Namlet began as MacMeth. MacMeth was born one night in Andrew's Volvo
240 after we procured some so-called-meth from White Boy and his punk friend
Tony. We met them in the bottlecap garden, the drinking alcove tucked just
out of sight at the north end of Glover-Archbold Park. Just a short walk
from the Cineplex Odeon 6 where we'd ingested our first celluloid dreams.
White Boy died of exposure in that park in 2002. His obituary in the
Washington City Paper revealed his true name, but I've since forgotten. The
so-called-meth was smoked out of a corncob pipe, which might explain its
impotence. Or we'd been made as college-bound punks and sold Epsom salts. To
cheer the stimulant along Andrew chanted, "McMeth murders sleep, McMeth will
sleep no more." As if the whole sad situation could be salvaged by a touch
of class. After a couple hours the malt liquor we were drinking in quantity
on Andrew's parents' roof overtook whatever buzz I'd pretended to feel and I
passed out in his room.
I awoke to Andrew pouring over our AP English textbook. Buried in it, so he
was just a puff of 'grandma hair.' Stuff that had been bleached and dyed
blue so often it sat on his head like a wet brillo pad. He'd been up all
night, first trying to imagine a film version of MacBeth as a meth dealer.
Unfortunately (given meth's television success on Breaking Bad a decade later),
he abandoned that project in favor of Namlet. That is Hamlet, but set in the
It was the late nineties, the middle of a short-lived 'Shakespeare' phase in
the culture that had been touched off by Romeo + Juliet. I'd gone to
see that with my high school girlfriend. It confirmed for us that we were in
a romance. The kind of geography-defying romance of two eagles plummeting
towards earth, talons locked. And as college rapidly approached, we had to
reinforce this idea by spending every night drinking her mother's Bristol
Creme on ice and making love.
She had been visiting ailing grandparents the meth weekend. Once I'd made
some coffee, I asked Andrew why Vietnam. Ethan Hawke had just done Hamlet as
a metrosexual, so Andrew said anything seemed possible. He'd said that
Vietnam was this thing that our parents had. We didn't have anything like
it. There were some anti-globalization things we took part in, like good
little anarchists, but nothing defining, nothing society shattering. In a
year we'd have September 11th, but by then we were in college and the era of
filmic Shakespeare updates had died along with who knows what else. A few
years after that I was in a playwriting class with Julia Stiles. Only the
guy with Tourette's wanted to sit next to her. He'd throw his keys in the
air three times, then leer at her.
Namlet ended with the two of us, along with a couple friends playing the
Danish court, legs akimbo getting pat down by a cop. Moments earlier he'd
bust in to the scene with what might have been a gun, might have been a
taser. We'd been in the middle of filming, in Super 8, the climatic knife
fight between Namlet and Laertes. Laertes had 'just come back from Vietnam,'
so Andrew was wearing an olive M1 helmet and bandoleers. As Namlet I wore
someone's dad's beret. Namlet was apparently a beatnik. Watching us jab at
one another with steak knives were our drug dealer who played 'Nixon' and my
girlfriend who played 'America,' meant to replace Claudius and Gertrude
respectively. 'Something's rotten in the state of Denmark' had been swapped
for 'Nixon is fucking America.' Initially Andrew wanted this scene filmed at
the Lincoln Memorial, but we'd settled for the National Cathedral. It was
easier to park, and our camera guy was convinced he could work in stock
footage of the memorial. I guess we hadn't counted on the zealotry of the
cathedral's own police force. After the cop had determined that our only
weapons were the steak knives, he asked what we thought we were doing.
"We're filming Hamlet in Vietnam," Andrew volunteered. Were we all so
"I was in Vietnam," the cop sneered. "And this looks nothing like it."
Before Namlet my high school girlfriend and I were preparing ourselves for
that old lie AP English had taught us to undertake. We were gearing one
another up to commit to an idea of love as a tragedy. A thing made of
distance, devotion and self-denial. The rigors of getting high and filming
Namlet obliterated this program of soft moments. It was like a stab through
the arras. We broke up shortly after.
In Namlet, after killing Polonius (no clever name change), Namlet flees to
Canada. As I enacted this flight, turning the key in a borrowed '72 Chevy Malibu,
I wondered why he would ever return to the mess of death and
responsibility he was leaving behind. That was seventeen. Six years later, I
got it. I was back with the same high school girlfriend trying to replay us
as a comedy, Much Ado about Nothing set in Providence, Rhode Island.
With our finances and possessions intertwined, she ultimately
threw me over for an Apple Store genius. Moving out, I found the Super 8 of
the Namlet rough cut. I have yet to find a camera or the will to play it.
Nicholas Bredie is the author of NOT CONSTANTINOPLE, a novel just out from Dzanc Books. He lives
in Los Angeles.
Read his postcard.
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