THE MYSTERIES – a dinner theatre retelling of The Bible – opens April 3 at The Flea Theater. The production features short plays by commissioned writers. This morning, I pulled my text from the production and donated my commission back to the theater. The play appears in its entirety below.
THE SECOND THOMAS
There’s noise all around but I can see any of it.
That’s: I can hear what I think it is and imagine what I think it is but there’s no way for me to verify the actual thing by the time I reach what I think is the source of the sound.
My wife thinks I’m crazy but I’m telling her, I tell her when I wake in the middle of the night that I keep hearing all these things and then later in the morning over breakfast she has this really concerned look on her face.
We’re dying, you see.
Not dying dying.
We don’t have anything yet, no diseases aside from being old, no maladies except the constant cycle of the day.
Each day grows a little wearier but a little lighter at the same time, so the balance is sometimes wonderful to behold.
Such as: I’ve decided I will never live anywhere else.
I told my wife the other day that this is the last apartment that I will ever live inside for the rest of my life.
She was suitably non-plussed.
Because it isn’t news, is it?
An old man deciding on the place of his death.
Every man decides this at one point or another in his life, whether he chooses or no.
Unconscious or no.
So I’d prefer to be conscious of it.
Besides, why would I move?
I know where the market is: I could walk there in my sleep.
I know the names of all the people who work at the pharmacy down the block.
When they get a new employee, I take time to remember the new employee’s name.
It’s little things like that that make a community.
Some people have seen me enough on the street, with my cane and cup of coffee, and wave hello when they see me even though we’ve never met, sometimes even getting a nod from a police officer, sometimes firemen will ride by in their trucks and give me a little salute as if to say, If only we could make it to your age.
There’s respect with getting old, which is what I keep telling my wife, but all she can do is stare out the window when she’s not busying herself with tasks that old women occupy themselves with when they grow old: Cakes and making dishes for people or relatives who never show up, who may be dead, an automatic reflex triggering some domestic impulse and suddenly its six in the morning and you can smell bread baking.
I’m not in any way complaining about fresh baked bread, but you get my greater meaning, yes?
They gave us all this money when we decided we didn’t want to work anymore.
But it wasn’t enough so we don’t get to go out much, and my wife you see can’t occupy herself.
Me, I’m good at reading newspapers.
Playing chess with myself.
Watching automatic sailboats raced by children at the nearby lake.
I do things.
My wife: She stares out the window.
I ask her what she’s staring at.
She says The People.
Even when there’s no people, that’s what she says.
I can see them, she says.
But I never see anybody, not usually.
Then later, I can hear them.
I can hear them gathering in their rooms, I can hear the bustling of young bodies colliding in another open area in the cellular structure of the apartment complex.
I can hear music but I don’t recognize it.
And I try to envision it, I try to imagine in my mind what the corresponding sounds correspond to:
What vision am I looking at?
That woman laughing could be a baby’s wail.
A clinking glass could be a shattered window.
Things could be other things, and I have no way to tell.
My wife sleeps through it all.
I don’t know how she does it.
Her conscience must be very clean, though I don’t bother asking.
Mine is heavy with the weight of I-Don’t-Know-What.
I don’t regret anything in particular.
Just a lifetime of regretting things wears out that part of you that can actually distinguish between regret and just the feeling of being alive.
Old lovers, laziness, my stupidity: All a dull blur in the field of my vision.
And people keep dying all around us.
Not melodramatic, but actually, our actual friends dying without the sound of trumpets, giving up their spectre in the cold night air.
And my wife goes to all the funerals but I’ve been abstaining in the hopes that no one goes to mine.
Just bury me, already.
Why force my friends to miss another day of their already short lives to eat cheese over an open grave?
Like my brother.
He goes to a seaside cliff in India.
He’s lived a pretty good life, he concludes.
They found the will in the bedroom of his Mission with a note thanking everyone for being in his life.
They found his body churning against some Indian rocks.
Did I mention we share the same name?
Did I mention the name Thomas means twin?
I don’t know why India other than the fact that it seems romantic, and a good place to kill oneself.
He had become a Missionary but as we Catholics know the fulfillment of your understanding of Divinity often leads to your own demise.
No funeral, just a reading of the will.
He gave me his car.
At first I didn’t want it, I was going to sell it, but my wife stopped me.
It might be nice to have, was all she said.
So I bought a garage with the little bit of No Money we had left, and parked the car.
It’s been sitting in there.
It’s just there.
I drove it around the block once with my wife.
She seemed very pleased, bouncing lightly in the passenger’s seat, and for a moment I imagined her when I knew her first, when she was much younger and I was just out of being a boy and maybe a man yet, and were we in a car at one point?
Had this happened before?
There was something about the sunlight, or maybe it was the look on her face when we parked.
I felt like I was actually back in time.
And I realized then that all these theories about time travel that people keep coming up with are really just an explanation of how memory works, and I have so much memory, and by this point in my life anything jumpstarts an image in my head that can place me anywhere I’ve ever lived, and its only when the pain of my body brings me back to the present do I remember that I’m old, very old, but my mind is still here, it’s still where it’s always been, it’s right here, I’ve been right here all the time.
We close the garage and go home.
We walk up the same stairs.
She puts on a kettle and we have tea.
She folds over the sheets of the bed she made.
She’s an expert bed-maker.
She sleeps and I stare at the ceiling.
And I cannot imagine the sounds.