“Running through the world like an open razor, you’re bound to cut someone”
–Georg Büchner, Woyzeck
* Refers to skin colour
Fatima, Liz, Richard, and Colin are staggered around different parts of a large space. They do not share light, but are in their own worlds, facing forward. They are visibly breathing together, inhaling and exhaling at the same time.
The use of shadows throughout sometimes leads one to think that others may be in the space as well.
They all disappear.
Colin reappears in the middle of a smaller space.
He is middle-aged, healthy.
Looks around to see who’s watching. Nobody.
Takes a few deep breaths.
Relaxes into it.
Tenses, looks around, relaxes again.
Begins to breathe more deeply and more quickly.
Then gradually hyperventilates noisily, with his whole body.
When it seems like Colin can’t breathe any faster or move any more vigorously:
big inhalation, snaps to standing straight up, looks out, holds breath, clasps arms around chest, all at once.
bends over slightly
squeezes chest violently with arms.
And passes out.
But remains standing, precarious, loosing air, losing balance, mumbling, stumbling here and there.
Wakes as he’s about to fall.
Moans, rubs chest, belly.
oh my God
(almost laughing) Sweet loving Jesus.
(a bit more serious, can hardly believe the intensity) Whoa, whoa!
Decides to end it. Shakes free of the sensation, blows out air.
Checks brow for moisture, clothes for wrinkles, looks around.
Beauty tip number one:
never let them see you hit the ground.
Deep breath. Still for a moment. Inward. Pensive.
Thinks there might be someone. Nobody.
Deep breath, then starts to breathe faster.
Fatima appears, distant, watches.
Shadows in the space.
Colin can’t see her.
Occasionally, Fatima looks behind her to see if she is being watched in turn.
Similar routine as before for Colin:
he reaches peak somewhat sooner,
and with more intensity.
He passes out for somewhat longer.
This time, when he wakes, and as he’s about to fall:
Oh, oh no…, oh shit
(starts breathing fast and shallow,
arms tight around his torso)
no no no no no no no
(can’t shake it off)
i’m gonna …
oh sweet Jesus
(release of air, whisper
begs for mercy) oh nono
ohnonono please please…
(no big cry, just release of air) uh .. uh.. ahhhh.
begins to fall.
Colin sees Fatima watching him on the way down
assumes he is dreaming
and disappears into the dark
with a thud.
Fatima is indoors somewhere close now.
(Holding a knife, promiscuously, by her side.)
My husband. My hus-band.
I had known Richard for six months
we had been kissing for four months
engaged for two.
Richard was very tentative, awkward
he Wanted To Inspect It — ‘To Inspect It,’
I asked him to be Very Careful—obviously.
He Looked At It
long and hard
his eyes were sharper than his tongue.
He didn’t touch
he’d Have To Wait For The Wedding for that
Later I wake up
Richard is moving
He’s lying beside me,
rubbing himself against my leg
— my calf —
in the dark.
He suckles the side of my breast with his mouth.
then notices me wake up, and,
Being A Gentleman
‘I can wait to know all of you,’ he said, ‘For that I can wait’
‘But,’ he says, ‘I need to know you some of you right now.’
What strange equations you speak in my love:
all of me, some of me, pieces of me
none of me.
I am very still
There is a pleasant anxiety in Richard’s voice.
It means I can sense Richard
much more clearly
—in all his infinite detail—
than Richard can see me.
But I did not intend—
I never meant—
Richard and Colin appear as Fatima goes quiet. She sees them briefly as she disappears.
The two men are in some kind of vague institutional space, perhaps a medical or minimum-security correctional facility.
Colin is wearing a medical overcoat and also sports a bright red clown nose.
Colin is in charge.
He takes notes of the proceedings on a clipboard.
Colin may be amusing, but never really amusing for Richard, no matter how hard either of them tries.
Richard refuses to make eye contact and struggles against the power of his imagination. He’s more fragile than he’d like to think he is.
you / first!
Richard / …
No, honestly, honestly,
you do it!
let’s see, um
That’s it, hold it.
Hold it down.
Here we go again:
… (poor attempt to pretend to breathe with difficulty for a moment,
Richard is holding his ground
and yet still cringes somewhat.
Look at me, Richard, look at my face.
Alright, go ahead
Come on, / breathe!
Okay: (steels himself, then, with disgust:)
Colin (surprised, momentum)
nice and … and quite biblical actually, did you notice?
See? The ancients are everywhere:
think Book of Job: ‘boils,’ ‘pestilence,’ ‘plague’ :
Richard is drifting further into disdain of the process.
Nice okay good
Stay with me
(mock lightbulb)… :
Richard cringes again. Clings to himself.
But you beat cancer
You—don’t hold your breath!
You beat cancer, / Richard, you told me so yourself
Please don’t say it again.
Showed it who’s daddy, right?
Schooled that cancer!
Richard looks at Colin quizzically.
(vigorous) Beat the cancer.
Yes, come on
(coaxing by showing a big lusty inhalation to imitate)
(Be mindful, now.
there is an order / to things)
I can do it.
cancer’s a favourite
an old chestnut
Yes, I beat cancer once,
That’s the / spirit.
(coming further out of himself)
in fact I beat cancer two times.
Of course, Richard, of course,
and if you ever get more cancer,
I mean / really get
Twice beaten cancer
thrice beaten cancer!
and if you ever get loads and / loads
of tumerous and metastasizing / cancer
you’ll beat it resoundingly
/ won’t you?
Yes: I declared war on cancer!
I declared that war!
My anxiety became weaponized and
I won that war!
That’s the spirit, Richard
show me who you really are
(in ‘scary’ voice) ‘Caaaaanceeeeer’
Colin makes faces
points to imaginary
tumours bursting from his body,
clumsy attempts to be amusing.
Richard’s brio is waning.
Colin, I’m sorry but I can’t anymore.
I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!
It’s too much
Don’t go far
I’m right here
Put your hand on my shoulder
(does not do anything)
I’m always here.
My hand is on your shoulder.
I’m sorry but I don’t / think that I’m…
All of this is supposed to be off-putting
I can’t take this right now.
I know Richard. I understand.
We’re all in the crapper together.
Things are hard for me too.
We’re both undergoing a
transformation you and I:
a major life transformation
And so now’s the time:
we have to smile in the face of it
That’s the work
That’s the old answer,
just dressed up in new clothes
(pulls on his clown nose)
Laugh it into submission
Cancer cancer cancer (makes a sick looking face, hold his stomach)
Ha ha ha
just breathe out
Ho ho ho
We can help a lot of people, Richard. Please just try this.
Can I ask you something?
We have to stay on topic—
How to recover and get back / what you lost
Can I ask you something?
Of course, just stay on topic.
I / want to
Be real with me, Richard
don’t try to pretend this isn’t hard
Can I ask you something about my face?
Colin thinks. Fatima appears. Colin notices Fatima at a great distance, Richard doesn’t.
Richard and Colin remain barely visible.
Richard took a few deep breaths in the dark,
somewhere beneath me.
The kind of breathing that people do
they try to drink each other
drown each other
His face was invisible to me
‘It’s ten years from now,’ he whispered,
‘we’re profoundly in love,
time has grown between us like the roots of two strong trees.’
I let him continue
I should have stopped him.
‘In the future,’ he explains,
talking his sweet hot air in the dark
‘We’re lying together,’
‘entwined under the branches of the great dark trees that we are,
and I’m making love to you,
my wife of ten years, and
you, the love of my life are
that has happened since.’
I should have stopped him.
I should have told him:
It would be more difficult than we could imagine
two people … all that time.
To be a little more reasonable.
take a little less risk.
‘Run away with me’ he said.
‘Let me heal you’
He. Loved me.
This strange and needy ManBoy
with his anxious, alert penis pressed against my calf
Richard went quiet
When we had both been silent for some time, he:
I said nothing
I didn’t move
I was probably asleep again by the time he finished.
The pain is gone, Richard
-the burning pain anyway—
These are the oldest feelings in the world
Are you ready to see me?
Colin is focused entirely on Richard, who sees Fatima for a brief moment just as she is disappearing.
With abandon, Richard, with brio!
(bringing his attention back from the space Fatima left behind
carefully pulls list out of pocket, unfolds, then:
Why don’t I like touching other people?
Or other people touching me?
Why do I feel sad all the time?
Why do I think it’s silly to roll around on the ground?
Why doesn’t Fatima love me anymore?
Why am I constantly wondering where my hands have been
or how dirty they are making my face?
Is my face dirty?
Is my face dirty?
Is my face dirty?
Is my face / dirty?
Is my face / dirty?
That’s a lot of questions, how about / one at a time.
(finally looking at him)
Is my face dirty?!
No, your face is not dirty.
This is not relevant.
You can’t turn a business around this way.
Are you sure?
About my face, / I mean?
Yes I am sure.
Your face is not dirty,
We must find balance
(close to breaking)
Then why is my skin darker than yours?
(intake of breath)
I want to tear it all off.
(anxious) I can’t breathe!
(struggles but can’t breathe)
Liz appears as Colin and Richard disappear, held together on the edge of their breath.
She is busy stretching out a long balloon.
Liz holds a particularly long stretch of the balloon with some effort, checks out her handiwork,
and begins blowing it up
very matter-of-factly as she starts to talk.
Big exhalations into the increasingly large balloon punctuate her speaking.
The balloon is unruly at times.
Liz seems naïve, intelligent, funny.
Sometimes she speaks rapidly with a high sing-song voice.
We’ve all descended from apes,
If you believe that.
Well, regardless, apes are very social creatures:
their life revolves around grooming, picking nits out of
their friends’ hair
and sitting happily together in trees.
I used to have a significant number of friends,
Almost 2600 friends if you want to know.
I sent messages to many of them on a daily basis.
I poured over photographs of their dogs, their families,
and very personal things like
them having fun while drinking alcohol with people they knew.
On most days many of these friends
also sent me messages and told me about
their work, their various acquisitions.
They sent funny jokes.
These friends shared their aspirations and dreams.
Recently I realized I had never met most, in fact,
I had never met any of these friends. You know,
just to sit around with them and talk.
It became clear to me—I came to understand, if you see what I’m saying—
that I longed to meet these friends.
Or at least as many of them as possible.
So, I organized a party at a hotel bar for everyone to meet and
advertised it to all the friends.
375 friends said they would attend
250 friends said maybe
25 friends said no.
I didn’t hear from the rest of them.
That’s 650 out of 2951 friends, which,
considering that these are people from all over,
is pretty damn good.
The hotel said they would supply free finger food
if we all bought drinks.
On the night of the party,
one friend and
one other person
showed up at the hotel.
(The other person follows me around
all the time
and doesn’t really count.
That person has been doing this for many years now.
I have them under control.)
The fact that only one friend came was purely embarrassing.
To make it worse: she smelled like garlic.
It was embarrassing.
I’m still paying off the bill for the food at the hotel.
Why would people say ‘maybe’?
250 people. ‘Maybe’ I’ll come.
What does that even mean? Either
you will or you won’t, or … you won’t.
The staff at the hotel think I am strange.
Either that or feel sorry for me, and frankly
neither of these options is preferred.
So, to get back to where I started:
I don’t want to see these friends’ smiling, taunting, jokey, pokey, fucking faces again.
I want to activate my inner ape.
I want to sit around and groom with my real friends.
I’m ready to fall in love now, please.
Liz takes out a lighter, flicks it and with the flame: pops the balloon.
David Fancy teaches in the Department of Dramatic Arts, part of the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, at Brock University.