Dark stage. Someone carrying a flashlight enters and shines its beam cautiously across all the surfaces of the stage and across the audience. Finally the beam stops to illuminate and examine hieiroglyphs (both Egyptian and fake) painted in white on the black back wall of the stage.
(Female voice - over):
Part of her floated in the Sargasso Sea. And another part lay at the bottom of the Red Sea where it narrowed and began to slope up into the Gulf of Suez. Bridges were built with iron from exotic lands. Heavy iron ships sailed from port to port, carrying cargoes of spice, rubies and optic fibers. A restless wind dominated the entire landscape. And in the silence imposed by the sight of stars rising from a vast field of grain, she began to stir. Powder-dry ruins of ancient walls crumbled and mixed with salt water to form a thick mud that clung to her skin. She swam awkwardly upwards, seeking the light.
There is an audible commotion. Lights come up full, revealing a Woman wearing pith helmet and carrying a flashlight. Also a Man wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase and a dripping-wet wind-whipped umbrella. It is obviously his entrance which has caused the commotion.
Man/Psychiatrist: What a mess! Oh! You surprised me. You’re here early. Just a second. I’ll be right with you.
It’s miserable out there, don’t you think? How did you get here so fast?
I was stuck in traffic, it was raining and the streetlights were all screwed up. How are you today?
He waits for an answer but there’s no response.
We’ll I’m glad to see you’re doing so well. Lets start off where we ended last session, shall we? When did you first become interested in ancient Egypt? And in Hatshepsut in particular?
Woman/Patient: My mother used kohl on her eyes.
Psychiatrist: I assume you’re interested in Hatshepsut because she was the only woman pharoah.
Patient: I don’t know much about her.
Psychiatrist: Well, none of us do: the inscriptions which were erased, the - uh - awkwardness of her situation.
Patient: Do you feel awkward? Are you uncomfortable
Psychiatrist: I’m being paid to make you feel uncomfortable
Patient: I’m not.
Psychiatrist: Oh yes you are - you just won’t admit it.
Patient: What has this got to do with Hatshepsut?
Psychiatrist: Back to her again! Your interest borders on the obsessive.
Patient: Obsessions don’t have borders.
Psychiatrist: Do you identify with Hatshepsut?
Patient: I don’t even know who she is or what you’re talking about.
Psychiatrist: You mean you’re ignorant of the actual facts.
Patient: I know more about her than you do.
Psychiatrist: I’d like to play a little game with you now.
Patient: To help me.
Psychiatrist: You can be Hatshepsut and I’ll be your brother, Thotmes III.
Patient: I am Hatshepsut. And you are Egypt.
Psychiatrist: What do you mean?
Patient: Don’t depress me with your ignorance. And take your hands out of your pockets.
Psychiatrist: Let’s get on with the game, shall we?
Patient: I suppose we start with my parents.
Psychiatrist: Your parents? Your parents are dead, aren’t they?
Patient: That’s one point for you.
Psychiatrist: One point?
Patient: You said we were playing a game.
Psychiatrist: You can’t- You can’t start keeping score - I haven’t told you what the rules are yet.
Patient (laughs): Well then, go ahead, explain yourself, give me some....background...information. (Woman places a pith helmet on Man’s head.)
Explorer: Thank you, thank you. Thank you for the generous introduction.
Good evening ladies. Ladies, I must say, it gives me great pleasure to be here tonight speaking to such a beautiful bouquet of feminine flowers- (Woman blows her nose.)
My adventure began when I set out for Egypt on the 14th of February. (Man unrolls large dropcloth on which is drawn a map of Egypt.) The ocean voyage was of no special importance, merely a price I had to pay in order to reach Cairo. Cairo is indispensible now, for facilitating adventure and discovery and the placement of history within a proper perspective. Within the economics of Egypt, Cairo is the capitol. With capital, within Cairo, I purchased the supplies I would need for my expedition. Many of the supplies were expensive and hard to find, Egypt being a backwards nation. Luckily for my ambition, labor was cheap.
(Explorer bends Woman over, piles pith helmet etc. on her back, starts shoving her around.)
We shouldered our burdens and set off across the desert. The journey was a difficult one: the winds swept round and round, the sky burned like fire. Many of my bearers died of thirst. (Man pushes Woman down onto map of Egypt. He stands straddling her as she assumes Sphinx pose.) But that long march was of no special importance, merely a price I had to pay in order to reach Karnak and the valley of the tombs of the pharoahs.
From my tent I stared across the Nile at the desolate necropolis. The satisfaction I felt was a triumphant and sexual one. The temples and tombs rose from the feminine body of the desert like the nipples, lips and ridges of a woman. Egypt was in my pocket, and desire filled my grasping hand.
(Man wraps Woman up in dropcloth/map as he speaks, drags her across stage and leaves her there.) Hatshepsut’s tomb was deceptive, in that she had been removed to another tomb, another crypt, a guarded and secretive one. Generations of petty thieves and graverobbers had been fooled by the deception. Thus she was saved for me. I found her, in a hill of bodies in a cave in the cliffs.
I built hills of accomplishments in my pockets.
Hatshepsut herself is of no special importance. What is important is my having found the faint red trace of her lipstick on the mirror of history. I really don’t know much about her. She was a woman, traveling alone, without servants or ornaments, down the dark waters of the river of the dead. She was seeking ... Osiris, and the eternal light, but she has found ... me. She fills my pocket like a stone, like an unfulfilled lust.
(Woman crawls out of shroud, sees Man ignoring ringing phone, goes to answer it herself.)
Woman/Secretary: Yeah. Uh, well, I’ll see if he’s free. (Sotto voce to Man:) It’s Senmut.
Man/Thotmes III: Oh god. Do you know what he wants? Oh never mind, I’ll take it. (Takes phone from Woman.) Senmut. What can I do for you? (Listens.) Mmm. Mm-hm. Mm-hmmmm. Senmut, uh- listen, I picked you for this project because I didn’t think you had any scruples. (Listens.) Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yes I know her inscriptions are beautiful…“a certain elegant style, a certain high quality of craftsmanship...” Yeah, all right, I know what the fucking carvings in her temple look like, I see them every fucking day. (Listens.) “Each heiroglyph is expressive of far more than mere biographical information...” (Sotto voce to Woman:) - I need a martini-
Secretary: We’re out of olives.
Thotmes III: Can you go get some? (Listens.) Uh-huh, culture, uh-huh, worldview, uh-huh, para- paradigm!? Now just wait a minute Senmut that’s going a bit too far! What you call paradigm I call the raging ego of my lunatic bitch sister. Don’t tell me to calm down, I’m the Pharaoh! I understand the point you’re trying to make, Senmut, but you’ve got to understand my predicament, I just can’t stand seeing her name all over the fucking place, it bugs me. Listen, this conversation is really depressing me. Thinking about her ties me up in knots, you know that. (Listens.) Your attitude really depresses me, this whole mess really depresses me. (Listens.) Uh, yeah, I’m sorry it’s depressed you too Senmut. Listen, let’s not talk about this any more. Tell you what, why don’t you come over to the palace & we’ll have a barbeque. Sure you do, we’ll get a coupla six-packs of Nubian beer and a coupla skinny courtesans and we’ll have a great time. Consider it a direct order, Senmut. That’s more like it. See you in awhile.
Spotlight up on Woman hanging up a clothesline, singing “My Blue Heaven.” Man walks over, puts his hand on the clothesline, tugging on some as he follows it towards woman, eventually cornering her as she hooks her end of the clothesline on the opposite wall.
Woman/Wife (slightly nervous): I just came down here to find out if you wanted anything from the store.
Man/Husband: Let’s play a game. You be a city and I’ll be your suburbs.
Wife: I don’t want to be a city.
Husband: We’ll communicate by subway.
Wife: I don’t want to play a game.
Husband: Your bed can be the suburbs, you can be a mall, and I’ll be a consumer.
Wife: I just came down here to ask you if you needed anything from the store.
Husband: You can be a station wagon, and I’ll be cub scouts.
Wife: I’ve got a bladder infection and I don’t want to play any stupid game.
Husband: I’ll be a library, a family reunion and a hall closet, and you can be an old photograph album.
Wife: I’m going to pick up some cranberry juice, do you want anything, some vienna sausages or anything?
Husband: I’ll be Cairo, and you can be a tourist, looking for...tampons...and airplane glue! (Woman leaves.) I’ll a commuter, and you’re the train! Pulling away! From the station…!
Man exits just after her, then immediately re-enters in the act of putting on a surgical gown. Woman follows closely at his heels, trying to help him tie the back of the gown, but he is agitated and elusive.
Man/Doctor: These damn student nurses. I fly halfway around the world to perform dissections like this, I get paid a sum of money which borders on the obscene even for such a surgical genius as myself, but I can’t even find a nurse to help me tie up.
Woman/Nurse: Here, let me help you with that.
Doctor: Is everything ready out there?
Nurse: The audience seems to have settled down, the television crew is all set up.
Doctor: It’s about time, let’s get to it.
Nurse (Turning so Man can tie her gown up:) Doctor, could you-?
Man ignores her & exits. Woman also exits, then immediately reenters, stands behind the mummy. Man enters, scrubbed hands raised, stands behind mummy. She claps.
Doctor: Thank you for the generous applause. Ladies & gentlemen, for centuries this mummy has hidden its secrets from us. But tonight, these hands…will reach into this pocket of mystery and extract the information that is rightfully ours. (Aside to nurse:) Pretty good size audience tonight.
Nurse: Mystery stories are very popular.
Doctor: Let’s start with the scalpel.
Woman revs up a sabre-saw or circular saw.
Nurse: Mystery stories can be very fun to unravel.
Woman hands Man the saw.
Doctor: Note the thick outer layer which protects the body from harm. (Man saws into the Mummy.)
Nurse: History can be thought of as a giant nut, and science can be thought of as a giant nutcracker. In the future, x-ray technology will save us the trouble of cutting them up.
Doctor: Blackened muslin and sticky natron have replaced the skin. The aromatic fluids that replaced the drained-away blood are now gone. Forceps.
Woman hands Man a drill. He drills into the mummy.
Doctor: Spreader. (Woman hands Man a crowbar.) This embalming was poorly performed.
Nurse: The quality of burial preparations was directly related to a person’s station in life. Such factors as class, wealth-
Doctor: Ladies & gentlemen! ...Mummy number 417 is ... female.
Nurse: Many myths and legends have grown up around this ancient practice.
Doctor: This mummy won’t come back to haunt you. My knife has seen to that.
Nurse: Victim of an undying curse.
Doctor: Nurse, clean up this mess.
Doctor exits quickly. Woman cleans up a little, walking slowly around the mummy as she speaks.
Woman/Maidservant: Hatshepsut, brilliant daughter of the sun god, it is I, your servant, bearing gifts. Warm clothing for the voyage, oil for lamps against the darkness, and this leather pouch for relief from pain. Do you remember when you bled for the first time? Your mother made a charm bag for you, out of the efet herb, which causes pain in demons. Out of honey, which is sweet to living men but bitter to those who are yonder and come in from the dead. Out of the evil parts of the ebdu fish, out of the jaw of the meret, out of the backbone of the perch. I have brought you such a bag today. No honey this time, though. I hope you understand.
My, you certainly have a nice tomb here. These inscriptions are beautiful. Ah but they are only the memory of a single rose when compared to the full bouquet of your beauty. One who knows you not, upon reading these, will only catch a fleeting blur of you. These words are a deception.
Deceptions multiply in our age. Your brothers told you that a giant eagle had dropped you from the sky and that your mother had caught you, saving you but breaking her own back. They told you that that was how you were born and how your mother died. I told you the truth. Some nights you would dream you were falling from your mother’s bright white belly. As bright and white as the sun in an eagle’s eye.
I pity your mother, who birthed a daughter such as you and never knew it. You were the daughter of the sun and you burned, so quickly. In life you were like a whippet, nervous and fast. Your death came quickly too. I must go now. I pray that you travel quickly down the dark waters till the river returns to the sunlit lands.
Lights up to show Woman poking mummy with a pitchfork.
Woman/Wife: I think it’s done.
Man/Husband: Well, carve it up!
Wife: I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Husband: Just take a knife and start cutting.
Wife: This barbeque was you idea. You do it.
Husband: I’ll be there in a minute.
Wife: I don’t even think I want to eat any of this anyway.
Husband: Just a second, honey, the movie’s almost over.
Wife: I’m so glad your parents are dead. Otherwise we’d have to invite them over on holidays.
Husband: This has got Boris Karloff as the Mummy. Did you ever see this one?
Wife: Everyone else has a flag out on their porch today. But we don’t.
Husband: You know, I remember, when I was a kid, I had a plastic model of a mummy, and I painted it so it looked like blood was coming out of its mouth.
Wife: I’m glad our parents were too old to fight in the war. And I’m glad you were too young.
Husband: Let’s have dinner out at the picnic table and watch the sky turn red. Then let’s go into the den and watch slides of our trip to Egypt, and hey - let’s call some friends and play tripoli and drink banana daquiris and then we’ll go to bed but I won’t be able to sleep, so I’ll go downstairs and start building an airplane model and - and you’ll come downstairs in the morning and you’ll find me and the top will be off the airplane glue and my head’ll be on the table asleep and-
Wife: That thing is burning back there. I’m going to go get the salad.
Man lights a cigarette. Film noir music plays.
Husband: She picked up the phone and dialed her friend Evelyn. Evelyn’s father had a brain tumor when he was in college. He was on the crew team. He showed me the pictures. It got so bad people were afraid to make jokes about him. He couldn’t see out of his left eye, he couldn’t hear out of his left ear, his face was numb, and he had to take incompletes in Botany and Ancient History. He had an operation and it helped a lot. I mean, it went away. He eventually moved to another city, where he drank a lot and met Evelyn’s mother. It finally killed him.
Woman is modeling a skirt in the mirror, unwittingly drawing the Man’s interest.
I’ll be a door-to-door salesman, and you try to guess what product I’m selling.
Wife: I’m not in the mood to buy.
Husband: You be the housewife and I’ll be the milkman.
Wife: Is that a frozen perch in your pocket or have you been reading National Geographic again?
Husband: I’ll be the husband, and you shut up.
Wife: I’ll be a blackboard and you can spend all your time erasing me.
Husband: Oh, I’ll be the villain and you can be the martyr.
Wife: I’ll be damned and you can go to hell!
Husband: I’ll be in the basement and you can work on your attitude.
Man exits. Woman wraps skirt around shoulders as if it is a shawl.
Woman/Little Girl: Dear Granma, thank you very much for the toiletries set you sent me for Christmas. Mom is making me write my thank you notes on Christmas Day so I haven’t had much time to play with it, I haven’t had time to play with the comb and the brush and the makeup. I will also like the mirror, which came with the toiletries set. I have, however, had time to play with the lipstick and the mascara, and now it’s all gone. My dolls all look beautiful, because they have red cheeks, and black circles under their eyes. Also for Christmas I got colored pencils, a perfume, and a diary and a photograph album of my very own. Some new dresses and a subscription to National Geographic. And my first bra. I gotta go now, cause I got a lot more thank-you notes to write. Thank you again very, very much, and I hope you’re feeling better. I love you very, very much.
Man enters with rifle, sneaks up on woman, presses rifle to her temple.
Man/Psychiatrist: Can we get back to your mother?
Woman/Patient: She was fond of appliqués, and stitchery.
Psychiatrist: Some motives are hidden, buried; there are deceptions.
Patient: She was Caucasian, and very feminine.
Psychiatrist: Her daughter was like a sharpened pencil.
Patient: Her daughter had a strange skin condition, make no mistake about that.
Psychiatrist: There is evidence to the contrary.
Patient: Records can be altered, evidence destroyed. Letters burned.
Psychiatrist: What about your mother?
Patient: She was around for a long time, and then she wasn’t around for a longer time.
Psychiatrist: Did she have any brothers? For corroboration of her story?
Patient: She had 7000 brothers, but they all died at birth.
Psychiatrist: What about the daughter you mentioned?
Patient: She was like a whippet. She was nervous and fast and even elbow macaroni glued to her shoes couldn’t slow her down. She was a blur even when she stood still.
Psychiatrist: I love you because you’re full of details.
Patient: (nervously): I have to go, can I go now?
Psychiatrist: Are you afraid of violence? Are you afraid of dislocation? Are you afraid of leukemia, or sterility? Are you afraid of penicillin, or any other antibiotics? Are you afraid of tumors? Are you afraid of catheterization? (During this speech Man has been wrapping Woman’s head with gauze. When her head is completely wrapped, Man drifts off stage.) Are you afraid of surgery? Are you afraid of blood?
Woman sits in chair while her voice is heard, over.
Comb. Toothpaste. Razor. I hope they have bathtubs in hospitals; I hate to shave dry.
Mirror, lipstick. A basic red. Chewing gum. I better have my name taken off the emergency list at school, and off the carpool list, at least for awhile. Perfume, slippers - and tampax! I can’t believe I’m bleeding again. I thought all that was over years ago. They say it’s the medicine.
Let’s see...travel clock –picture album? No, that’s being silly. It was funny, so embarrassing, like the first time. More embarrassing, at my age. Where are my pantyhose?
I’ll miss the fireworks this year. First time in a long time. But then at least I’ll miss the July heat. Lying there in a nice air-conditioned room. A roll of life-savers. Dental floss. It hurt so much the first time. I had cramps for days. I laid in bed, I threw up.
Bobby pins. Midol. Eye shadow. I hope I don’t have to have an IV bottle. I hate needles. Mascara, rouge, I’ll have to write everything down for them so they don’t forget. Take out the garbage Tuesday night, change the sheets once a week. There’s frozen perch in the freezer for dinner tomorrow. Evelyn said she’d take the kids to cub scouts.
Crossword puzzles, find-a-word. Nail file. I’ll bring that book about the King Tut exhibit. It cost me $30 and I’ve barely just skimmed it once, just looking at the pictures. But I will bring pictures of my grandchildren. Since I won’t be able to see them this summer,.
Needle & thread. Thmnble, hairbrush, tweezers. And something for a little color. Hospitals are so white. It’s supposed to make you feel safe, I think, but it just makes me feels nervous.
Something to brighten up the room. Hmm, maybe I’ll just bleed on the sheeets- oh stop that! I don’t know, some ribbons or flowers, I don’t care. Damn, I wish dresses had pockets. Men have pockets, why can’t women? Reading glasses, TV Guide - I better hurry up, I have to go now.
Man/Psychiatrist: I think we’re beginning to get somewhere
Patient: I didn’t know we were traveling together.
Psychiatrist: Good, good - hostility is a positive sign.
Patient: Just a sign, not a symbol?
Psychiatrist: What do you think hostility symbolizes?
Psychiatrist: Whom do you feel anger towards?
Patient: No one.
Psychiatrist: But you just said hostility symbolizes anger.
Patient: I never said I was hostile.
Psychiatrist: But it’s pretty obvious that you are.
Patient: That’s just your interpretation.
Psychiatrist: Are you angry with me?
Patient: Are you angry with me?
Psychiatrist: I asked you first.
Patient: I asked you first.
Psychiatrist: What kind of game are you playing?
Patient: What kind of game are you playing?
Psychiatrist: Stop it.
Patient: Stop it.
Psychiatrist: Stop it!
Patient: Stop it!
Psychiatrist: Stop it!!!
Patient: Stop it!!!
Psychiatrist: I’M IN CHARGE HERE!!!
(The Man smashes something he’s been building. There is a long pause.)
Patient: Have you ever had a patient with red skin?
Psychiatrist: Red skin?
Patient: I knew a girl with red skin.
Psychiatrist: I’m a psychologist not a dermatologist. Things would be so much easier if my patients could understand my predicament.
Patient: Maybe I should go see a dermatologist.
Psychiatrist: Maybe you should. All right, listen, the session’s almost over, let’s not waste anymore time. Do you identify with this red-skinned girl?
Patient: I identify with the redness of her skin and with the fact that her parents died before she was born.
Psychiatrist: What else do you know about this girl?
Patient: The darkness is calibrated by her movement through it. Her motion through the darkness has a calculated effect. She has the motives of a light source. But don’t feel sorry for her, just listen for the hesitant sound of her approach.
She is measured by her movement through darkness. Darkness enfolds hers, it arouses her, it expels her. She is a devastatingly brilliant point of light that cannot be seen. She feels sorry for herself; she makes noise. She charts her path through darkness by following her own shadow. Her methodology is devastatingly brilliant. This fact arouses her. The noise her shadow makes in the darkness is erotic. She is afraid of bright light. Expulsion creates meaning, she thinks. She is fooling herself. There is darkness outside and her map is black. She measures herself to a new position in space. This is how she moves. She waits for the sound of her own approach to catch up with her.
Psychiatrist: That’s enough, that’s quite enough. I think I have enough information to make a diagnosis.
Patient: You be the doctor and I’ll be very patient with you.
Psychiatrist: Her thin crimson arms hung limp from her sleeveless plain black dress. She hovered in the mist near her parents’ grave like a black and red bead from a broken necklace. She stood signaling.
Her mother had been a den mother. Sitting there surrounded by boy scouts, she had learned semaphore from her own mother. She was remarkably pretty in spite of her red skin. For years, ashamed, her father had forced her to wear turtlenecks and heavy makeup. She appealed to her mother. All her mother could do was to glue elbow macaroni to her shoes. For many years thereafter she wore black turtlenecks, pancake makeup and silver shoes.
After they had lowered her parents into the ground and filled the hole with dirt, she brought out from under her dress the model of a city. She placed it on the common mound and laid out railway tracks in a circle around the city and the grave. For many years thereafter a tiny subway train ran around and around and around....
Woman/Wife: Sorry for being cranky before; this bladder infection’s really bugging me. You could be Burton or Speke. I’ll be the source of the Nile; you can discover me. You’ll have to pretend you’re British.
Man/Husband: I’m not British.
Wife: You could pretend!
Husband: I’m not British.
Wife: Well, okay, I’ll be Christ and you can be Christianity.
Husband: I wanna be Christ.
Husband: I’m not in the mood to play anyway.
Wife: Oh all right, you can be Christ.
Husband: Great! Now: how about if you’re St Peter and I’m Nathan Hale and you’re also Capt Bligh and I’m Mr. Christian and you’re Capt. Ahab and I’m um...I’m uh....
Wife: Is something bothering you?
Husband: It’s against the rules to ask questions.
Wife: I’m sick of playing this game, it’s too full of details. I’m not going to play any more.
Husband (addressing audience): She’s right. Let’s just try to erase everything that just happened.
Wife: You know, if you had wanted to play colors, I would have been yellow & you could’ve been blue.
Husband: Can you pick up some olives at the store?
My red daughter sits upstairs in her room for days at a time, building models. Models of cities. Or models of relationships. She build models of cities and models of relationships, and they’re the same. I guess I can’t really explain what it is she does, up there in her room. Her models are beautiful but I don’t understand them.
Buildings in her cities have names. Melissa. Bonnie. Carla. Roads have names too. Gail. Katherine. Mary Lou. There’s no John F. Kennedy Freeway in her city. She knows better. She knows nothing is free. There are always tradeoffs. In my day I traded possibility for certainty. And traded it back again. I traded rhyme for reason, courage for security, blood for iron.
Now, just because my red daughter builds models of cities, do not make the mistake of supposing that she has no soft edges. Oh, she can be hard as iron, she can be as much like iron as blood is like blood. But she is, after all, my daughter. And so she possesses a certain amount of my...instinct for business. She is as accomplished a trader as I am, in her own way. I can’t fathom her motives, but I know she has them.
When I died I imagined of course that she would remove my body. My corpse is an obstruction, spilled as it is here in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. She could have easily called the authorities and had this obstruction removed from this model house. Being dead, I am in no position to complain or to offer resistance. And yet she leaves me here to mummify on the carpet.
Perhaps I’m a challenge. Perhaps she enjoys the technical difficulty of trying to build her models around me. For her cities have spread to all corners of the room. Or perhaps I add weight to one of her suburban areas. Weight is one way to measure the value of goods. Without an accurate form of measurement, trade would be impossible. My red daughter sits upstairs in her room building scale models of cities of relationships.
What took you so long?
Woman/Wife: The traffic signals are broken. There are red lights all over town.
Husband: You should’ve taken the freeway.
Wife: The supermarket was out of olives, out of charcoal, out of cranberry juice, out of its mind and it’s raining.
Husband: I couldn’t go to work today because of the rain so I was sitting here watching TV – there was a special on about King Tut.
Wife: The electricity is off, gas lines are broken, the roadways are darkened and the rain is falling.
Husband: I’ll be audio engineering, hospital insurance and medieval German history. Honey, you’ve gotta understand my predicament.
Wife: I want to move to a better city. One with more theaters, more churches and a better transit system.
Husband: Let’s play a game; I’ll be dominos and you can be a theory.
Wife: Look: I have to pick up the kids at cub scouts; do you want anything from the store?
Husband: I’ll be last winter and you can be lost mittens.
Wife: I’ll get some olives. (Woman exits.)
Husband: I’ll make the martinis.
I am terrified. What if my wife dies? I will be alone with my red daughter.
There was a death in the house yesterday. A sound like a blossom erupted from the upturned rose of my wife’s lips and that was all there was to it.
My red daughter never comes down from her room anymore, except to cook herself a scurrilous meal, or to find a bit of thread, or felt, or a page from a book. I am always stunned when I enter my library and she is unexpectedly there: a bold stroke of insubordination cradling a large volume in her thin arms. Her crimson skin cannot be ignored.
I sleep on a cot on the back porch, behind the kitchen. The house is usually very quiet, an autistic house. But sometimes, at night, I can hear her rat-like motions through the locked porch door. Sometimes I lie on my cot and I try to imagine what she’s doing with her hands. And how her redness fares in the dark.
I have a vision of my red daughter, after my death, slowly spreading through the house like permanganate in water. I wonder: are the things in her room red also?
(Woman enters & starts wrapping Man’s eyes with bandages.)
Woman/Patient: Your mother can be the second dimension and your father can be the third.
Psychiatrist: Where does that leave me?
Patient: You’re just a model that your parents built with glue.
Psychiatrist: Tell me about your parents.
Patient: My father died when I was very small. He just fell down in the hallway one day. He said he was going to the kitchen to fix a martini before dinner but he lied. He was a very handsome man.
Psychiatrist: What about your mother?
Patient: Oh, she died at the very same instant.
Psychiatrist: What did she look like?
Patient: She was very quiet.
Psychiatrist: In fact the whole house was quiet, wasn’t it? It was always quiet, wasn’t it? Why won’t you admit it?
Patient: Their daughter was autistic and the house was always very quiet.
Psychiatrist: That’s it! The house was always too noisy at night wasn’t it. Your parents forced you to listen to them fucking in the next room didn’t they? You had to listen to their groaning all night long didn’t you?
Patient: No, I’m wrong. Their daughter was a brilliant child, very quick to learn.
Psychiatrist: Why didn’t you tell anyone?
Patient: It’s none of your business – and why do you ask so many questions?
Psychiatrist: It’s my business to make your business my business.
Patient: Can I ask you something?
Psychiatrist: I’d rather you didn’t.
Patient: Why do you insist on making things up?
Psychiatrist: Their daughter built models because it was the only way she could bring the world down into her hands, bring things to a manageable scale. It was not a relationship she was proud of.
Patient: I’m getting confused. I thought red was the color of blood.
Man: I’m going to leave now. I don’t like violence. (Man exits.)
Woman (calling after him): I’ll be motion. And you can be a destination. I’ll be possibility, and you can be certainty. I’ll be hurt and you can beg forgiveness. I’ll be dead, and you can be me. I’ll be anything, and you can be everything else. I’ll be a paragraph describing an urn, and you can draw a charcoal circle around anything you want to. I’ll be a pocket, and you can be my hand.
(Lights out. Circus music up.)