[Readings] After a Fight | Harper's Magazine
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Watercolor by Leonard Michaels of his first wife, Sylvia Bloch, 1964

Sometimes, after a fight, we went to the movies. It was like going to church. We entered, found seats, faced the light, and let go of daily life as we succumbed to the vast communal imagination. In the all-night movies on Forty-second Street, we’d sit in the balcony with great smokers and popcorn eaters, their fingers scrabbling, mouths gnashing. Others sucked chocolate, licked ice cream, rattled candy wrappers. Drunks and half-wits talked to the screen. Bums spit on the floor. This was the honest-to-God movies, place of Manhattan’s sleepless people, like a zoo but, in its massive anonymity, private-feeling. We could go to the movies together, even though twenty minutes earlier we’d been screaming murder into each other’s eyes. In the desolate silence after a fight I might say: “You want to go to the movies?”

Sylvia would straighten her clothes, check her face in the bathroom mirror, grab her leather coat, and she would be tying the wrap-around belt as we went out the door. I loved seeing her quickness, particularly in her hands, when she gave herself to something. We’d hurry off to the subway without finding out when the movie began. There would always be two movies. We could watch at least one from the beginning.

Sitting in the balcony, the eating and smoking all around, I sank into creaturely happiness, and then I noticed my arm was around Sylvia’s shoulder, and she had leaned her head on my arm. Our bad feelings were annihilated by big faces of love shining on the wall. Later, back in the street world, electricity lashed at our eyes, crowds mauled us, traffic wanted to kill us, and evil birds of marriage, black flecks soaring high in our brains, threatened to descend, but we were going home, we’d soon be in bed, hidden, committed to each other’s darkness.

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