a Theatrical Monologue
by Anna Tenezi
As published in In Focus Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2014
Yes! Here I am, just as you see me: burnt and ugly. Look at me! I’m standing in front of you, washing dishes, not that I have much choice in the matter! All morning I tried to avoid it – doing chores in rooms with closed curtains, wandering around in places where you could not see me. While preparing lunch, I worked on the table at the back of the kitchen, contrary to my habit of standing at the sink and looking out at the field, which stretches to infinity. I bought this house because of this field, you know… When you spend the entire day in the kitchen, the need for flight enlarges frightfully within you. Then blasting out into infinity is the only thing that can keep you grounded…
You’re moving slightly away, but I know that I’m still within your field of vision. I know you’ll look at me out of the corner of your eye. Here it comes now; you’re looking this way.
No, you’re not looking at me. Look at me already! Yes, look at me. Half my face is burnt. But in the other half you can still see the beauty that once was… One green eye and skin that’s still smooth.
Now you’re busy mixing cement. When you fetch the shovel, you’ll be forced to raise your eyes. It would not be possible not to…
I feel relieved that you’re not looking at me. If you were, I’d feel the need to apologize. To explain what happened… I’ve done it many times. Explaining to anyone who has ever set eyes on me since that cursed day… I’m fed up; I’ve had enough. So I’ve limited my outings to a great extent (now you’ve moved over to the fig tree, what are you doing there? What did you go there to do?) and I chose this house, isolated and neighbourless, overlooking this immense field (now you’re filling the pail that is suspended by the rope. When the worker above pulls it up, you’ll raise your eyes with it and then you’ll see me).
The flowers… You don’t mind if they look at you. When you look at them you imagine that you’re drawing in their beauty. And the grass is so comforting when it’s green. (The pail has gone up but you still haven’t looked at me.) It’s strange but the fear I felt when I approached the sink (that you would see me and become frightened, that I would be defenseless to your gaze – the gaze, which would have had already expressed its shock and revulsion)…
How I wish that I had planned for a curtain! I din’t want it before now, because I felt quite protected in my loneliness. There are no neighbours here, no eyes…
So the fear that I felt then… is leaving, gradually leaving… The way you lower your eyes appears to me like a humble adoration before something sacred and revered. Even so, I feel it – it’s not the sacred respect that a man feels for a woman; it’s not the humility of the faithful before God… because I know it. You have yet to look at me.
I was watching you (anxiously, yes, I can admit it now) long before I approached the window, from the depths of the dimly lit kitchen. I was laying in wait wanting to approach when you were far away or looking elsewhere. I wanted to have complete control over your movements. Above all else I wanted to catch your eye.
You mustn’t have seen me. I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you for some time. I couldn’t let you see me without having the chance to catch you off guard first! I wanted to be first. That’s my defense. My knife wound. My pain. Seeing the shock of a stranger’s gaze takes back the wounding that it causes me. This is how I catch off guard the intrusive hostile gaze that attempts to look at me. Andnow I’m ready. I’ve been ready for some time. You can look at me. I expect you to look at me. I look at you from time to time. I wait.
I wait. I demand. Why aren’t you looking at me?
Yes, as I was saying to you, no, as I was saying… You might find me repulsive but that stops at the neck. Only on one side of the neck in fact… Because on the other side, if you could forget about it… and surely, if you went lower… my breasts are still quite youthful and firm. And what would definitely not leave you indifferent is my tummy. I have a wonderful, tight tummy, smooth and flat, covered with an adolescent peach fuzz. It’s my husband’s great love. Yes, I know you must be wondering how my husband sees me; if it’s possible that still loves me. He does love me. And he loves my tummy, which he can’t kiss enough. Because, of course – yes, I must admit – he doesn’t kiss my face often, only when aroused he moves further up, like others move down. But it doesn’t matter – my belly has learnt to respond. It’s responsive and sensitive; it reacts easily, and he knows how to make it increasingly more responsive and sensitive. It’s like a second body attached to my body, which even surprises me at times. It’s my strong point…
And then my legs… I have very nice legs. Not that I mean to brag but, if I were in America, I could compete in a best legs pageant – at least this is what people used to tell me when I was younger. But I don’t like people paying attention to my legs. After the accident I learned to emphasize them very discreetly. I’ve adopted the style of Coco Chanel. You’d think I were a good-looking lady, if you saw me from behind. And from the right, from the right side from the rear, too…
You still won’t look at me? You moved into the distance for a long time, but now you’re back. You come and go. And I’m taking a very long time washing the dishes. I scrub the pots, the frying pan. Now I’m scrubbing the sink. Soon I won’t be able to stay here any longer.
Now you’re under my window. Will you look at me? You will look at me. You must! Look at me, because I can’t stay here any longer.
All right, the game is over. I’m leaving. You won’t see me for the rest of the day, nor on all the other days that you’ll be working here… I’m used to being indoors with the shutters closed and the curtains drawn. I love this sense of interiority, which creates the atmosphere of a completely enclosed space. Never mind that it protects me and feels like an embrace to me. It allows me to live out my dreams, my fantasies.
Tomorrow I’ll stand inside this large cool womb and I’ll be thinking of you in exactly the way I want to think of you; and you’ll be thinking of me. I’ll make you think of me exactly the way I want you to think of me. So goodbye.
This orange light that the curtains reflect on the interior of my home complements the slight sadness that overwhelms me at times, that makes me not want to do anything but stare at the ceiling while lying on my back, or to watch the games of the light on the patterns of the curtains while lying on my side. Or even while hiding in the foetal position, under the blankets, in a darkness that is mine alone.
Doorbell! At this hour? Courage once more so I can open.
– Who is it?
– Who is it, please?
Someone who does not answer… Someone unknown. Have courage, my heart.
– Yes? (So it’s you! You, at my door.)
– The car? Move the car out of the garage? You’ll start taking down the plaster?
You motion ‘yes’ to me and, just now, I see your eyes.
(A spotlight illuminates the scarred woman.)
Scarface: My husband loves my belly, you know…
(She turns her face so we can see her “good” side.)
Translated by Irena Joannides