by Andrew Biss
Setting: the viewing room of a funeral home
Character: THE OTHER WOMAN, well-kept, 40’s
The Other Woman addresses the body in the coffin before her.
THE OTHER WOMAN
Well, well, just take a look at you … all scrubbed and polished and ready for inspection. I have to hand it to them, they really did a good job on you. Who could imagine seeing you now that such a short time ago you were lying in a pool of your own vomit, your organs finally having decided to give up on you … just like everyone else.
What did they stuff in your cheeks? Cotton, is it? Or some synthetic stuff? No, I think it’s cotton … the look, the feel of cotton. Cotton mouth—how appropriate. Well, whatever it is, it’s a good look for you. You were always so gaunt and drawn, but now you look … well, quite lively. What a shame. Still, it’ll make for a good send off. And like they say, you never get a second chance to make a last impression.
I will miss you, you know that, don’t you? Despite all those years of being second-best to … well, just about everything really: the wife; later, the ex-wife; the job; probably the dog … and oh, let’s not forget the all-consuming, never-ending, neurotic bouts of introspection. If you’d been any more self-absorbed you’d have turned into a black hole. Just a small one, though. And last but not least, of course … the bottle. Though under the circumstance, I suppose that goes without saying. Yes, I think it’s fair to say the only thing in your entire life you ever committed yourself to fully and unreservedly was the bottle. And look how it’s thanked you.
But, like I say, I will miss you. Because as awful as it is … was … it was what I knew. I knew it wasn’t good, I knew I wanted better, but it was what I had … and I accepted it as such. There’s a dealer in life, you know, and he’s throwing the cards across the table, and the person next to you gets an ace and you get tossed a five of diamonds, and you think to yourself, well, that’s the breaks. And you don’t have to blame yourself for what happens, because you can blame it on the dealer. It’s an easy out. And I took it. I went along with it all, and as shitty as it got, I could always console myself with the knowledge that I wasn’t to blame. And in my head I guess I made the dealer my enabler. Kind of like you and your liquor store clerk, I’d imagine. So yes, taking crap from you became a way of life. And like anything you get used to, once it’s gone you miss it. Doesn’t mean it was any good … it was just always there.
But on the occasion of our last conversation … something changed. Not in you; certainly not in your voice. That was the same, slurred, barely comprehensible, self-pitying rambling I was oh so very used to. No, it was … in me. Something in me … somehow … heard you differently. The feeble, garbled plea for help was just the same. My response—dropping everything and rushing over—was just the same. But inside … inside of me … well, I guess one of my organs quit on you, too. I didn’t feel a damn thing.
You see, what you don’t know is … you were still alive when I got there.
I looked down at you, crumpled in a heap on the floor, battered and bruised from yet another bender session of flailing around blind drunk. You weren’t conscious but you were breathing. And I thought to drag you to your bed and get you cleaned up a bit, just as always. But I didn’t. I decided to sit in the chair and contemplate things—contemplate you. And the longer I stared at you, the further away you seemed. After a while it was as if I was staring at someone else. Someone I didn’t know. And then you began to vomit.
Your body started jerking violently as the vomit forced its way out of your mouth and nose. But you were still unconscious and breathing it back in, your throat choking on the acid, gasping for breath. And I sat in that chair watching you drown … until finally the struggling stopped and everything was quiet and still. And I waited … waited until I was sure the peace was permanent … for both of us.
Then I called for help … even though neither of us needed it. Because, you see, sometimes in life … well, you’ve just got to help yourself.
copyright © 2010 Andrew Biss. All rights reserved.
The works of playwright Andrew Biss have been produced in New York, London, Los Angeles, and many other cities across North America and Europe. His plays have won awards on both coasts of the U.S., received critical acclaim in the U.K., and are an Off-Off-Broadway regular fixture. Andrew is a graduate of the University of the Arts London, and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.