by John Grogan
Setting: An expensive hotel suite overlooking Dublin city
Time: 7.45pm, tonight
Character: HELEN, late 40s, Irish
HELEN sits at an ornate dressing table applying the finishing touches to her makeup; she is well dressed. A phone sits within reach. Slowly she turns with a warm smile on her face as she takes in the room.
Wonderful to see so many friendly faces gathered here tonight.
On this very special occasion honouring the memory of my Tom. That man.
For better, for worse, a workaholic.
You’ve all been so generous with your kind words and cards.
People say to me, “Helen, how do you do it?”
“How do you manage to be so composed, a sea of calm especially now with this ‘photo business’ the papers have dragged up from God knows where?”
Day in, day out, we must soldier on.
Maintaining the home and family life keeps me busy, busy.
Our two beautiful boys, Tim and Paul so wanted to be here, but I insisted it not necessary to cut short their travels.
Tom conducted their upbringing with military precision.
Not everything I agreed with … Had our moments, as all couples do. Sometimes things were said. A certain look on one’s face. Slips out doesn’t it?
Although we’d never go to bed with a stifled atmosphere in the house. We’d come at it from every conceivable angle, leaving no stone unturned until we’d set the world to rights. Get there in the end.
(A slight laugh.)
That last morning before he left, we had a fight … no, a misunderstanding.
My final image is of his bunched up face at the breakfast table.
Am sure you’ve all seen the photograph in the paper by now?
This ludicrous claim doesn’t surprise me one bit. There are people who would do anything. Anything for money. I warned him they’d try and take advantage. It’s a developing economy after all. Out there.
I watched a documentary recently about these people who make their living from selling items they find scavenging on the outskirts of developing cities.
There were two boys carrying a dead animal across an endless horizon of wasteland. It didn’t have a head.
My husband was bringing them a brighter future, a better way of life.
They would not be able to deal with an occasion such as tonight; they wouldn’t know how to act in these surroundings, how to conduct themselves.
Just the way it is.
Now I agree it’s important to hand something back.
All my old garments go to the clothing bank. Recycle the wine bottles.
My heart sinks every time I see that footage, the car mangled around the barrier, a lone shoe on the motorway.
Why do they have to keep dragging it up? An unpleasant business.
Let the poor man rest in peace. And now this … this evidence that proves what exactly?
Nobody is who they seem, certainly not in the newspapers.
Endurance. The ability to endure.
People say to me. “Helen, how do you do it?”
“How do you manage to be so … measured, a sea of calm?”
Tom wanted me to accompany him on that last trip.
I like to travel.
We went to the Maldives once.
Keep replaying it in my head, over and over. The outcome is always the same: TJ Murray, former government adviser and business man, 56, married, two grown sons, killed instantly.
His driver, a native man, died later at the scene.
An unidentified girl cut from the wreckage in a critical condition.
No passport, “that sort of clothing,” a spokesman said.
I have asked myself. What was she doing there on the road in the middle of the night?
These people have nothing. Can you blame them? Trying to squeeze a few extra pennies any way they can. They’re all in on the act. Corruption, bribes.
Who knows if it really is the same girl, she looks so …
(She looks in the mirror briefly.)
A bit of makeup and hey presto you can do anything. I’ve been known to pass for a woman of thirty … ish.
It’s amazing technology these days and obtaining a photo of a prominent man like himself, well … The techniques they use to place one image over another. All stretched and distorted. And those marks on her body … some local custom … people will jump to conclusions. Plain to see she is happy to be there, she’s smiling!
They get into it from an early age, it’s all they have. They’d sell their own child for the price of a loaf. No better than a pack of wild dogs and we must not forget that. She died afterwards in the hospital. Which is awful.
I know the sharks are circling. They have picked the wrong woman.
Weathered worst storms. A sea of …
Tom. That man. He was drawn to the exotic; this was his one little weakness. Yeah.
People say “Helen, how do you do it? How do you … Hel?”
(She closes her eyes, throws her head back and emits a primeval howl that builds to a scream.)
(The phone rings, she answers it.)
All set … be right down. Thank you. So kind to say so.
(She checks herself in the mirror one last time then stands up and walks out of the room.)
copyright © 2009 John Grogan. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
John Grogan born in Dublin and lives in London. Recent work Jet Lag Waltz produced in Dublin by Ready Fire Aim. Other work includes Blind Spot for Fishamble Whereabouts Festival Dublin and In The Cell of My Heart for Shortcuts Festival Union Theatre London. Currently writing a new play The Magic.