One night in Silver Lake,
I was driving on Vendome Street
and passed a staircase that led up
to the next street. I had not lived
in Los Angeles very long, but I knew
this staircase; it was famous, it was
the one from the old Laurel and Hardy
movie, the one where they try to
push a piano up a flight of stairs.
I parked and walked up and down
them three or four times, replaying
scenes in my head, laughing to myself.
As I was walking back to my car, a man
smoking a cigarette in the doorway of the
building next to the staircase asked me if
I was a fan; I said I was, and he said,
I see them here, almost every night.
I bummed a cigarette off him even though
I don't smoke and asked him what he meant.
The thin one and the fat one, he said, inhaling.
They come around two or three in the morning,
there's no piano, they just sit beside each other
and talk. Some nights I can hear them through
my bedroom window - and he gestured behind him
at the building - I can almost make out what
they're saying. How do they look, I asked,
and he said, About the same. He paused and looked
at me and tilted his head to the side, as though
taking stock of me. They loved each other very much,
he said. And I nodded. It was so, I had read how
broken Laurel had become after his partner's death,
how he had refused to work again, how he had paid
Hardy's medical bills after a series of strokes had left
him mute, immobile and broke. That's why they
were so funny, I said, because they loved each other so much.
I thanked him and drove home and watched
the piano movie online. A few weeks later, I took a date
on a walk to the stairs and told her the story of the
movie, of the two comedians. She had never heard of
them, and started to make jokes about how they must
have been gay. It was late at night, and I stood on a
mid-level stair and she stood a few stairs below me
and her mouth was on me and I forgot for a few
moments how much I disliked her, and after
she had swallowed me I followed her down the stairs,
telling her again about them, about bonds of
friendship equal to or surpassing love, and
didn't she have anyone like that in her life, and she
had laughed, and then I had laughed, because,
anymore, I didn't either, and the sound of us
was like a piano rushing through the dark,
gaining speed, unseen behind us.