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from the September 2017 issue

That Deep Ocean…

Listen to That Deep Ocean, produced by Play for Voices.
 

 

"Do you hear anything? Do you see any changes in the water?"

(E.A.Poe)

0. Maelstrom

I. Spring awakening

II. Into the fire

III. Abyss I

IV. Into the air

V. Intermezzo

VI. The great flood

VII. Abyss II

VIII. Into the earth

IX. Abyss III

X. Return to Ithaca

XI. Epilogue

 

Directions:

Italicized text: male voice

Scenes 0, III, VII, IX should sound similar to each other, and markedly different to the other scenes, which should have an ordinary, everyday quality.

In the Epilogue, the different sounds should converge.

In live performance, the noises and fragments of conversation should be disorientating and whirling, created with surround sound.

 

0. MAELSTROM

[An alarm beeps intermittently.]

It’s time. It’s time now. The animal is choking its prey. A huge white squid, with eyes as deep as the abyss. Above him, the whirlwind. Smashing everything in its path, making little pieces of the world dance in its innards. Rocks, plants, rivers, cities, soldiers, trees, mountains, buildings, managers in suits and ties, mothers clinging to their young, grandfather’s cuckoo clock, the bra on the sofa.

It’s time. It’s time, she thinks. And opens her eyes.

[The beeping stops.]

 

I. SPRING AWAKENING

Seven thirty-three. Three minutes late. What’s that smell of smoke? The coffee’s not on.

Three minutes and twenty seconds. Three minutes and forty seconds.

The sheets. The sheets smell. Memories of a club. Which club?

Seven thirty-five. Five minutes late. Six, seven.

My hand reaches out to the side. No one there. Not even the residual heat of human or animal.

Seven forty-four. Exactly forty-four minutes and fifty seconds to leave the house.

They need changing, these sheets. Need to remember that. This week.

She gets up.

I get up. The floor is as cold as my boss’s stare. My feet, two lost children, search for their slippers.

She gets up. She really gets up.

How many meters to the fridge? An expedition to the East. Should I wear a hat?

She’d like to put a hat on.

I’d like to put a hat on. But it’s spring.

The light slants into the room, making an unusual pattern on the wall. One, two, three. I count my steps. Ten to the fridge, a hundred to the doorway, twelve thousand four hundred and fifteen to work. Every day.

She likes to count to infinity. When she was young, she used to count to infinity inside her parent’s wardrobe, hiding, until she fell asleep.

I open the window.

She opens the window.

The sun is a diffuse point beyond the tower blocks. I shield my eyes with my hands, so it doesn’t blind me.

Her mother taught her that beauty is harmful. Her mother, with her clever love.

Twelve floors down, a street of busy people. I lean out a little, reveling in this moment of risk, to feel the wind in my face. Cold. I like the cold. I like the cold so much.

She likes to say she likes the cold. But her body doesn’t agree.

I’d like to cry out, I’d like to cry out loud, but.

She crosses the room.

I cross the room. Seven fifty-five. My legs tangled in a complicated zigzag. Pretend something has changed. I need to pretend something has changed.

She pretends to be someone else. Every day, someone new, to infinity. The powerful mathematics of probability.

It’s spring, I think, it’s spring. I’d like to call my father.

If there were a father.

The bathroom is damp. I look in the mirror.

She looks in the mirror. The tiles behind her have strange black crusts. Like the glasses which frame her eyes, eyes of Turkish blue.

Eyes, the only precious gift.

Which she would have gladly given.

Eight o’clock. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.

She doesn’t have a shower, she decides not to have a shower. She puts on her makeup, she does her hair.

Cut your hair. Lose three kilos. Get your boobs done. Everything, everything.

She hurriedly grabs some clothes, to look most like whichever woman it is that she is.

To open a passage between me and the world. Between the world and the world I want.

Bag, wallet, keys. There’s no time for coffee. No time.

To open a tunnel, a channel, a tiny cycle path. To open something, open.

She hates arriving late. She’s the most punctual of employees. Only once her manager complained about her absentmindedness, and even then he was wrong.

Bag, wallet, keys. There’s no time for coffee. There’s no time.

He found out that there was a stamp missing on her card, but it wasn’t her, it was the girl at reception. Yes, that idiot with the short legs. Because she would never have done something so negligently, so childishly incautious, so grotesquely careless. She is someone who thinks, even if it doesn’t show. She’s someone who is, even if it doesn’t show. She’d someone who counts, even if it doesn’t show. She’s someone who. Even if.

Bag, wallet, keys. There’s no time.

She opens the door.

I open the door. The cold of the door handle makes me shiver.

She opens the door decisively.

Eight o’clock, oh Lord, eight o’clock. I’ll never make it.

She opens the door and leaves.

 

II. INTO THE FIRE

[City noises. Tap of a woman’s heels.]

Look at her moving ahead with a quick stride. She says hello to the porter, automatically, and crosses the building’s threshold. A gray suburban building, papered with swirling colors, like you might see in a kitsch street artist’s painting.

She moves like a missile, purposefully. She knows every step she has to make, the turns, the rises and falls, the holes in the crumbling pavement, constantly neglected by the council. She knows everything: the universe is under control. In her bag, the tools of every good third-millennium employee: a laptop and an iPhone. Along with this, a pair of Gucci glasses, bought in some out-of-the-way shop (Chinese perhaps, but they do the job), a small packet of crackers for her lunch break (you never know what time you’ll finish when you’re getting to the end of the financial year), a used and refolded tissue, a leather wallet, with a photo of her mother in pride of place, her hair dyed indigo and styled, for want of a better word, by the hospice nurse for her birthday, for the little party she hadn’t been able to go to.

She goes on, undaunted, as determined as a tank.

[The street noises come to the fore: horns, snatches of sentences from passersby in different languages, a beggar, a busker . . .]

The city is like a river: it doesn’t own anything, it goes on and on, gulping down everything its way: fish, plants, objects, mud, carcasses, rocks, and corpses indiscriminately, so perfectly democratic as to be the envy of the greatest parliaments.

They move together, she and the city, arm in arm. No matter whether they’re happy with this symbiotic relationship or not. In these cases the only thing you can do is look at the reality, and the reality is this: you need to work. And work is here, in these traffic-clogged streets, these dirty alleyways, in the smell of piss in the dark corners of the subway; and she embraces it, like a fisherman the water; like him, she casts her hook every morning, in the hope of taking home survival at the end of the day. Survival, yes, because you can’t take anything for granted; since the company canceled long-term contracts, in the dirtiest manner possible, slamming the door in the face of the unions; since the politicians didn’t raise a finger to stop the abuses of the market (although they threw up their hands in glee at the party conferences), since she quietly, and finally, abandoned the dream of living, and, consequently, the will to dream.

To live here or anywhere, to live, in any place, in any language, in any time—people say, every now and then, curled up in a ball in bed, in the depth of one of many sleepless nights—to live is just to breathe stale air; this same air, laden with carbon monoxide, which drenches her lungs, while she crosses the road, on the white lines, those floating pieces of wood which will take her to the other side, where she will go down the stairs—and, indeed, she does go down—into the bowels of the earth, like a badly planted seed, starved of the right nutrients.

[Sounds of underground trains. Fragments of everyday conversation.]

There’s a crowd of people waiting for the train, like puppies waiting to be fed. The little girl in front of her has a short school skirt on and her bra in plain view. Two fat, sweaty men leer to each other, making groping actions. She looks the other way, pretending nothing’s happening, grinding a piece of chewing gum to dust between her teeth. Right next to her, a woman with rich floaty hair and an oval face pretends to rummage through her bag while she counts the proceeds of her last fuck, throwing hostile glances around her. On a seat, farther down, a man in jacket and tie lets the remains of his marriage sparkle on his face like a hundred-carat jewel. On the floor, a gypsy with twisted legs like branches that have grown upside down spits cries of hate because a powdered old woman has given him a fiver instead of a tenner.

And she, she waits like a soldier at attention. Like a snared animal. Like a traffic light on red, waiting for green.

[Noises of the surroundings—a man begging—conversations in different languages.]

Her soul is an empty seashell; inside it rumble noises, smiles, breaths—remnants of the world around her, which grow suddenly and die. This city, this city speaks to her, in so many languages. But she, poor thing, tries hard and still mangles her English. She never finished the course at the British Council, which she’d struggled to pay for in the first place, because it was her turn to work overtime. She has no certificates, and now she can only wait for the train, lost in the crowd, like a crippled Cinderella; the train which doesn’t come, which persists in not coming, maybe because of a breakdown on the line, maybe because of a suicide, or simply because the State is so inefficient.

 

III. ABYSS I

A squid. A giant squid. Ten meters or more. I can’t see it very well in the dark. Pitch dark. Dark as death. Dark as the womb. Dark as the recesses of the soul.

— What am I doing here, two thousand meters deep?

— You tell me.

— A little walk? A holiday, maybe?

Or are you lost?

— I don’t remember. How did I get here?

The whirlpool of the world. The dumping-ground of all the dross.

— I fell here?

Like a rock.

— And now?

Swim.

— Where to?

Up there, the whirlpool; down there, the abyss. You choose.

— What is this, a trick?

Nature doesn’t play tricks.

— Then I’ll stay here.

As long as . . .

— As long as?

As long as I want. As long as I don’t want.

— You’ll eat me?

How old are you?

— Old enough.

For what?

— For.

To grow moss?

— You’re putting words in my mouth.

Don’t try to wake up, it’s no use.

— I was looking for a tissue. I’m going to.

Cry?

— Sneeze.

Cold?

— I feel like I’m wrapped in a cold hug.

Do you want a coffee, tea?

— No, thanks. I’m fine like this. (Pause). Could you tell me something? How do you live without losing your mind?

Do you often ask yourself that question?

— Every day, before I go to sleep.

Put the hook in your mouth.

— I feel like I’m constantly hanging by a thread, but I’m afraid of falling.

You’re no better than a plant, or a spider.

— Because who knows what’s underneath? Where you go to PARARE.

It’s easier to cross the whirlpool with one constant thought.

— New shoes, a Caribbean holiday.

And then it crosses you instead.

— With no way out?

You can always go deeper.

— What time is it? I have to go.

But when you crack—when you crack nothing is like it was before.

— I’ve got a budget to get signed off tomorrow morning.

And you might, I say might, be able to say you’re free.

— I’m calling a taxi. Can I use your mobile?

 

IV. INTO THE AIR

Ten thousand four hundred and fourteen steps. Fifteen. Sixteen. I catch sight of the angular building above the crowd. The river of people runs toward the concrete mouth with the will of a flood. Twenty-five, thirty. When you’re raised up by ten centimeter heels, life is clearer. Forty, forty-five. Like an uprooted tree, my body dissolves into the urban landscape. A memory, a doubt, a rift. I go into reception. The girl with the twisted legs smiles at me stupidly. I give her a nasty, mirrorlike smile. Fifty, fifty-three. Lift hall. Five people waiting. Six, seven. Ding. I’m there. On solid ground again. A hundred meters high.

I cross the company’s threshold.

— Hello.

— Hello.

— Hello.

— Hello.

A few greetings rebound in the racket of the silence.

Bag on the table, coat on the back of my seat. My colleague at the next desk pretends not to see me. I ask if the boss is here yet—to make myself noticed, more than anything. Yes, but he’s in a meeting. Who with? With the Swedish client. I need to speak to him. It’s urgent. It can’t wait. The colleague dives into a pile of papers without turning a hair.

Telephone.

— Hello.

— Yes. No. Maybe.

— A thousand euros, two thousand, ten thousand.

My head hurts, I take an aspirin. Ten minutes to lunch. Five. Three. One.

I sit at a table at the back of the cafeteria, close to the window. The same one as for the last fifteen years. A bit away, in front of me, will sit Luisa, from Accounts, with her shrill voice and bobbed hair, and Giovanni, the marketing officer, with his shaved head and slight stammer. We’ll talk about the weather—too hot, too cold, too mild—about summer holidays, about his ex-wife, children, bills to pay, cuts at work, the managing director’s new lover, faint hopes of a raise, the latest political scandals, the best TV chat show. After which, I‘ll stand up with studied nonchalance, put my tray in the rack, and go back to work.

But no. Instead, I decide to make a change. I get up suddenly and sit in the third row on the right, in the middle of the room, next to the new customer service guy. He looks at me out of the corner of his eye, and I think I see the corner of a smile. There’s pasta stuck to his teeth, mushy like a mollusk, the result of a careful assessment by the company nutritionist. I look straight at my ceramic plate, with its motto “Mens sana in corpore sano,” pretending to think. Now I’ll introduce myself. Now. Now. I’ll finish this mouthful and.

He gets up. Makes straight for the main entrance, which opens its glass wings as he approaches, as if by magic.

I finish my dessert. The taste of strawberry. The kiss and the promises of marriage. A moth in the big bag of memories. The expectation of a life shared.

A platinum blonde takes the empty place next to me.

I finish the rest of my seafood salad. Then back to work, more calls.

The world is a cordless telephone.

 

V. INTERMEZZO

The “Architeuthis Dux,” better known as the giant squid, is a cephalopod mollusk of the invertebrate family. It has a cylindrical mantle over its head, which contains its internal organs. Also in the mantle, you’ll find a horny shell stretched into the shape of a spear, the gladius. The body has two fins that join to form a diamond shape and the head has two lateral eyes. It has ten limbs in total, with suckers: eight shorter ones, and two longer, with club-shaped tips. The animal’s motions are elegant and sinuous, characterized by the rhythmic movement of water entering and exiting the body. Giant squids have been identified at up to eighteen meters long. The biggest examples can reach a ton in weight. Like the cuttlefish, this animal uses an inky substance to hide itself, or to repel potential predators.

The giant squid has inhabited maritime mythology for centuries. It used to be believed that its embrace could drag even the greatest warship down to the abyss.

 

VI. THE GREAT FLOOD

[Voices, overlapping work conversations, like a busy day in the stock exchange.]

I look out the window. A drop of sweat runs lonely down my left cheek. I let it fall, I let it fall freely, until it reaches the soft cloth of my blouse, making a halo. The heat is so intense, so unusual for an ordinary spring day that it makes me think of a joke. Someone mutters a joke or other, as if it were possible to attribute an autonomous will to nature, in a type of silent film. The sky is decked with clouds, a flourish of images in constant change.

The marketing director crosses the room. Her left shoulder catches my right, but she goes on, her hips swaying, without looking back, without saying sorry. I focus my attention on her tight outfit for a fraction of a second, on her bony but muscular legs, her gym-fresh arms, on her complexion, drenched in fake tan.

Someone calls me. I turn around, almost scared, because I haven’t heard anyone say my name in weeks. Yes, I’m coming. Yes, yes. OK. The mole-like man’s head turns to embed itself in the papery intestines of his budget, his brief duty as a messenger completed. I’m coming, I said I’m coming. Just a few seconds to come up with something distinctive: a fuchsia-colored lipstick, a smell of Caribbean apples, a Marilyn Monroe hairdo. Anything, quickly. I rummage through the bowels of my bag with the careful haste of a field surgeon. A squirt of cologne, the only bulwark of my femininity.

I go into the room. The boss is puffy with worry. He settles his five foot three into a comfortable chair of South American leather, a reward for his thirty years of service. He doesn’t look me in the eyes. He takes out a newly printed wad of papers, concentrating, stopping to scribble on them every now and then. Two. Three. Five minutes. Seven minutes and thirty-four seconds’ wait. He’s seen me. Yes, he’s seen me. Has he seen me? He looked up, but.

Eight minutes. Eight and a. Nine and a.

Sorry? You told me to. No, you’re wrong. I mean, perhaps you mistook me for. No that’s me. The last desk on the right. Next to. Yes, that’s right. Sorry? No, me? Married? Why are you asking me that? No, no children. That’s the. You’re. You’re waiting. Me, no. I just. Of course, whatever you say. Of course, of course. Good-bye. Good-bye. See you later.

A thin veil of nonchalance slips over my head, while I throw a bouquet of relief high into the air.

I sit down without a thought. In my stomach, the seafood salad is turning nauseating cartwheels.

Outside, the sky growls oaths of vengeance against global warming. A second later, thousands of small raindrops gather agitatedly on the windowpane, like a crowd fleeing a disaster.

I open the budget to get back to my sums. Then, the roar.

 

VII. ABYSS II

The monster is only another way of saying “enough.” The monster is only another side of the coin. The monster is only a swinging keyring on a rearview mirror.

You came back?

—I like this place.

You’re home now.

—It’s dark. It’s cold.

It’s all yours.

—An unapproachable hugeness.

A whirling core.

—You’re sure?

Of what?

—That we’re in the sea.

— (Laughs.)

—You’ve never thought about it: what if we’re in a tank? A tank in a pizza restaurant, which only seems big because we’re so little, or just used to it? And this whirlpool above us is made by some cheap plastic gadget from a Chinese newsstand. And soon we’ll just be sprinkled over pasta.

—(Laughs.)

—What’s so funny?

Don’t you like knowing that it’s so easy to escape?

—From predators?

From fear.

—I like your tentacles. I’m not scared of them.

They’ve sunk many ships.

—And killed many men?

Millions. Billions, ever since the world was the world and the water was the water.

—You’re a liar.

Why are you trying to hurt me?

—I want to wake up.

But you can’t.

—I’ll do it.

And you’ll be back.

— (Pause.)

—It’s better to live in the cracks of time.

Haven’t you seen? While men chatter, we creatures of the abyss have a lot to get on with.

—I don’t have to worry about what clothes to wear.

You wouldn’t have much use for a wardrobe.

—Or a mirror.

Or a wage.

— (Pause.)

—Can I ask you something?

Mm?

—Are you married?

—Are you coming on to me?

—A bit.

—What a funny creature.

—Doesn’t it scare you to be the only conscious thing around here?

—You?

—I’m a tourist.

—You like traveling, then?

—I’m happy enough with Sunday documentaries. Hawaiian dancers, promotional films.

—And you leave the taste of salt to others.

—You’re annoying me. Tell me something: What’s under there?

—Do you want to see?

—No thanks.

—It’s still uninhabited. I’m amazed the travel agents haven’t got there yet. They get everywhere else.

—It’s not on the map.

—Great, isn’t it? Forget about Riccione in the summertime.

—Great sunbathing.

—Don’t be trivial.

—There’s one thing I don’t understand.

—The lifejacket has sunk too, don’t bother looking for it.

—This vague impression of scattered waves, of uninterrupted thought.

—You can’t beat a swim to clear the mind.

—I can’t swim.

—Who are you trying to kid?

—You’ve got huge eyes.

—You think so?

—They’re the color of emptiness.

—Thanks.

—You know, you’re starting to grow on me.

—These things happen.

—And what do you do when your breath runs out?

 

VIII.  INTO THE EARTH

The smell of spring rain filled the room with life.

She was finishing her work with careful diligence. She was sifting through the documents, inputting the figures into the Excel spreadsheet, working out formulas, transcribing results, printing reports. Her face, already pale by nature, seemed even paler stroked by the late afternoon light. The department was beginning to empty. She put away a pen decisively. Her desk mate was talking to his wife on the phone under his breath. Washing powder, ham, olive oil: items for a detailed shopping list. She packed up, an involuntary part of his conversation, and she began to go over her own requirements. Eggs, rice, chicken. A little table for the kitchen, a new shower curtain, a newspaper rack. A holiday. A bigger flat. A car. A husband.

She looked at the time on her computer screen. The beautiful Caribbean beach stared back at her mockingly.

She decided to set off for home. Maybe she would stop by the market. Or her mother’s. Yes, her mother’s: it’s visiting time at the hospital. No, tomorrow, she’ll do it tomorrow because today she’s an empty shell. Because all she wants is to get home, have a shower, and throw herself in front of the TV with a packet of crisps, or an ice cream.

She arranges the pile of papers like a faithful testimony to her own efficiency. Layer upon layer, she erects her life’s totem. Before switching off her computer, she checks her mail one last time: supplier, supplier, financial report, supplier, marketing department, internal memo, supplier, Viagra. Her morning headache reappears at the corner of her forehead. Then, determined as a drill, her middle finger puts an end to her overtime.

Home, home. She wraps herself in her coat, smoothing her hair to check nothing’s left out of place. Universal judgment. Life rides at full gallop, even when you’re stationary. And there it is—marching on again: she slips in to the corridor, a lifeless gray strip like a hospital resuscitation room, she passes a series of identical desks, where human life carries on regardless, she crosses the lobby of coffee machines, that indispensable source of silent moments, to reach at last the lift, the great mother, which takes her into its belly like a suckling steel mother.

Twenty, ten, five, two, ground.

The marble floor receives her footsteps like a parcel with no proof of delivery. In echo of every heel click it gives a sharp shout, which rises to the ceiling, then loses itself in the rafters. She continues, without hesitation, straight to the next day, because all of this is just preparation for the next cycle. Her time is never the present, it’s already the promise of fate, the obvious fate, which she has studied from her desk.

Outside, the city prepares for night. The dark arm-wrestles with the glow of day, creating exquisite tones of gray, mixed with reds and yellows beyond the buildings. She sees nothing; sometimes she looks at her shoes, sometimes at the M of the metro signs; sometimes the surface of the pavement, sometimes at where she’s headed. She slips a hand into the side pocket of her jacket, to check she’s got her essentials: smartphone and house keys; her link with the world, and her link with herself.

She makes a brief stop at the old people’s home, without going out of her way, having a word with the nurse to get her mother to eat enough greens. When she asks “Would you like to speak to her?” she just says “I can’t now, I’ll call when I get home,” and she sets off. She lets the escalator carry her, a break from the hurrying, and closes her eyes. A green expanse, coconut water, the sea. An embarrassment of riches in the supermarket of the mind. How long can this break last? Who will be able to repair the breakdown? She opens her eyes in time to see the end of the escalator. The floor swallows the waves of metal greedily. She takes a bigger step than usual and reaches the solid ground. She crosses the granite expanse, carpeted with trash of various sorts. Crushed coke tins, fliers, lollipops, a used condom, half a sandwich, popular newspapers (“Girl Raped at McDonalds” —-to arrive safely at the platform. A tall, skinny woman in a swimming costume throws her an almost pornographic glance from an advert; some horny kid has drawn a penis in her mouth, for a laugh.

The scrolling electronic noticeboard announces that the train will arrive in five minutes. Waiting, she distances herself from the world, and the world from her.

In a quiet corner, a young man with dreadlocks and glassy eyes waves a beer bottle in the air—a drunk Medusa. Further on, a girl with a bald, unclothed doll—it looks like a rape victim—takes a painful smack from her mother and screams. An old man in a Red Bull T-shirt laughs cheerfully, thinking of his granddaughter; then he sneaks a look at the chest of the eighteen-year-old beside him, who is frenetically tapping out words on her mobile phone keypad.

The day is a boil, a blister, a mole on the immaculate skin of time. And she waits her five long minutes, counting to three hundred, like a Swiss clock.

 

IX. ABYSS III

—In my belly?

—In my belly.

—You’re sure?

—Very sure.

—So why can’t I feel it?

—Concentrate.

—Why did you have to wheedle your way into my mind? I was fine on my own.

—I didn’t wheedle my way in. You came to find me.

—I fell into the whirlpool, it was an accident.

—If you prefer to tell yourself that.

—Straight down the middle. I didn’t touch the sides.

—Lies.

—It’s my mother’s fault I can’t swim.

—Still making excuses, at your age?

—You’re wicked.

—Can you hear it now?

—What?

—The sound of the abyss

— (Pause.)

—A bit. Here, under by belly button.

—Can you see it?

—How is that possible? I’m going.

—Still?

—I’m sick of this.

—Will you come back to me?

—Never again. It’s over.

—I thought you liked it.

—You’re wrong.

—Look at the scenery. Where will you find another place like this?

—I’ve got to spray my plants, feed the cat.

—That’s a lie, you don’t have a cat.

—Why do I always feel like there’s just not enough time? Why does everything move so quickly? The first time I felt love, I was still a worm. I looked at the world from the sticky hole of my semi-childhood, like a happy caterpillar. Then I came into the world, and with every night I spent alone, I lost that feeling, which just made space for fear. And for hate: survival instinct, well taught in my family. Then I grew up, and grown-up love was just a vague memory of that first, blinding spark. I lived stunted, stunted and scarred with instincts which I’ll never understand and which I’ll always cling to totally. That is my destiny. My animal destiny.

—You’re very sweet.

—I’m very dry.

—I love you.

— (Pause.)

—Will you hold me?

 

X. RETURN TO ITHACA

[Crack of a woman’s heels.]

Walk, walk, walk. Three hundred and forty-seven paces to get home. Six, five, four.

She leaves the metro behind her. Like a ship out at sea, it becomes smaller and smaller, smaller and smaller.

Walk, walk, walk. I’ll be there soon, I’ll be there.

People are still busying through the streets: the kebab shop full of immigrants, the group of boys on their skateboards, the couple sat on the wall next to the laundrette, a hump of newspapers and rags which probably hides a tramp, the 24-hour phone center lined with international calling card offers in every language, a mother dragging a whining child by the arm, a stray dog on the hunt for food.

Walk, walk, walk. Undress, put my slippers on.

Night slowly takes the tiller.

Eat something quick. Noodles, frozen risotto.

The changing light of televisions flickers through apartment windows.

Throw herself on the sofa, take the remote control.

From above, the city looks like stardust.

A Place in the Sun, Channel 5.

Lower down, the silence melts into the hum of the nightclubs.

Call a friend. What friend?

And she, she continues her ordinary journey down her littered path.

Run a bath, make some tea.

A blot on the divine landscape.

Cross the road. Two hundred, three, two, one.

Even if she wanted to be on the cover.

Get there soon.

Like a stupid girl she doesn’t look where she’s going.

Get there in time.

She crosses the road like a deaf mole.

Get there in a hurry.

Without looking at the red light.

Get there.

The taxi doesn’t stop in time.

Get there, get there.

In the windscreen, the cuddly toy grins, jigging round in circles.

Get there, still get there.

The body falls to the ground like a gymnast.

And finally

Finally

Finally get there

[The steps stop.]

 

XI. EPILOGUE

Walk, walk, walk. Pace after pace after pace after pace I realize the. I realize the. That no. That I. That the story is.

In the sky there’s a flock of gulls, led astray by the glow of the buildings that line their route home.

It’s not mine. This universe isn’t mine.

She looks around herself, appalled. But deep down, she’s happy with this ending.

How long would I have waited? And for what?

The pain in her muscles turns to breeze and disperses in the night air.

And instead everything is calmer inside, like a holiday.

Her eyes, closed in a tearful smile, float like Ping-Pong balls in the tide.

In the streets, the human stain dissolves itself and the world is set back in motion.

And she, she is just

Water

And she flows

Into the deep dark of the ocean. 

 

For production credits, an interview with the author, and more information about Play for Voices, visit the Play for Voices website.

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