Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Scene4 Magazine: Michael Bettencourt
Michael Bettencourt
The Macho Zone

Many years ago the Marvelous Maria-Beatriz and I had one of those events happen to us thatmakes me wonder (a bit) about my disbelief in a force that guides the fortunes of the universe.

We were traveling back from New York to Boston by Greyhound bus.  We had missed our 2 PM connection, but we had another one at 2:30, so no great loss.  As we boarded, a woman ran up to Maria-Beatriz with a young child in her arms and another one in tow.  Behind her stood a younger woman holding one of those bags for baby paraphernalia (diapers, bottles, etc.) and a stroller.  She said to Maria-Beatriz (in Spanish), "Do you speak Spanish?" (somehow she knew, or guessed, that Maria-Beatriz did speak Spanish) and in the same moment handed Maria-Beatriz the child in her arms.  Maria-Beatriz took the child as the woman blurted out that she needed Maria-Beatriz to take the child as if it were her own because the bus line would allow one child to ride free with the parent but not two, and since she had two children but only money enough for her own ticket...   Maria-Beatriz said she understood, and up the two of us went into the bus, suddenly the parents of (what we later learned to be) a 1½-year old boy with a cold.

The woman (her name was Kati, as we learned later, from Puerto Rico) got on with the other child, a beautiful girl about 3 years old, and Kati's friend handed up the bag, then stowed the stroller in the baggage compartment and waved goodbye as she disappeared into the crowd.  We got four seats next to each other — two on one side of the aisle, two on the other — and the bus filled up, then waddled out of Port Authority and onto the highway.

Four hours to Boston, so a long time to hear a story and tell other stories and cradle a wheezing snot-filled cranky little boy to calm him down and play games with a remarkably polite little girl.  Kati was running from an abusive relationship with a man; the friend helped her escape when she had the chance to do so, grabbing whatever she could as she sped to Port Authority.  She had a friend in Lowell who had agreed to meet her at South Station in Boston. From there, she would head back home to Puerto Rico.

A familiar enough story, especially for Maria-Beatriz in her profession as a social worker assisting troubled families.  Enroute, Maria-Beatriz spoke with the friend in Lowell and made arrangements for the meeting and pick-up at the bus terminal.

Except that South Station is a big place, many-entranced, the kind of place that doesn't always conform to even the most precise directional instructions.  So we arrived and melded into the bustle of train-goers and -arrivers, bus-takers and -leavers, subway voles — and the friend could not be found.  Eventually, Maria-Beatriz and Kati, taking the little girl, headed off to scout while I stayed with the little boy and the "luggage."

So, here I am holding this wheezing, sleeping boy against my chest, swaying slightly, eddied about by the blank-faced rush of people "on the go" — and then it happened.  The boy had a name, and that name was Macho.  (I never learned if this was his real name or a nick-name, but it was the only name I had.)  I had Macho's weight in my arms, I had his breath against my shirt and through that to my skin, and the both of us, protecting each other, slipped into what I later called "the Macho Zone": all the world around us in its anonymous drivenness, and the two of us nestled against each other bubbled by that warmth and protection.  In the Zone, time slowed, even (at times) evaporated; necessity reduced itself to protecting one single human being; noise dampened to an unbrutish soothe; my bodymetronomed a bit to comfort the sleeping boy and my own anxiety.

What a beautiful place, this Macho Zone: clear, distinct, unharnessed, full of grace.  And finite.  They found the friend, Kati and her children got transferred to the friend's car, and off they went to Lowell and (we presumed, since we never heard anything about them) to Puerto Rico.  And us to home and memory.

What has all of this to with anything?  

I've often thought that great theatre, or great moments in theatre — and I mean "great," not just the merely good, or the momentarily popular — create their own form of the Macho Zone. And I don't just mean beauty or sublimity either — Aristotle's "fear and pity" can also create the Zone. Because the Zone lies beyond appreciation or criticism, beyond critique and considered parsing, beyond prizes and reviews, and moves toward the destruction of reality by suspending the crush of that reality's insistent forwardness.  In this sense, the Zone is a dream, where time and space lose formal shape and all certainties die a welcome death and we are released from the death-grip of a principled life into what can only be called the comfort of having and expecting nothing, otherwise known as grace.

The Zone is momentary — must be so.  And incredibly hard to create, since so much of it, like the story that inspired my thinking about it, depends upon the chance meeting, the unpredictable intersection, some quantum re-mix that could never be commanded into being.

I feel, as I move along in my career, that if I can create one, maybe two, Zone moments in something I write, I can consider myself a successful and forceful writer.  And even that conclusion — "successful and forceful" — is bogus because it is not something one can arm-twist into being. Just as with the young boy, all I can do is hold onto something breathing and human and in the process of growing and evolving, sway back and forth, and let what washes over and around me wash over and around me — and then record what I can with as much unaffected honesty as I can, send it off to the world, and wait to see what (if anything) happens.

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©2008 Michael Bettencourt
©2008 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt is a produced and published playwright and a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate" and wife, Maria-Beatriz

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives

 

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october 2008

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