Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Regent and the Miami

Have you ever been to the pictures in the town where the Withers live? There are two theatres opposite each other, the Regent and the Miami. At the Regent the prices are higher and the films what are called first-class without any intrusion of moronic cartoon or ride-’em-cowboy serials or half-naked women stranded in rubber plantations and beset upon by perspiring white men in topees and shorts, the acknowledged tropical dress. The toffs, the rich and educated, go to the Regent in their best clothes and furs. There is a fake night sky in the ceiling, covered with stars that are fixed to twinkle realistically in the central-heated air, above the rows of looking and rustling and hushing rich and prosperous people. The lights go out, the stars fade, there is a murmur of pleasure.
Oh what luxury even to breathe.

The Miami, especially in winter, is austere and cold with an icy wind blowing through the heavy velvet curtains at the back. The unenlightened people go there, to whistle and sing out and rustle chocolate papers and blow through their teeth Whe-e-e-e whenever the hero and heroine kiss, or when she throws her clothes from behind a curtain and you know she is either going to bed or about to have a censored bath. The crowd like the kissing and the touching and the fights with pulled hair and slapped faces.
—You brute, how dare you.
—My darling, you are everything in the world to me.

The Miami, because of its lower caste, does not cost as much as the Regent. If you want to look at the stars there, you go outside to see them fretting their light with frost and cold cloud. They cannot be extinguished with a turn of a switch and you do not pay for them.
(Excerpt from Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame)

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