LET ME LOOK AT YOU
A man forms an erotic obsession for a local actress, and his journey is described to him by a mysterious figure.
A rear projection screen.
Various gelled lights, for atmosphere.
A sound system.
The monologuist should be over 50 years of age, and should resemble Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, from the Harry Potter films. That is, he should be a long-haired, bearded, heavyset man who appears to come from no place on earth. A foreign accent (vaguely Irish, say) would be helpful.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
LET ME LOOK AT YOU
A MAN, center stage, addresses the audience. As he speaks (free to stroll the stage as he sees fit), the TITLE of each section appears on the rear projection screen above and behind him:
Who Can Shave an Egg?
You were born into a raw deal. Let’s not detail two decades’ worth of therapy. Chalk it up to Life on Earth. Everybody pays. We’re responsible for investing our lives with meaning. You made vengeance your god. Sayeth you. You Who Are.
You Can’t Hide an Eel in a Sack
The man deserved what he got. He was fat. Jabba the Hut rotund. He lied in court. He suborned perjury. Then he got a restraining order. They took away your gun.
You had some new songs. You found his studio in the Yellow Pages. This was when digital was replacing analog, and he lied to you that his Roland 680 was state-of-the-art. You later learned it was only fit for home demos. He’d set up the studio in his home rec room.
He said he’d back up each day’s work. After three months in the fat man’s studio, he erased an instrumental track. He made a big show of punching buttons. Then he swiveled around and said he couldn’t find it in his back-up files. There were no back-up files.
You decided to mix everything as fast possible, then get out. Other bits turned up missing. You extracted what you could, then sent the fat man a demand letter.
Prompted by his attorney, he asked the judge why, if he was so incompetent, you’d spent three months in his studio. You replied that you recorded all of the material before you mixed it, and so didn’t learn of the fraud until much later. The fat man brought in a psychiatrist who analyzed your lyrics and testified that someone sick as you should never have been allowed into the fat man’s home.
You printed up two dozen fliers, advertising the fat man’s address as a recording studio, with an absurdly low hourly rate. Wearing surgical gloves, you papered the black sections of Seaside. Next you heard, a crack head shot him in a home invasion.
It is Hard for an Empty Bag to Sit Upright
She was an actress, a refugee from Hollywood’s enervating rituals, working in a nearby record shop. By now CDs were on their way out, and only connoisseurs purchased vinyl. Some afternoons you had her all to yourself.
When she mentioned her husband in passing, you remarked she wore no ring. “That’s because I might be cast as an unmarried woman,” she said. “I can’t even risk an indentation on my finger.” O, the sacrifices we make for art! You reasoned that such a blemish would not be visible onstage. You concluded that, consciously or not, the real blemish on her life was her marriage.
Actresses are always ready to talk about themselves. It was therefore easy to learn that her husband was four years younger than she, and something of a psychological basket case.
Taking a break from his video games, Chubby Hubby wandered in one foggy day, saying he needed her e-mail password. Pulling him by his elbow to the British Invasion aisle, she told him no.
Though you tried invisibility, Chubby Hubby judged you to have witnessed his emasculation. Glaring at you from below the brim of his skull-and-bones festooned cap, the would-be cuckold said, sotto voce, “So who’s the music lover?”
“Call me Seattle Grunge,” you said, extending your hand as he lumbered past you, into misty Pacific Grove. Ringless Wife busied herself with Gerry & the Pacemakers’Greatest Hits.
To Cut Down an Oak and Set Up a Strawberry
With her permission, you used her as a model, as would a painter. Except you spent no time together. You enrolled her as a concubine in your imaginary harem.
You were a kind and generous sultan. On your wedding night, you excused her lack of virginity, having suffered years of phallic intrusion by Chubby Hubby. She wept; you consoled her by composing the first of dozens of adorational ballads to your Muse.
As time passed, you’d enter the used record store and covertly examine her face, her neck, and her arms for bruises or lacerations left by your unemployed surrogate. She always passed inspection. Yet you were certain he abused her.
As your fantasy wife, she accompanied you to Mallorca and other Mediterranean destinations. There was a ménage a trois in Ibiza; an orgy in Algiers. (She confessed that her pre-coital fantasies of Arab men had not been met.)
You googled her, and accumulated an incremental biography: a B.A. in theater, some knockabout years in Hollywood, before she followed a National Guardsman to Fort Ord. Nuptials were soon ruptured by shock and awe. The War, not the wedding night.
Chubby Hubby forged a discharge, and they settled in Pacific Grove. She supported her acting habit at the record store while Chubby Hubby “looked for a job.”
You confess you smelled discord and plotted to liberate her from the slacker. You casually handed her recordings of your latest songs. Sighting the odd article on adultery, you’d don the surgical gloves, clip it out and mail it anonymously to him. Concurrently, you’d inquire as to his well-being as she stuffed used CDs in a bag and received your cash. (One day, you grazed her palm with your guitarist’s lengthy fingernails. She pretended not to notice.)
Undone, as a Man Would Undo an Oyster
She was the product of Manifest Destiny and genocide, the rape of the New World by the Old. Immune to the fallacy of white liberal guilt, you prized her hybrid charms. The shiny raven Native American hair, curled by olde English blood, into a frizzy electric storm. Her alien almond eyes. The café au lait skin, smooth as porcelain.
Local theater stretched her thespian talent in all the wrong ways. Each company trumpeted its speaking of truth to power, all of them bleating to the leftist choir: Cutting edge exposes of Joe McCarthy, half a century too late. Investigations of racism and homophobia, as though penned by the Soviet Central Committee for Cultural Enlightenment, circa 1968.
You ventured to a staged reading of a George Bernard Shaw trifle, a two hander “exposing”early twentieth century British attitudes toward matrimony, which the programme promised would “blow the roof off the patriarchy.” Fearful you’d emit a tell-tale snore, you dozed off anyway.
You waited in the empty lobby, its walls festooned with curling photos of Robinson Jeffers and friends. Chubby Hubby was absent, and she strode from the dressing room, thanked you for coming, and then—she embraced you.
Months later, you still kick yourself for having stiffened. No, not the adolescent kind of “stiffened.” You tensed and, panicked, you, lacking the necessary languor, blew it. You tried deciphering her intent while the green silk sleeves enveloped you. Was this a “theater people” greeting? A drowning woman, grasping for a life saver? A friendly hug? A sign, an invitation?
Blushing, you withdrew, praying she wouldn’t ask you your opinion of the piece. She asked. You evaded: “You do a great English accent.”
As you walked her to her Ferrari red Toyota sedan with the Oregon plates, eyes downward, you spied her sandaled feet.
While most are bestial, calloused, or grotesquely malformed, hers were something seraphic. Her toes were neither prehensile nor stubby. The neatly-trimmed nails boasted no lurid lacquer. It was as though a cherub had fallen from a Michelangelo ceiling and was striding across the shade-dappled gravel—with you.
Thirty seconds to her car—half a minute—twenty eternities—while your breath caught in your throat. As she slid the key into the vaginal door slut—er, slot—she tilted her head and tightened a corner of her mouth in a way that hinted at a kind of worldly cunning. A human touch she never permitted herself while on duty at the store.
You Ask an Elm Tree for Pears
Always careful to inquire about Chubby Hubby, you were shocked one morning to hear he’d moved back to his parents’ Las Vegas home after she’d served him with divorce papers. Had we not been alone, you doubt her titanic ventilating would have been any less ferocious.
Among the highlights: “I’d sneak pulverized sleeping pills into his food, and he’d still force himself on me at night…He confessed to photo shopping my head on porno women, and sending them out to his friends…He said I had cottage cheese thighs…He wanted to watch me make love with another man…” I confess my eyebrows arched. “He admitted to mailing himself, ‘anonymously,’ articles about adultery from women’s magazines…I admit I’d been hoping he’d commit some heinous deed, so I could divorce him, but this drunken dumping made me want to kill him…He finished with, ‘Every day I contemplate suicide. If you knew why, you’d want me dead, too’…He finished with the most insightful thing anyone’s ever said to me: ‘You want God in your life. But you don’t want to admit your sister’s right.’”
Through it all—except during the voyeurism-cum-cuckold confession—you maintained your disinterested demeanor. We are told women do not seek advice, only an open set of ears. But information is power, and you felt omnipotent.
You Shall Ride an Inch Behind the Tail
Divorce affects women in different ways. Over the ensuing weeks, as she settled into a rented house with girlfriends, you saw her grow more “interesting.” The hair, once pulled to a scalp-stretching bun, fell free and frizzy. Granny glasses replaced contact lenses. The matrimonial buttocks shrank, though she remained a tad heavy in the thigh.
You imagined her entering a lesbian phase. What better way to repudiate the demeaning world of testosterone than anchor awhile in the safe Sapphic harbor? But bitter pillow talk, comparing male outrages, and the investigator turns outward again. She’d need a man. This man.
The day she sold you the hard-to-find David Bowie, BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 17, 2000, and you noted the contact lenses and the come-hither eyeliner, was the day you slapped a global positioning device in her Toyota’s chassis. You confess a rapist’s shiver as you violated her car’s backside.
My Postilion Has Been Struck by Lightning
One Sunday morning, you detect her Toyota heading east on Carmel Valley Road. Though Sundays are usually reserved for leading your grandson’s Sunday School class, you beg off and end up at a trailhead above the Arroyo Seco River. You park your blue Jeep alongside the Ferrari red sedan, grab your military binoculars, and, like Daniel Day-Lewis’s Hawkeye, you follow a gaggle of Nike footprints into the Ventana Wilderness.
The prints are fresh in the settling dust, and appear to belong to four females. You press onward, pausing only to chat with two birdwatchers who, sighting the binoculars dangling by their cord around your neck, arrest our progress by raving about a redwing blackbird they’d spied around the next bend. You up the ante with a bogus report of a ginormous condor perched in a skeletal tree.
They hurry on, and you advance toward your destiny. Hearing rushing water in the distance, you attune your hearing to the frequency used by giddy girls as they frolic in emerald pools.
You leave the trail and clamber upward through the still dewy chaparral. The sweet ambience of a Bay Laurel grove camouflages you as you emerge over the north-facing ridge.
There! There they are! Four sirens diving and twisting like otters in Eden! River maidens out of Wagner, one of them—not your long sought goddess—brazenly topless.
She’s daring the others beyond the au natural frontier. First one, then another…then another, bare their thirty-something breasts, with the new divorcee the lone hold-out.
You withdraw the befogged lenses from your perspiring face and whisper a prayer to the Lord of the Underworld.
Prayer answered! She relents! You visually caress the ivory white, pink tipped buds and decide—is it really a decision, or some genetically-determined urge?—at any rate, you crawl on your belly from boulder to boulder, glancing waterward when you can.
Now the naughty group leader has shed her bikini bottom. Up ahead, you spy a perfect perch not fifty yards, as the condor flies, above the pool.
Slithering through the madrones, you reach over a downed branch, and feel a sting in your wrist just as the tell-tale rattle spits it warning.
Your right arm goes numb as my venom speeds toward your dark heart. You want to cry out to the now nude quartet, but the split-second of shame wins your silence.
The sky spins, and as it goes black you feel the earth split open as you tumble downward.
Enjoy your stay. We’ve provided a never ending soundtrack:
Let Me Look At You
Let me look at you before the lines appear.
Let me look at you in the slanting light.
Let me look at you as day slides into night…into night,
I just want to look at you.
O, please let me look at you.
See what my eyes discover ‘til you go back to your lover.
Let me look at you.
Let me look at you while the hours disappear.
Let me look at you inside another man’s home.
Let me look at you until it’s time to go…
(The lights begin to fade…)
Though I know you do not want me anymore,
When I look at you my spirits soar.
Let me look at you and thrill me to the core.
Let me look at you and see your hard stuff.
Let me look at you until I get enough.
I will worship your beautiful suntanned feet
Cradled by your summer leather sandals.
Let me look into your alien almond eyes.
Let me look at you by glowing candle.
Let me look at you like a seagoing vandal…
Like a mindblowing vandal,
(The stage is black.)
Copyright 2008 NADJA PRODUCTIONS/NADJA MUSIC Reinaldo Garcia
June 5-13, 2008 Monterey, CA