Room for Clarissa: Tragedy in one and a half acts 1
There is this room. It a is dark room, the walls creeping with shadows and slime. The tube on the ceiling bathes the place with dim fluorescent light that blinks lightly.
There is this woman on the ceiling of the room. We can’t see her face. Why would we want to? No particular reason. She looks ugly. She is wearing a coarse dress of rough fabric with no visible brand tag on it. The fabric is covered by a layer of dust but looks like ashes. Well, maybe they are actually ashes. Her wild hair would hang carelessly down her shoulders if she wasn’t standing on the ceiling, in that odd position it dangles pointing to the floor, mainly because gravity.
The woman looks unhappy, she stares fixedly to an invisible point between her toes but we do not ask ourselves what the hell she is looking for in there. A fly perhaps? No. We do not ask ourselves that kind of stupid questions because we see how see feels: she is deeply unhappy, she is scared and in pain. We can relate to that, we would feel the same way if have to spend time staring blankly to an invisible spot on the ceiling in a dark and dirty room and having to do it upside down.
The dark floor is covered with a mixture objects but we can hardly make what they are because the dim light hardly reaches down the floor and the lower half of the room is in almost total darkness. We let our eyes to adjust to it and slowly we realize what it is. Scattered on the floor there is the gross domestic product of Swaziland and in one corner, breathing heavily and alligator taking a nap. It’s name is Ben but we do not now that yet.
Meanwhile the woman has moved and now she is arranging some flowers in a vase that is nailed to a chest drawer somewhat attached to the ceiling. The water on the vase though fell to the floor long ago and the flowers will die.
Somebody knocks the door, which is in the floor.
The woman doesn’t blink an eye. Why should she? She opens her mouth and words come out, what did you expect? A cricket?
– Come in – she mutters
A louder knock is heard.
-Come in! – mutters her again. But this time screaming, which is not muttering, it is called yelling.
A tall man enters the room and hits his head on the frame of the door that reaches to his elbows.
– Shit – he says in a tone that implies anger.
The woman doesn’t turn, she keeps arranging the flowers in spite of the fact many of them have been arranged so much that had lost most of their petals. The man walks into the shadows looking up towards her and stumbles on a typewriter. We hear bone cracking.
– Shit! – he yells this time startling the woman that falls at his feets from the ceiling. We hear bone cracking, again.
– Sorry – the man says
The woman puts herself together and stares at him as if she didn’t know what he is talking about. May be she doesn’t.
– What were you doing on the ceiling Clarissa? – asks the man.
Clarissa is still crouching on the floor and avoids his stern stare by toying with a half eaten cucumber that lays in the dust. Then she starts speaking monotonously while rolling the cucumber back and forth.
– I like it up there. I feel good up there. There is some light up there. In here is so dark and damp. I can feel the evil of the world soaking through the walls. Up there is better. You should try.
– You are crazy woman! – he screams, pauses and then screams again – There is a lot stuff to do in here! This room is a mess! Evil wouldn’t soak through our walls if you would clean them once in a while. You only spend time sweeping the fucking ceiling!
The man paces the floor impatiently while talking. He is in bad mood, we can see that, and it doesn’t gets any better when he steps on the alligators nose and his feet are bitten off.
– Now! You see what happens when you make me mad! – says the man while hemorrhaging profusely.
The woman had tried to hide in an empty potato sack but only had time to put her legs inside. She looks at the man’s face and we can see how scared she is. The man keeps complaining.
– How I am going to show myself at the office tomorrow without my feet? I can imagine the jokes and the laughing from my colleagues. I will probably lose my job. Who would trust an insurance salesman that can take care of its own feet? A retarded client maybe… – he trails off and starts sobbing.
He is sad now, almost crying and a feeling of empathy floods her. Raising her extended hand Clarissa leans towards him but forget her legs are still in the sack and falls to the ground with a big thud. When she picks herself up again her face is covered with grey dust and dirt, then she says:
– Why don’t we go away. This place is dead. There is only death here for us. You don’t want that, don’t you? Let’s find a better place, a place full of life. A place where we can be happy. A place with light. With better ceilings…
– Stop, you fool!
– I am not fool. Let’s runaway to a place were the nightingale’s song is not crushed by an iron fist of ice.
– That sort of things happen. There is nothing we can do about that except, maybe, crafting small umbrellas for the entire population of nightingales…
– Stop! Listen! Please! Don’t you see? Don’t? Why? You need glasses! Maybe. I tell you! This place is death. We deserve better than this. We deserve to be happy.
– No, we don’t.
– Yes, we do.
– Please listen… – she is on her knees now, imploring and squeezing the dusty cucumber clasped between her hands.
– No! – he shouts – You don’t know anything, you spend the time up there in the ceiling and never go outside since the ceiling of our house only extends to the house itself. It is me who goes there and face horror, misery and bad breath. I know people, they are wretched creatures, like us. People like us live like this. They deserve it as much as we do. We are no better than them, neither they are better than us, we are just as bad as they are because we are the same and I am the worst of all. I am a rat. No, less than rat. I am a worm. No! Even a worm is better than me. I am turd on a pool of fecal matter in a deserted highway that crosses the icy wasteland. I am about to be smashed by a cement truck driven by a mad clown clad in a bright red jumpersuit. No! The Red Clown comes for me! Help!
– What are you talking about? Why do you scream? You are scaring me. The neighbors will complain.
– Sorry, I got carried away, but you get the point – he says pulling himself together after soaking the stream of saliva off his chin.
– So there is no hope?
The man leaves and Clarissa is left kneeling on the floor with her eyes closed and head down sadly nibbling her cucumber. After a while she stands up slowly and in silence walks up the ceiling stopping on the wall to level a crooked painting. She leans on the wall and lets her hair loose down towards the floor again. She feels is time for a soliloquy but then decides it is crazy to speak to oneself and becomes Christian so she can pretend she is speaking to God.
– Oh God! – she moans
No answer. She clears her throat loudly, as if trying to call God’s attention. Still no answer.
– Oh God! – she says, moaning louder but resigned that God must be gone for lunch at this late hour – Are you there? So much for omniscience… no offense. Why is there so much evil? Why is the world so cruel. When I was child I met once a man who sold flowers in a corner near my parent’s home. He gave me a pale pink rose, it shimmered in the evening sunlight like a butterfly made of light, it was so beautiful and I felt so happy that I wanted to cry. The man smiled and looking deep into my eyes explained to me that I was actually an orphan and didn’t live at my parents place. Apparently I was living in a cage on the backyard of a vicious widow’s house who fed me exclusively with fish bones. That revelation broke my heart, that night I had mom’s chocolate pudding for dessert and now I had to do with raw fish. That was a cruel thing to do to a poor orphan girl… why did he do it? He seemed a nice decent man, he was smiling to me when he asked to accompany him down the alley to show me his rosebud. I said no, I had enough shit for one day. Excuse my French.
Clarissa walks towards the fluorescent light and stares at the flickering tube that looks like a ethereal snake of light. A very stiff snake to be precise. A cloud of insects hovers busily around the light and some buzz in ample parabolic trajectories smashing themselves against the tube. Clarissa thinks of getting a television so she won’t have to amuse herself by watching such preposterous spectacle.
Kneeling she gently lays her slender hand on the light. She feels the warmth of pure white light caressing her skin, blue veins drawing a subtle but intricate pattern on the pale back of her hand, like a landscape of rivers of life bathed on white light. She also feels the viscous pulp of dead insect bodies mixed with blood and dirt sticking to her palm.
– This fluorescent tube is full of life and death, like me. That is why I love it so much… – she declares.
The light slowly fades and dies, we hear somebody coughing in the dark and the first act is over then we go to the bathroom.