.
Lucas turned on the lamp between the two of them, and Dene felt a sick sad feeling in his stomach when he saw that where his uncle’s eyes should have been white they were yellow. Then he felt another pang when he saw his uncle get his flask out and take a pull from it.
“I’m sorry you gotta see it, Nephew, it’s the only thing that’s gonna make me feel better. I been drinking for a long time. It helps. Some people take pills to feel okay. Pills will kill you too over time. Some medicine is poison.”“I guess,” Dene said, and got that feeling in his stomach like when his uncle used to throw him up in the air.
“I’ll still be around for a while. Don’t worry. This stuff takes years to kill you. Listen, I’m gonna get some sleep now, but tomorrow when you get home from school, let’s you and me talk about making a movie together. I got a camera with a grip like a gun.” Lucas makes a gun with his hand and points it at Dene. “We’ll come up with a simple concept. Something we can knock out in a few days.”“Sure, but, will you be feeling okay enough by tomorrow? Mom said—”
“I’ll be okay,” Lucas said, and put his hand out flat and swept it across his chest.
When Dene gets in the building, he checks the schedule on his phone and sees he has ten minutes. He takes off his undershirt without taking off his top layer in order to use it as a kind of rag to wipe what sweat he can before he goes in front of the panel. There’s a guy standing outside the door to the room he was told to go to. Dene hates who he thinks the guy is. Who he has to be. He’s the kind of bald that requires a daily shave. He wants it to look like he’s in control of his hair, like being bald is his personal choice, but the faintest hint of hair appears on the sides and not a trace at the crown. He’s got a sizable but neat light brown beard, which is clearly compensation for the lack of hair up there, plus a trend now, white hipsters everywhere trying to come off as confident, all the while hiding their entire faces behind big bushy beards and thick black-rimmed glasses. Dene wonders whether you have to be a person of color to get the grant. The guy’s probably working with kids on a garbage-art project. Dene pulls out his phone in an attempt to avoid conversation.
“You going for the grant?” the guy says to Dene.
Dene nods and sticks his hand out for a shake. “Dene,” he says.
“Rob,” the guy says.
“Where you from?” Dene says.
“Actually I don’t have a place right now, but next month me and some friends are getting a place in West Oakland. It’s dirt cheap over there,” Rob says.
Dene clenches his jaw and blinks a slow blink at this: dirt cheap.
“D’you grow up here?” Dene says.
“I mean, no one’s really from here, right?” Rob says.
“You know what I mean.”
“I do know what you mean,” Dene says.
“You know what Gertrude Stein said about Oakland?” Rob says.
Dene shakes his head no but actually knows, actually googled quotes about Oakland when researching for his project. He knows exactly what the guy is about to say.
“There is no there there,” he says in a kind of whisper, with this goofy openmouthed smile Dene wants to punch. Dene wants to tell him he’d looked up the quote in its original context, in her Everybody’s Autobiography, and found that she was talking about how the place where she’d grown up in Oakland had changed so much, that so much development had happened there, that the there of her childhood, the there there, was gone, there was no there there anymore. Dene wants to tell him it’s what happened to Native people, he wants to explain that they’re not the same, that Dene is Native, born and raised in Oakland, from Oakland. Rob probably didn’t look any further into the quote because he’d gotten what he wanted from it. He probably used the quote at dinner parties and made other people like him feel good about taking over neighborhoods they wouldn’t have had the guts to drive through ten years ago.
The quote is important to Dene. This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there.
The guy says it’s his time and goes in. Dene wipes his head with his undershirt one more time and puts it in his backpack.
The panel of judges turns out to be a square of four tables. As he sits down he realizes they’re in the middle of talking about his project. Dene has no idea what he said he was going to do. His mind is a mess of misfires. They mention the lack of sample work. None of them looks at him. Are they forbidden to look at him? The makeup of the group is all over the place. Old white lady. Two middle-aged black guys. Two middle-aged white ladies. A youngish Hispanic guy. An Indian—from India—woman who could be twenty-five or thirty-five or forty-five, and an older guy who’s definitely Native, with long hair and turquoise-and-silver feather earrings in both ears. They turn their heads toward Dene. He has three minutes to say whatever he thinks they should know that wasn’t included in the application. A final moment to convince them that his project is worth funding.
“Hello. My name is Dene Oxendene. I’m an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. Good morning and thank you for your time and consideration. Sorry ahead of time if I ramble. I’m grateful for this opportunity. I know our time is limited, so I’ll just move into it if that’s okay. This all started for me when I was thirteen. My uncle died and, sort of, I inherited the work he started. What he did, what I want to do, is to document Indian stories in Oakland. I want to put a camera in front of them, video, audio, I’ll transcribe it while they talk if they want, let them write, every kind of story I can collect, let them tell their stories with no one else there, with no direction or manipulation or agenda. I want them to be able to say what they want. Let the content direct the vision. There are so many stories here. I know this means a lot of editing, a lot of watching, and a lot of listening, but that’s just what our community needs considering how long it’s been ignored, has remained invisible. I’m gonna set up a room down at the Indian Center. What I want to do is to pay the storytellers for their stories. Stories are invaluable, but to pay is to appreciate. And this is not just qualitative data collection. I want to bring something new to the vision of the Native experience as it’s seen on the screen. We haven’t seen the Urban Indian story. What we’ve seen is full of the kinds of stereotypes that are the reason no one is interested in the Native story in general, it’s too sad, so sad it can’t even be entertaining, but more importantly because of the way it’s been portrayed, it looks pathetic, and we perpetuate that, but no, fu@k that, excuse my language, but it makes me mad, because the whole picture is not pathetic, and the individual people and stories that you come across are not pathetic or weak or in need of pity, and there is real passion there, and rage, and that’s part of what I’m bringing to the project, because I feel that way too, I will bring that same energy to it, I mean if it gets approved and everything, and I can raise more money, it won’t take that much really, maybe even just this grant, and I’ll be doing most of the work. Sorry if I went over my time. Thank you.”—
Dene takes a deep breath and holds it. The judges don’t look up at all. He lets out his breath, regrets everything he said. They stare at their laptops and type like stenographers. This is the time allotted for questions. Not questions for Dene. This is when they ask each other questions. Discuss the viability of the project. fu@k. He doesn’t even know what he just said. The Native guy taps the stack of papers that is Dene’s application and clears his throat.
“It’s an interesting idea. But I’m having trouble seeing exactly what the applicant has in mind, and I’m wondering, and please correct me if I missed something, I’m wondering if there’s a real vision here, or if he’s just gonna sort of make it up as he goes along. I mean, he doesn’t even have a work sample,” the Native guy says.
Dene knew it would be the Native guy. He probably doesn’t even think Dene is Native. fu@k. The work sample. Dene can’t say anything. He’s supposed to be a fly on the wall. But the guy just swatted at him. Someone say something else. Someone say anything else. The older of the two black guys, the more nicely dressed, with a white beard and glasses, says, “I think it’s interesting, if he’s doing what I think he’s saying he’s going to do, which is, essentially, to put aside the pretension of documentation. He’s moving out of the way, so to speak. If he does it right, it will seem as if he isn’t even the one behind the camera, it will almost seem like there isn’t a cameraperson there at all. My main question is whether or not he’ll be able to get people to come and tell their stories and to trust him with them. If he does, I think this could be important regardless of whether he turns it into something his own, something tangible, and with vision, or not. Sometimes we risk putting too much of the director’s vision on stories. I like that he’s going to allow the content to direct the vision. However it goes, these are important stories to document, period.”Dene sees the Native guy shift uncomfortably in his chair, tap Dene’s application in a neat stack, then put it behind a bigger stack. The older white woman who looks like Tilda Swinton says, “If he can raise the money and come out with a film that says something new, I think that’s great, and I don’t know how much more there is to say about it. We’ve got twenty or so more applicants to review, and I’m sure there will be at least a few that will require serious scrutiny and discussion.”—
Back on BART, headed home, Dene sees his face in the dark reflection of the train window. He’s beaming. He wipes the grin from his face when he sees it. He got it. It was pretty clear that he would get it. Five thousand dollars. He’s never had that much money before, not once in his life. He thinks of his uncle and his eyes well up. He clenches them shut and keeps them closed, leans his head back, thinks of nothing, lets the train take him home.
When Dene came home to an empty house, there was an old-looking camera on the coffee table in front of the couch. He picked it up and sat down with it. It was the gun camera his uncle had mentioned. With a pistol grip. He sat there with the camera in his lap and waited for his mom to come back alone with the news.
When she walked in, the look on her face said everything. She didn’t have to tell him. As if he hadn’t been expecting it, Dene stood up, camera in hand, he ran past his mom out the front door. He kept running, down their hill to Dimond Park. There was a tunnel that went below the park. About ten feet high, it stretched some two hundred yards, and in the middle, for about fifty of those yards, if you were in there, you couldn’t see a thing. His mom told him there was an underground waterway that went all the way out into the bay. He didn’t know why he came, or why he brought the camera. He didn’t even know how to use it. Wind howled in the tunnel. At him. It seemed to breathe. It was a mouth and a throat. He tried but failed to turn the camera on, then pointed it at the tunnel anyway. He wondered if he’d ever end up like his uncle. Then he thought about his mom back at home. She hadn’t done anything wrong. There was no one to be mad at. Dene thought he heard footsteps coming from inside the tunnel. He scrambled up the side of the creek and was about to run back up the hill, back home, but something stopped him. He found a switch on the side of the camera next to the words Bolex Paillard. He pointed the camera at the streetlamp, up the street. He walked over and pointed it at the mouth of the tunnel. He let it run the whole walk home. He wanted to believe that when he turned on the camera, his uncle was with him, seeing through it. As he approached the house, he saw his mom in the doorway waiting for him. She was crying. Dene moved behind a telephone pole. He thought about what it might have meant to her, losing her brother. How wrong it’d been that he’d left, like it was his loss alone. Norma crouched down and put her face in her hands. The camera was still running. He lifted it, pistol-gripped, pointed it at her, and looked away.
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