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26 the minesota review Mark Doty Nepal Alone at the movies, you're struck by the theater's odd mix of intimacy, anonymity: the aisles' soft lamps, couples sealed in the spheres of their conversations, single men studying the cones of shadow washed across the blank screen. Before the titles you touch a questionnaire you've folded into a coat pocket, a scale to measure stress: Are you often invaded by a sadness you can't explain? Is joy elusive? Does sex seem more trouble than it's worth? You didn't give yourself a score, but carry the paper still, thinking you'll give it to someone. You don't know who. The film begins, sputters, breaks, begins again: a procession in Nepal, a rainy street of stupas, banked roofs. Women ring bells hung on house-poles, goats dangle bells from their necks, children shake belled wrists; banners of orange silk wind up the steep road through a city of gold foil, painted entrances, rain and ringing, ringing. The bad dubbing makes it more distant somehow, magical. You keep forgetting the story, seeing a pattern of flat color crowded as a temple wall, every space filled by tint and the welter of detail. Maybe the odd color distracts you, or maybe this long slide in the single gear of February. You think what you've seen today: a few hockey players tussling for a puck, a skater in black gliding backwards, an icy pond in a snowy frame. It might almost be inside you, a mirror you carry everywhere but seldom study. This black and white is insistent: the trees' 27 doty slight variation from grid, the newspapers' alteration of figure and ground, your white rooms black, evenings, when you pull the opaque shades. This rhythm seems to move the days along: the up and down of piston engines or sex, the yes and no of binary numbers, the off and on of rapidly flashing stars. It makes your head ache, next to these towns in the Himalayas painted as brightly as toys. Driving home, watching the exhaust steam in the rearview mirror, you think how tired you are of the simple contradiction, the daily and the desired. At the crest of the hill you see across the warehouse district the darker bulks of buildings against black sky, an all-night terminal's lamps beneath the viaduct, a few late skaters figure-eighting the lake: a phantom city remote as Katmandu. If only you had someone to see it with you, to point out the details of color on the wide screen — look how that curve of blue streetlamps arcs over the bridge, thefactory windows flashing — someone to talk to. ...


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