a discourse most dramatic
[Lights up on Jill in full formal dress circa turn of the century (not this one, the last one) complete with white gloves and hair piled on top of head and falling around her face in ringlets, backstage at a hole-in-the-wall theatre. Jill sits at a vanity. . . being vain. Lipstick applied in bright strokes, cheeks rouged in harsh circles on pale skin -- addressing the audience through the mirror.]
I could recount for you all the disappointments of my life, tick off each little prick of sadness and loss, but even I know they wouldn't fill a teaspoon. [Grand sigh.] Yet there are days that those lead droplets are the very air I breath. Fetid. Suffocating. And rotting my flesh, starting in the very marrow of my bones and working outward to my skin. And I must say that I'm thoroughly exhausted by the environment. Simply, tired. So tired of carrying these heavy molecules and letting them define my being. Of allowing them to direct the nature of my path, to command the tread of my foot on the way.
[Turning in chair to face out.]
Yes, everyone has a story. And mine, my story, if it had a title, would be called. . .
"Days of Disappointment, a Disenchanted Memoir!"
[Single spot on Jill as she falls into a deep and ever-so-tragic curtsy.]
[Fade to black.]
[A moment later, lights up, Jill paces the room.]
I can blame genetics, of course. J for Joy not necessarily a letter common in the familial DNA. [All anachronisms intentional thankyouverymuch.]
Also, if I wish, I may claim only-child-dissatisfaction.
[Wrist to furrowed brow, full front to audience.]
I was once the only one, the one and only! The sun never did rise, but at my whim! Nor did it set, but for my permission!
But that would be a lie. [stage whisper aside] Though my cousins, normally delightful people that they are, might disagree.
Ah, I can always blame Texas. Which as many of you know, is my wont, because living in Lubbock, Texas was a tragedy from which I may well never recover.
[Carefully plucked eyebrow arched expertly.]
Though, I suppose, in my most honest moments, even I must admit, without Texas there would not have been a Mrs. Garrett (only the greatest English teacher ever to wield chalk in defense of the Bard) and . . .
[Holding up a sheaf of papers.]
. . . without Mrs. Garrett, there would not have been these words on these pages from which I speak!
And for this, this outlet. . .
[Dramatic pause to wring white-gloved hands.]
. . . I am ever so grateful, even if I, if I am the only one!
[Head bowed dramatically. Quick look to see if anyone's noticed. No one has.]
Please, please. . . no protestations!
[Nervous, self-conscious smile hidden behind an artfully unfurled fan.]
No! I write because I must and though I am nothing if not eternally grateful for the adoration, I write not for the cheer of my most beloved admirers, but only because I am compelled to do so unto death. I will write until the Reaper takes me in his gentle grasp and gives me to the worms that they may eat my flesh, hungry substitutes for the disappointment which nibbles my most tender parts in life.
[Deep bow, once again. Lights to black.]
Okay, this exercise has become almost as exhausting as the alluded to disappointment. Have we got the point yet?
When I was little, in my more monstrous moments my grandfather would call me Sarah Bernhardt. At the time, I had no idea who this woman was, but I didn't like the name or the lack of sympathy it bespoke. But, as I mentioned, I'm nothing if not persistent. I'm still a dramatic baby, just not quite so vocally as before. My theatrics, these days, are mostly for an audience of one, and even Fred tires of them quickly.
Therefore, I'm determined that 2006 -- for my purposes, beginning right . . . now -- will be different. My disappointments, what there are, have been allowed to grow in my imagination in extreme disproportion to reality. And on those vast fields, I've planted seeds that will die before they even see the light of da. . . .
Oops. Sorry. Having a hard time changing stylistic gears.
Here it is. Lately, my tendency has been to imagine myself a grand flop, who by life's end has managed to achieve nothing. No career success. No relationship success. No financial success. No social success. Forget success. The phrase I'm looking for is utter catastrophe. I am old, childless, dogless -- abjectly alone in a nursing home that I can't pay for and so they toss me out to live under a bridge, but the bridge is occupied and so I take to the gutter where even the rats dislike me. My nails are dirty. My hair is dank. My teeth have all fallen out. And I tell fresh-faced social workers my tale of woe. . . I could have been great, but I went to the wrong college. . . had my heart broken. . . lost my dental plan. . . missed my calling . . . .
It's the calling part that always gets me. All this talk of purpose and goals and drive. You know what? I don't have it. That indecipherable It. And is that so bad? I've hung everything on the hook of that ephemeral noun and watched It fail me time and time again. Some things we're born with and this Thing is something with which I simply wasn't.
And then today I woke up and had a thought. What if none of It matters? What if I don't have to have a purpose? What if I don't need a specific reason for being? What if I don't need a five-, ten-, fifteen-year-plan to be at peace with the world? What if what and who I am at this very moment is enough? And if it is, then why in heaven's name am I not having more fun? What if, maybe, just maybe, instead of purpose leading satisfaction, it's satisfaction that leads purpose?
As my Aunt Patricia tends to say, I liiiike it.
So 2006 is about having a good time and letting the future take care of itself. Planned and spontaneous vacations. At least one philanthropic trip. Exploring something new just for the sake of trying something new. And doing things I know I enjoy already -- writing, painting, yoga and (God help me) acting even -- because I enjoy them, not because I should be doing them. Not because I think that they'll read well as blips on some imagined resume that will lead to some ring of gold (the book deal, the Oscar, the husband) that I have only ever been able to see in my peripheral vision anyway. The ring of gold that disappears the minute I turn my head. The ring of gold that will be worthless as lead if I don't enjoy the ride in the first place.
Jill and Disappointment exeunt in opposite directions.