“My Dream Date with Diane Arbus” by Alan Catlin

The place of our meeting decided well
in advance, after dark, in a theater on
forty second street. The feature we will see,
“Freaks.” I am the man too large for the room
I am confined in, and she, the lady in the wheelchair
wearing the fairy princess Halloween mask,
a pinwheel braided into her fright wig,
a magic flute hanging from a leather
strap around her neck she will blow
as I wheel her through the stalls,
down the long sloping aisles, entreating
the triplets and the twins to throw their sweets
into the wide open trick or treat bag held
on her lap. The movie is not the black and white
“Freaks” set in a traveling carnival, starring midgets
and dwarves, pinheads and hydros, but the one
where all the actors are people from real life,
wearing paper faces cut from pages of
the daily news, all of them frozen in stilled lives,
enacting crimes of the century: imperialist wars
of occupation, assassinations and atrocities,
ritual torture and extreme rendition,
the starkest of them all, a boy in short pants
holding a hand grenade, pin pulled, his face
contorted, anticipating what happens after
the momentary pain.

Alan Catlin can honestly say that he learned more about life locked in a bathroom for five minutes with a very drunk, six-foot-eleven basketball player than he learned in seven and half years of college. He is now retired and working on his fictional memoirs.

Image: Diane Arbus station via Wikimedia Commons

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