Thursday, December 6, 2007

Play - Oxnard

“Everything Maria could think to do in the town she had already done. She had checked into the motel, she had eaten a crab at the marina…After that she had walked on the gravelly sand and she had driven aimlessly to Port Hueneme and back to Oxnard and now she sat on a bench in the downtown plaza, watching some boys in ragged Levi jackets and dark goggles who sat on the grass near her car” (129-130)

Maria seeks pleasure, but never gets joy out of anything. What keeps Maria from enjoying things? Like Maria’s childhood, is she just constantly disappointed by “what comes in on the next roll” or has she become too jaded to enjoy things?

“When she opened her eyes again the boys in the Levi jackets seemed to be rifling the glove compartments of parked cars…She would tell him she could not wait. She would tell him she was sitting in a park watching some hoods rifling cars and she could not wait” (130)

Maria, here, makes an attempt to step out of her role as a silent passive being, but is defeated in her effort: “when the operator got the studio, a voice said only that Mr. Goodwin could not be reached” (130).

“The boys in the Levi jackets were all watching her now, because they were standing around her car, they knew it was her car, they had watched her lock it. They were trying various keys. They were watching to see what she would do. As if in slowed motion she began walking across the grass toward the car, and as she got closer they melted back, formed a semicircle. Abstractly, she admired the way that she and they together were evolving a choreography, hearing the same silent beat. She kept her eyes steady. Her pace even, and when she found herself unlocking the car under their blank gaze it was with extreme deliberation. As she slid into the driver’s seat she stared directly at each of them, one by one, and in that instant of total complicity one of them leaned across the hood and raised a hand in recognition of what had passed between them, his palm out, inscribing an arc in the still air. Later those few minutes in the plaza in Oxnard would come back to Maria and she would freely them, change the scenario. It ended that way or badly, or well, depending on what you wanted” (130-131)

In a significant moment for Maria, she is confronted with an opportunity to stand up for herself and, surprisingly, she does. The question though is how much does Maria really act? Maria interacts with the gang, and there is an outcome in her favor, in which she is rewarded for her bravery, but she only acts when provoked, and her actions are to ignore the fact that something really is going on around her. Can this be considered a triumphant moment for Maria or is it typical of her behavior? Is Maria’s sense of agency only real in her own head? Is this the only place Maria is empowered? Does Maria “Play it as it Lays,” unlike how she “freely” plays situations out in her mind?

This is also a moment of human connection for Maria. But does she genuinely relate to these boys? It seems as though there is mutual acknowledgment, and yet, in other incarnations of the scene that she creates, it comes out differently. They end up being as fictive as scenes of her living in New York with Kate and Les Goodwin. Does she somehow dissolve the “humanity” from her human interactions or does she actually benefit in the rare moments when she connects to other people? Does this parallel her relationship with B.Z.? Maria craves human interactions, but never seems satisfied by them. Does she purposely self-destruct, or is she just too damaged to be satisfied? Considering how devoid of emotions she seems to be, what makes Maria human?

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