I am shocked, shocked, to find gambling is going on in here.
Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains, Casablanca, script by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein & Howard Koch, with uncredited help from Casey Robinson, from an unproduced play by Murray Burnett & Joan Alison, 1942
Annie burst out smiling at Lige's irreverent suggestion. Tsk, tsk, she thought, who's a naughty boy then. Pshaw, harrumph, pfui, tchah (pick one, they're all typographic tricks for non-verbal thinking). Where shall we do it?
Barely aloud, she responded:
And felt the delicious thrill of harmless sin.
Lige inclined his head doorwards and they edged unobtrusively back into the cop and past and on outside. They sauntered down the steps, shoulder almost to shoulder, and out through the parking lot with maximum caz and minimum gab, leaving the Savings and Loan behind and heading off for the mysteries of 45th Avenue keeping an inconspicuous lookout for unmarked cops and other undesirables. Left again, he transmitted, and right down 47th, and she picked it up and they headed down for the edge of the park by the railroad tracks, still without saying a word.
The sun was down but not quite out. The brittle warmth of the autumn afternoon was being shattered by the coolth of a clear evening. The first planets were emerging to view, set off like gemstones by flickering stars on blue-black felt over in the eastern sky.
Annie felt peaceful and safe. Nervous and excited too, for sure, but nothing bad would happen to her here. This she knew. She was aware (ah, that's the key) not only of where she was but of who she was, and as much of who this stranger was: not where he had been, not even where he was going, but of who he was inside, a sudden psychic connection, an insight born of love. Not lust, exactly; not an urge to live together and mate forever; a free and joyous and complete and total acceptance of someone she simply saw the essence of and trusted.
Yeah, kid, rape city.
That corner of her brain existed, the normal, real, justifiable nervousness that every woman knows in this era of regenerate barbarism (did it ever disappear?) and she did not deny it, she simply knew that here, now, it was not relevant. Annie was as skeptical as anyone she knew about vibes, spirits and the whole paranormal charade of phenomena: no more than most she knew, mind you, and less than many she didn't. Language was not her strongest suit (this in fact was an advantage in these matters, which turns the concept upside down of course), but some things she knew could happen. Let the overeducated few perform their academic miracles of self-justification synchronicity, very well, call something so (many do); stick your right forefinger slowly and surreptitiously up in the wind and call it auto- dexio- dactyl- ortho- brady- crypto- zephyr- anthropo- proto- phantasmo- para- prognostication if you will (no one does, and that lovely word, which I invented from impeccable Greek sources, had to be butchered with unnecessary hyphens and spaces to fit browser requirements); label and box and try to tie down what you see and deny what you feel, that's fine, that's fine, just don't insist on containing her experience within your own, like a blind Ptolemeian astronomer denying shooting stars Annie was there and Annie knew. Don't try this at home, kids, its easy to fool yourself and impossible to explain why it was that she knew, and she was right, that foolish was the least of what she was that soft darkening evening.
He pulled a packet of Samsun tobacco from his pocket and extracted a pre-rolled little number, which he lit as they strolled down the road. Annie caught a whiff, and yes, no Dutch brew that. He brushed his hand by hers and she took it from him and walked a stride or three then raised it, gently toking and sauntering and eventually transferring it back without bursting her lungs. Less effective, less conspicuous. No point in being too obvious, no harm in being too cool. And again, and back, until he flipped the butt onto the ground to stamp, before stooping to pick it up like a properly concerned addict who didn't want to sully the pavement. He placed it tidily in a trashcan, conveniently provided at the corner of the park, and they turned right towards the community center and the tennis courts.
Still not a word.
Annie felt a giggle coming on, and almost let it.
"You know, we did make an agreement."
Lige looked at her quizzically.
"We said there wouldn't be any dope at the demo."
Lige looked at her again. Annie smiled. He seemed so completely unconcerned.
"Well, they, I guess they didn't want anyone getting busted or doing anything stupid or ..." She tailed off, as she understood that they were doing what they thought was right, or at least acceptable, and if she was treating others (with consideration and gentle care) the way she wanted them to treat her following the Golden Rule that is and was and ever more no doubt shall be she was getting a little buzz on, now, was she not, ah not to worry ... now where was she? yes, now wasn't it up to her? She smiled wider now and looked up at Lige's solid and gentle face for confirmation.
"Fuck 'em," he clarified.
"Yes. Right, then," agreed Annie, in unconscious emulation of another voice, half a world half a lifetime away, one that she had never known.
They reached the high fence that surrounded the tennis courts and peered for a moment at the players. Mothers and daughters were playing mediocre but friendly doubles under the lights on one court while two athletic young men thrashed the ball with more vigor than accuracy on the other. Like any ordinary scene, it was the opening to a universe and simultaneously nothing of any interest at all except to some of the participants. Annie and Lige were merely observers there. They turned in tandem and began to stroll back towards Jade and 45th.
"Hang on," said Annie, "I want to get my shawl."
She half-jogged the fifty yards to where the Bunny was waiting patiently by the side of the road, worked the key from her pocket and opened the door. The shawl was on the back seat, and she caught Lige looking at her ass with stony-faced appreciation as she bent in to pick it up. After a moment, she smiled to herself and decided to take it as a compliment. He didn't speak but he sure gave off an aura. She walked back to him a little more slowly, settling the shawl around her shoulders and wondering whether to kiss him.
"You think they'll decide to stay all night?" she asked instead.
"Gonna?" she asked, slipping into his taciturn habits.
He inclined his head in the classic Asian style, forty-five degrees, halfway between a nod and a shake. She recognized it suddenly and with delight for what it was (acceptance more than agreement) but before she could comment he bounced the question back.
"Yes, I expect so. Wanna get back?"
Lige waggled his head again (she felt self-conscious about saying anything now, and slipped into that fine foreign body language that he seemed to assume she shared), and they began to head up 45th. The sky was almost dark now, and suddenly they saw the moon rising on their right, huge and white and awesome. It floated above the little houses of the jewel box, edging through the suburban greenery, stretching and gathering its power and wonder.
"Look," she said, "It's full."
"Acha," said Lige, and reached an arm around her shoulders.
They stood there, staring, for just a minute, and both bowed their heads in worship. Annie slid her right arm around his waist.
"Aaaaauuuummmm," he murmured almost under his breath.
"Aaaaauuuummmm," she harmonized quietly.
They turned to face each other and kissed, slowly, softly, long and sweet and silent and smooth and very very still. She pulled away, and stared at his face. Something ran across it, something dark and ancient and mysterious, and there was a flash of un-named mutual recognition, and suddenly he looked very fragile beneath the surface of strength.
"Who are you?" she said, and he began to cry.