Muted story of a frustrated interracial relationship.
Edmund, a white corporate grind, is friendless and habit-driven. Careese is a young, homeless, African-American woman struggling to overcome her addictions. When Edmund notices Careese on his way home one evening, he impetuously invites her to stay in his apartment. Out of desperation, Careese warily accepts his offer. There, Edmund helps Careese learn basic job skills, and Careese cooks for Edmund, providing companionship in his sterile and passionless life. The differences between the two are obvious—perhaps even slightly understated in this otherwise unremittingly naturalistic story—but Laser (Old Buddy Old Pal, 1999, etc.) also creates crucial parallels between the two. Both Careese and Edmund have vexed relationships with their respective daughters, and neither has any real understanding of their emotional needs. Careese is nervous that Edmund expects sex, and Edmund is nervous that Careese might feel obligated to sleep with him, and, indeed, an affair begins. It starts slowly—Careese does not really love Edmund, Edmund loves the idea of Careese more than the woman herself—and peters out quickly. In a coda, we see that they have managed to heal themselves, and it’s clear that Careese is well over Edmund, who has gone from self-absorbed technocrat to narcissistic white liberal. Laser deftly switches perspective between Careese and Edmund, and his empathy for Edmund—his vague desire to find a more exciting life, his suspicion that he isn’t attractive enough for Careese—is palpable. Laser also explores the subtler inequalities between his characters: Careese’s pity for Edmund and Edmund’s fear that he is pitied, for example, are brutal and nuanced. But ultimately, the parts don’t add up, leaving the story simply unbelievable. Conspicuously absent is any consideration of the racial tensions that affect these characters’ emotional lives.
Pointed, but colorless.