What if Macaulay Culkin’s parents never came home after Christmas and the movie just ended. What if his Munchian “scream” stayed glued that way, in some German expressionist hell. The aftershave wore off, his soft cheeks speckled with facial hair growth as testosterone came, the perceived alienation of adolescence followed by the real one—of traffic jams, grocery store lines, and distracted doctors who don’t look you in the eye—of adulthood, our walking parody of actualized nightmares. Every week or so, new burglars (subconsciously, pedophiles) would try to break in, and Kevin’s contraptions of evasion would become more and more sophisticated, personal and sadistic, until they resembled the death machines in Saw. In rare footage of Jeffrey Dahmer being filmed during Christmas by his father in the living room next to a tree, ridden with then technology’s VCR static, he leans away with such repulsion—for whom, one wonders—that you mistake him for a vanishing point, like some Renaissance man finally understanding depth perception. After the bodies and/or their parts were discovered in Dahmer’s apartment, they tore down the famous-yet-unrentable building, leaving all the residents at the whim of city housing. Jeffrey’s neighbor and former friend, a big black Baptisty woman, recalled having her “sanity pushed to the limit” having eaten sandwiches at his home. “I have probably eaten someone’s body part,” she says, addressing the camera in eerie second person, “how dare you do this to me?”
Between Jr. and Sr. year in high school, during the summer, my parents went on a two-week cruise across the Mediterranean sea, leaving me with the house all to myself. I masturbated to Winona Ryder movies, ate about fourteen rotisserie chickens, and slept in front of the TV every night. I did the Axl Rose snake-y dance to Appetite for Destruction, informing neighbors with my loudest screech that not only were they in the jungle, but that, eventually, they were going to die. I jumped on the coffee table and loosened one of its legs, unable to make it stiff again with wood glue. I crashed the BMW in a parking lot, my first dent-and-run. This is when the lies began. It was my first time home alone, and I was too excited to be lonely. Indeed, there was a touch of melancholy to dusk lapping against the windows after my Winona, but I considered it romantic. Chicken skeletons piled up like Pol Pot’s killing fields. I had become a despot hiding out in the burbs, greasy fingers and a smooth stiffy which often met. But if I knew then what I know now, that I would have the rest of my life to be alone, I would have poured myself a drink
In their deluded self-consumption, we embrace our protagonists as they existentially fight off the very obsolescence we, as viewers, resign to. Film re-cuts our idleness into something watchable, each meaningless moment promoted to profundity, in Seinfeldian or Joycean nature. The “pragmatic transvestism” of Mrs. Doubtfire—along with Bosom Buddies, and Tootsie—feature straight men impostering as women, unlike transvestites, whose very identities are on the line. Kevin’s aftershave, Patrick Bateman’s facial mask, and Joel Goodsen’s (think “good son”) lip-syncing all share Euphegenia Doubtfire’s deceit: of being an adult, of social countenance, of being someone you’re not. I have a bad habit where I’ll play a movie I’ve seen numerous times as background noise, or passing imagery, to fall asleep to. I find the voices comforting, the flickering of light hospitable, tricking the ape math in my mind that there are others around. As for real people, their lines often feel scripted. The cat is hiding under the dresser, as I had verbally abused it during a satirical—the playful sarcasm likely escaping her—diatribe whose central indictment was her inability to catch any mice. I inspect the mice droppings between my fingers like the world’s smallest violin, the obnoxious tuba of my mouth honking you fat cat, though I am a little envious of her repose: home, alone, at peace with all living beings. In the mornings she rubs her scent on my laptop, as I am already consumed by it, in bed, squinting at the imagined world. Her cat brain recognizes itself, and is comforted by the delusion of permanence. That we’re going to make it together. She walks on the keypad, typing some unknown language into a status update, which I, horrified, immediately delete. God forbid I be mistaken for who I’m not.