Theme: Yes, AND…
by Laura Gene
Drucilla finished licking the peanut butter off her index finger and the sides of her hand that had rubbed against the opening of the jar. Her “man-hands”, as her high school friends used to call them, did not match her childlike frame. Unaware of her past taunts, she licked unabashedly, blissfully unaware of the faux pas of cleaning one’s hands in public with your mouth. As she placed the jar of peanut butter and saucered teacup underneath her chair for safekeeping, the lady with the clipboard stood still, watching Drucilla’s every move with increasing impatience and disbelief.
“Now, Drucilla. Do you need a special invitation? Get on your mark already,” she said.
Drucilla assumed this woman was in charge, maybe the director or even the stage manager, but she was definitely, most definitely, an unhappy woman. Drucilla baby-stepped toward her, not totally sure where to go, where her mark was or what she would do when she got there. Marguerite, the clipboarded people-handler, pointed stage right at a small neon pink “x” on the badly nicked, black-painted wood. With eyes downcast to avoid all eye contact and thwart inadvertent admission of her secret diagnosis, she scurried towards the front edge of the stage.
The stage wasn’t very high, only a couple meters to the recessed floor of the orchestra pit, but when she peered down, a bout of vertigo overcame her. I guess I’m not good with heights, she thought. The feeling tingled up her spine and burrowed its way into her cortex, through the mushy gray matter, to the hippocampus where her amnesia nested, blocking all outgoing signals to remind her of who she was and where she came from and what had happened to her. A little synapse sparked, sneaking through the amnestic roadblock; she could feel it right behind her eyes where her head burned when she drank her milkshakes too fast. Piggybacking this piercing pain was…a memory? She was standing, on the edge of something. A building? No, a house. Yes, it was a roof, with scratchy shingles that had scraped my hind leg. And there was a boy, motioning me to jump down. I was terrified, looking down at him, and didn’t –
“Miss Dru, are you going to daydream or are you going to work and do your job that we pay you to do?” interrupted an exasperated Marguerite.
“What? Oh, yes, I’m here. Where do you want me to start?”
“You can start at the top of Una Povera Ragazza please.”
A pang bellowed inside her chest, like butterflies frenetic behind her sternum, the weightlessness of free-falling through space and reality. The more she thought about it, the more paralyzed she became. She had only to stand still and let them escape.
The flutes twiddled softly in a low register, the five-note arcs barely audible, though their spritely playfulness could be felt. The violins began to hum thereafter, summoning the butterflies out of her chest like a pungi-playing snake charmer. She couldn’t remember her lines, but she knew them still. She didn’t know how. It had been like that for a while now. It appeared this was her understudy’s first day of demotion and her first foray back into the spotlight.
There were things that she thought she should know, but didn’t. And things she had no idea how she should know, but did. Daily, she was reminded that she had no control over her “retrograde episodic memory loss”, as her doctor so eloquently put it. And so, today – on the stage, at the beginning of her solo – this would be no different. Let’s wing it, shall we?
She surrendered to her other self. The one she knew once and the one she was only beginning to know. Compelled by the orchestral arrangement and guided by her innate need to sing, the lyrics echoed from her core:
Una povera ragazza,
padre e madre che non ha,
si maltratta, si strapazza…
questa è troppa crudeltà.
This, she was certain, was indeed Italian.
Sì, signora, sì, padrone,
che con vostra permissione
voglio andarmene di qua.
Partirò… me ne andrò
a cercar la carità.
Poverina… la Cecchina,
Cecchina! I was Cecchina! she remembered.
qualche cosa troverà.
Sì, signore, sì, padrona,
so che il ciel non abbandona
l’innocenza e l’onestà.
Like a hijacked angel’s voice – round and warm with lightness of spirit and an unmistakable innocence. The words and proper enunciation, the emotion and depth of character; even Cecchina’s unfettered love for the Marchese and poor Mengotto’s unrequited love for her! She could remember everything about her character, except the girl playing her.