“In the spring of 2003, The Royal Shakespeare Company helped to bring a theatrical production of Rushdie’s allegorical novel Midnight’s Children to the stage of the Apollo Theater. At the time, and still today, it is my favorite novel by the great man, and I thought it would be a wonderful surprise for my partner at the time if I picked up a few tickets. As I recall, our friend John Carlin was also there with his partner. Together, the four of us headed uptown to 253 125th Street and that legendary, incredible mecca of art and beauty.”—Michael Tallon
By Michael Tallon
ANTIGUA Guatemala—(Weekly Hubris)—1 September 2022—In the spring of 2003, The Royal Shakespeare Company helped to bring a theatrical production of Rushdie’s allegorical novel Midnight’s Children to the stage of the Apollo Theater. At the time, and still today, it is my favorite novel by the great man, and I thought it would be a wonderful surprise for my partner at the time if I picked up a few tickets. As I recall, our friend John Carlin was also there with his partner. Together, the four of us headed uptown to 253 125th Street and that legendary, incredible mecca of art and beauty.
We arrived early and were treated to a handsome collective of New York’s TRUE finest—people from all cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, sexualities, and glories. If you’ve ever lived in Gotham, you know the crowd. It’s the one that makes you look around the room and think, “Oh, yeah. THIS is my America.”
After a glass of wine in the lobby, we made our way into the house to find our seats. The space was buzzing with the pre-curtain vibe of a great show on opening night. I’d made a spend on the tickets, so we were center theater, about 15 rows back—perfect for all the sightlines to the stage. You could take in the whole scope of the proscenium or focus on the players individually—AND there was no one in the four seats directly in front of us. It was the only empty row in the whole theater.
It was perfect! Kismet!
That is until the final members of the audience arrived.
Just before the curtain was set to rise, a group of four walked calmly down the aisle and stepped into the row ahead. It was a chill night, so they were in overcoats and hats, which they fumbled to remove. I was a bit miffed at the audacity of someone to be so disrespectful of RUSHDIE, but the man had certainly seen worse in his time. He’d been in hiding for over ten years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 declaring it the duty of any of his followers to murder the Satanic Verses author. Most likely, one of those monsters attacked him as he spoke last night. Since the issuance of the fatwa, Rushdie had kept an extraordinarily low profile. For a full ten years, no one but a close circle of friends even knew where he lived. It was only around the turning of the Millennium that he appeared at all—and when he did, it was always unannounced.
The four sat down and settled into their seats while removing their outer garments. Somehow, miraculously, the head of the man sitting directly in front of my partner actually grew when he removed his hat. His cranium was simply enormous! And it was now taking up a good 50 percent of my partner’s field of view.
This had happened many times in theaters and concerts, and we had a routine. I stood up and took a short step forward; she slid behind me and took my seat while I stepped over and settled into hers.
The giant-skulled man a row ahead noted the commotion and turned to the side to see what was going on. When he did, he revealed an utterly unmistakable profile, accented by a wry smile and a pair of elegant wire-rimmed glasses.
My heart did a thing it had not done since I’d seen Reggie Jackson jog into right field at Yankee Stadium when I was eleven years old. It was a jolt—love, wonder, fascination, awe.
The author smiled and nodded. I smiled and nodded in return. The lights went out in the house and rose on the stage. I then spent the better part of the next two hours gazing at the man’s bean while wondering at all the miracles dreamed inside those bone walls, all the gifts he rendered so beautifully and set forth—upon a sea of stories—into the world.
And, no. Of course, we didn’t bother the man any further. New Yorkers would never be that gauche.
Please, please, please get better soon, Brother—I want this story to remain joyful and light. I’m sure you’ll understand. Better than absolutely anyone in the known universe, you’ll surely understand.
Now rise, Salman.