A short monologue, written in the style of Alan Bennett's 'Talking Heads'.
|[Mary is a tired-looking woman in her mid-thirties, with thinning, mousy-brown hair. She is sitting alone in her living room, on a comfortable, faded blue sofa. Her hands are restless, constantly fidgeting, like she needs to be doing something with them. She sits in a hunched position, occasionally straightening a little, as though her back is paining her.]
I had a coughing fit this morning. It wasn’t anything major, just a small, almost negligible one, didn’t even last that long, but it was enough for John to start fussing over me. God, I hate it when he does that. You’d have thought I was a fragile ornament, the way he’s been treating me since last Thursday. I don’t need his overzealous concern, thank you very much. I am a fully-functional, thirty-six year old adult and perfectly capable of taking care of myself.
I told him as much. ‘John,’ I said to him, ‘I’m not a child. I can deal with a little cough by myself.’ He backed down a bit, then, and looked a bit abashed, as well he might. I mean, it’s nice that he’s caring; well, he should be – he is my husband. But, when your spouse starts acting like an overprotective parent, a line does need to be drawn. Seriously. Just yesterday, for example, he confiscated my cigarettes! I couldn’t believe it. Talk about interfering. Yes, all right, Dr Wilson did say that I should stop, said that it would only make matters worse. Well, I hardly think it’ll do too much damage; I’ve smoked for twenty-odd years now, and I’m still fine, more or less. I don’t care what Wilson says, it’ll be fine. It can’t be as bad as he likes to make out. Just because he’s a doctor, it doesn’t mean his word is the be-all and end-all. Bloody doctors and their know-it-all attitudes. Well, I’ve never liked doctors, anyway.
So I went out a bit later, to buy some more cigarettes. The weather was horrible, terribly cold, forcing me to wear that awful, brown coat that John got me for my last birthday. I hate that ugly thing. Thick and almost smothering in its warmth – oddly enough, just like John these days, if you ask me. He never was the best at picking out gifts. Anyway, I had to wear it, because I’d just taken my other coat out to the drycleaner’s yesterday – talk about bad timing! Oh, well, it was the lesser of two evils, I suppose – it was either wear the brown one or suffer the cold. I’m not that vain, and I really don’t need to give John another reason to worry over my health. [Rolls eyes]
I had a chat with the woman at the corner shop, where I buy my cigarettes. Mrs Murchison, I think her name is. Something like that. We were having a discussion about our husbands, just a ritual conversation we have every week. She was complaining today about how her Tony wasn’t paying her enough attention. I laughed at that, which then morphed into another coughing fit, and said to her, ‘I’d happily swap with you any day; John’s being so bloody annoying these days, worrying every time I so much as hiccup.’ She said to me, then, oh, what was it? ‘It must be nice, though, to have someone so caring and considerate.’ Ha! She doesn’t know a thing! Caring? Yeah, right. Suffocating, more like. I almost pitied her for her ignorance, but then the stupid woman just had to add, ‘I mean, especially now, what with your condition.’ Condition?! What does she mean by that, condition?! As though I were some little invalid! Rude little busybody. So, I said to her, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I’ll thank you to keep your nose out of my business, if you don’t mind!’ and walked straight out. [Brief pause] It was only afterwards that I realised, I never got round to buying my cigarettes.
When I came home, I overheard John on the phone to someone. Not that I’m jealous or suspicious or anything, but I heard myself being mentioned. That’s justified, isn’t it? It is kind of difficult, after all, to not eavesdrop if your own name is clearly being mentioned, especially when it’s because your ‘oh-so-caring’ spouse is complaining about you. Apparently, I’ve been ‘acting strange’ and ‘pushing him away’ lately. Well! I like that! I mean, for God’s sake, what does he expect me to do, but ‘push him away’ if he’s trying to stifle me all the time? We may be married, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t need space sometimes. Well, of course, I was furious. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was betrayal, of the worst kind, especially when he’s obviously been putting on the ‘loving’ front all week. So I waited until the conversation ended and for him to leave – I wasn’t in the mood to see his lying face – before sneaking in to check the call log. Just so, you know, I had an idea of who John’s been complaining about me to. It turned out to be Wilson, of all people. John had been discussing me with the doctor. What’s wrong with the man? I'm fine. I don’t care what Wilson says. I’m only thirty-six.
[GO TO BLACK]
[Come up on Mary sitting on her bed, staring listlessly at nothing. Evening.]
I am going to die.
I found out last week. John made me go to the doctors, said that Dr Wilson had said that the lab results had arrived. So we went to the hospital. The results were conclusive. Stage four lung cancer. I have maybe eight months left to live. [Bitter laugh, morphing into a cough] I suppose all those years of smoking have finally caught up with me.
At first, after the initial shock, I was so angry. Angry, because I am young, at only thirty-six years old, yet I will most likely never reach thirty-seven. Angry at Dr Wilson, for being the bearer of bad news. Angry at John for… I don’t even know. Because he was an easy target. And angry at myself, for not having seen this coming.
I’ve barely spoken since that appointment. I haven’t been out since last week. I can’t bear to see everyone around me, so happy and full of life, when there’s me, life slowly draining out of me. I refuse to go out and see the pity in their eyes as they look at me. It’s not fair. Others live right to the ripe old ages of ninety. Why must I be condemned to die, before I’ve even lived till half of that? I’m never going to see my nieces and nephew grow up. I won’t be around to joke with them, to laugh with them, to be alive with them much longer.
And John. Soon, I’ll be gone, and there’ll be so much we could have done together, should have done together, that we never will. We’ve only been married for three years; that’s nowhere near long enough. And yet, it seems that four years, if even that, is the longest we’ll have together. Oh, John. He’s been so worried about me. Every day, he tries to put on a brave face for me and to comfort me. To help us both accept my fate. But I don’t – can’t – respond to him. I’m not ready to die.