[A single candle lights the stage. I walk up to it. I act as though it is enough to see me with, but you in the audience, you can’t see beyond my shoulders. The contours of my face are all in shadow. You must guess my expression. It is part of the show.]
Me [jovially]: And here our play sees an end, a kind death / Whereon you might ponder for mere hours / ‘Fore it meets its second end, far crueler. / Will you ever think on it ‘gain or have / I worn your sympathy to its limit?
[I bend down and blow out the candle. We are plunged into darkness. You are not scared, your neighbor is holding your hand. It is kind of them, they also shared their popcorn with you earlier. I give you no time to enjoy it. I don’t want you to have time to enjoy it. I clap my hands, light floods the theatre, and your neighbor is suddenly shy, retracting their hand from yours. You look to my face, but I told you that you must guess at my expression. It is hidden under a mask. Was it always hidden under a mask, you wonder, was it always like this for me. Should I be so easily in your mind, you continue, concerned. Oh hush. Won’t you look around now? It isn’t just my form you have to gaze upon. Where center stage was set, now a gallows. Where stage right, a brand new set of chef’s knives. Stage left, stacked pill bottles. You can guess what is coming. I am not subtle.]
Me [skipping between these set pieces]: Death seems a theme tonight, wouldn’t you say? / I wish for it, fear it; you can grant it—wait.
[You watch me walk off-stage for a moment, harsh whispers pierce your ears. I come back out slowly, walking while thumbing through a script. Maybe I forgot my lines, you think, vaguely wondering if your neighbor would hold your hand again if—I did not forget my lines, how dare you. There were rewrites. Stop looking at your neighbor. I’m performing. It’s rude.]
Me: Death seems a theme tonight, wouldn’t you say? / I wish for it, fear it; you could grant it / Potentially, possibly—not for sure, / Given the relative lethalities of suicide methods, / Actually these are all reasonably ineffective and in fact have pretty / bad side effects if they don’t do the job, so—hang on, Director!
[I rip my mask off. Distressed, you might call my expression, if you weren’t so fucking focused on checking your goddamn phone, I am having a moment here. A figure joins me on stage. It’s just me with a megaphone, I didn’t really have time to hire someone new.]
Director Me [chewing gum]: Yup. What can I do ya for?
Me [pretty frustrated at this point, actually]: Am I not going to die tonight?
Director Me [blows the smallest, stupidest bubble before it snaps]: Nope.
Me: The fuck are we doing here then?
Director Me [I swear to God, I don’t know where Director I got this Jason Sudeikis-ass energy, but I need Director Me to stop chewing gum and contribute to the fucking conversation]: Looks, uh, looks like we’re having some kind of breakdown. Want me to get someone for that?
Me: Do I—It’s ass o’clock, and this dumb bitch [I point to you, are you offended? Are you? I don’t care, get fucked.] hasn’t given two shits about what’s going on up here since I stepped onstage [don’t deny it, you hated me the moment you heard my heavy footfalls]. Who the fuck is going to do something?
[Director I shrug. I swear I could choke the life out of Director Me right now, I really really could.]
Director Me: Therapist?
[At this point, you’re checked out. You’re looking around the theatre to see if other people are leaving. You suddenly remember that it’s just you and like. Three other people? Most of them are fully asleep. Your neighbor, the one with the indie band hair, the one who held your hand, shrugs when you look at them.]
Your Neighbor: I didn’t realize tonight was supposed to be so avant-garde.
You [chuckling a bit]: Me neither. I only came because I, uh, know the performer.
Your Neighbor: Fuck off—me too! Small world.
You: Wow, crazy. We went to college together.
Your Neighbor: Huh, we’re internet friends. I—heh, I had higher expectations for this, to be honest. Look, I—I never do this, but you’re cute, and your hands are so soft, I—would you want to—I dunno, maybe get out of here?
[The two of you get up—wait what? No, you can’t do that! No, you can’t just—what about me? Why are you leaving me behind again? You get to leave, but I have to stay here. I have to stay here with the pills and the knives and the noose and the memories of all the people who saw the show and hated it, didn’t like it, didn’t care. You get to leave, and everyone gets to leave until it is only me in the theatre, masks scattered around my feet from every performance I did today, not enough fake blood in the world to accurately portray the plunging pain in my chest that doesn’t leave, it never leaves—it isn’t like you at all, is it? Go on with your new friend and have a fucking blast, but you’d better fucking remember me because your name is written into my skin just below the wrist, just below where it could do some real damage. I was never good enough for you.]
Me [monotone]: I was never good enough for you.
[You hurt me, but I don’t blame you for leaving.]
Me [still monotone]: I don’t blame you for leaving.
[I don’t think there was anything you could do anyway.]
Me [still monotone, was I always monotone? Did I ever have a voice at all?]: I don’t even know what help to ask for. Can’t blame you for not knowing what to do.
[But you could have stayed. You could have stayed. You could have stayed.]
Abigail Denton (she/any) is a writer from Mobile, Alabama. She has been published in Corporeal, Sublunary Review, Worm Moon Archive, and Shirley Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @thislivingdeath and on Instagram @that_living_death for publishing updates and plant pics.