In high school, Marwa spent her weekends watching movies until the drywall blurred around her. The movies she found were romantic and strange: surreal animes from the ‘90s, haunted house Halloween specials, foreign art flicks with full frontal nudity. The films ran together like bathwater around her body, and every Saturday night she drowned herself in their unreal glow. The only time she felt alive was when cop cars sped past her window, soaking her bedroom in red light. Dripping in the color, she was sci-fi sanctified, alien and clean.
On the weekdays Marwa ran a tight schedule. Long runs every black morning before school. Violin lessons twice a week at 4. Chick-fil-A dinner on the first Friday of each month, when John worked the evening shift. He typed her order into an iPad while she waited in line, his red name tag lodged between his ribs. He could be a movie star if he tried: a soft face, wet eyes. Marwa watched his brows crease as he counted her change from the register.
Marwa liked movies because they modulated the truth. She first kissed John in the Chick-fil-A parking lot after he brought her a milkshake for free. The genre of this memory depends on the camera angle. Here is a scene of love: bright music drifting in from someone’s car radio, the cold peach cream sweetening Marwa’s stomach. Here is a sweaty transaction: 16 ounces of sugar in exchange for red lips, a wet dream, spit like stigmata on the inside of Marwa’s wrist as she wipes her mouth dry. I’m sorry if it’s not what you were expecting, John said, his beach town blue polo sagging against his chest. When he told Marwa he was taking her to see a movie, she wrote the date in her calendar and underlined it twice.
The movie was 90 minutes of a solid red screen, paired with a voiceover listing a series of red objects. Lipstick, the voice said. Liver. Poppies. Meat. Mars. Valentine. Velvet. Mouth. I’m sorry if it’s not what you were expecting. Marwa preferred her art linear, Cartesian and controlled. A dream is a dream, she said to John, not a movie. That night, Marwa dreamt she was a famous director at the helm of a bloodshot lens. Every second framed by her radial arteries. Every trick of the light at her mercy.
“Auteur Theory” by Yasmeen Khan and the artwork titled Sudden Fiction by Yasmeen Abedifard appeared in Issue 41 of Berkeley Fiction Review.
Yasmeen Khan lives in Spring, Texas. Her work can be found or forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Columbia Journal, and The Rumpus, among others. She is the recipient of the 2020 Adroit Prize for Prose, and her work has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
Yasmeen Abedifard (She/Her) is an Iranian-American 25 year old Bay Area Native and a recent M.F.A. graduate in Visual Arts from Cornell University. Her work is centered around storytelling mediums, such as comics, storyboarding, and animation.