Dawn Promislow

in a new city in the New World in a new time they went to see a movie. it was starting at 7pm, and they drove from their home, not far, and parked, and it was raining even though it was summer, it was july 19th actually, mid-summer, but raining, and they had to run to the movie theatre from the car. and the movie theatre was 70 years old and unrenovated and unchanged from 70 years ago, so it was faded velvet in the way of old movie theatres, and it smelled musty and of old popcorn, and an old man was selling tickets behind glass at the front, and another old man was selling popcorn that pops in the old way from the small, dim-mirrored counter in the foyer. And there were very few people about to see this movie, and the tickets were only ten dollars each, not fourteen dollars each like they are in shiny, brand-new theatres. and they bought a medium popcorn (with no butter) for four dollars fifty (although he said should we get a large and she said no, just a medium). and they went and found their seats which were a bit musty and there were many seats to choose from. and at 7 o’clock precisely the movie started, no commercials in this movie theatre that was 70 years old and unrenovated. And this movie theatre was called the Regent which is an old name suitable for an old movie theatre in an old place, in an old time. And the film was “Ida,” and it was in black-and-white and Polish (which comes to the same thing), and the subtitles were white like chalk (but they danced, a little) and he and she had to concentrate to be sure they didn’t miss a word of the subtitles (the way it is, with subtitles, in movies). and the movie was set about 50 years ago, in Poland, which was an unrenovated time and place (as you know), and rough, and the film was rough, and very beautiful. and the countryside and the towns and the city were seen as though through a semi-transparency, like a veil, veiled. and the sound of the language, veiling, and other sounds in the film (a car driving along a country road; music on an old gramophone record, wavering; digging of earth, to a grave, grave) were rough and very beautiful, like mourning (although it was evening). and the film was about a nun who was very young, and about silence and abstinence and loss (and music) and the Old World. and afterwards they both recommended this movie to their friends because it was very very beautiful and aching.

and when the movie finished, at exactly 8:30 pm, they went out, and outside, and they were on a slightly rain-streaked street, still, in the grey light of a summer dusk. and they walked up the street, they walked a little way, and they found a little restaurant which didn’t have many people in it, just two other couples, but which was rich inside, and they had dinner, not an elaborate dinner, or much, but dinner (there were mushrooms, the kind that are foraged and sold on the side of the road in Poland, and in Lithuania, where she was once, and where her and his grandfathers were, before). they didn’t have wine, but it was warm, and after all that they walked to their car, it wasn’t raining much any more, and they drove home. and home was unrenovated and had very old dark wood (even though they wake, wake new), and sometimes (not always) things are just as they are supposed to be, if you just leave, i mean leave them be.


Dawn Promislow was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has lived in Toronto since 1987. Her writing has appeared in Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Numéro Cinq, StoryTime, SLiP (Stellenbosch Literary Project), and has been anthologized in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 5, 2010 and African Roar 2012. Her debut short story collection, Jewels and Other Stories (TSAR Publications, 2010), was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2011 and was named as one of the 8 best fiction debuts of 2011 by The Globe and Mail (Canada). She is writing her second book, a novel.