Play in the Drawer: Caridad Svich
Win, lose, or drawer
Welcome to the third installment of Caridad Svich's Steal Back Light from the Virtual. For those who don't recall: "Six figures move like fractals in a city-labyrinth overrun by brutality, violence and displaced desires and the ghost of a Minotaur. Fractured love stories for a globalised age."
[Morning. Outside the window. TIMOTHY is standing. ANGE is thrown onto the street.]
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ANGE Damn restaurant prick. All I wanted was an ice cream.
TIMOTHY Is that all you eat?
TIMOTHY I’ve seen you through the window. You’re always with a cone in hand.
ANGE Who are you?
ANGE You look a wreck.
TIMOTHY I feel all right, actually. Just my legs sometimes…hurt… did he hit you?
TIMOTHY The man in the restaurant.
ANGE Damn prick threw me out. Didn’t want a fucking what’s-it in his establishment. Socialist pig.
TIMOTHY What are you to him?
TIMOTHY What kind of what’s-it?
ANGE I muck about. I steal things.
TIMOTHY You’re a…
ANGE A pisser, rotter, spoiler, a spoil on the earth.
TIMOTHY A junkie.
ANGE I don’t use. Haven’t in years. Where are you from?
TIMOTHY I don’t know.
TIMOTHY Cities keep changing on me. I thought I was in Berlin for a moment.
ANGE That’s far, isn’t it?
TIMOTHY But then I woke up and I could’ve sworn I was in London, right? There were ravens outside the window, blackbirds singing, foxes all around. But then I had these fritters, these ice cold banana fritters that tasted like nothing, and I thought I was in Aberdeen, that a part of my body was walking the concrete, and then I looked at my lover, this woman who found me, and I thought, I’m in New York, right? I’m in goddamn Manhattan in a walk-up on 10th Street or somewhere on a hundred and eleventh, but she looks at me and I see in her eyes that we’re in Mexico or maybe it’s Los Angeles. I’ve never been to Los Angeles but her eyes look like L.A. must look, and she says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She’s half-Russian and her father is from goddamn Paris, and she doesn’t remember speaking French as a child, but she does have a vague memory of Berlin, and I think “Right. That’s where we are, that’s the city I’m in.” But she shakes her head and says “No.” She says “Look out the window. You’ll see where we are.” But all I see out the window are feet, a boy with Cherry Docs and jeans, and you holding an ice cream. Pistachio, I believe. And I think “This is a damn labyrinth. There’s not even a map for me to figure this out.” And this woman who’s become my lover who saved me from a car crash I don’t even remember, except all I do remember is glass breaking, she says “Look again.” And I think “Okay. We’re in Toronto. That’s where we are. We’re in a northern place where everyplace you’ve been burns into the pavement and tricks your eyes.” But she smiles again, and shakes her head, and says “Go to sleep, Timothy. You need a good long rest before you can see where you are.” And my head falls and my dreams turn, and I watch myself crawl out of the window that I couldn’t reach... The window that seemed heavy is light as feathers, and I crawl out with ease. I see that my eyes have been shattered by a windshield, which is why I can’t make things out. I have been through a crash, you see? If I hadn’t been pulled out by this woman whose eyes look like L.A or some other place I’ve never been, I’d still be in a car stranded on a road with a wad of money in my backpack. I wouldn’t be here looking at you with your bruised eyes hurt by a man you don’t even know who wears a suit and tie and works in a restaurant to make ends meet. I’d be lost and more than a little confused. But as I’m here, looking at you, I’m fine. I know everything is a labyrinth, and that’s all right.
ANGE …You buy me an ice cream?
ANGE There’s a place on the corner. Double-dip…
TIMOTHY I could do anything.
ANGE The name’s Ange.
ANGE That’s my name.
TIMOTHY Ange? That short for something?
ANGE Let’s get an ice cream.
[High-rise. Evening. ARIADNE is sitting. MESMER walks in.]
ARIADNE You’re late.
MESMER The city is a bitch.
ARIADNE That’s a strange way of putting it.
MESMER What do you mean?
ARIADNE Doesn’t sound like you, Mesmer.
MESMER What? You’ve never heard me use the word “bitch?”
ARIADNE You sounded so young for a second.
MESMER I am young.
ARIADNE You’re not twenty.
MESMER Neither are you. Are you, dear?
ARIADNE …How much work was there?
ARIADNE You’re late.
MESMER I’m always working. Curse of the writer.
ARIADNE You didn’t call.
MESMER You’re playing “the wife.” Stop it.
ARIADNE I am your wife.
I go to hotels. I sit in a different lobby every night surrounded by plants, soft chairs, cold drinks. It’s amazing what you see in a lobby, if you look.
MESMER I’m glad you’re entertained.
ARIADNE Do you think I’m completely stupid? I could shoot you. I could slay you, let you fall into a ditch like the murderer did with those boys. I’m capable of anything.
MESMER Have they caught him yet?
ARIADNE You screwed him, didn’t you?
ARIADNE That boy. The one with the smile, with the distracted smile.
MESMER I don’t screw boys.
ARIADNE He’s a tart. He’ll do anyone for money.
MESMER Have you met someone? Is this what this is about?
ARIADNE He showed me his tit.
MESMER He only has one?
ARIADNE I could shoot you. [reveals gun]
MESMER What are you doing?
ARIADNE Lame. That’s his name, right? Your wretched tart.
MESMER He’s not wretched.
ARIADNE I married you. I trusted you.
MESMER Put that gun away.
ARIADNE I let you humiliate me every night. And you still… with a fucking boy… Pig.
MESMER Listen to me.
ARIADNE Pig, pig, pig…
MESMER Nothing means anything, you see? It’s sport, a game, a test of living. I’m not even there. I don’t even screw them. I try, but I can’t. I won’t let myself. Because I love you, you see? I love you too much.
MESMER I walk down one street. I walk down another. I memorize directions. Nothing means anything. We’re a trans-global accident passing each other, going through each other, through vaginas and cocks…furious, rapid, not knowing what… Seven boys are killed, thrown into a ditch, sacrificed for the well-being of this city, so that people can become concerned, feel connected for a second, so that they are distracted momentarily from their petty lives, but it doesn’t mean anything. The boys are dead. A minotaur walks the streets. Someone else will be sacrificed. Our accident, this accident we live in, is a dream. We go from city to city pretending we’re the same, pretending everything is all right, but we’re substituting real feeling for something else: virtual pleasure, virtual pain. I can’t even walk into the office without thinking about your eyes, your body waiting for me at night. My dear Ariadne… And on the other side of the city, the boy with the distracted smile and the slender waist, and the delicate earring waits… You see? I can’t think of anything. So I walk the streets until it is too late, and you are angry from waiting, and you want to kill me with a gun that has sat in a drawer for too long. And I’m even willing to accept killing, to accept death, because it would be something, wouldn’t it? It’d be real feeling. Not some…You see? I’m nothing. I can’t even walk into our apartment without shaking. The minotaur enters my sleep and I let him devour me, because I know whatever I do, however much I try, I won’t love you enough. I’ll never save you. And that’s what you want, isn’t it? You want to be saved. You want the promise of religion. You want ecstasy and beauty and some kind of transcendence. And what do you get instead? You get a butcher boy, a freak, a man with eyes that spin in a trance who cannot, who…
[MESMER falls in a fit.]
[The fit continues. ARIADNE sets the gun down. Lights fade.]
Act Two Scene sixteen
[Outside the ice cream shop, LAME and ANGE stand. It is cold.]
LAME A fucking brain scan.
LAME He’s in the damn hospital.
ANGE Some scheme…
LAME It’s got nothing to do with that. He’s ill or something.
ANGE Did he pay you?
LAME What’s it to you? You’ve got a new outfit.
ANGE I met a guy. Fucking loon.
LAME You screw him?
ANGE We eat ice cream. He takes me out.
LAME Day trips?
ANGE We go to the movies
LAME …I’ve got to see him.
ANGE You’re stuck, aren’t you?
LAME Am not.
ANGE He bought you the frock and everything.
LAME Looks good on me.
ANGE Yeah. It does.
LAME Shiny black lipstick.
ANGE Is that what you wore it with?
ANGE Goddamn coven.
LAME Nothing like that.
ANGE You’re turning into a fetish queen.
LAME I like the way it looks. That’s all.
ANGE What? Rock n’ roller?
[sings from Bowie’s “Heroes.”]
“I, I will be king And you, you will be queen… We can be Heroes, just for one day…”
ANGE …You’ve got to see him.
LAME I hate hospitals.
ANGE You’ve got to sit by his bed. Watch him.
LAME His wife will be there. She won’t like it.
ANGE You screw her?
LAME She wanted to try me. I let her.
ANGE You’re a moo, you are.
LAME She had a sad look.
ANGE If you don’t go to that hospital, he’ll die.
LAME Ain’t that serious.
ANGE Brain scan? That’s mortal.
LAME He’s got some kind of disease.
ANGE You should be ashamed of yourself.
LAME I didn’t know.
ANGE He rub your tit?
LAME It’s better.
ANGE Healed, has it?
LAME Still hurts a bit, but…
ANGE Your poor sorry heart has decided it’s better to have a flaming tit than lose Mesmer’s love, is that it?
ANGE At least I admit it.
LAME Going to the movies, eating ice cream… going out with a school-boy.
ANGE He’s all right.
LAME He’s probably a fucking murderer.
LAME That’s what they’re like, the worst ones. They come on all nice and then they stab you fifteen times.
ANGE Fuck off.
LAME I’m only trying to warn you.
ANGE You’re a fucking cow. A goddamn moo. Go on. Go to your sick boyfriend. Bring him wildflowers.
LAME He’s not my boyfriend.
ANGE What is he then?
LAME …He’s Mesmer.
[She walks away.]
LAME Where are you going?
ANGE To the movies.
[NADJA turns her gaze onto the street. In the background, the flicker of a film.]
NADJA Under the duvet, I dream of Caledonia way up north, I dream of Catalan boys and street singers, scabs on twins in the middle of a square, a black sleeveless T on a body, and an ambient muse. That’s what I see, what I listen to, as I turn on my camera and dream.
Timothy’s left me. He’s stolen away. He’s looking for another dream. He’s looking out for me. Even though I don’t need it. I don’t need anything. I’ve got money, cold fritters, and a bag of chips. I’ve got chocolate, too. Kit-Kat bars in my pocket in case he comes back to me. I know he likes sweets. Not all the time. But to have…to stick between his teeth.
It’s raining smoke. The shops are closed and I turn the other way. Past another street. There’s another boy with a bottle of Becks in his hand and a bouquet of wildflowers. He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t see me. He’s got a distracted smile and a hint of contempt on his lips. I’d like to have him under a little tartan blanket, put mirrors on his nipples, so he can reflect everything. I want to make everything private in my life public, including my love, even though it’s misplaced, displaced, gone from view. I don’t care. Love is a labyrinth. It doesn’t know silence. It questions everything.
There is a voice on the loudspeaker. All flights have been cancelled. Barcelona will have to wait for another day, so will Caledonia, and everywhere else on this cardboard map. I’m on the lip: a place of landing where all facades are dropped. My suitcase holds the future as I stand across from a midnight car park “Get out and don’t come back,” are the words I hear. as I weep alone under the glow of the TV aerials in the dark.
[Hospital. MESMER is in bed. LAME stands before him with a bouquet of wildflowers in hand.]
LAME I brought you these. I thought you’d like them. Wildflowers… I didn’t know what else to get. You look so pale lying there. So fragile. I don’t think I’d recognize you. You’ve got such blonde eyebrows. I never noticed that. What do you do, eh? Do you dye them? I’d dye mine but they’re so thin, there’s no point. My hair would fall out. I got you wildflowers for luck. They say they’re lucky. That’s what the woman in the shop said. Cost me a fiver. You think she stiffed me? I didn’t know what to get.
I hate hospitals. Last time I was in one… was when my uncle got cut up. They cut off his leg. It was rotted from the inside. Cancer… I couldn’t look at him. I couldn’t stay in the room. I can’t even walk by hospitals without getting the shivers. Always feel like taking a piss, a real piss, you know what I mean? You’ve got a soft mouth. I don’t think I noticed that. I always think of you in the dark. But it’s so light here. You can see everything. Can’t you? Why do they make hospitals so light? It’s not like anyone wants to see how sick they are. Fucking cruel it is. What? You’re laughing? It looks like you’re smiling. Like you’re going to laugh. I didn’t want to see you. I didn’t want to come near you. Ange told me to come. She made me. You’d like her. She’s not afraid of anything. She picked out my frock, the one you got me. She teased me about it, but she picked it out. I was going to wear it, but I didn’t think they’d let me in. It’s enough I’m some pug off the street, right? They said they’re testing your brain. Something to do with your fit…I don’t know what any of it… I don’t even know how they can get into your brain. What are they going to find? I’m having that dream, the one you told me about, the one about the man with the head of an animal. I dream he’s eating me, biting off my toes, then my fingers, nipples, earlobes…the delicate parts first, then everything else. Like those boys on the news, they had their fingers bitten off, did you know that? They said it in one of the papers, one of the ones you’re not supposed to believe. But I believe it, because it’s in my dream, in the dream you gave me by telling it to me. Some man with the face of an animal bit the fingers off of those boys after they were killed. In my dream, I see your eyes in the face of that animal, and I have to hide under the duvet or else I will scream. I don’t even know why I’m here. You’ve fucking poisoned me. I feel you in my flesh, and every part of me hurts. I was going to seek a reward, some kind of scheme, but fuck that, fuck everything. They say you’re ill, the nurses…They say your brain doesn’t work right. Something happened during your seizure. Oxygen left and some part of you stopped. I brought you wildflowers. I thought you’d like them. They’ll make you think of the country, eh? Foxes and trees… But there’s no water for them. There’s no vase. They’re starting to stink.
[Lights fade.] Scene nineteen
[Outside the cinema, TIMOTHY and ANGE look away from each other.]
ANGE That was a crappy movie.
ANGE Why’d you take me to it?
TIMOTHY I didn’t know what was playing.
ANGE You could’ve told me it wasn’t a slasher. Would’ve saved your dime. I only see slashers. They’re the only kind of movies I like.
ANGE Everything else is boring. You feel all right?
TIMOTHY I think so.
ANGE You’re getting your eyes back?
TIMOTHY Yes. I’m starting to focus better.
ANGE What was it like?
ANGE Going through glass?
TIMOTHY I don’t know.
ANGE Was there blood everywhere? Were any of your bones sticking out? They say you can go up to 10,000 feet if you’ve got enough oxygen in you. Like you’re flying, right? Only without wings.
TIMOTHY I don’t want to talk about it.
ANGE It helps to forget?
ANGE It’s all a lie.
ANGE Forgetting. It’s a lie. Nobody forgets anything. We just pretend we do.
TIMOTHY I don’t mind.
ANGE You’re a coward.
TIMOTHY Is this what you’re going to be like?
TIMOTHY I took you to a movie. I bought you ice cream.
ANGE I’m not a schoolgirl, am I?
TIMOTHY I’m trying to be nice.
TIMOTHY I don’t think I was before.
ANGE …Got amnesia, is that it?
TIMOTHY Of a kind.
ANGE Like a sci-fi?
ANGE You’re my real live sci-fi. I like slasher sci-fis. You ever seen those? People get killed with strange objects.
TIMOTHY …Kiss me.
ANGE What for?
TIMOTHY I want you to.
ANGE Buy me a gelato.
TIMOTHY That’s Italian, isn’t it?
TIMOTHY There’s not an Italian place around here.
ANGE Look for one.
TIMOTHY What’s wrong?
ANGE I don’t want to.
TIMOTHY Look, I’m sorry about the movie.
ANGE You’re a fucking cow … [she starts crying.]
TIMOTHY I’ll buy you a gelato, all right? I’ll find a place.
ANGE Goddamn moo…
TIMOTHY What did I- ?
ANGE He’s going to die.
ANGE Lame. I dreamed it last night.
TIMOTHY I thought you didn’t…
ANGE I love him, all right?
ANGE Yeah. What? I can love him.
TIMOTHY Does he know?
ANGE Are you crazy? He’d fucking kill me.
TIMOTHY What do you mean?
ANGE He’s a cow. A moo minder.
TIMOTHY I don’t understand…
ANGE He goes into any hole, drinks up.
TIMOTHY I see.
ANGE Do you?
TIMOTHY But you still love him?
ANGE I’m crazy as well.
TIMOTHY …In this dream…
ANGE It was horrible. He was all bit up. Like an animal. Flesh in pieces. It’s that suit he’s seeing: Mesmer. He’s no good for him. He’s a bad egg. You know him?
ANGE You made like you did.
TIMOTHY I don’t think so.
ANGE You made a face.
TIMOTHY The name, that’s all.
ANGE Some kind of god, isn’t it?
TIMOTHY …It helps to forget.
ANGE Convenient amnesia you’ve got. Mesmer burn your tit, too?
TIMOTHY There are lives one has. There are lives that exist in ruins, in circular ruins that enclose the heart. They move inside of you, slipping in and out of your memory, in and out of feeling. You watch them. You tuck them away. You excavate them. You see, sometimes you want to bring them back, try them out again. see how that life used to feel inside your skin. But mostly you leave them in ruins. Cause there’s no other place for them anymore. Not in any way you can make sense of.
ANGE Which life is this?
ANGE Which life are you living now?
TIMOTHY The one of forgetting.
[Hospital. Day. ARIADNE sits to one side. MESMER is awake in bed. LAME is resting on MESMER.]
MESMER I’m fine.
ARIADNE He’s fine.
MESMER Just my head sometimes…hurts.
MESMER It’ll go away.
MESMER He’s crying.
LAME I’m not.
MESMER The boy awakes.
LAME Don’t call me that.
ARIADNE What else is he going to call you?
LAME I’m not a boy. I haven’t been a boy for years.
MESMER Don’t cry now.
ARIADNE Such a shame…
LAME Stop laughing at me.
ARIADNE He’s imagining things.
MESMER He doesn’t look it, but he’s got a lively mind. Don’t you, Lame?
LAME Leave off.
MESMER What did you do with the flowers, eh?
LAME I tore them up.
ARIADNE Why did you do that?
LAME How can you sit there? How can you sit there and look at me?
ARIADNE I like looking at you. You remind me of things.
MESMER I’m devoted to Ariadne.
LAME Yeah? What about me?
MESMER You tore up my flowers.
LAME They were no good. They were cheap.
MESMER I would’ve liked to have seen them.
LAME I don’t know anything.
ARIADNE Such a boy…
LAME You used me.
ARIADNE We used each other.
LAME I believed you.
MESMER The world is full of mystery. Just the other day, I was fine. I was working on my story, meeting deadlines, not thinking of anything.
ARIADNE Except your dreams.
MESMER And then my brain snaps, blood runs, oxygen leaves, and I’m here.
ARIADNE At everyone’s mercy.
MESMER Flowers are left, and I don’t even see them. A boy weeps.
LAME I didn’t.
MESMER I hear things. In my sleep. I even heard Ariadne, even though she didn’t show up until…
ARIADNE I can’t stand hospitals.
LAME I fucking hate them.
MESMER Nothing can be explained. Not even the fact that I am perfectly fine now.
ARIADNE You could have another fit.
MESMER There’s always the possibility.
MESMER It’s what I live with.
LAME Will you still see me?
MESMER I’m seeing you now.
LAME I mean…
LAME I don’t want anything.
MESMER Then why don’t you leave?
LAME Everybody around me… they’re always screaming, asking for things: girls on the street selling frozen steaks out of plastic bags, knackered boys looking for a bit of a cuddle, old tarts handing me dodgy drinks….I’m nothing. You see? Even Ange. She doesn’t believe in me. And I’ve known her longer than I’ve known myself.
ARIADNE What are you saying?
LAME I feel at peace here.
MESMER With me?
LAME You could burn every part of me.
MESMER What’s happened to you, Lame?
LAME I don’t want to lose you.
ARIADNE You don’t know what you’re saying.
LAME Burn me.
ARIADNE Such a boy…such a shame…
MESMER Tell me your dreams.
[LAME folds into MESMER’s arms. Lights fade.]
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