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05 December 2010

A Whisper And A Clamour

(Iris is upstage; she stands in front of a table in what can be assumed to be a bathroom. on the table stands a pill bottle, from which she takes a pill and swallows it, chasing it down with a glass of water, which stands next to the bottle. Facing the audience, she gives a fake smile into an imaginary mirror, frowns at the attempt, sighs, and walks downstage into the kitchen where Brandon is sitting at a table, reading from either a book or newspaper, with a mug near him. she pours herself an imaginary cup of coffee into a physical mug, and sits across from him, sipping.)
IRIS Good morning, Brandon. How did you sleep? I had a crazy dream last night. I was on this elevator
in Wal-Mart, and I rode it all the way down, through the basement, and out of the other side of the world! The elevator landed on top of someone’s car in Italy, and the driver drove me to someone’s house, where I was entertained by animals! What do you think it means?
(A long pause. Iris sips from her coffee nervously.) Sorry. I know you have to give a big lecture in a few days. Just... I’m feeling a little better than I have been, and I guess it makes me talkative. I mean, I haven’t felt this good since... you know, a year ago... maybe it’s the meds? I don’t know.
(Both sip from their coffee in silence.) Are you okay, Brandon? Are you upset because I didn’t tell you that I changed the milk back to 2% last week?
(She stares at him, waiting for an answer.)
BRANDON (Writing on a piece of paper next to him )
Eggs. I have to remember to get eggs. And some cat food for Owl. And what else? Dog food? No, Oliver has plenty.
IRIS Brandon? What’s going on? Why are you ignoring me?
(Brandon continues to mutter to himself, writing
things on his list.) Brandon?! Brandon, say something to me! Don’t act like I’m not here!
(An uneasy moment as Brandon slowly lifts his gaze from the list to where Iris sits. He gazes for a long time and then sighs.)
BRANDON (In a tone that implies that he talking at her, and not
to her.) Oh, I’m sorry. I should have listened to you. I’ve just been so distracted. What were you saying?
IRIS I was saying that I’ve been feeling a lot better. I think I’m finally starting to get over it, you know?
BRANDON Oh, you’re feeling better? That’s great. I’m so happy. I told you it would pass eventually, right?
You’ve been working so hard. We should celebrate. I’ll buy some expensive champagne tonight when I’m grocery shopping, and cook you something special.
IRIS You don’t need to do that, Brandon. Besides, and I know I’m sounding pessimistic here, but what
if it’s just a kind of remission? I could just be feeling better for a few days, and then relapse, right? You said you’ve seen it happen before...
BRANDON I’m sure everything will be fine. And even if you do relapse, you’ll be able to associate feeling
good with the reward of celebration, and you’ll eventually come back. Don’t worry, we’ll make it through this together.
IRIS Thanks, Brandon. I don’t know what I’d do without you.
(Another long pause. Both take the time to drink more coffee, watching each other closely.)
BRANDON (His expression slowly drops, and he lets out a long
sigh) Iris... I miss you so much...
What did you just say?
BRANDON You were so...alive, so beautiful. I miss you, your smile, your...everything.
IRIS (Smiling nervously, trying desperately to understand
the joke.) What are you talking about? I’m right here. I’m having coffee with you! What is happening?
BRANDON (Distant, reminiscing.)
I remember when we first met. Yuri had invited us to dinner one day, and we just hit it off.
Afterwards, you and I walked through the park. You were so beautiful; your laugh, the way your eyes lit up when you smiled. I knew I just couldn’t let you go. Do you remember where I took you on our first date?
BOTH, TOGETHER We went on a boat tour of the river, it set off just as the sun was setting.
IRIS There was a dinner, and you paid all the extra money to get us a seat. It was great food -- seafood,
wine, the best biscuits outside of Red Lobster...
BRANDON And there was dancing. We were voted the cutest young couple on board--
IRIS And we sat out on the deck, just before it all happened, watching the sun sink below the river,
going off to wake up the other side of the world.
BRANDON And soon I asked you to marry me. And after we did, it was like your eyes got so much brighter,
and you laughed more. And then, two years ago, you told me you were pregnant.
IRIS I was so anxious to tell you. And when you did, you twirled me in the air, and kissed me--
For like an hour.
BRANDON You spent so much time preparing for the baby; buying toys, decorations, mulling over names...
When Nicholas was born, you couldn’t stop smiling, even when you passed out from exhaustion.
IRIS I had been in labour for nearly a full twenty-four hours--
BRANDON (Cutting her off, as though he isn’t listening.)
Nicholas seemed to grow up so fast. When he sat up by himself, we were so proud of him. But then, at six months, he just couldn’t do it anymore, and couldn’t even hold up his head. And then he couldn’t suck from the bottle anymore. That’s when we learned about Leigh’s Disease.
(Iris’ expression darkens, recalling the memories.) IRIS
Brandon, don’t. Please.
BRANDON And then he died, just before his first birthday. Just before that, he had seizures, almost every day.
He just screamed and screamed. You cried so much. We couldn’t do anything. We brought him to the hospital, and they only made him comfortable, and then he had one last seizure...and, God, all I heard for three days was the beep of the heart monitor. That horrid monotone sounded instead of my phone’s ringtone, the alarm clock, and drowned out your voice. That’s when you stopped talking. Your eyes stopped looking at people, at things. You looked through everything.
IRIS Can you blame me? My baby boy died before my eyes. I couldn’t even hold him. I had to watch
him seize to death in this tiny bed, covered in wires and tubes! Can you blame me for being upset?
BRANDON I knew you blamed yourself, but it’s not your fault, Iris. We couldn’t have seen this coming.
IRIS (Incredulous) Not my fault? How could you say such a thing? Leigh’s is a mitochondrial disease, Brandon. That means it goes from mother to child. Mother to child! How could it not have been my fault? I practically handed him the gift of life wrappin in death, and he got caught in the wrapping paper, catching just a glimpse of the wonderful thing inside!
BRANDON There’s no way we could have known you were carrying the genes for Leigh’s. If we had, we
could have gone to genetic counseling and worked around this somehow. But now we know.
IRIS (Beginning sarcastically) Yeah. “Now we know.” That won’t bring Nicholas back, Brandon!
BRANDON I remember that, one day, I found you in the bathroom. You were bleeding; you’d cut yourself, and
were just watching the blood fall onto the floor. You told me you were, “Letting the bad blood out.”
IRIS (Nearly shrieking.)
It’s poisoned blood, Brandon! It’s my blood that killed our son, by holding that horrible disease! I wanted it out, gone, obliterated! And the poison is still in these veins!
(Holds her arms out, as though he could see the
blood in her veins.) You say we can try again when I’m feeling better, but for what? So I can watching another child die? So I can just stand by as my own flesh and blood slowly goes from being healthy and normal to barely able to look at me anymore? To watch him fall into constant seizures, to stand terrified as my child just starts shaking violently, screaming for help, screaming as though to say, “Please, Mommy, please make everything better?!” SO I CAN MURDER ANOTHER CHILD?! I will not put another child through that!
(After a long pause, Brandon laughs softly.) You really think this is funny?!
BRANDON Oh, Iris. Isn’t it hilarious? Even now, without you here, I can have a conversation with you,
imagining every single word you say. I know exactly how you would have responded to everything I’ve said. It helps, sort of. Now that you’re gone, I thought I would go insane by myself. But I’m still not lonely, because it’s almost as though I can still talk to you.
IRIS (Gets up from her chair, leaning with her hands on
the table.) Gone? What the hell are you saying? I’m not gone. I’m here. I’m right fricking here, Brandon. I’m across the table from you, talking, well, screaming now, right? Screaming, panicking, living. What’s this nonsense about me being gone?
BRANDON (Stands, walks to the counter where the coffee maker was, and pours a glass of water from a pitcher. Iris
watches him.) I couldn’t believe it, after finding you bleeding on the bathroom floor, you just went downhill from there. I was sure that by bringing you to the hospital, screaming at you, begging you to please, please just keep on living, that everything would be okay.
(Drinks.) I was hoping you would pick back up, slowly. I wanted you to start smiling, and start having dreams that I could interpret for you again.
(Sits down again.) Remember that game? It was a lot of fun.
IRIS (Trying desparately to understand what is
happening.) Yeah, it was. And it still can be! I told you the dream I just had!
(Begins to stutter. As she speaks, she walks next to him, behind the table such that she faces the audience. )
An elevator through WalMart and landing it in a car in Italy. Tell me, please tell me what it means? (Leans on the table.)
BRANDON I got you to date me that way -- interpreting your dreams. I asked you to tell me the most recent
dream you remember, and you said it was something about a hippo and having to fight it with a stick of Old Spice deodorant. I told you that it meant that you were going to go to dinner with a young psychologist at Red Lobster, and eat delicious food until you were full, and then go to the beach to walk along the shore until the sun faded behind sea, and when that last glimmer of light disappeared --
IRIS (Distant, briefly calmed by the memory.)
--I would be kissed by the psychologist and fall in love with him forever. It happened, too. All of it.
BRANDON (Drinks, chuckles lightly.)
I kind of tricked you, I guess. But it worked. But you can’t tell me your dreams anymore. If you could, I would tell you that it meant that everything was okay, and that, no matter how you felt, you didn’t kill our son, and it was really something that we couldn’t foresee, and that I don’t blame you, and I still love you no matter what and forever, and that we can, and we need to keep living, not just for us, but for Nicholas. We can’t give up, because we have to give his memory the chance his body didn’t have.
IRIS But Brandon--
BRANDON (Places one finger on her lips, but continues to look
forward, not sparing her even a single glance.) And when you started to say that it really was all your fault and you killed our son and it will never be okay, I would silence you, placing this finger on your lips, just like this, and tell you, “Don’t argue, lovey. Dreams don’t lie.” Who am I kidding? Even if you were here, you wouldn’t listen to me.
(His arm moves slowly back to the table, and he glances at a book sitting on the table for a long moment. Iris is silent, both fearful and frantically thinking. Her heavy, staggered breathing is shown by the movement of her shoulders. Brandon then stands and goes to the bathroom. He picks up the pill bottle Iris used in the beginning of the play, opens it, and inspects the contents. He mutters “I’ll have to refill this soon” or the like, and puts it back down. He walks back to the kitchen and the table. Iris follows behind him, speaking after he places the bottle down.)
IRIS Please tell me that’s what the elevator dream means. I want to listen to you and that’s what I want to believe and really, I’m feeling better and I think that I could believe you now. So please please please just tell me and I’ll say, “Yes, you’re right,” and I’ll finally start to really heal and then we’ll be okay? Okay?
(Brandon sits. Iris stands next to him, behind the table again.)
BRANDON (Smiles distantly and the memory he is recalling.)
Oh, if only. I want to see that smile that drove me wild, Iris. I wish you would just smile for me one more time.
IRIS I can. Really. Look at me, see? (She gives the best smile she can manage and holds it
for a few seconds. When he doesn’t respond, it
disappears and she becomes panicked again.) Brandon would you frigging look at me already!?
(She throws the shopping list, his coffee cup, and everything else within reach from the table with a sweep of her hands. Brandon does not flinch. As she continues, she starts to break down, and her speech slows.)
Look at me! For God’s sake will you please at least tell me that I’m alive and you still love me, and I’m screwed up and need to be in the hospital and drugged up and in a padded room or something anything...please...please.
(She grabs his arm and sinks to the floor, starting to sob.)
BRANDON Now that I think of it, when your father died, you turned off. It was like you descended into this
state of mild catatonia. You talked, but not enough to hold a real conversation. You stared at the floor, or at the wall, or through things, through me. I remember that once, I asked you what was happening to you. I wanted your perspective on it. You looked at me, with eyes clouded by cataracts of grief, and told me you had gone away. That was it, you were “gone,” lost somewhere in your mind to protect yourself from the pain.
(She looks up at him, sniffling. Her face shows
remembrance.) Luckily, slowly, you came out of it, and then you got pregnant, and there was hope for our relationship again.
(Pauses, sips some water. It is apparent that the next
thing he will say troubles him greatly.) But when Nicholas died, I watched you descend back into that depression, but it was much deeper
this time. After you got back from the hospital, realizing your “bad blood” would never leave, you became almost completely catatonic. Before I knew it, you were “gone” again, and you’re still gone, and you almost never even get out of bed. But I feel like some part of your spirit still walks around the house, and that I can still talk to you. I just wish you would come back.
IRIS I want to come back. I want to be here with you. I want to live again. And not just have a heart that
beats and lungs that breathe. I want to be alive in the sense of loving you and having you love me, and going for walks and going to work and drinking celebration champagne and having expensive food and watching the sun and seeing meteor showers. I want to live again. Please, help me live again.
(Sobs.) (Blackout)

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