Tuesday, February 19, 2008

XL Portal: Body Memoir (October 13, 1950, midnight)


(Music: David Rose’s “The Stripper” plays as lights come up to reveal only stage right–stage left is blacked out–where ROSALYN, in shadow, is centered on stage right, curled up in a ball. A small round table, with a full beer bottle, a book of matches, an ashtray, and a pack of cigarettes, has been placed down stage center, between the two stage halves. As ROSALYN, remaining in shadow, rises to her feet, she appears to be naked and it is obvious that she is very pregnant, about to give birth at any time. In fact, she is in labor throughout the scene, each contraction getting stronger as the scene progresses. She remains in shadow throughout the scene. She rubs her belly and begins doing the moves of a stripper, and continues this routine awkwardly for about 30 seconds. The music stops abruptly.)


(Goes stage center and stands next to the table with the beer bottle and other items. As she strokes her belly, she addresses the audience.)

My cue.

I know you’re a girl; I sense your femininity oozing through me. So I’ll call you Samantha...I give you this one gift, a Hebrew name, meaning “name of God,” or, in Aramaic, “listener.” Yes, I like that meaning the best.


I don’t have much else to offer you, only advice. Once you’re born, I don’t know how I’ll care for you or what will become of you.

And I don’t know exactly where your Daddy is right now.

The Marshall Islands, the last I heard.

(Pause. Then she bends over in obvious pain, both physical and emotional. She recovers her composure and continues:)

Ha! (Ironically.) Join the Army. Just another way of running away.

I’m just not ready to be a mother, but I suppose it’s too late to dwell on that now.

Our time together grows short.

(Another contraction. Then she continues:)

Very short.

Men. They never pull out in time, and, for God’s sake, it’s 1950, you’d think medical science would invent a reliable pill...

Never mind that now.


I want to warn you about our family secret:


(She picks up the full beer bottle and drains it completely. With authority, sets the bottle back on the table. )


Don’t be fooled by all your skinny relatives. Fat is the family curse, and we all fight it.

So, here’s my warning:

(Picks up the cigarette pack and matches, pulls out a cigarette, and lights up. Smokes as she talks.)

You’ll first became aware of your fat when you’re about two. Yes, I think that awareness will come first, that moment when a blob of fat jiggles into memory, unblocking Jungian canals of prehistory.

It’s only after fat-consciousness that you’ll became aware of yourself as an individual entity. In an instant, you’ll go from nothingness to a wiggling amoeba to a suddenly complete human being, sitting on a horse on a merry-go-round.

(A pause, perhaps a slight change in ROSALYN’s position, movement, and lighting to indicate a minute change in focus.)

Your breath catches you by surprise, almost as if someone jumps from behind and frightens you into existence.

(The switch from future to present tense is intentional, and continues throughout the rest of the scene.)

Now, what?

Colors, sounds, smells, touch, and taste flooding your body. Feelings–wild and random and terrifying, like a sea of voices screaming in tongues, pushing you under.

(Stubs out the cigarette in the ashtray. Clutches her throat.)

Oh, God, I can’t breathe! Ahhhhhhhhhh..... AIR! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh...!

(Takes a deep breath and relaxes. She continues:)

Something–someone?–moving through the canals of your brain–organizing, filing, and deleting.

You don’t feel dizzy as the merry-go-round spins around and your horse pumps up and down, like a wave ebbing and flowing and ebbing and flowing....Carrousel music! David Rose’s “The Stripper.”

(A few bars of “The Stripper” play and then fade.)

Yes, I’m quite sure of the Da-Da-Dah, DAH, Dah, Da, da! The memory knows what it knows.

(Carrousel music for a few seconds, and then it fades out.)

Around and around and around you go, and something comfortable, a huge pink amoeba, with fiery red hair and three chins that jiggle, laughs, leaps onto the carrousel, latches onto a pole, and hops side-saddle onto a horned horse.

(Another contraction. She recovers and continues:)

The platform sags and groan, but, still, you keep whirling around and around–

(She mimics the whirling motion.)

–This new presence singing from the depth of its guts, its words grooving into your memory,

“You can’t love me, I’m big and fat,” to the carrousel music.

(She stops the whirling motion.)

The amoeba climbs off the horse, and leaps from the platform, disappearing beyond.

(Looks all around.)

Where’s the fat lady?


Oh, well. She’s around, hiding.

It’s almost as if the merry-go-round is stationary and the rest of the world spins out of control; all you see on the outside is a spin-art menage of people, tents, balloons, vivid colors curving around and around, enfolding you.

More color! Yet that blur is confusing, your world is HERE, and you’re not yet ready for the beyond.

Perhaps, someday, you’ll find IT.

Your fat lady.

You barely own language, but you need only one word:


You remember the awe of touching your cheek and feeling something elastic there, something soft and warm, something giving way gently to your fingers, something that, in turn, mirrors your touch.


Then you notice your legs. Again, a warm, elastic surface, but when you touch your leg, you can see, for an instant, a white circle as the pink gives way to your finger. You see a fold in your leg, just below the thigh. Just a curiosity, a place where you can poke your finger, a place where the skin holds the tip of your finger captive.

You like this place, it feels real, somewhere you can hold onto without pinching and hurting, for the flat places of your new self pinches when you try holding onto them.

This fold, then, becomes your comfort spot.

And then you notice a surface unlike the pink one: your sunsuit. The suit, yellow with brown and purple dots, balloons at the belly. You pat this surface, but it’s different; indifferent might be a better word, for it feels rough, flimsy, cool, and it doesn’t mirror your touch–no you on you. Yet, it’s obviously a part of you, and it too has folds like the ones in your leg.

Very puzzling.

(Another contraction, this one very hard. She recovers and continues:)

Then you notice the horse beneath you.

“Is this me?”

What are you, anyway?

When you touch the creases in the horse’s head, you recoil: it is inelastic, cool, uncomfortable. Not you.


You begin to get an inkling that when you touch some things, they do not feel back, that some surfaces exist independently of you, and you are afraid. Then you notice something familiar sitting in a sidecar next to your horse, its hands in its lap.


(Clutches her stomach. The contractions are getting progressively harder. Groans, and continues with great pain.)

Your mother.

I wear black. My hair blows stiffly in the wind.

You keep your eyes on me.

One other in an ocean of otherness.

(Another contraction. She screams:)


(Pauses before continuing.)

I am now your other, an other who might stand up and walk away from you. You start to cry. I coo something back to you, you feel a little better, but not entirely. You still have a vague fear–not totally unfounded–I will leave you on the horse, for–since you can’t remember getting on–you have no idea how to get off the merry-go-round.

(Another contraction.)


(Recovers from the contraction. Pats her belly, and makes some soothing sounds toward it.)

When you’re sure your other isn’t going to leave you, you want to know more about this other otherness, to know why you are.

For an eternity, you spin around and around and around and around, fat-consciousness coursing through prehistorical tributaries, your other now a certainty.

(With great emphasis and a shake of her fist, she continues:)

The last fucking certainty you’ll ever know.

(Pause. Grabs her stomach and moans loudly. This time, she curls over and sits on the floor, assuming a ball-like position. She rocks back and forth.)

VOICE OVER (Male voice):


(ROSALYN screams. her screams eventually fade out; lights gradually fade out until total darkness. A sudden flash of strobe, accompanied by newborn’s cry, lights up the entire stage; the crying stops abruptly, and the stage goes dark.)



From Body Memoir Politic: Looking, Copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel

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