The following is a creative response (stage play) to the visual–a photograph by Marco Antonio Cruz from his book Habitar La Oscuridad (Inhabiting the dark). This particular photograph is one of many taken by Cruz that depict the blind and/or visually impaired in Mexico.
Prompt: What do these texts suggest to you about the ways in which individuals deal with the prospect of an uncertain future?
Theme Statement: When afflicted by the prospect of an uncertain future, an individual may feel as though they do not have any jurisdiction over their life and the potential adversities they may be eventually forced to face; as a result, an individual may act recklessly and on impulse in their attempts to assert control over the ambiguities that threaten them.
CECILIA: CECILIA, Cece for short, is a woman in her mid-thirties. Approximately a year and a half ago, Cece began to lose her eyesight after being diagnosed with Glaucoma. She currently takes up residence at a rehabilitation centre for the visually impaired where she has been learning to navigate her blindness.
CECILIA, THE ONLOOKER: However, while Cece is blind, she is most definitely not stupid; she is eerily talented when it comes to reading people. Because ONLOOKER is likened to CECILIA’s stream of consciousness, ONLOOKER is inevitably tethered to Cece’s own insights and discoveries regarding the world around her. ONLOOKER is also, by nature, harsh in her treatment towards CECILIA.
CECILIA, THE NARRATOR: CECILIA and ONLOOKER narrate from the present, while NARRATOR narrates from the future, presumably after the events of this play have occurred.
IAN: IAN is CECILIA’s husband, but he is far from being a loyal spouse. He had started up an affair with a considerably younger woman a few months after CECILIA began to lose her eyesight.
CARA: IAN’s mistress, who is nineteen years old.
NOTE: Only CECILIA and NARRATOR are aware of ONLOOKER’s presence, but neither CECILIA nor ONLOOKER are aware of NARRATOR’s presence.
SETTING: The play takes place at a rehabilitation centre for the visually impaired. The stage is set with a bed upstage right and two leather armchairs upstage left. Attached to the left side of the stage (downstage) is a tiled staircase with a black, iron railing. The downstage area is used to represent the hallway just outside of CECILIA’s room.
Lights up as IAN, who is sitting in one of the armchairs reads to CECILIA a page from Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita.’ ONLOOKER stands over his shoulder, a look of disgust on her face. Meanwhile, both CECILIA and NARRATOR listen attentively, CECILIA sitting on the edge of the bed, NARRATOR sitting on the first step of the staircase.
IAN: Lolita, light of my life, fire of my… (He trails off uncomfortably for a moment.) Fire of my loins. My sin, my soul….(He trails off again.)
CECILIA: (With feigned innocence.) You stopped. Why?
ONLOOKER: (Harshly to CECILIA, flaunting her words.) Oh, sweetheart. Don’t pretend like you don’t know.
IAN: Nothing. It’s just a strange book, is all.
ONLOOKER: And that’s no coincidence, is it, Cece? You didn’t choose that book at random, now did you?
CECILIA: Strange? You act like this is your first time reading it.
ONLOOKER: First page–first line–and he’s already flinching.
IAN: (Suddenly defensive.) I didn’t say that I was surprised–I know what happens–I just said it was strange.
CECILIA: Strange how?
IAN: Strange…as in impractical, I guess.
ONLOOKER: I suppose that makes our dear Ian impractical too, huh, Cece?
NARRATOR: But maybe it had less to do with impracticality and more to do with uncertainty.
ONLOOKER: Say something, Cece. You know you want to. Make the bastard squirm. God knows he’s made you squirm enough.
CECILIA: (With subtle defiance.) Impractical? Indeed. And honest too.
IAN: Honest? Ha! That Humbert was one sick son of a bitch. I mean, who does that? What honest man would want to get it on with a twelve-year-old? Seems like a pretty skeevy move to me.
ONLOOKER: Show him just how skeevy he’s been, Cece.
CECILIA: Oh, I absolutely agree with you. But I wasn’t speaking to the honesty of Humbert. I was speaking to the honesty of the story, as in the story itself is an accurate, truthful depiction of human nature. Now, I’m not saying all men like to prey on little girls– that’s absolutely disgusting. But I’d say a good majority of them seem to have an inexplicable attraction to women half their age–sometimes more than half their age–don’t you think?
NARRATOR: Because there is certainty in youth. The farther we stray away from it, the more ambiguous life becomes. And when life is ambiguous–when life is uncertain–we try to reclaim that youth, I think. Because It reminds us of what it feels like to live a life free of responsibility and burden. And God knows Ian and I both have had our fair share of burden. Not that I’m trying to excuse his behaviour. But I was a burden to him; I was his uncertainty and he was mine.
ONLOOKER: (Glaring at Ian.) Skeevy, skeevy, skeevy.
IAN: (stunned) What?
CECILIA: It’s a great novel–riveting, insightful. It really makes us put our own actions into perspective.
IAN: (Frustrated, IAN slams the book shut. Getting up from his chair abruptly, he throws the book across the room.) Whatever, Cecilia!
CECILIA: I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?
IAN: (Hesitating and trying to calm himself down) No, you didn’t.
ONLOOKER: See? You’re not the one who is wrong here, Cece.
NARRATOR: Oh, but I was wrong. Or, at least, I would be wrong. And the wrongness would be inspired by uncertainty. But it had to be done.
IAN: (With false sympathy.) Hey, I’m sorry, okay?
CECILIA, ONLOOKER and NARRATOR together: Are you?
IAN: Come on, Cece. (beat.) Cecilia? (beat.) Seriously? (beat.) So you’re just going to give me the silent treatment now? (beat.) You know, I think I’m just going to grab a coffee from the cafeteria. Do you want anything?
CECILIA: No. I don’t want anything from you right now.
NARRATOR: But I did want something. I wanted him because I no longer had him. First the Glaucoma, and then this. I’d already lost function over my own body, and now I was on the verge of losing a husband. I’d been deprived of any sense of consistency I had once known. To love and to hold, in sickness and in health… It sounds so romantic in the moment, doesn’t it? So romantic, in fact, that you vow to abide by it no matter what the circumstance. And then? Nothing.
IAN: Suit yourself, Cecilia. (He exits upstage left, wringing his hands somewhat nervously.)
ONLOOKER: (snickering) The blind girl sees all. Now isn’t that something?
CECILIA: Sometimes I wish I didn’t know.
ONLOOKER: (ONLOOKER sits on the bed next to CECILIA) You’ve got to be kidding me right now.
CECILIA: Ignorance is b-
ONLOOKER: Bliss? More like bull. Because guess what, sweetie? While you were re-learning how to cross the street and read, your dear old husband was hooking up with that filthy little skank. Have some pride, for God’s sakes. At least now you won’t be surprised.
ONLOOKER: Do I need to spell it out for you? He’s going to leave you eventually, Cece. He’s going to leave you for her. So, no, ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s good that you know. After all, It’s better than going at things blind.
CECILIA slaps ONLOOKER across the face. ONLOOKER, CECILIA, and NARRATOR–who are all essentially the same people–hold the sides of their faces in an attempt to soothe the sting of the slap.
NARRATOR: There it was again–the uncertainty. I’d been married to Ian for fifteen years. I didn’t know how to be on my own.
CECILIA: Screw you!
ONLOOKER: Use this anger, Cece. (Leaning in closer to CECILIA, whispering in her ear.) Make him pay for it.
CECILIA: I can’t.
ONLOOKER: I bet he’s going to do it today.
CECILIA: You mean?…
ONLOOKER: Break things off with you. She’s here, you know.
CECILIA: You smelled it too?
ONLOOKER: The cheap perfume? Oh, I smelled it.
CECILIA: Strawberries and vanilla, with just–
ONLOOKER, CECILIA and NARRATOR together: A hint of chemical.
ONLOOKER: And by a hint, I mean a lot more than just a hint. Little girl’s perfume. Probably cost her ten bucks from the drug store. I could smell on his clothes.
CECILIA: And in the hallway on my way to the bathroom.
ONLOOKER: And he hasn’t been in that hallway all day. It’s not possible–it must have been her. There’s only one entrance and that’s exactly where we met him.
CECILIA: In the lobby by the reception’s desk.
ONLOOKER: Yes, in the lobby by the reception’s desk. And he walked you to the room, remember? And he didn’t leave once, not until just now. Not even when you were in the washroom because he was still chatting with one of the nurses when you came back. So–
CECILIA: So, she must have come in after we left the lobby.
ONLOOKER: And why would she come here, Cece?
CECILIA: Because he’s going to… (She trails off.)
ONLOOKER: Spit it out, Cece!
CECILIA: Because he’s going to leave me.
CECILIA: She wants to be here when he does it.
CECILIA: He didn’t leave to get coffee, did he?
ONLOOKER: Oh, he left to get coffee alright. Bet he ordered a skinny latte.
CECILIA: With extra sugar.
ONLOOKER: All the more reason to show him just how bitter you can be.
NARRATOR: Uncertainty can do that to you–it can make you bitter. Bitter because you can’t possibly foresee what the future is to bring. Bitter because you are powerless. And, sometimes, you’d do just about anything to feel like you’re in control again.
CECILIA: What do you mean?
ONLOOKER: I told you–make him pay for it.
ONLOOKER: Look at it this way–treat him the way he’s treated you. You underestimate yourself, you know. You’ve got a fiery mouth and, judging from that slap, you can pack a pretty mean punch.
NARRATOR: Yes, yes I can.
The sound of stiletto heels clicking against tiled flooring can be heard. It is implied that this sound is coming from somewhere outside of the room.
CECILIA: Do you hear that?
ONLOOKER, CECILIA and NARRATOR together: It’s them.
CECILIA: (Her voice panicked and breathy.) What do I do?
ONLOOKER: You pretend like it doesn’t bother you. You let them know that you knew this entire time–you catch them like two frisky deers caught in the headlights. Do you understand?
The sound gets closer.
CECILIA: I don’t–
ONLOOKER: You bite back, Cece. An eye for an eye. That’s how it works. That’s how you win.
NARRATOR: An eye for an eye. That’s how you combat uncertainty. Because that’s how you regain control.
The sound stops suddenly as IAN and CARA enter the room upstage left.
ONLOOKER: Remember what I told you.
CECILIA: Ian. I see you’ve brought a friend.
ONLOOKER: (laughing) Told you. Blind girl sees all.
IAN: (shocked) How did you…(He trails off.)
CECILIA: (With newly found courage.) When you’ve lost your sight, they say your other senses become keener–compensation for what’s no longer there.
ONLOOKER: Good. Keep going.
CECILIA: You can hear things better than you used to. You can smell them better too.
IAN: What are you–
CECILIA: I could smell tramp on you from a mile away, Ian. I could also hear it–(She addresses Cara.) Where’d you get your shoes? Maybe when I learn how to walk in a straight line again, I’ll buy myself a nice pair.
ONLOOKER: Yes. Now we’re getting somewhere.
IAN: I don’t understand. How…
CECILIA: I just told you how. I’ve known about your little…escapades for a while, Ian.
IAN: (accusingly) Now listen, here, Cecilia. It’s been hard for me too, and you very well know that.
CECILIA: I’ll listen. What other option do I have? Hell, she could be standing there stark naked and I wouldn’t even know, now would I, Ian? Oh, I’ll listen alright. (To CARA.) Why so quiet over there? Tell me, what’s your name?
CARA: (condescendingly) Cara.
IAN: (To CARA.) Don’t you say anything to her, love. (To CECILIA.) And you, don’t you dare talk to her that way. I’ve had quite enough of your games, Cecilia.
ONLOOKER: Time for the comeback. Make it good, Cece.
CECILIA: And I’ve had quite enough of your infidelity, Ian.
CARA: (To CECILIA.) Maybe you should stop feeling sorry for yourself, and start asking yourself why he doesn’t want you.
IAN: Cara, don’t speak to her.
CECILIA: (Through gritted teeth.) It’s because he’s afraid.
NARRATOR: Afraid that he would be denied the affections of a doting wife, that there would no longer be any to take care of him, no one to properly love him…By staying with me, he didn’t know what to expect–he didn’t know what would become of his happiness. His fear was bred by uncertainty, and so was mine.
IAN: Think what you want, Cecilia. I don’t have the energy to argue with you anymore. Don’t you see? I’ve already won. There’s nothing you can do to make me stay. Cara is a part of my life now, and you just aren’t
CARA: (mockingly) Why so quiet over there?
IAN puts his hand on the small of CARA’s back and begins to lead her out of the room.
IAN: I think it’s time we left. Goodbye, Cecilia.
ONLOOKER: Say something!
IAN: (exasperated) What is it, Cecilia?
CECILIA: You’re right. I guess I can’t really blame you for leaving–I’m useless, aren’t I?
ONLOOKER: What the hell are you doing?
IAN: Not useless. Just not useful to me. Not anymore.
CECILIA: But I do think you owe me, don’t you? I need a favour–nothing big–but a favour, nevertheless.
CARA: He doesn’t owe you a goddamn thing.
IAN: It’s fine, Cara. If this is what it takes for her to leave us alone, then so be it. What’s the favour, Cecilia?
ONLOOKER: (With grand realization.) You’ve got something big planned, haven’t you?
CECILIA: I’d like to talk with Cara. Privately.
ONLOOKER: My, my. Things just got very interesting, haven’t they?
IAN: No, way, Cecilia. When you said you needed a favour, I assumed you were asking for money. I’ll gladly write you a check, but there is not a chance that I’m leaving Cara alone with you.
CARA: It’s fine, babe. She can’t even tie her shoelaces anymore without needing somebody’s help. What could she possibly do to me that’s so bad? Poke me in the back of the knee with her walking stick?(Laughing somewhat maniacally.) I’ll talk with her. Go wait in the car, and I’ll be out in no time.
IAN begins to leave, hesitantly.
IAN: Ten minutes. That’s it. (IAN exits upstage left.)
ONLOOKER: What dirty little tricks have you got up your sleeve, Cece?
CARA: Alright then, let’s get this over with. What did you need to speak to me about? What’s so important that Ian had to leave the room?
CECILIA: I’ll tell you. But let’s take a walk down the hallway. I need to move around. Come here.
CARA walks towards CECILIA, eyeing her suspiciously. CECILIA loops her arm with CARA’S. They walk downstage, ONLOOKER following them. When NARRATOR sees the three of them approaching, she gets up from the staircase and steps up onto the lip of the upper stage.
ONLOOKER: Where are you taking her, Cece? This hallway doesn’t go anywhere. It’s practically a dead end, except for the staircase… (With understanding and fear.) Wait? The staircase?
NARRATOR: Yes, the staircase. Back at the rehabilitation centre, the nurses made me walk down that hallway every day. The purpose was to teach me how to navigate my sense of direction, or something like that. So, when I was walking with Cara, maybe I couldn’t see where I was going, but I sure as hell knew where that hallway ended.
CECILIA: (To Cara.) Does he love you, Cara?
ONLOOKER: (With apprehension.) You wouldn’t. You don’t have it in you. You’ll stop before you get to close. I know it.
NARRATOR: But I didn’t stop before we got to close. I kept going. I had to.
They continue to walk
CARA: Ian? Of course, he loves me.
ONLOOKER: God, you’re really going to do it. (beat.) Cece, when I told you to make him pay, this isn’t what I meant.
CECILIA: But has he ever said it out loud?
CARA: (smirking) Multiple times.
ONLOOKER: (fearful) And Ian never says anything he doesn’t truly mean, does he, Cece?
NARRATOR: And that’s why he hadn’t said “I love you” in months. Because he didn’t anymore–love me, that is.
They reach the top of the staircase.
CARA: (Whispering into CECILIA’S ear.) We better turn back, we wouldn’t want you to slip and fall, now would we?
At this point, CECILIA’S arm is still looped with CARA’s. With a swift movement, CECILIA wrenches her arm from CARA’s and shoves her down the stairs with unnerving accuracy. CARA lays dead at the bottom of the staircase, her neck bent at an unnatural angle and her eyes agape.
NARRATOR: Like Ian, I was afraid of uncertainty. I was afraid that, when they discharged me, I would come home to an empty, husbandless apartment and a stack of unpaid medical bills. While I knew that Cara wasn’t the only thing keeping him from me–that I was obviously part of the problem–I couldn’t help but think that, if she was gone, he could find a reason to stay. So I pushed her.
IAN enters upstage left. When he sees that there is no one in the room, he moves downstage and walks through the hallway and towards the staircase in search of CECILIA and CARA.
NARRATOR: He came back not too soon afterwards. (IAN reaches the end of the hallway and looks down, in horror, at Cara’s body lying at the bottom the staircase.) I couldn’t see his reaction. But I’d knew he’d seen her body as soon as I heard him scream.
IAN: (IAN runs down the staircase and picks up CARA’s body. He cradles her in his arms.) No! (Through fragmented sobs, to CECILIA.) Please don’t tell me this your way of trying to get me back. You are deranged! My God!
IAN kisses CARA’s face, mumbling something incoherently into her hair.
NARRATOR: At first, it seemed as though my plan had backfired. Nothing had changed, except for the fact that I still needed him. (With guilty satisfaction.) So I blackmailed him. I told him that if he left me, or if he turned me into the authorities, I would blame it on him. I’d tell the cops that he was the one who pushed Cara down the stairs and that they would believe me because I was blind. Because no one would ever suspect the blind girl, now would they? Luckily for me, it was enough to convince him–suddenly, he was certain that staying with me was the right decision. He just needed a little…encouragement. In the end, I got what I wanted. She fell. that’s the story we went with. Must have been the stilettos…
ONLOOKER and IAN together: What have you done?
CECILIA and NARRATOR together: I bit back. An eye for an eye.
As the lights go down, ‘Oh Cecilia’ by Simon and Garfunkle plays.