(The scene is set at a dinner table in a dark house in winter. At one end is a slight, old man in his 70’s wrapped up warm with a woollen hat and fingerless gloves. At the other end of the table, propped up on the chair is a full length mirror. On the table is the remains of a meal and two candles, one at each end. That sets the scene.)
Old Man: (gazing at his reflection in the candlelit mirror)
Well, Hilda, we’ve dined like royalty at the table in our palace. You look so wonderful in your long gown that you first wore to the debutant ball. That night was marvellous. The warmth of a summer’s evening wafting into the great hall through the open doors and windows. It was as though we had invited the stars to descend and dance with us beneath the hanging crystals and twirling silhouettes. That night, the world had raised us on great platforms of hope and it seemed as though the future had been engraved with our names. Your eyes were dazzling flares that burst with every smile and pulled my heart from my jacket and into the strangeness of love. I knew that my plane would leave and that if you were not on it, I would lose you to a lifetime of regret. I hid you in the cargo hold and kept checking on you, pretending that I was air sick. I was put on a charge for smuggling you but the Captain knew that it was for love so he set us up in a little prefab house on the edge of the base. The house faced the sea and we would walk along the beach and talk for hours. I learned your language and you learned mine. I loved the surprise on your face when I would tell you how much I loved you in verse from your native tongue.
The war ended and we…
(The sound of breaking glass signalled another window smashed by the children on the estate. The candid flame a flicker as a cold draught rushes in to pinch the old man and he winces in pain)
They want me out so that their sister can live here with her babies. The money ran out trying to fix them time and again. The Police won’t come here any more.
They are like carrion just sitting and waiting. They watch without pity at this injustice.
Now, where were we? Oh yes! After the war we were given the prefab house and had so many years together walking our dogs and singing songs in the evening at the piano. Remember that piano? It was from the officers mess. We tried so hard for children but providence had no plans for offspring.
You made such beautiful clothes in your shop. One of a kind garments with colours gathered from the dreams of hummingbirds. The ladies would dance with their partners and when they twirled it seemed as though paradise was a kaleidoscope.
The candle is burning down to nothing.
These are the last of them and when they are extinguished then, my love, I will join you in the world beyond reflection.
You kept your illness from me, to spare me your agony, but I knew.
I knew because the flares would not burst in your eyes and my heart was left hanging in mid-air inside my jacket pocket.
You loved the soup I made from the greenhouse tomatoes and celery. I baked bread and we’d dine like royalty in our palace and sing our songs. Some lines in my language and some lines in yours.
When you died they took you away and, in my tortuous grief, I was sent here to an ante-room of life.
I can’t hear the waves on the shore only cries from wretched lives with no hope of escape.
I can’t hear the piano with its rich tones only mechanical sirens and their droning engines.
I can’t hear your voice like silk brushing the fur of a Persian cat only the whispering venom of the children as they wish me into my grave.
I am tired and cold, Hilda.
My skin is paper and my blood won’t reach my heart in the air in my jacket any more.
Will you warm me with a last smile and sing me to sleep?
(The old man picks up his fork and puts the last mouthful of food in before choking and pushing over the little tin of rat poison next to his plate. He takes his fork out and begins to wave it like a conductor’s baton as the candle flames flicker.
There’s more sound of broken glass and more shouts of abuse from children. The old man coughs and drops the fork onto the floor. The candle flames flicker and are extinguished)
I can hear the music, Hilda and see the warm stars through the windows beyond the chandeliers.
At last, I can reach my heart in the strangeness of love.
Original written work by Richard Bell
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