When Albert Brooks drives the knife into Ryan Gosling’s gut in silhouette
against the graveled asphalt of a parched, sun-speared parking lot
outside an ostentatious strip-mall Chinese restaurant, it punctuates your
presence in the grime of an unbound L.A., it expurgates the assumptions
that had been dogging you throughout the film—assumptions that
dictated that Albert Brooks would be Gosling’s final encounter because
Brooks was the first sinister sort to speak; but no matter, Drive is about
the journey and it’s its delectable disrobing of plot, its descent into the
disarmingly dubious dimensions of infidelity that we leave with rolling
around in our mouths, gobstopping flavor until it dematerializes and we
are obliged to swallow.
When Jimmy Stewart’s consumed Scottie drives Kim Novak as the acute
Judy dressed as the refined Madeleine to the sinisterly omniscient
campanile of the old Spanish mission, we know that enflamed images are
swarming Stewart’s eddying brain—we know that rapture, betrayal and
hurt are driving his foot harder on the accelerator, we know he is racing
to ravage his fear of facing his fears and his desire for the elusive.
Through the car’s front windshield, as we stare at blindered Stewart in
the driver’s seat and distraught Novak in the driven’s seat, we imagine
the dark specter of the bell tower looming, rising invisible in the space
between their pairs of divided, clenched shoulders. We anticipate them
scaling to the top of the campanile on the spiraling wooden stair
ascending, as once they did, emerging wrought flush, broken from a shell.
In reality, the bell tower did not exist above the church of the old Spanish
mission where Hitchcock had filmed. The armature for the harrowing
climax was a painted projection to accommodate Hitchcock’s want for a
keen, vivid end to his vision of Vertigo.
When Suzanne Somers drives up in her immaculate white Ford
Thunderbird parallel to the back passenger side window where sits white
Wonder Breaded Richard Dreyfuss, male nerves stir, potential erections
twitch—mysterious blonde, mythical car: to be inside her gleaming white
T-Bird with her wrapped around you like albumen around its yolk—
englobed, ensealed—your protein unrunny, well-done, not draining
away; her substance so soft, inhaling you into her liquid heat; you remain
a perfect sphere cradled in her thick translucency—an unindelible whole.
You feel yourself embraced by her in a womb of scuplted steel; the lights
are out and before you unwinds American Graffiti, your lips free to
regulate your wet breath.
When the world’s vulgarity drives you to need resuscitating arms—triage
to hide your head and dress your exposed flesh, its sharp wetness bit by
an other’s touch and tongue—will the limbs that wrap you be mine to
manipulate; what small thing of yourself did you see in me that you had
to attack so vehemently; when would I have held you back; who had not
held you up to nothing—in Rebel Without A Cause, when James Dean
plays “chicken” with another guy, drag racing cars off a cliff, the other
guy gets his sleeve caught on his door handle and can’t jump out in time.
Dan Encarnacion earned an MFA in Writing at the California College of Arts and lives in Portland, Oregon where he co-curates the Verse In Person poetry series.