by Basil Shae
A later and very different draft of Trusting Eyes. Learning to deal with losing a baby.
|LEIGH- Female. Mid twenties. Appears over the span of one year of her life.
(The stage is essentially bare. Far upstage is a giant piece of canvas. In front of the canvas is a collection of paint cans of various colors, a jar of different brushes, and a jar of clean water. The canvas is currently bare. The light does not shine here unless specified.
The light here is a soft and gentle blue blanket. Lights up on LEIGH sitting on the floor of an empty studio. LEIGH is 20 something. She wears a simple white maxi dress and is barefoot.
LEIGH is surrounded by discarded paper and some pens and pencils. There is a black book bag next to her. It appears she has been off and on crying. She is currently working on a letter, her legs splayed in front of her. She has written a few lines.
Reconsidering what she has written, she crosses some words out, correcting herself with new words. She tosses the paper away, seemingly giving up on the letter for the sixth or seventh time. She stares frustrated for a few moments before grabbing a new one.
As she proceeds writing once more, she speaks her words aloud.)
I... I don't know how to begin.
I never meant to let this happen...
(The light surrounding LEIGH fades until a clock face appears. It's the eleventh hour. The clock hands begin to move backward, slowly at first and then more quickly. They arrive at 10:16, only a short time earlier.)
(The light brightens and whitens, becoming harsh and unforgiving.
LEIGH stands and delivers this text facing directly downstage.
As she speaks a wall with a sketch hanging on it appears. It is DaVinci's sketch of Virgin and Child with the Infant John the Baptist and St. Anne.)
It was probably two or three weeks of the ago, right at the end of the semester. We'd been in London for a few days. Our, oh, Lord... Our artistic director decided it would be awesome to see four museums in the span of two days. We were exhausted! It was the second day, probably near the second half of the second museum of the day.
LEIGH gathers up the papers from around her onstage, stowing them away in her bag.
She moves forward, looking around at invisible paintings. Her movement is slow, and while she is inspecting the paintings, she is not that interested. Her exhaustion is apparent.
She turns a corner and walks into a room. In this little alcove, there is DaVinci's sketch of Virgin and Child with the Infant John the Baptist and St. Anne.
She walks up to the painting and is struck. Almost instantly there are tears. Not the quiet kind either. Big crocodile heaving sobbing tears. It should be uncomfortable to watch. It is a kind of pain that most people should not be able to relate with.
After a few moments she speaks.)
There it is. It's something I can't describe. There, in this painting, there is this... in the eyes of the woman there is this look. She is just sitting there, holding this child and there is this look in her eyes. I can't describe it. It's like this.... ahhh! But there it is. That feeling.
Trusting that a child will be there. The child is home, in your arms. Where it belongs.
It's like an inexplicable... beholden-ness. It's just right. The sketch is my feelings made visible. Oh....
(LEIGH breaks for another moment. She catches herself.
The lights change. They soften considerably, remaining white however. In her loss for words she approaches the painting, which has come to life. The child squirms in the woman's arms.
LEIGH reaches out and takes the baby to her. She gasps. Cole Porter's classic In the Still of the Night begins to play softly. LEIGH hears the music and begins a slow, sweet dance with the child.
As the song fades out the characters of the sketch begin to turn back into art. The child is changing in LEIGH's arms. She is panicked and desperate. She clings onto the child with all of her intention.
The woman of the painting reaches out her arms and LEIGH painfully gives the child back. The woman of the sketch holds her child close before returning to the sketch pose.
She is choked up again. She remains staring at the sketch for a little while longer.
LEIGH approaches the back wall. She takes the brush from the floor and dips it in the blue paint. Long, slow strokes. She is creating a line near the bottom of the painting. She does not speak again until after she has completed painting. She returns her brush to the water jar when she is done.
LEIGH steps back to appreciate her work. She is once again in the middle of the stage. She turns back around. The light on the backdrop should turn off.)
I miss you. I miss you like a piece of my heart has been eaten alive. How can I tell you how I feel? Does it even matter? I treasured you.
(The lights fade once more to the light blue clock design. The time changes 2:47, a long while back.)
(The harsh white light comes up again.
LEIGH's cellphone begins to ring inside her book bag. She pulls it out, checks the caller ID and answers it somewhat nervously.)
-Oh! Yeah! I'm sorry about that. I don't know why I was so worked up.
It's no big deal. -
(We can tell it is not easy for her to finish this conversation, it is full of lies.)
-No. No, it came.-
-Yep. I just jumped the gun. You know? I mean it didn't come in the morning like it usually does, and...-
-Yeah... So good news, I guess! You're not going to be a dad!-
So, I'll just see you later?
Yeah. Love you, too, babe.
(LEIGH hangs up the phone, falling to the floor. She is distracted and upset by something.)
What the fuck am I going to do?!?
(Beginning to cry.)
(She has a sudden realization. This discussion is with herself. Volume should be attended to accordingly.)
No! No, I'm just being dumb. I did it wrong and-
(LEIGH digs frantically in her bag. She finds another pregnancy test and jumps up, unbuttoning her pants. She wiggles out of her pants for a moment, pulling down her panties and peeing a teeny tiny bit on the stick. She disregards the mess it may leave. Now she waits. She has to keep herself busy for two minutes. She hums to herself and perhaps glances at her watch often.
After time has passed she looks at the test once more.)
(She throws the test across the room where it hits the wall and falls to the ground. The following line is an absolute explosion of energy. She loses control of her body and her voice she is so overcome by emotion. The line can take as long as it needs, and may be interspersed with guttural noises, screams, and sobs. By the end of the line, she exhausted once more and sinks into despair.)
Shit!... Fuck.... Oh my god...
(She crawls toward the wall and picks up the test. She dips it in the black paint and drags it across the painting. This should take several moments. After a high mark, she collapses.
She lay on the floor, curling up into a little ball and slowly rocking herself. She may be crying, otherwise she may be in shocked silence.
Quietly and slowly. This a completely personal moment. The audience should have to lean forward in their seats to hear her speak.)
I'm going to have a baby... I'm going to be a mommy. I- I am going to be a mother...
(Lights fade to the soft blue glow.)
I was scared out of my mind. Excited, too, but in the beginning the fear outweighed the joy. You were going to be my birthday present for everyone. So I waited. Your daddy would have treasured you, too. And I will tell him one day. But I can't just yet. It hurts too much right now.
(Lights change to the clock. The hands move to 6:03.)
(Lights come up to bright white.
LEIGH stands alone on the stage. As she is standing there in silence, we notice that she is visibly shaking, this should be subtle though.
She begins to take very practiced, specific, forced breaths. We hear her murmuring to herself.)
It's okay. You're okay. You're just fine.
(We hear a child laugh from somewhere in the abyss. It's an adorable little giggle.
LEIGH reacts visibly. She is shaken and broken apart. She lets out an audible cry. She seems to be fighting to remain standing.
She begins speaking to an outside force.)
It's funny to me. That if I were to have this child I would have to focus so much on breathing during the delivery and that right now I have to focus so much on breathing to get myself through the day. Breathing in order to hear a child cry versus breathing in order to get through the sound of a child crying.
My breasts are aching. I never used the word breasts before this. But the way I think of my body has changed. Who knew that anything could change something this personal to me. But for once, I am proud and glad to be a woman. My body is a miracle, a fucking miracle and anyone who doesn't like my body can go fuck themselves. I can create life.
(We hear a child laugh again.
LEIGH doubles over. Crying out.)
This feeling of desperation to get home. Away from all of these others. The fact that I feel slightly homicidal when I see other mothers. What am I doing to these children? Even if it's only in my mind. Oh god...
(She crunches down even further. A bottle of pills falls out of her bag. It falls open, spreading various colored pills all over around her feet.
She looks down and laughs cynically.)
What's funny to me is that I don't even think I have the pills to do what I want. I can't. Everything I take is too mild. It must be. Or maybe I'm just too much of a wimp.
The real reason I don't do it is because I'm terrified. Terrified it won't work. That I'll wake up in the hospital after having my stomach pumped and have to deal with it all. Everything. And then it will probably come out. My almost child. My failed attempt. I can't even get that right.
(The child laughs again.)
Oh God! I just want you here so badly! And there is literally no one around me who can understand that! I just... I need you to be here and you're not! I would willingly change everything in my life to hold you! I would stop going to school, I would stop drinking, I would stop doing everything the way I do just to have you here...
So where are you?
(Softer laugh from the child.)
And it's then I remember. There is nothing I could do. I was on the right course, but there is nothing that I could do. My body rebelled. And there was nothing that I could do.
(LEIGH picks up the pill bottle from the floor, putting it back in her bag. The various colored pills remain. Throughout the piece we may her crunching over them as she steps on them. It does not matter the form of the pill, just as long as it is very obviously medicinal.
LEIGH looks around, and hears the mysterious child cry out. Her eyes go wide. She becomes frantic.
LEIGH rushes around the stage, unable to respond to this crying child. She gets herself more and more worked up. More and more anxiety is building.
When it can build no further she begins to cry out. Her bag falls from her shoulder. The contents spill out. She stoops immediately to put these things away, glad to be given a task. She is throwing the objects back into the bag when her hand happens upon a pocket knife.
She picks up the pocket knife, holding it in a different way than she has held the other items. The child is still crying offstage, but LEIGH seems to be totally absorbed in the knife. With a sort of reverence, she touches the knife and holds it with both hands. She begins to cradle the knife in her arms, as though this has become her child.
Some soft music comes on and she begins to replicate the dance of the sketch child we saw earlier. It is eerie but beautiful. When the song fades out and ends, she is left staring at her knife.
The sudden realization hits her that her knife is just that, a knife, not a child. She panics. In one fluid motion she opens the knife and drags the blade across one of her wrists.
Instead of the blood we expect, a deep, melancholy purple paint pours out, which she stands staring at for a moment. She opens her other wrist and the same color leaks forth. After a few moments she collapses to the ground. The color continues to seep onto the floor around her.
The lights fade to blue. She speaks while lying on the ground.)
There are times I can't even breathe when I think about you.
Seeing other mothers makes me want to die. Nothing soothes this pain.
I would gladly give up my own life to see you just once.
There was nothing I could do.
(The lights fade to clock design. We rewind the time again. The clock reaches 3:14.)
(The lights come up in harsh whiteness.
Purple still marking her arms, LEIGH sits up, holding her stomach with love and endearment once more.)
You’ve seen them. Those pictures that are made up of all these tiny images. Well it’s kinda like that. You are that picture.
(LEIGH stands and walks to the back wall, picking up a brush. She dips it in a deep chocolate brown color and begins to paint.
Unlike before her painting is rigid and somewhat aggressive. The strokes are sharp and almost painful.)
You are the beautiful whole made up of all of these small, vicious attacks. You, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known is composed, is created, by these small, miniscule really in comparison, pieces of pain. Morning sickness. Growing pains. Stretch marks. Cramps. Continuous nausea. It’s like, if there were a picture of Jesus created by little images of the seven deadly sins.
You are the one who inspires me to create. The one who keeps me going. There is this image of you, an unattainable beauty that I can never recreate, but you’re always the goal.
Even though you’re gone.
And I’m alone.
(LEIGH stops her painting, and leans back to inspect her work. She has created the image of a child in the middle of the canvas. She sets down her brush, content. Then leans forward and kisses the child tenderly. Perhaps she ends up with paint on her lips. This should remain here for the rest of the piece.
She remains staring for a moment longer, then turns and the lights shift to blue.)
Feeling you growing inside of me was the most intimate- touching thing I've ever felt. You were like a fire in my belly, heating my heart from the inside. Now I'm so cold and numb.
(The clock reappears. It turns forward only slightly to 3:42.)
(The lights come up, bright white.
LEIGH lay on the floor bare naked. Her eyes are closed and her hair lays loosely around her head and shoulders. Both hands rest on her stomach. She is slowly massaging her belly.
This represents a marked change from the LEIGH we have seen in previous scenes. This woman is confident and completely vulnerable. She radiates an aura of serenity and happiness. She has that pregnancy glow.
The words she speaks are for the baby alone. They should be spoken in a voice that relates this. It would be ideal if the audience had to lean forward to engage with her text.)
It's your mommy.
I love you.
I like to think I can feel your heartbeat, but I don't know if it's yours yet.
(LEIGH feels for a heartbeat.)
You're so little still. Smaller than I can even imagine probably.
I can't wait to see your pretty face!
And hold you in my arms...
But for now...
(She lies for a moment longer.
LEIGH gets up, still holding her belly with one hand. LEIGH sways slightly, beginning to hum and dance to herself. She smiles and walks to the back of the room, picking up a can of deep red paint. Walking to an isolated spot on the stage, she pours the paint over her head, essentially dousing herself in this color. She walks across the room, dripping paint as she goes, and approaches the back wall. LEIGH rubs her entire body against the wall, leaving the mark of a woman. The woman seems to be embracing the child that was just created.
LEIGH steps back, admiring the print. She grabs a distressing tool from her supply of tools and begins to use it on the wall. Even though her movements seem soft and gentle, the result is somewhat violent. The wall ends dented and broken.
She sets down the tool and walks away from the painting, not looking back
The lights dim to blue.)
A girl’s heart can only break so much. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night after dreaming, and I’m screaming that you’re not there. And then I don't fall back asleep. I'm so sorry. I go on, day after day but you just aren't here. But I will always hold you in my heart. You were my little angel. My little sunshine.
(The lights fade to a clock design. We reach current time again, it is the eleventh hour.
LEIGH remains naked and covered in paint.)
(The lights come up white and almost blinding.
LEIGH reaches for her dress, pulling it over her head. The dress will be stained by the colors of paint that it comes into contact with.
LEIGH reaches out for her bag, pulling out piles and piles of paper, tearing through them in frustration. Through the following speech she drops the papers around her.)
How do you explain it when a straight A student starts failing classes and getting write-ups at work? Her parents know of no reason, her friends are at a loss, and there is no boyfriend left around to care. To a new boss and teachers who don’t know her, she must just seem like a slacker. A typical artsy slacker. But fuck.
I never knew that postpartum could affect a girl who lost her baby. Maybe if the kid died in childbirth, sure, but after only nine weeks?
I try my hardest to get everything done and I’m sure it’s less work than I’ve had in the past, but I seriously can’t seem to do it.
All of my time is spent multi-tasking. I literally can’t take my mind off of you. Wondering if you would look like your father with his charming little smile. Wondering if your hair would gray at age 18 like my grandfather’s did. Wondering if you would be a boy, like I felt so sure of inside.
And every little thing. I’m holding onto everything that I can. My little jewel. The journal entries when I first starting having morning sickness. The pregnancy test that I peed on. Anything and everything that I can find that has to do with you.
But it’s fucking me up. My life as I have known it has changed. I cry to get my work done. And still it doesn’t help.
(LEIGH holds a small pile of papers in her hands. Reading off of them.)
Student shows promise but has difficulty applying herself. Lacks concentration. Lacks determination. Lacks motivation. Work is uneven. The student routinely applies herself but produces inconsistent results. Might benefit from more time spent studying. Might benefit from tutor. Might benefit from retaking the course, or taking a remedial version.
My life has changed. And I’m holding onto everything that I can.
(The lights fade to blue.)
I can't fathom what it would be like to hold you. And look down at your little trusting eyes. To feel you suckle at my breast. My little boy. Jewel of my diary. I can't keep your memory close enough.
(The image of the clock appears again. We move to 4:48. The moment of truth.)
(The lights come back up bright, but this time with a reddish tinge. This is the only part of the play in which LEIGH stands and delivers without interacting with her surroundings. Her paint covered body should be very apparent and seem almost sickly.)
I had just come back from the doctor. I was late for class. It was weird to me that I felt I had betrayed myself that I was late for class, I knew I would get marked off for it. I walked into class and joined in, just like nothing had happened.
Almost immediately, we broke off from the lecture kinda thing to work on our own. I was grateful to have something to help take my mind off of what had just happened. We were supposed to work with the concepts of “pain” and “joy.” I began with joy- it was forced. I felt heavy and I knew that what I was creating was so false and leaden.
And then I hit pain.
And I couldn't move. I sat in my chair and wept. I remember I had my back to the rest of the classroom, so it was a kind of personal moment for me. The tears were silent, just rolling down my cheeks. I don't think anyone really knew.
But she saw me. She saw me from across the room and did I'm sure what was only instinct for her. She found me. She came to me and hugged me tight. She didn't ask what was wrong. And that was the best thing. She hugged me and held me and I could feel her heartbeat and I remember thinking that it wasn't fair. I was so lost.
Somewhere in the time she was holding me I must have gotten loud with my tears. The teacher must have gestured for her to do something, because she led me away to the hallway outside of the classroom. I was walking blind. I would not have made it if she had not been there to guide the way. I had no desire to move. No motivation. I felt like death.
This was one of those moments where I can not remember crying so hard. It felt absolutely infantile. Which was ironic.
Still, she just held me. She stood with me in the silent hallway and held me. And I held her back, harder than I think I've ever held anyone.
It was the teacher who ended up asking what was wrong. I remember I could not even look at my teacher, or at her. I began holding her even tighter than I thought was possible, or healthy for her, maybe I hurt her, I don't know.
I hadn't spoken it aloud at that point. I had just found out after all. And even then I couldn't tell him. I was going through all this on my own. It's still difficult to talk about, but nothing like compared to that day. But once it came out, all the words came.
“I lost my baby. I lost my baby and I lost myself. I don't know what to do. I did something wrong. I hurt. I'm dying. I can't. I can't. I lost him...
I was only nine weeks! He can't be gone! I can't.... I just...”
I think that was the beginning of hysterics for me. Before long I would have broken blood vessels in my eyes and face, I would have pulled out chunks of my own hair, I would have given myself a black eye. I had no idea how to cope with something like this.
She brought me out into the main area of the building. It was surprisingly empty, so we didn't really disturb anyone.
Now is when she spoke.
“I will never understand, but I am so so sorry. So sorry.”
Having someone hold me that way and be that kind of support was overwhelming. On top of everything else, I couldn't handle it. I lost it.
I was loud. I remember that. I think I was wailing for a while. She was doing her best to calm me down, but how do you do that for a girl whose heart has been torn out?
The rest is a bit blurry. I know I ended up at home, thankfully not that far away from class, although I don't know if it was her or my roommate who brought me there. Got me into my bedroom. Put me into bed. I slept the rest of the afternoon. Medicated.
I needed something to be my heart's tourniquet.
(All the strength that LEIGH has shown in the preceding speech can feel free to evaporate now. She can choke on the following words.
The lights fade to blue.)
I love what you might have been as well as what you were. I'm sorry I can't kiss you and make this all better. I need you to know that I love you and I miss you so much.
(The clock reappears and moves us to 10:44.)
(The light comes up, white once more.
LEIGH has pulled herself together. She is functioning once more, though shakily at times.
She retrieves three paint cans from the back of the stage and a paint pan, setting them center stage. She sits behind them.)
He knew me really well from the beginning. And he understood how my brain worked. I am, after all, a child at heart.
Our first holiday together was Valentine’s Day, and I had no idea what to get him. I’m not even one hundred percent sure that I do remember what I got him… something inconsequential and dumb, no doubt.
But he… shit. He got it right. He knew.
I walked into the kitchen, where he had a tray of brownies waiting for me and he surprised me with something else.
“You told me you wanted a puppy… so I got you one.”
He pulled out the cutest stuffed animal from behind his back. It was a small, light brown, stuffed French Bulldog. He was soft and cuddly and everything I could have wanted. He was perfect.
(There is a long pause as LEIGH considers how to tell the rest of her story.
Throughout the following text, LEIGH pours different amounts of each paint into her pan and mixes them together with her paint stick. This act is very symbolic.)
When I found out that I was pregnant, I wanted to get the baby something right away. I mean, I really couldn’t wait to start buying baby things. I just love shopping for them, so cute and small.
I wanted to shop right away, but I had no idea if this was going to be a girl or a boy. And I wouldn’t know for some time. But I knew that the child needed something.
What would say, unconditionally, I love you, from a mother to her child? Clothing is a punishment and blankets a necessity. The gift of life, sure, but that seems too much like I’m trying to assert my authority. It needs to be something loving. Something from the heart.
I knew. Very soon afterward. After I lost him, I knew. It had to be something that was a piece of my heart. And since I couldn’t give him himself, I gave the next best thing.
This stuffed animal, this puppy, Yellow, for all the yellow stoplights his father and I took advantage of, needed to be my sons. So now. Now that he is no longer here. And now that his father and I are no longer together. I sit here, with Yellow, feeling so lonely and abandoned.
But it will be okay. Yellow is here. And until my baby, my child comes back to take him from me, he will always be here, and belong to my heart.
This is dedicated to the one I love.
(LEIGH reaches her hand into the paint pan and pulls out the stuffed animal. He has been drenched in yellow paint. She hugs the doll to her.
The lights change to blue.)
My baby. My little angel.
(LEIGH continues holding the doll as she moves back the paint cans and the paint pan to the back of the room.
While she is working the clock design reappears and we happen into the eleventh hour once more.)
(The entire last scene takes place in the blue light of the beginning.
LEIGH stands at the back of the stage, completely focused on her piece. She mixes and fixes and works the paint.
Soon, we see a design beginning to appear.
A woman stands on a tightrope holding a child. There are clouds appearing behind her.
The painting seems soft and loving but at the same time suggests a certain precariousness.
As LEIGH reaches the end of her painting, In the Still of the Night begins to play once more.
LEIGH steps away from the painting and closes her eyes, beginning her dance with Yellow. Her dance is slow, but filled with a motherly kind of energy that can not be replicated.
She stops in place, at the center of where the clock hands would meet and holds the doll closely to her.
As she stands there, a rope rises from the floor. Eyes still closed, LEIGH walks the tightrope, leading offstage. Before she exits, she turns back to her completed painting. The lights brighten for a moment.)
(LEIGH exits. The clock reappears. The hands move on toward 12:00.