The Seventh Wave
An Entertainment in 51 Episodes
Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world. - Jean-Luc Godard.
The woman – her name, let’s agree, is Anna – stands by the edge of the sea hugging a book to her chest and counting the waves. She tells herself that when the seventh wave comes she will know what to do, to accept the flawed old love that is being offered to her again, after an interval of at least six and maybe even as long as seven years, she can’t quite remember, the once-passionate love that was at the heart of four acclaimed feature films but then exploded into acrimony - or to refuse it and choose to drown in the absence of the lifebelt of that love: to be the ocean or its unhappy prey.
The man – his name, I think, is Francis, a film-maker – is a long way from her, half a mile down the unending tendril of American sand in that hour around sunset when the air is a golden haze and at the horizon the setting sun seems made of water and the sea blurs into sky. Francis is thinking about death, as he often does, not in the theoretical, metaphorical fashion of the young, but in the literal, foreboding way of those in middle age. Anna, however, knows she is immortal: eager for Paradise. She has been raised a Catholic and still, on Easter Sundays, makes social media posts declaring, He is risen. He has never had the smallest shred of religious belief, and finds it as hard to have faith in his fellow humans as in God. He finds it hard to have faith in her, too. It was his idea to get back together, because as he worked on new script ideas, he found to his surprise that the heroines all had her face: her metamorphic beauty, her sharp mind, the breadth of her reading, and the glass ashtray she once hurled at his head, that made a hole in the wall next to his ear. His life has been much calmer since she left it. But here she is again, unexpectedly reappearing to occupy his thoughts.
He sent her an email to an old address and a text to an old number and to his surprise she replied. I would be happy to come and work with you on your new project. They both know that isn’t all that is being proposed. He is excited by her reply.
But even though this was his idea, he doesn’t, at this moment, fully believe in it, in them. He has trouble with belief in general, doubts himself, and others, and the world.
The water’s edge is the soft frontier between what is solid and dependable and what is fluid and metamorphic, and between the known and the unknown, between this and that, and, when Anna is feeling political, between truth and lies. She is interested in liminal space, in occupying it, in being in between. She’s tall, is smoking a cigarette, and is dressed all in black, black jacket, t-shirt, jeans, ankle boots, long dark hair blowing across her face and across her back in thick cascades She looks as if she has just emerged from a Left Bank café, or New York. (Sometimes her hair is red, or green, or even a halo of blonde curls, tousled, as if she were in a permanent condition of having just risen from her bed after a night of love. She likes to change up her look. She owns many wigs.) The book she’s clutching to herself is the I Ching, or Book of Changes, which contains an ancient system of divination composed of sixty-four hexagrams. She is attracted to the quasi-occult, to horoscopes and the Tarot as well as these hexagrams, which are sets of six horizontal lines, some broken, some unbroken. (Or, magnetic and dynamic lines, to use the lingo.) She believes herself to be composed of such lines, some clear, some interrupted. She sees herself as both magnetic and dynamic. The hexagrams are portraits of her soul.
Atheists are always the people most obsessed with religion. Francis knows all the hymns, and can quote the Bible from memory, but finds believers absurd, and mocks the iconography of the priesthood, the mitre and chasuble dignifying the pedophile within. He and Anna have quarreled about his vehemence, his rock-hard certainties, and then given up. He has restrained himself in her company and she has understood that she doesn’t care what he thinks. He doesn’t smoke but has accepted that she does. For her part, she has understood that, in the matter of God, his dissent is unrelated to her assent.