Read Personae Online

Authors: Sergio De La Pava

Tags: #Fiction, #General

Personae (9 page)

BOOK: Personae
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ADAM: That’s not this, my circumstances before weren’t any better.

 

CLARISSA: Through repetition loss begins to feel like a transient curve.

 

ADAM: Maybe Nestor and Ludwig will discover something.

 

CLARISSA: That
may
be, maybe, but what if they only discover there’s nothing to discover?

 

ADAM: Still be better than this… uncertainty. No?

 

CLARISSA: I’m not certain. Stop worrying will you? I promised you I’d get you out of here…

 

ADAM: When was that?

 

CLARISSA: And I will.

 

ADAM: Wait a second, I’m the man here.

 

CLARISSA: If you say so.

 

ADAM: I should be the one promising everything’s going to be okay.

 

CLARISSA: Go ahead.

 

ADAM: Everything’s going to be okay. (
Clarissa
cups
her
hand
to
her
ear
in
expectation
until
Adam
gets
the
message.
) I promise.

 

CLARISSA: Don’t believe you. (
Adam
deflates
) Understand, I’m not impugning your integrity I just don’t believe everything’s going to be okay and you happen to be the one declaring the contrary.

 

ADAM: Just trying to stay positive.

 

CLARISSA: Positive?

 

ADAM: Yes, trying.

 

CLARISSA: No I mean you positive that’s what you were doing?

 

ADAM: Of course. If there’s one thing I remain certain of…

 

CLARISSA: Let me stop you right there because if there’s one thing
I’m
certain of it’s that human beings don’t often know what truly motivates their actions. Agreed?

 

ADAM: I don’t know.

 

CLARISSA: Exactly, you don’t.

 

ADAM: No heaven or hell we don’t ourselves construct is my overriding point Clarissa.

 

CLARISSA: Ah, there it is, right on schedule.

 

ADAM: You doubt it? Receive some tragic news and note how instantly the very environs you’d just drawn comfort from will transform into instruments of the vilest torture. Note contrarily how a joyous enough development will free a man to kiss his severest enemy.

 

Are we to believe that all this. Life. Is a mere question of geography? Locate yourself on the map so you know what to feel? I think rather we move through our world as if entering coloring book pages with only the barest outlines then start coloring.

 

CLARISSA: So now you’ve gone from base animal to supercilious artist freely creating his world? No wonder you’re in no rush to leave this cocoon, little longer and it’ll be a metamorphosed demigod filling this room with undergraduate-level musings instead of just you.

 

ADAM: I’m not hesitant to leave this room. I want to stay because I’m curious what will happen next.

 

CLARISSA: It’s all very curious all right. Your every move beginning with that laughable pretense to disability. Very curious indeed.

 

ADAM: What, the wheelchair? I had no say in that.

 

CLARISSA: Did you say anything?

 

ADAM: No.

 

CLARISSA: Then you as good as essayed it. See what I’m saying?

 

ADAM: No.

 

CLARISSA: And don’t think we haven’t noticed what a turn for the worse Charles has taken since you arrived. Why should we forgive you for that?

 

ADAM: Forgive?

 

CLARISSA: No. Why should we?

 

ADAM: I’m not asking for forgiveness.

 

CLARISSA: Good, cause you can forget it. We never forget, what for? Or give.

 

(
Charles
moans.
)

 

ADAM: I’m not responsible for that.

 

CLARISSA: If you’re not able to respond who is? You’re not suggesting…

 

ADAM: No one’s
responsible
.

 

(
They
look
at
Charles.
)

 

That there’s the way of the world, he’s ancient.

 

CLARISSA: Perhaps you’re right. But O’ how the ways of the world do seem to weigh on him now.

 

ADAM: As if the shell of his corpse can no longer contain the ghosts of everything he’s seen and done.

 

CLARISSA: Do you feel guilty?

 

ADAM: I told you, I have nothing to do with…

 

CLARISSA: No, guilt at how much more vital you feel in his presence.

 

(
Charles’s
breathing
becomes
audibly
labored.
)

 

ADAM: Look at him. Maybe he once gave orders that men rushed to comply with. I bet he accumulated titles and positions, wrote his name in sundry registries that business might be conducted more expeditiously but always with an eye towards the full and faithful credit of all his rights thereunder.

 

CLARISSA: I don’t know, I rather think he toiled diligently at the secret arts. Repaid the niceness of a comely young woman with steadily increasing niceness until they became two halves of a whole with him maybe slightly less than half. From there it was just a long string of staying to the proper course through an incalculable number of imperceptible adjustments, the constant choosing of the right over the wrong.

 

ADAM: To what profit though? All his sums and takeaways culminate in a bottom line where his personal electricity no longer suffices and he has to plug his heart into an outlet if it’s to keep pumping. What’s he make now? What workproduct and what does it earn him? What does he make of his various liens and levies now that the levee’s burst and there’s nothing left to lean on? A lifetime spent impersonating dignity and putting on airs but at the end nothing’s too undignified provided it supplies the air needed to expend more life. Look at him gasping there. Living, no
dying
proof, at long last, that life is grand. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Else why the white-knuckle grip on something that otherwise engenders so much bemoaning?

 

CLARISSA: I see proof all right. Proof that even a series of miseries, some so creative in their pestilence that even the cruelest soothsayer would decline to say them, is nevertheless preferable to what follows.

 

ADAM: I don’t…

 

CLARISSA: Besides what we’re saying is inapplicable to Charles. Charles is just going through a rough patch not the end. Nestor and Ludwig will return with news and once so informed we’ll get Charles the treatment he needs. Illness and wellness reside on the same side of the coin it’s just a question of giving that coin the proper flip. I want you to understand this point fully and memorably so I’m going to tell you a story.

 

ADAM: No thanks, just tell me the point.

 

CLARISSA: I’m going to, through the use of a story.

 

ADAM: That’s just it. Don’t want the story, just the point.

 

CLARISSA: What are you a savage? If I want you to know, really
know
, my parents were cheap growing up I don’t just flat say they were cheap do I? I say they treated nickels like manhole covers then tell you the
story
of how we had to bathe in the rain at our country house because they didn’t want to pay extra for water. That’s elemental.

 

ADAM: That’s not cheap by the way, that’s psychotic.

 

CLARISSA: So here’s what happened. She was the kind of person who spoke to those closest to her primarily by making sure they overheard her remarks to others. The day we begin she had just returned from…

 

(
Nestor
and
Ludwig
are
returning,
we
cannot
hear
Clarissa’s
story.
Nestor
addresses
Ludwig
outside
the
hearing
of
the
others.
)

 

NESTOR: I sympathize with your human need to share, to enlist allies in a difficult spot, but I’m going to ask you to selflessly not share…

 

LUDWIG: You mean not selfishly share?

 

NESTOR:  . . . and keep what we’ve discovered between ourselves.

 

LUDWIG: What have we discovered?

 

NESTOR: Yes that, keep it between ourselves.

 

LUDWIG: I don’t
know
what we’ve discovered. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to explain, other than to say something like everything we thought was true is somehow neither true nor false and those things we deemed most irrelevant or its converse are not even susceptible to that kind of categorization.

 

NESTOR: Exactly, can you imagine the reaction?

 

LUDWIG: But.

 

NESTOR: You’re our leader.

 

LUDWIG: Since when?

 

NESTOR: And leadership requires a certain kind of courage. What a person doesn’t know is always more important than what he does know and not just because it’s orders of magnitude larger. Think of all you would unknow if you could, you know?

 

LUDWIG: No.

 

NESTOR: Exactly.

 

LUDWIG: They have a right to know.

 

NESTOR: You just said you don’t know what you know. No?

 

LUDWIG: I know, but I also know they have a right to know what I don’t know.

 

NESTOR: No.

 

LUDWIG: No?

 

NESTOR: No. They’ll be looking to you more for a mood than any particular bit of information. Don’t concern yourself so much with the content of what you say as with how you say it. This upcoming speech of yours will in large part determine…

 

LUDWIG: I’m giving a speech now?

 

NESTOR:  . . . how our friends view their predicament.

 

LUDWIG: Why would I give a speech?

 

NESTOR: Not why,
how.
And I’ll tell you. Summon your highest powers because the only thing this crowd respects is rhetorical excess.

 

LUDWIG: Not how, why?

 

NESTOR: Why, (
motioning
with
his
chin
toward
Clarissa
and
Adam
) would you look at that?

 

LUDWIG: What?

BOOK: Personae
8.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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