Play in the Drawer: Caridad Svich
This week we offer Part II 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."
[LAME and ANGE stand outside the ice cream shop. ANGE is eating ice cream in a sugar cone. LAME watches her.]
LAME We could make a killing.
ANGE Another one of your schemes. I ain’t saving you, Lame.
LAME They’re giving out a fucking reward for those dead boys.
ANGE Who are you going to blame?
LAME The suit who had me last week.
ANGE Which one?
LAME I’ll get me a fucking Play-Station, an MP3, one of those nylon mesh jackets with the non-woven fibers, a frock of the week. I could be rich.
ANGE I don’t get a frock?
LAME Only if you’re with me.
ANGE I want an Alexander McQueen.
LAME I want a leather number slit up the front with a tight bodice.
ANGE You’re dreaming.
LAME You don’t think I look it?
ANGE You’d need black kohl eyeliner, glitter varnish, get yourself fixed up.
LAME I could do it. I could be a damn rock n’ roller.
LAME Like Bowie.
[sings from chorus of Bowie’s“Young Americans”]
“All night You want the young American Young American, young American, you want the young American…”
ANGE Who’d fuck you then?
LAME Upper class twits.
ANGE In your dreams.
LAME …That suit burned me, all right?
ANGE So you’ll blame him for the killings?
LAME He burned a hole on my tit. See?
LAME Fucking bastard.
ANGE Poor Lame.
LAME Shut up. He had me cuffed. Fetish queen, but married. He had his ring on. I could see. He runs his forefinger on it to prove to himself what he’s doing with me is nothing. I don’t mind except he starts flicking his Zippo too close, with his damn filtered cigarette, in his hand, and I think “What’s he…?” He burns me. Right on my tit. Takes the lit cig straight into my skin. And he’s smiling. I can’t even rub salve on it. It hurts too much. Hole in my fucking chest. Who the hell does he think he is? Leaves me cuffed to the damn bed and he walks out with his Paul Smith trousers and Gucci cufflinks. Click, click. I’m lying there with damn smoke cresting my skin. I can’t even scream. He comes back in an hour and un-cuffs me. He had ink on his fingers.
LAME Like from a pen.
ANGE A goddamn writer?
LAME I don’t know. I blew him for a hundred.
LAME I was scared.
LAME It’s the truth, Ange. I swear.
ANGE What was his name?
ANGE You’re making it up.
LAME He wants to see me again.
ANGE What kind of name is that?
LAME God of sleep.
LAME That’s what he said. Comes from the God of sleep. From the Greek.
ANGE That’s Hypnos.
ANGE Hypnos is the God of Sleep.
LAME What’s Mesmer then?
ANGE Fucking twit.
LAME …Gave me his number. Said I should call him again. He’s got nerve, right?
ANGE So, you’re thinking you go to the cops and say this Mesmer, this twit who burned a hole in your tit, killed seven boys off the highway?
LAME That’s right. Seek my reward.
ANGE Rotten scheme.
LAME He’s fucking scared of his wife. He’d do anything for her not to know about me.
ANGE [offers ice cream] I’m full. You want?
LAME Give here.
Got nuts in it.
ANGE It’s pistachio. You don’t want it?
LAME It’s all right.
ANGE The way you eat…
ANGE Like a damn girl.
ANGE You’re worse than me.
LAME Fuck it.
[He tosses ice cream.]
ANGE Didn’t have to do that.
LAME I don’t like pistachio. It’s warped.
ANGE There’s nothing warped about pistachio.
LAME So, what’d you think?
ANGE Your scheme? I think it’s shit.
ANGE I like it.
[High-rise. MESMER is standing. A Zippo lighter in hand. ARIADNE is seated, half-seen.]
MESMER I don’t always burn them. It’s not something I do. I’m a quiet man. My wife Ariadne knows this. I abhor violence. But certain boys? I want to burn them. This boy on whom I was particularly keen… he called me last night. He’s looking for me. Will let me do it again, he said. On his other tit. In his armpits. On the backs of his knees. He is offering himself to me on the phone. Who does he think he is? I’ll see him tonight. Same hotel. Off a side street. He says he wants a frock: leather with a slit up the front and a tight bodice. Off the shoulder. Exposed. He mentions a shop. Designer boutique. “It’s in the window,” he says. “It’s a girl’s frock, but it will fit me.” My wife looks at me. She asks me again about the boys who were killed.
Have I written the complete story yet? They have tracked down the person who shot the crime scene, the person who saw everything. It’s a woman. I tell my wife that she is lying. Who would put a camera on her lover going through a window, on seven boys cut open with a knife? What kind of woman would be spared by a minotaur? My wife smiles. I want to meet this woman. I want to burn her skin.
[The flick of the Zippo. Dark.]
[The cramped square of space. The window is now even higher. TIMOTHY reaches for it. He jumps. Higher and higher. Silence.
A mobile phone crashes through the window. TIMOTHY picks it up. He goes to dial. The mobile starts ringing. It won’t stop. TIMOTHY looks at it. TIMOTHY smashes the mobile phone. Dark.]
[Hotel lobby. Stale quiet, potted plants, wet drinks. ARIADNE is seated, an unlit cigarette in hand. LAME enters.]
ARIADNE Have you a light?
ARIADNE You look like you smoke. I wouldn’t ask otherwise.
LAME I smoke. Yeah.
ARIADNE Not filters, though.
LAME Screw that. I like it strong.
ARIADNE American cigarettes.
LAME Yeah. Camels, Marlboros… If I’m going to smoke, I might as well do it right.
[He lights her cigarette.]
LAME You’re waiting for someone?
LAME A guest?
ARIADNE I like hotels. I like sitting in lobbies. I’m not waiting for anyone. You?
LAME Might be.
ARIADNE You don’t know?
LAME I can come back another time.
ARIADNE I like you.
LAME That’s a line, isn’t it?
ARIADNE Everything’s a line. My husband specializes in them. He’s a journalist. He stages crime scenes so he can write about them as if they were real. That way he gets the exclusive, right? On his own damn story.
LAME He does that?
ARIADNE All the time. Wins prizes, the lot. He’s a regular star.
LAME You’re proud of him?
ARIADNE Wouldn’t you be?
LAME He’s a liar.
ARIADNE We’re all liars. Just a bit. You’re going to tell me you’re through and through?
LAME Well, I…
ARIADNE You see? We’re all the same. Drink?
ARIADNE Want a drink?
LAME I shouldn’t.
ARIADNE Why not?
LAME I’m waiting for someone. It wouldn’t be right if I was all…
ARIADNE You don’t look the type.
LAME What’d you mean?
ARIADNE Like you’d have any sort of morality.
LAME I believe in things.
ARIADNE I’ve stopped believing. When I was a girl, I believed in the Trinity, in faith, in the vespers, and the lighting of candles. I believed that if you prayed, good things would happen in the world, that there would be answers. Simple. Yes. But I believed it. But then one girl in my class got killed, and then another, and I couldn’t do anything, no matter how much I prayed. The Trinity couldn’t save me. Couldn’t save those girls. I stopped praying. I stopped lighting candles and bowing my head. I stopped waiting for a man to be good to me. And I met my husband. A man with infinite qualities, none of them particularly good, except that he does take care of me. He pays for my upkeep. You see? The nails must be manicured, the hair must be done, the clothes must be…I look good, don’t I?
ARIADNE You don’t mean it.
LAME I do.
ARIADNE Don’t lie to me. I don’t need lies.
LAME You look a mess.
ARIADNE That’s better. A mess…
LAME I could fix that.
ARIADNE With your cock?
LAME I didn’t mean…
ARIADNE Yes, you did. It’s all right. I don’t want you. You see? I don’t want anybody. I only want my husband. And he despises me.
LAME You’re waiting for him?
ARIADNE I found a matchbook in his pocket with the name of this hotel. Classic. I know. I’m a cliché. The wronged wife sitting in a hotel lobby with an empty matchbook in her purse, hoping to find her husband, hoping to see the woman he’s screwing tonight. I don’t wish to confront him. I just want to see what she’s like. I want to study her.
LAME You want to get tips from her?
ARIADNE I don’t need tips. I know what to wear. I know what looks good on me. I know my worth. No. I just want to see. I want to see how he behaves with her. Does he caress her neck? Does he slip his hand inside her pants, down her crack, like he does to me? Does he wear the same cologne, the one I got him in Spain for his birthday? Or does he wear something cheap so as to be disguised? Does he want her the same way he wants me?
LAME I should leave.
ARIADNE Are you tired of waiting?
LAME I think I got the wrong night.
ARIADNE Stay with me.
LAME I can’t. It’s not right.
ARIADNE Such a principled man. I bet you wouldn’t resort to killing.
ARIADNE Cutting boys open with a knife, sweet adolescent boys with eager faces… You’re not the kind to do such a thing.
LAME I don’t know what you’re talking about.
ARIADNE The news. The boys who were killed. The seven slain.
ARIADNE They show their faces every day at six and eleven. I see them in my sleep. My husband says I am willing them into me, into my dreams. Do you think that’s possible? Do you think you can will someone into your sleep?
LAME I wouldn’t know.
ARIADNE You have such a kind face.
LAME I should leave.
ARIADNE Have a drink. Stay with me. I’ll caress your skin. I’ll give you whatever you need.
[She offers him money.]
ARIADNE Am I doing this wrong? Teach me.
LAME Not here. We’ll go up. Yeah?
ARIADNE Of course. A room.
ARIADNE You like hotel rooms, love?
LAME They’re quiet.
ARIADNE We could all do with a bit of that, eh?
LAME Finish your drink.
ARIADNE Will you hurt me?
LAME I need to think.
[She downs the glass. Lights fade.]
[The cramped square of space, which is wider now. TIMOTHY is seated. NADJA walks in with a bag.]
TIMOTHY You came back.
NADJA I keep my word.
TIMOTHY I didn’t think you would.
NADJA Eat your fritters.
TIMOTHY Did you miss me? Did you think about me waiting for you? Did you dream about me?
NADJA I got us money.
NADJA Man with a coat.
TIMOTHY He gave it?
NADJA We bargained.
TIMOTHY How much?
NADJA The price of flesh.
TIMOTHY The fritters are cold. Where’d you get them?
NADJA Day trip.
TIMOTHY What? The man in the coat gave you a ticket? An excursion pass?
NADJA He wanted a ride.
TIMOTHY I hope he paid you plenty.
NADJA We rode all the way up to Aberdeen.
NADJA Up north a bit. The train was empty, except for some kids on their mobiles calling home. They were sweet. They were calling their parents, tugging at their sneakers and sipping from concealed bottles of Becks. They were talking about football and their favorite teams, ticking away minutes on their mobiles for a bit of home. We sat in the back facing the wrong way.
TIMOTHY The wrong way?
NADJA We sat in the opposite direction of where the train was heading.
TIMOTHY How could you stand it? I always get a headache when I do that.
NADJA It’s what he wanted. He was paying. The kids talked and he ran his hand for a while. Just rubbing.I wanted him to open me but he wouldn’t. He said “Not until we are further north and it’s all gray.”
TIMOTHY You shouldn’t have had to do it.
NADJA I got us money, didn’t I?
TIMOTHY Cold fritters in my mouth.
NADJA You need something in you. You can’t go out like that.
TIMOTHY I can’t go out at all. You lock the door.
NADJA I saved you.
TIMOTHY You picked me up on the street, but I looked out for you, didn’t I?
NADJA I don’t need it.
TIMOTHY I don’t even remember what air feels like on my skin. You shut everything out.
NADJA It’s safe here.
TIMOTHY Damn squat-sit. Everything’s ash. Did he screw you?
NADJA He pushed me down onto the seat of the train as we closed in on Aberdeen and I could see the gray buildings come into view. Then he pulled the cigarette from his mouth and started burning me. I think he expected me to give him a good cry, but I wouldn’t. So he burned me more. All down my belly. See? It was a day trip. He wanted a look at me. A good look. That’s what I gave him.
TIMOTHY He didn’t screw you?
NADJA He left me lying on the seat until the train stopped. Then he said “Let’s go for some fritters.” I said “Sure, I love fritters. My father used to make them on Saturdays before he’d go drinking.”
TIMOTHY Did he?
NADJA I lied. I was hungry. He walked me over to a stand and ordered a couple of bags. Then we sat on the edge of a row of concrete blocks, and ate silently. Like old people do. Old married couples who sit in parks watching the birds shit as they eat with salty hands.
TIMOTHY What was he like?
NADJA Polite. Nice cufflinks.
TIMOTHY You met him before?
TIMOTHY [at end of bag] What’s this?
NADJA A treat.
TIMOTHY Tastes sweet.
NADJA Mars bar. Thought you’d like it.
TIMOTHY It’s warm.
NADJA I got it on the way back. It’s fried. Do you like it?
TIMOTHY I can’t think about you with that man…with your stomach all….
NADJA Shh. Be still.
TIMOTHY I’m falling asleep. I can’t remember anything, Nadja. Something about dancing and a car and going through glass…
NADJA You’ll be fine, love.
TIMOTHY Do you love me?
NADJA Be still now.
TIMOTHY Your voice sounds strange, like it’s far away, somewhere else. Where are you from, Nadja?
NADJA I’m from right here.
TIMOTHY I can’t make you out. I can’t find my sneakers. I don’t think these clothes are mine. They’ve been put on me by someone else. I can’t find anything, not even my back-pack…
NADJA You tossed it.
TIMOTHY Why would I do that, Nadja? Why would I toss my Teletubbie?
NADJA He was a creep.
TIMOTHY Did I say that?
NADJA I’ll buy you another.
TIMOTHY No. It’s just I … I need a cigarette. My brain’s mush. I think I must’ve killed someone. I keep seeing these boys’ faces. Their bodies lie off the side of a road. They stare at me. They’ve got blood in their hair. I don’t know where they’re from. They look like me when I was seventeen.
NADJA Have a word.
TIMOTHY I’m full. My stomach’s turning.
NADJA [offering the word] Aberdeen.
NADJA Slow doon.
TIMOTHY What kind of language is that?
NADJA Just take the words, love.
TIMOTHY Do you love me?
NADJA Slow doon.
TIMOTHY …Slow doon.
NADJA Ah go tae bed.
[He closes his eyes. NADJA touches her stomach, weeps. Light disappears from the window.]
[Hotel room. MESMER is on the mobile phone. This is a close-up.]
MESMER She had the camera tight on me. She wanted to X-ray my eyes, she said. “It’s the flicker effect.” I looked straight ahead on the train. She had the kind of voice I imagined: a trace of everywhere. She said she’d been to Mexico and that’s where she learned to shoot crime scenes. They happen all the time down there, she said. Somebody has to record them. So, she got into the habit of carrying her camera everywhere. “I have seven hundred stacks of film. Murders, kidnappings, virtual suicides, sexual coercion, dead boys, girls…I have everything. I’ll sell them to you for the right price. I’ll sell anything.” She has warm eyes. I could lose myself in her. But I keep my gaze. Straight ahead. She places her hand in between my thighs. She starts rubbing. I will not be aroused. I will not let her… She keeps rubbing. Her fingers are insistent. She has practice. I think of her in flames. I think of the man with the head of a bull who haunts me. I will not give in. The train pulls to a stop. We are in a town whose name I cannot pronounce. She says “Mesmer, Mesmer…” How is it she knows my name? I squeeze her hand. I break her fingers. I feel the snap. She will not win.
[Lights reveal LAME at MESMER’s knees finished with a blow-job. He wears the leather dress with the tight bodice, and black kohl eyeliner. Lights fade.]
[NADJA watches TIMOTHY in the near distance. She dreams in real time. ]
NADJA I wake up in London. I go to bed in New York. Glasgow is at the other end of the train, at the other end of Aberdeen, and the northern country: Caledonia. Los Angeles is the layover of a layover that never ends. Mexico finds me in sleep. Berlin… Berlin steals my dreams. Voices call out on invisible speakers in languages I cannot understand: “Aspekten der Hypnose, Aspekten der Hypnose…” This is the suitcase of never ending cities that merge in my brain. Everything is the same. We are on a piece of cardboard. Points equidistant from each other. The infant universe is flat. Draw a line from one city to the other. Aberdeen lies near Seattle. The seven slain boys haunt me. “Aspekten der… slow doon…” Words from one country fall into the other. I see Timothy leaving. Walk on, boy. Lose me. There is a glitter on my eyelash from where you kissed me last, from when you were leaning on my cheek. I am an atlas that questions itself daily. [sings] “Would you give a toss if all was lost? Would you still look out for me?”
[In the near distance, TIMOTHY is seen crawling out of the window high up of the square space. Dark.]
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