ANDREW - A lonely middle aged man.
(The stage has a small set of stairs leading to nowhere. A man, ANDREW walks out addresses the audience. He projects a sense of simplicity combined with honesty.)
Our mothers told us we were something special, but for some of us, it just doesn't ring true. I'm not a good looker by any means, and you can see that. But I gotta good heart. I know that's gotta count for something. Well, I was writing these women in foreign countries. They publish magazines you know, and they look for guys like me. They probably look for guys better'n me, but some of them'll settle for guys like me, and that's a start, cause I know I ain't gonna find them around here. I felt pretty ashamed about writing women in magazines. I didn't tell anybody, that's for sure.
(He peers into the audience.)
I kept writing and writing. When some of them wrote back, I knew I was a person, just like everyone else. I may not be a person here, but somewhere I was. Plus my simple words was enough for someone who don't speak English too good. Every advantage was mine, and I don't know how to be happy without being scared, but it was mine.
So me and this girl hit it off real good. I say for a couple of you out there, you might find it the same. It was something when I called her the first time. Don't expect to get through very easy cause their phones are all messed up from communism, but it was something when her voice turned from American to foreign in my head. It made me fall in love with her really powerful.
I never had many options in my head, but this time, I had only one. I went to go get her, even though it took all these invitations, visas, and other propaganda from the Kremlin. I don't know, I never would've gone to all this trouble, but it's not like anyone here would pay me no mind.
(He looks out into the audience hopefully but gets his answer.)
So I went. I ain't never been away from home. Except for the State Fair.
I got to the airport, and I saw her. She didn't see me right away, and I got to compare her to that girl in my mind. She didn't match, but that's ok. I decided on the phone whatever lies she might've sent me in her pictures didn't matter. Her letters didn't lie, and this was the person that wrote'm. I wasn't no great catch either.
As soon as she saw me, she hugged me and grabbed my hand. It was the darndest thing. I didn't need no first date, or have to speak in a certain way. She just grabbed my hand and held on. Some of you out there might think of how rare that is. I apologize for all my rambling, but I gotta talk about her. Let me read you one of her letters, and if you think I'm making a mistake, you just tell me.
(He pulls out a worn letter from his back pocket and begins reading.)
“Dear Snuggy, Today I write you a letter as I promised. First of all I would like to thank you very-very-very… much for two letters with money and pictures. I like pictures very much; I think they turned out well. What do you think?
When I look through them I think of you and your stay here, and our future conversations, outings, adventures, and for sure your tender and caressing hands, childlike smile and huge and kind eyes. Sometimes I feel that just today you will call me, and I often turn out to be right. It's something inside me. Today again I felt that you would call me, but I had to go to my temporary work. I will be paid some money for my work ($25) maybe for you this sum will seem funny, but you know, here $25 is also money.
I wish you were here just now, so I could kiss you many-many times.” Here she's drawn a little face with hearts around it. “ You are a real gentleman, and I really don't know how to thank you. Maybe you will prompt me how to do it? I will wait for you to come because I really want to see you. I want you to call me as often as you can, though I understand that it is expensive enough. I miss you and want to see. Kiss you, Irina.”
(He takes a moment to compose himself.)
My life's no fairy tale, but this was more than I deserved. She got me an apartment, and her folks showed pictures of when she was queen in high school or something. I was something even to them, and that made no sense at all. Most of you will be cynical and think they were trying to get me because I was American but I don't care.
So we spent the time together, and I never felt myself at that time. I guess I never felt more than myself before, that was it.
Then the strangest thing happened. She lived in these apartments that had rows and rows of cement to them. I guess that was the communist way. Cement was just… good. A good color, good building stuff, and everything looks the same. I just went out for a walk, that's all. I had a key. I know I saw where I went, but you gotta understand when you're in the communist world, you can't see one thing from the other. It wears on you until everything looks the same. I wasn't there a few hours when I noticed it.
Everything was gray when I went for a walk. I was still incredible from everything. I guess I shouldn't have said I would go alone, but I'm an American. She was worried, but I was all drugged up from the time change and all the alcohol on the plane, and my head was just turning. I mean, all I had to do was take that fork in the road, and that other one, and just come back. I don't know why. I just needed to walk.
I guess the cement kind of fools you. Rows and rows of cement apartments. The forks in the road started questioning me. “I don't remember you,” they said. I swear that I know where I was, but I was in a foreign country, where I couldn't read and people would act like I was a barking dog. I didn't know that I was just a walk away from… disappearing. I'm an American. I thought I had the right building. It was made of cement.
I went to the fifth floor and tried the key, but it wouldn't work. It was strange. I went back down and started from scratch. It was strange how the elevator smelled of pee as I took it back down. The key still didn't work, even though I pressed the fifth floor. I buzzed the place next door, but a woman just came and looked like I was an alien.
I started the other floors checking my key. I was getting a little scared. I went outside and walked around. It was this cement place, I knew it. I went up and down the floors, you know, maybe I had the numbers wrong. I met the same woman that looked at me strange.
I was beginning to think that I was beaten by this communist world. Maybe it was a joke. I thought of how when I followed my brother in the woods and he lost me. The worst thing you can do is look for each other. I just sat and waited until he came back and belted me upside the head. He thought it was a joke, but I knew better. I thought that was the course of action for this American.
(ANDREW walks over to the set of stairs and sits down.)
I sat outside on the steps and waited. No matter I had no place to go and no one to ask. I just waited.
You know sometimes you just gotta see around you and things lift? I started seeing things. I didn't have anything else to do, and I was really nobody here. No person, no language, and the key I was using looked like a pretzel it was so bent from my panic. I was homeless, and I couldn't even beg for money. I know you laugh, but try it sometime.
Well something sort of lifted cause I started seeing. A couple walked with their hands together across a cement building. The sky was gray, but the stars I could see were still in the place I left them. Plus I noticed these two cats.
(He points out two fictitious cats.)
These two cats were playing this game where one would run like hell and dive into the bushes, and the other one would chase him. Then they'd switch and go the other way. I was sitting right on the sidewalk, so they ran past me every time. There wasn't anything else for them, just fun. I just watched. Run one way. Switch. Run the other. Now I know these cats didn't belong to nobody, but their joy in chasing was something fierce. I couldn't feel sorry for myself. No way. These cats would be dead in a few weeks, for sure. I just watched this clock that went back and forth, and I'd laugh pretty hard at how they'd stumble and do stupid things. Everything I was was gone. As far as I knew, Irina could have tricked me and pulled up everything and moved while I was on my walk. But I was watching the world entertain me. It was just everything. The cats, the sky, all the ones who just pointed at me. It was there.
After a while I just got up and started walking.
(He gets up and walks a few feet, looking behind momentarily as he does,)
I could have been there forever, but something told me to walk. It didn't matter. I walked a few yards and there was this building. The exact same one. And I knew it was the one. I went up to the fifth floor, and there she was. She had tears streaming down her face. I guess she was walking around the buildings, and even asking the police to hold me if I ran into them. I could see that happening. She was going to be very mad at me. This was the end, I knew it. But I held up my bent key, and she knew I was just a baby. She stopped crying and held me for a long, long time.
(He looks back at the stairs.)
"Mailwife" is a story from the upcoming play "I Know That You Love Me - 14 scenes between men and women" by Broken Gopher Ink.
"I Know That You Love Me" is now upcoming in the 2010 season of The Trench / Paragon Theatre, Denver .
words: Broken Gopher Ink (website)
image: Dorothee Lang, Germany (virtual notes)