“The solution of a mystery is always less impressive than the mystery itself.”
— Jorge Luis Borges
D.O.A. begins near the end: Frank Bigelow, his blood bright
with luminous toxin, having solved the mystery of his own
murder. The rest is a dead man’s tale, an extended flashback.
We were the last to leave. We corkscrewed down the garage
ramp as you insisted we recall each course in minute detail,
the way a reporter might recount the condemned’s last meal:
Amuse-bouche of avocado, soy sauce, crunch of snow peas,
devoured at once—fat and tears and the breakage of bones.
Early in the script it’s not always clear: perhaps the ingenue
wears the poisoned lipstick, and not the femme fatale. Beets
with arugula, some horseradish, that passion fruit reduction
spilled on purpose. We dined at the crest of the spiral stairs.
They sent me artichokes and haricots verts in a black truffle
vinaigrette. I watched you eat a quail egg, yolk a closed eye,
served atop spaghetti. In the end it’s never who you think it is.
Root vegetables in a white wine concoction, swirls of orange
and worrisome green; a scallop on wild rice. Remorse makes
all the difference, or too little to matter. Unbidden memories
overwhelmed by the chicken, the risotto. I still hadn’t decided
about your pale eyelids, their vexing pearlescence in the glow
of the gas fire, the fake logs forever aflame, a prop on our set.
I’m the MacGuffin, the head case, the amnesiac. We discussed
the dangers of pignoli until the final course, yet another clue
that I missed. The poisoned man. I sampled my trio of sorbets,
recognizing each flavor, but unable to name them. You thought
I missed my cue, or acted as such: dipped again your delicate
pastry in chocolate sauce, took a bite, waited hard for my line:
still those names wouldn’t come. Hitchcock used chocolate as
blood—looks the same in silver, twisting down the drain. Can’t
identify any of these fruits, so familiar. Your lips, your eyelids.
You tasted each in turn, licking your spoon clean of ice cream
and cinnamon. (It’s far too late to worry about contamination.)
The staff was impatient but you named all three with authority,
solving the evening’s lesser mystery, muddying the deeper one.
I was happy to take what I could get; I assume that’s just how
they wrote me. I paid the check. Like I said, we were the last
to leave, and wound our way back to the present—each course
dissected, this post mortem in a cold car. Was it you? Did you?
We pierced the blackened surface of a night without a horizon.
Cranberry. Blood orange. Banana.