[A modest homesparsely furnished. Moonlight pours in through an open window, illuminating the otherwise unlit room. A WOMAN stands in front of the window, motionless, staring out into the darkness. A candle flickers in her hands. She is trembling. After a few moments, a MAN appears from the hallway.]
WOMAN: Did you hear?
MAN: Come to bed.
WOMAN: You didn’t?
MAN: Hear what?
WOMAN: Outside. They’re building barricades.
WOMAN: Here. On our street.
[They lock eyes for a long momentthe MAN’s face turns pale. He goes to the window. The WOMAN continues to tremble, but her eyes remain locked on the man, motionless, gauging his reaction.]
MAN: How long?
WOMAN: An hour at least.
MAN: My brother?
WOMAN: He’s gone. He knew you’d try to stop him, so he left as soon as it started. I saw him go.
MAN: Why didn’t you wake me?
WOMAN: What could you have done?
MAN: It’s really happening. I can’t believe it.
[She clasps his hand.]
WOMAN: Are you afraid?
MAN: Are you? [She shakes her head “no,” but cannot control her trembling.] I had a feeling it would happen. A premonition. It’s been too quiet. There’s been nothing for days now. The factories have been closed. The roads have been almost empty. Even the air feels cleaner. I went outside tonight … there were no lights, no cars, nothing. Not a single sound of the city, just … quiet. If you closed your eyes you really would have thought you were somewhere far out in the country. It had that smell, you know, whatever it isthat smell of spring nightsof fields and flowers and dew. I heard a dog bark, and it rang out so clear. It struck me … you never notice things in the citythere’s too much going on. It made me laugh. [A dog barks.] Listen, a dog is barking now.
[Somewhere, hammers begin to pound. The WOMAN rushes to the window and points.]
WOMAN: There they are again! On the corner! [They stare out into the darkness, holding each other. The blows of an axe join in the clamor.] It sounds so cheerful, so resonant, like in a forest or a river when you’re mending a boat or building a dam. Cheerful, harmonious work.
MAN: It’s the sound of the future. [Silence.] I have to go too, you know.
WOMAN: I knew you would.
MAN: You understand then?
WOMAN: Of course.
MAN: It’s my duty.
WOMAN: And the children?
MAN: You’ll be with them. They’ll have a motherthat will have to be enough. I can’t stay behind.
WOMAN: And I? Can I?
[Surprised, he stretches out his hands, but she pushes them aside.]
WOMAN: Something like this happens once in whata hundred years? A thousand? Do you really expect me to stay here and change diapers?
MAN: Do you want to die? They’ll kill you just as quickly as they will me. They won’t hesitate because you’re a woman.
WOMAN: [Still trembling.] I’m not afraid.
MAN: And what about the childrenwithout you to look after them, what chance do they have?
WOMAN: This is bigger than the children.
MAN: What if they die?
WOMAN: What if they do die? If it’s for the cause?
MAN: Are you really saying thisare you speaking these words?! You who have lived for nothing but those children?! Who have been filled with fear for them day and night?!
WOMAN: That was before.
MAN: What’s come over you?!
WOMAN: The same thing that’s come over you. I can see the future.
MAN: You want to go with me?
WOMAN: Yes! [Pause.] Don’t be angry. Please. But tonight … when the sounds began … when the hammers and the axes began to fall … you were still asleep … and I suddenly understood that my husband, my childrenall these things are temporary.... I love you very much … [She clasps his hand again.] … but can’t you hear how they are hammering out there?! They are pounding away, and something seems to be falling, breaking apart, some kind of wall seems to be coming downthe earth is changingand it is so spacious and wide and free! It’s night now, but it seems to me the sun is shining! I’m thirty years old and already I’m like an old woman, I know it, you can see it in my face. And yet … tonight I feel like I’m only seventeen, and that I’ve fallen in love for the first timea great, boundless love that lights up the sky!
MAN: It’s as if the city were already dead and gone. You’re right, I feel like a kid, too.
WOMAN: They’re pounding, and it sounds to me like music, like singing of which I’ve always dreamtall my lifeand I didn’t know who it was that I loved with such a boundless love, which made me feel like crying and laughing and singing! This is freedom! Don’t deny me my placelet me die with those who are working out there, who are calling in the future so bravely and rousing the dead past from its grave!
MAN: [Strangely.] There is no such thing as time.
MAN: The sun rises and sets … the hand moves around the dial … but time doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. Who are you? I don’t know you. Are you a human being?
[The WOMAN bursts into ringing laughter, as if she really were only seventeen years old.]
WOMAN: I don’t know you, either! Are you a human being, too? How strange … how beautiful it istwo human beings!
MAN: I have to go. I can’t wait any longer.
WOMAN: Wait, I’ll give you something to eat. You should eat first. A few more minutes won’t make any difference. See how sensible I am. I’ll come tomorrow. I’ll give the children away and find you.
WOMAN: Yes, comrade.
[The strokes of the axe can be heard through the open window. She gives him some bread to eatsets it on the table, but he only stares at it.]
WOMAN: Why don't you eat?
MAN: Breadit’s so strange. Everything is so mysterious and new. I feel like laughing. I look at the walls and they seem so … temporary. They’re almost invisible. I can see how they’ve been builthow they will be destroyed. Everything will pass. The table … the food on it … you and I … this city … everything seems so transparent and light.
[The WOMAN glances at the stale, dry crust of bread. She turns her head slightly, very slightly, in the direction where the children are sleeping.]
MAN: Do you feel sorry for them? The children? That they’ve come into the world now? This time of all times?
[She shakes her head without removing her eyes from the bread.]
WOMAN: No … I was only thinking of our life before. [Pause.] How incomprehensible it seems! It’s like waking from a long dream. [She surveys the room with her eyes.] Is this really the place where we lived?
MAN: You were my wife.
WOMAN: And they were our children.
MAN: We worked.
WOMAN: We made love.
MAN: We paid our bills at this table.
WOMAN: How we sweated over those bills!
MAN: It seems so pointless nowdoesn’t it? All that worrying over a few dollars here or there.
WOMAN: And here, beyond this wall, your father died.
MAN: Yes. He died in his sleep. He told me this day would comebut he didn’t live to see it.
[The sound of a baby crying comes suddenly from the hallway.]
MAN: Her cry seems so strange now … amidst these phantom walls, while there, below, they’re building barricades.
[The WOMAN, jolted out of her dream, moves towards the sound.]
WOMAN: Well, go!
MAN: Wait. I want to kiss them first.
WOMAN: You’ll wake them up.
MAN: You’re right.
[The WOMAN disappears into the hallway. The MAN goes to the window and stares out into the darkness. The pounding continues. The baby’s cry subsides. After a few moments, the WOMAN returns.]
WOMAN: Will you take your gun?
WOMAN: It’s behind the stove.
[He retrieves the gun.]
MAN: Well … [She kisses him.] What unfamiliar … what strange eyes! For ten years I’ve looked into these eyesI’ve known them better than my ownand now there’s something new in them … something entirely new … something I can’t define.
WOMAN: Will you remember me?
MAN: Of course.
WOMAN: How can you be sure? Everything will be different now.
MAN: I’ll remember.
WOMAN: And if you die?
MAN: I don’t know.
[He looks around at the walls, at the bread, at the candle. He takes his wife by the hand and moves towards the door. A pause.]
MAN: Well … 'till we meet again!
WOMAN: Yes … 'till we meet again!
[He goes out into the darkness. She watches after him as the sounds of hammers and axes fill the air.]
* * *
Copyright © 2006 by Walter Wykes
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