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Jason Irwin

 

Undone

A Play in One Act

 

Scene

(A small room with brown/yellow stained walls. A door, far upstage, slightly left of center, with a blue jacket hanging on the knob. To the left of door on left side wall of room a dresser of drawers with four small, framed photos. In front of the dresser, against the wall is a sink with a leaky faucet and above the sink, hanging on the wall is a rectangular mirror without a frame, about two feet in length To the right of door against back wall of room is a night stand with a lamp on it and a digital clock. The red letters should read 3:26am at the start of play and continue in real time until the end of play. Next to the night stand is a flimsy bed with yellow bedspread and white pillow. Above the bed on wall hangs a framed print of Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” At the foot of the bed is a small table with a small record player on it. Against it on the floor lie 4 or 5 record albums. On the right wall, above the bed is a framed print of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment.” Far downstage, left of center is a desk and chair. On the desk is a mess of paper, yellow legal pads, pens, pencils and seven books stacked neatly at the far left corner of the desk. The spines of the books face the audience. From bottom to top they are: Webster’s Dictionary, The Bible, Complete Works of Shakespeare, “The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh,” Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again,” Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” & Camus’ “The Stranger.” On the right corner of desk is a reading lamp and a half finished jug of red wine. Right of the desk, downstage, and a bit right of center is a large window that looks out at city and audience. There is also a bare bulb hanging from the center of the ceiling. Inebrious is a writer, 39 years old, approaching his 40th birthday, a bachelor and drunk, who feels unappreciated and alienated from society. He is employed at an undisclosed office. He has a fake left leg, walks with an exaggerated limp. He has greasy brown hair, longish, a two day’s growth of beard and glasses. He is dressed in brown stained pants and a white collar long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up below the elbows and the top two buttons undone. At start of play he is pacing around the small room mumbling to himself, trying to find a title for his memoirs.)

INEBRIOUS

Conversations With Myself...? A Boy and his Intestine...? No, uh…The Happy Fatalist...? Delusions…(laughs) Delusions of Branding Her...? Pissing in the Wind?
Yes, well, aren’t we all? But no, that’s not it, um…The Slap Also Rises...? Inebrious’ Complaint...? Complaints is more like it...! Thus Spake Inebrious...? Of Crime and My Liver...? (laughs), That would be a good one, but no. (Pause.) The Clodhopper Verses…?
The Hunchback of Harper Street...? The Lame Shall Enter Cursed...? A Confederacy…Yes, yes that’s it! That’s it! A Confederacy of Clodhoppers!!! (Inebrious rushes to his desk, scribbles the title, graves the jug of wine and takes a big swig, then as if exhausted, slumps back in his chair. Pause. He looks at the clock, states the time aloud, stands, walks to window, and stares out at the city below.)

Aimless as an abandoned rowboat, I think of her now; my thoughts like tears. I feel a sore throat coming on. I Inebrious-aye aye-I Clodhopper, son of a sullen clod, master of paradoxes and grand indecisions, expert in loitering, squandering and wandering the caged frontier of the city. (Sarcastic tone), Ah yes, The City! The place where fortunes are lost, where boys learn about the world, the real world, and become men. If I were truly invisible, I mean a non corporeal being, a spirit, yes, not simply invisible in the sense of not being noticed, being pushed aside and all that crap, why I'd have my way with all the women in this old city.

(Lingers at the window, and then walks to side of desk, picks up the jug of wine and drinks. He holds the jug in his right hand and resumes pacing the room like an animal in a cage. He talks loudly, as if to an imaginary audience.)

I remember walking the dark streets, endlessly it seems, amid passing headlights and hurrying footsteps…listening to the rumble of car exhausts, the crisp crackling of dead October leaves as they were crushed beneath my stride. The night sky a deep blue, behind a silhouette of trees and buildings. Falling shadows mark my way. I feel the earth spinning, as I slowly suck in the city's very breath. The funneling of industrial sized fans in all night diners, the stench of grease and gyros penetrating like an X-ray, like some post-modern machine strewn in decay. That was then…not tonight. What of tonight?

(He stops, looks at the clock, sits on the edge of his bed, looks at the wine bottle for e a lingering moments, takes a drink, stands, walks to the window again. Stares out.)

The sound of her voice on the phone: who am I kidding? I want her. I've always wanted her? Who is she? Who am I? Sometimes it's hard to tell. Days like dead skin…shed and forgotten…lost. Long ago.

(Pause.)

Last night. Last night I was out for my usual stagger, and down the street…in that old Victorian house on the corner, there was a little girl. I watched her through the Bay window. She was sitting at the piano, an upright, playing Bach and as I stood under the street light watching her, listening, I could feel my heart pounding, feel the tears coming on, burning my eyes, and slowly, slowly I moved closer and closer, until I could see my breath on the glass, and I stood there shivering, listening to the music, watching her small fingers on the keys. It was…beautiful.

(He stops, walks to desk, sets wine down on the floor at his feet. He looks at his stack of books, takes “the Stranger” from the stack and begins to thumb through it, reading lines to himself. Then he sets the book down and finding a pen and a clean sheet of paper he begins to write and as he writes he says aloud what it is he is writing.)

When I was nine I remember building an igloo and lying there on top of it, closing my eyes and counting the seconds to see how long it would take till I began to freeze. Wondering what it would be like to freeze to death like some Eskimo. That God damned faucet! Shit! (He throws his pen down, pushes chair back and stands, angrily he goes to the sink, trying in vain to tighten the faucet, yet the water is still dripping.) I’m calling the police tomorrow, the housing authority. I can’t…I can’t stand it anymore, that sound! The constant dripping, dripping dripping all night! (He looks at the clock, then walks to dresser and looks a long time at the pictures.) Mother, my mother…grandpa, my friends. Parris and Paul, Yes, Parris and Paul and that last night we spent at the bar, so long gone now. Parris dressed as he usually was, all buttoned up like a rainy day, black shoes and elbow patches, like some 1940’s Gregory Peck, and Paul…all Dostoevskyish with chin and whiskers, orange wool cap and lumber jacketed blue jeans.

(Pause)

If you could’ve seen us then, three blood-eyed apostates driving in the old blue jalopy, minus three hubcaps and a back bumper…swerving through the blazing streets of Nero’s Rome in search of a magic elixir! (Laughs loudly, and then angrily walks away. Goes to window, looks out, then picks up jug of wine and drinks a few swigs, sits back down at desk.) Damn toes itch. (Rolls up left pant leg to reveal a fake leg, he taps it several times, and then pounds it two times, lets pant leg fall.) Yes, phantom pain. The severed nerves. The brain doesn't know the foot is gone. A strange thing: the brain. Sending messages, impulses, desires throughout the body. As a child I sat on the yellow linoleum, petting my club foot like a dead pet.

(Pause)

The linoleum like a sun. Linoleum linoleum, mue lo nil, lin-o-le-um linoleum. linoleum. How I miss linoleum. How I lust linoleum. Lust? (Pause.). I wonder sometimes, like now, or earlier tonight, as I stumbled home from the bar. Yes I can still taste the night's pints; thick and stale on my tongue, slithering down my esophagus, into my intestines, like our lives on their course, waiting…yes that’s it! (Begins to write), Our lives on their course, waiting only to be expelled. Our lives on their inevitable course, waiting only to be expelled. Circumstance? Chance? Free will? Luck? There is no such thing as luck. It's a word for gamblers and other such weaklings.

(Pause.)

So what is it, then? Inevitable? The inevitable course of our lives, like the Bologna sandwich I had for lunch…into my intestines. (Pause.) Sometimes I feel like I'm here to perform a function, like an intestine. Lying here amid stacks of books and scraps of paper, a million still-born thoughts, regurgitated over and over. Lost. Letters never sent. Dear Blank, I'm so sorry…for everything I never said. Dear Blank, I love you. Just words. Words and words and words!

(Long pause.)

Work tomorrow, today. Stupid. Wasting away at that office. Filing all those papers, stamping, stapling, typing, putting things in order. Fuck order! (screaming, walks toward window, looks out as he continues to scream.) I’m an artist for Christ Sake. To hell with everyone down at the Pink Pony, kicking me off stage…telling me to quit blabbering…said not to bother coming back to the open mics anymore if all I’m gonna do is bark like a dog and wear that stupid bow tie and soiled pants. Bunch of fuckers is what! Imagine, I was planning to ask Agnes to come to my room and be the first to read my memoirs! The first! I even bought a bottle of wine and some oatmeal raisin cookies. Fat chance of that now! I mean, I tried to be polite, to be flattering, but Nooo! Nooo! I mean there’s only so much a person can do. Only so much. I was a gentleman, though. In all respects…I was a perfect gentleman. Is it my fault she had blinders on? They said I was gawking at her…that I had a deranged and perverted look in my eyes…that I was drooling. I was not drooling! I guess it didn’t help I downed a half pint of Jack beforehand. Pretentious fools! And then, and then there’s Harvey. Harvey Miller! The proprietor. Says I won’t be welcomed back until I learn to behave….to sober up…until I take a bath! Can you believe that? A bath? Like I have time to bathe? (laughs loudly) As if the saints ever bathed!

(Long pause. He picks up chair and moves it back to desk, sets jug of wine on side of desk, picks up a pen and starts writing again. Long pause. He rubs his face, takes a deep breath, then sits up perfectly straight. Then talking aloud as he writes)

What was it now…I've lost track. Something…something about the course of our lives, of my life, waiting…the course, the inevitable course of our lives..of my…of my intestines, of excrement? The inevitable course of our lives that leads us from one loneliness to the next.

(Pause. He takes a drink of wine.)

Bullshit, really. Life is a piss bucket…just like the old man said, an endless rummaging through memories, like trying to count drops of rain, or dig your way to China.

(Pause. Drinks more wine.)

Maybe everything is just…just a product of our own limited perceptions. We see what we want. Hear what we want. What we want. These split second revelations can only be compared to hitting your funny bone or breathing in the scent of a beautiful woman who passes you on the street. The inevitable course.

(Pause.)

Signals…signals sent from the brain. And what if our brains forgot to send these signals…these messages? What if…all of a sudden…we forgot how to walk, to talk, to eat? What if…what if one morning we woke to find that everything we knew…everything we thought knew that is…everything we believed in, trusted in…was wrong? Everything we thought we remembered? Truth.

(Pause. Drinks more wine. Stands, walks to the window again.)

What is Truth…? What is it to remember? Voices…hundreds of voices all talking at the same time, like in a barroom. Different conversations swelling and surrounding me. Places, names, dates, phone numbers, disfigured and lost in the shuffle of time. The lost horizon of time. Days of routine and boredom. Memories dripping on the edge of recollection, like a million falling snowflakes on your tongue.

(Long Pause. Looks at his hands, feels his hair. Thenm he stands, walks to foot of bed, looks through albums, opens one, places it on record player, drops needle, walks back to desk. In a few seconds the scratchy sound of Henryk Gorecki’s String Quartet #1 “Already it is Dusk” plays quietly.)

My throat closed yesterday, last week. Tonight. Nothing spectacular, really. It happens from time to time, like waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or misplacing your keys. Closed, shut.

(Pause)

Feel the muscles in the esophagus closing, tightening like a knot. Then the wheezing, gasping, like drowning. It happens from time to time, like the thinking, like the loneliness that seems an eternity of knives and dark nights, like this night: tonight. Night: the opposite of day.

(Pause.)

Four days…it's been four days since I've spoken a word to anyone. Four days. Yet it happens from time to time. quiet, the wheezing, the gasping. It happened when I was a child. My mother was there. The esophagus, the drowning, the quiet. Hours, days, nights, alone. How many hours are in four days? 24 hours in a day x 4 days. 96 hours. How many hours in a lifetime? In my life? I'm forty years old. Forty? Forty fucking’ years! Bunch of thieves! So many hours and years of things unsaid, unfinished.

(Pause)

Am I asleep or awake? Sometimes I can't tell the difference. What's the difference, really? 40 years. 365 days x 24 x 40= 350,400 hours of life. More than that since I was born in July and this, this is December, 5th? 6th? 350,400 hours and counting. Life, living, to be. To breathe. Middle age. The moment we are born we are dying. Each moment closer to death. Each hour. 350,400 hours…350, 400 hours of dying! Get on with it. Night: the opposite of day, like the ass is the opposite of the mouth. Night, death, the moon.

(Pause)

How can we know anything, really, or anyone…? To really know and connect with someone, to love and be loved. To let yourself be loved. What other earthly salvation is there? Love. What more…? Doing it on the coffee table? Rug burns? Blow jobs? 69? Yes I remember her quite well. Sitting at the coffee shop, how she transformed, her moods. No, I never told her I loved her.

(Pause.)

And what of your grandfather? My grandfather? Huh? Yes, the one who was murdered. Murdered? But no one ever, I mean no one ever mentioned his name. His name…was Oscar, wasn’t it? Edgar? Yes, Edgar. Edgar Clive. Edgar Clive is no longer alive!!!

(Pause.)

Died long ago, before I was born. I never knew him, but…But sometimes I think…Sometimes I don't feel an attachment to anyone or anything, yet, sometimes I think I miss him. Yes, Yes.

(Long Pause.)

He was murdered…robbed and stabbed, kicked in the head they say. A quiet man…they say, my grandfather…my poor murdered grandfather. What is it…to be murdered? To die? Yes, to die. To die alone. Alone, here, now tonight. This night, this room. The smell of death. These brown walls. This desk, this chair, this window. My…my hands. My hands. My breath. The last…the last breath. The last exhale. We all…we all die alone. No matter what…no matter what we all die alone! Van Gogh believed in God. Surely he died the poet's death. Toulouse-Lautrec, too.

(Pause.)

My mother. She was…poetic. I remember watching her sometimes…as she slept, slept like a child, like a little girl. So tender, and then the nightmares…her screams…used to wake me in the middle of the night. Yes. I’d pull the covers over my head, grip my pillow and wait…wait for her screams to stop….because…because I was helpless. I couldn’t make them stop…so I hid under the covers.

What does it matter in the end?

(Pause. Looks at the clock, says the time aloud.)

Maybe we are all just living in the belly of a whale…waiting…waiting to be shat out. God's holy shit! The faucet…(Sudden violent outburst.) Fucking sink! God damned fucking sink! I can’t stand the sound of it any longer, the drip drip drip drip dripping! I’m a fucking artist, do you hear me, an artist! I can’t stand it anymore! Do I pay rent for this? To hear this all day and night? Drip drip drip drip drip!

(Long pause, looks around the room, at the clock. Again says the time aloud, picks up jug of wine, takes a long drink, belches, sets jug down at his feet, reaches for the Complete Shakespeare, thumbs through it to where it is bookmarked and searches for a passage, reads aloud.)

That’s it, think you’re so clever don’t you? Eh Billy boy? “O that I were as great as is my grief, or lesser than my name! Or that I could forget what I have been! Or not to remember what I must be now!” Bullshit artist is more like it! Shakespeare! I’ll show you…show them all!

(Pounds fists on desk, pushes papers and books off desk on to the floor, picks up jug of wine, drinks, then as if exhausted, slumps down in his chair. Long pause. The music intensifies in volume. He stands, holds jug of wine. He paces back and forth three times, walks to the dresser, again looks at the pictures, sets them down, walks to the dripping sink, stares at it, then at his own reflection in the mirror. He covers his face with his hands, then slowly slides his hands down his face, stares at his reflection, moves closer to the mirror, until his face is nearly touching the glass. Then he backs away, again studies his reflection and begins making honking noises at the mirror. Then various animal noises: a goat, a cow, a horse, monkey, a small dog, an ape. He beats his chest. Screams, violently messes up his hair, slaps his face repeatedly.) Aaaaahhhhh!!!!! (Then he closes his eyes very tight and begins reciting from the Gospel of Matthew. Very quickly, as if desperate, shaking his arms and fists.)

Blessed! Blessed! Blessed! Blessed are the poor…blessed are the poor and the meek. Blessed are the poor and the meek and the pure…and the pure of heart! Blessed are the poor and the meek and the pure of heart for theirs…for theirs is the kingdom…for theirs is the kingdom! Blessed! Blessed! Blessed! Blessed are the fart knockers!

(He farts. After a long pause he gets control of himself, pats his hair down, brushes his chest and arms, buttons his shirt, unrolls his sleeves, and buttons them. Takes a deep breath. Stands very straight, looks in mirror, turns, looks at the clock. Begins to pace the room. After two times around room he stops the record, then returns to the desk, sits. Long pause. He drinks from the jug of wine, then, after a long gulp, sets it on the floor again, removes his glasses, sets them on desk, and again walks to the window. Looks outside, walks back to desk, puts glasses back on starts writing again, speaking out loud.)

Where was I now? The linoleum…my mother…Parris? Paul? My poor murdered grand- father? 350, 400 hours? Oh yes…the inevitable course of our lives. The hours, minutes. Yes, yes. A Confederacy of Clodhoppers! I’ll show them. I’ll damn well show them.

(Pause. He stands, walks back to window. Arms raised, palm of hands pressed against the window.)

People would rather watch other people…on TV; humiliating themselves …confessing their deepest darkest sins…it gives them comfort. They don’t care about art or beauty…it’s all just commodity now…commodity and mediocrity. I’ll show them! I’ll fucking show them! Take a bath he says! (Furious, laughter.)

(Slowly he calms down, takes a deep breath and exhales. Walks to the record player, removes the Gorecki, puts the record back in its sleeve, then he walks back to the jug of wine, lifts it to his mouth and takes a long drink. Burps. The lights fade.)

 

 

 

 

Jason Irwin grew up in Dunkirk, NY and now lives in Pittsburgh. His first collection of poetry Watering the Dead won the 2006/2007 Transcontinental Poetry Award and was published in 2008 by Pavement Saw Press. In 2005 his manuscript Some Days It's A Love Story won the Slipstream Press Chapbook Prize. Poems have been published in several journals. In 2002 he also received an Individual Artists Grant from the Chautauqua County Arts Council. His one act play "CIVILIZATION" had its staged reading debut on April 24, 2010 at The Living Theatre, NYC. Contact author.

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