Voices From Five Rooms

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Five short monologues by Mary Crescenzo

William

I want to sleep in my own bed,
if you haven’t sold it at a garage sale.
I want the dog to come here
or better yet, can you take me home?
I want to sleep on the mattress
that only you and I have slept on.
I want music I love, not the MUZAK
that I pay for as part of the bill.

I want to sing a song without someone
in the next bed telling me to shut up,
telling me to keep it down,
I know I’m sometimes out of tune.
I want to eat a piece of cake and
wash it down with ice cream.
I want to look out the window
and recognize the trees.

You say, “You’ll be alright,” as if
you think you can fool me,
as if that makes it easier for you
to get through this disease.
If I could speak, I’d tell you:
death in here is not my last wish.
If I would have told what I wanted
for these last days, before my brain
lost its way, would you have listened?
If I could remember my way,
I’d follow the FOR SALE signs home.

Al

This is not how I imagined it, in bed, wrapped
in a blanket like a mummy, without memory,
without a health directive, without my hair
combed, without my dress shoes polished,
without my dress shoes on.

I was hoping for a walk down the street, no cars,
just a simple place to fall, like on grass, in my fine wool suit,
my shoes shined, and the look of tomorrow clear and on my face.

or on the dance floor, where the music of blood
rushes like the sea in my ears, and the love of my life
in my arms entwined in a Fandango,
thinks I’m getting fancy, doing a dip
as I lose my balance from the gushing secret in my head.

I told my daughter, I hope I die with my shoes on,
less trouble for everyone, but she thought I was joking,
she was just a kid, she didn’t understand
the advantage of surprise over helplessness.

No matter how much someone loves you,
they can’t stop you from dying, but if you have your shoes on,
if you’re lucky, they don’t have to choose a pair for your coffin.

This is not how I planned it. In this place, waiting
and wishing you could tell them to remove the food tube
from your stomach, the one that feels like a knife.

Lily

If this were home, dying would be easier,
even a fall down the stairs, descending
like a child’s rubber ball, bouncing and deliberate,
would have the grace of familiarity.

My arms flailing like tentacles, my veins
like indigo ink, calamari angel hair, al dente,
my teeth dropping to the bottom
of the deep blue stairs before I got there.

If this were home, flying would be simple.
I’d open the window, my night gown stiff
from blood, from old urine,
like stiff gossamer it would carry me

and I’d take wing with the grace
of a swan or a seagull at sunset,
my song, sounding, stretching, soaring
from familiar surroundings.

Alba

We all have a shadow box of objects
enclosed in glass
at the entrance doors of our rooms,
like relic boxes of the saints,
like the glass casket of mother Cabrini,
little coffins containing our former lives.
The aides wash us daily
like Neapolitans who lovingly cleanse the flesh
of their un‑embalmed dead, opening their coffins
six months after burial.
Our bodies breathe but we are embalmed
in a disease that breeds fear
and wonder.

I make the sign of the cross
blessing my art paper, lifting the brush
in my left hand before I place it in my right ‑
I am from a time when lefties were
forced to use their right hand, but now
it’s coming back to her.
That was a time when there was no name
for this disease, when people like her
were considered crazy or sick or lost.

I’d like to break the glass of my shadow box
and yell, Fire! and release my life,
now smoldering in the ashes of age.
I should have told you how I wanted these
last days to be, told you of my wishes for this
moment when all has been taken from me.
If I could, I’d run to the nearest exit
with all my regalia in hand
and pray to St. Anthony,
the patron saint of things misplaced,
for my soul.

Tessie

I really don’t like the color of this casket, brown was never my tone.
You know how I hate pancake make-up! Are you serious? Peach lipstick?

I’d never wear a dress like this, and what’s with the nail polish? Whose idea was that?
Wrong shade of hair color. I didn’t grow it out to white so you could dye it back to black.

I’d rather be buried in the forest with the animals that I love. Under a tree without concrete and steel. Beneath the sky, serenaded by the birds and the wind above.

I think I’d heard about this new kind of thing, called something like ecological disposal
of remains. Away to return to the earth, a cradle, where we become one again.

But I never told you, I thought you wouldn’t listen, I thought you’d feel I was weird,
and you’d get all depressed, then give your opinion, then argue amongst yourselves.

Now, here you all are leaning over me, loving me. Long overdue. Saying things like,
“She looks lovely,” while the room smells of flowers, a sure think that death has arrived.

I know you loved me, but you never really said so. So many things we never discussed.
And, it’s true, I loved you, but I was just as guilty of keeping it all inside.

Now there is no inside, its all out here, laid out on ivory satin with a diagonal ribbon draped in the open lid with the words Rest in Peace, like I’m some kind of beauty queen.

Here I lay, my legs hidden, covered with a half-lid, like a wooden blanket from the waist down, stiff, drained, and plumped up, like a blow-up doll with features painted in place.

I should have told you, or written it down, how I wanted to make my exit. I know
this fanfare is for you, you need this, but now I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go.

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