Thursday, 20 May 2010

Clock of the Heart

A basement room lined with junk, dimly lit by two lamps. Old stereos, televisions and countless anonymous boxes sit on metal shelves.

In the centre of the room is a table at which Tomas sits, smoking a cigarette. He is in his mid-thirties, with an anguished expression. There is an old tape recorder on the table with a microphone attached. He picks up the mic and presses Record.

Tomas Ok, ok. This is tape three. Have to keep going. Tape three. I had this idea,
you know, for a collection of quotes we liked, but, it seems so…fuck.

He switches off the recorder and sits in silence for a few moments, stubbing out the cigarette on the tabletop.

Tomas This is crazy. I’m scared. So, so scared. I couldn’t admit that to anyone
but you.

Immediately he switches the tape recorder back on, speaking into the mic.

Tomas This one is from The Unnameable, by Samuel Beckett. You remember? Those little yellow Post-Its. (He laughs) I hated those things, all over the house. But I memorised it. My English was damn good. Your Spanish was awful, but you always tried. I’m not alone here, by the way. I keep seeing him. He has strange eyes, like he’s seen the end of something. Like he knows us. I already hate him. You’d probably say that he’s an angel. Those stories that you love. Anyway… (He pauses) “If only I knew if I’ve lived, if I live, if I’ll live, that would simplify everything, impossible to find out, that’s where you’re buggered, I haven’t stirred, that’s all I know, no, I know something else, it’s not I, I always forget that, I resume, you must resume…” Always loved that quote. They’re just stories, Anna. Comfort for the anxious animals. They’re beautiful stories though. I’ll admit that. The outside is creeping in. I can feel it. Can’t hold it at bay. I’m so afraid.

He tosses the mic onto the table, switching off the tape recorder.

Tomas Are you alone, Anna?

He presses his hands to his face, then puts his hands in his lap and closes his

Shafts of morning light begin to enter the basement from two small windows high in the wall, as though time has elapsed. Tomas is asleep in his chair. The crackling hiss of radio static comes from somewhere in the room. Snippets of barely audible voices are heard, as though the invisible radio is trying to tune itself to a particular station.

Tomas awakes, orienting himself to the sounds. He tries to listen. Finally the white noise settles and two voices are heard over the frequency.

Male voice Sweetie?

Female voice Ok, yeah. Wow, it looks delicious.

Male voice Hope it tastes as good as it looks.

Female voice Smells good too.

Tomas gets up and starts searching the room for the hidden radio.

Male voice Well, thought I’d try something different.

Female voice Oh, Tomas, thank you for doing all this. Mmmm, man of many talents.

The sound of knives and forks and clinking wineglasses.

Male voice Talent was all in the recipe book, baby.

Female voice (laughing) Modest, modest.

Tomas continues to search, growing more frantic.

Female voice Did you call Nicholas back about the manuscript? That guy’s relentless.

Male voice Well, you know. We’re stuck in the editing. I don’t blame him.

Female voice (with surprise) Oh!

Male voice Baby?

Female voice Sorry, sorry. I just felt him kick. Tough kid. (laughs) Maybe the
food’s too spicy.

Male voice Hey, maybe it was a kick of approval.

Finally Tomas finds the radio on a shelf and rushes back to the table. He turns the device over in his hands, searching for the Off switch. Finding it, he dumps the radio on the table next to the tape recorder. Silence.

Tomas backs away from the table, pressing himself between two shelves. He slides to the floor. For a while he just sits there.

Tomas Fuck it. All right, I get the idea. (laughs bitterly) High School student
bullshit. Fine.

He gets to his feet, stalking back to the table. Raising his voice, he addresses someone.

Tomas Ok, the guy with the strange eyes. I know you’ve been here. I want to speak
with you this time.

Tomas glances around the room, as though expecting a response. Nothing. Angrily, he continues.

Tomas I went looking, you know. It’s not like I sat on my ass and did nothing!
I looked!

Still there is no response. Tomas slumps into the chair again, pressing his palms to the table. He remains motionless for a while, eyes closed.

Tomas Ok, ok.

He opens his eyes, picks up the microphone and starts recording again.

Tomas They’re doing it to us, Anna. Those beautiful stories of yours – mine.
Beautiful stories of mine. Jesus. I thought I’d have more to say. To you.

He violently shoves the tape recorder from the table and it crashes to the floor, broken.

Tomas I thought there’d be more to say.

Tomas gets up from the chair and retrieves a box of tools from the shelves. He sits down on the floor with the broken tape recorder. He attempts to fix his mistake.

While he works an evening twilight begins to filter through the basement windows, as though time has elapsed. He uses a screwdriver to finally replace the machine’s plastic casing. He gets up and takes the tape recorder to the table.

Apprehensive, he sits in the chair and hits Rewind for a few seconds. The tape squeals. He lets it play.

Recorded voice …of yours – mine. Beautiful stories of mine. Jesus. I thought I’d have more to say. To you.

He hits the Stop button.

Tomas Stupid son of a bitch.

He picks up the mic and tries to record again.

Tomas Testing, testing. One two, one two.

He rewinds his words and plays them.

Recorded voice Testing, testing. One two, one two.

He stops the tape and presses his hands to his mouth in relief, shaking his head.

Suddenly Tomas realises that someone is standing in the far corner of the basement, Stage Left.

The figure approaches the table. It is a young man in his mid-twenties, dressed in black. The young man has strange eyes. Tomas looks angry and resolute.

Strange Eyes You got it working again.

Tomas You expect anything less?

Strange Eyes No.

Tomas So, these stories…

Strange Eyes Yeah.

Tomas Is that why you’re here? Fiction?

Strange Eyes You asked-

Tomas (fiercely) Don’t. Don’t fucking dare.

Strange Eyes Ok. Ok, Tomas.

Suddenly Tomas rises from the chair, peering intently across the table at the young man. His words are bitter.

Tomas A name I can use with you?

Strange Eyes Many of my friends call me Lucas.

Tomas Is that your real name?

Strange Eyes No, Tomas, it’s not.

Tomas You have a real name? Anything real in what you are?

Strange Eyes Yes.

Tomas Tell me.

Strange Eyes My real name is Strange Eyes.

Tomas (laughing) This is ridiculous. I feel sick.

Strange Eyes It’s meant to make you laugh. It’s a joke, Tomas. I don’t mind baring it
as my name. I chose it.

Tomas Great. Just great.

He turns his back on the young man, unable to hold his gaze any longer.

Tomas Was it you doing the radio?

Strange Eyes No. I wouldn’t fuck with you like that.

Tomas Supposed to think you’re an angel, right?

Strange Eyes All of us, we imagine that we live. We can’t imagine without some
help. I think that’s where it begins and where it ends.

Tomas But…it doesn’t end.

Strange Eyes No, it doesn’t. But it doesn’t have to be a horror.

Tomas turns sharply and walks round the table, now face to face with the young

Tomas Horror? Do you know what horror is…?

Strange Eyes The parts of us that we don’t understand, that we’re afraid of. I can
answer most of your questions.

Tomas Most? Always a catch.

Strange Eyes I have limits, like you do, or I could not imagine.

Tomas (hatefully) And you imagine that you live.

Strange Eyes That’s right.

Tomas When I was a boy, those shapes in the garden…you’ve come to tell me now that those shapes were in my head. I saw them. Feeding. Anger, perversion. Food to them. We were nothing but food. But I got scared, got crazy. I wasn’t a dragon slayer.

Strange Eyes Tomas, the whole world exists inside our heads. Your third novel was a bestseller in Madrid, for months. People connected with it. That’s why they bought it in such numbers. They loved it. And that love, that connection – that’s all that reality is.

Tomas presses a hand to his mouth, desperately trying to fit the young man’s
words into his mind. He nods.

Tomas But then, those things were real in some way. They told me they loved me,
loved the sickness inside me. And I believed them.

Strange Eyes Everything has a heart of darkness. Everything. Staring into that heart
is like staring into the sun. You can be reborn. Or you can go blind.
Those shapes made you recognise that heart too early. You were not a
monster, Tomas. You were just a child.

Tomas Food.

Strange Eyes Yes. But more than that, so much more. An infinite wonder.

Tomas I should never have told her. I should have lied. She went because of
me. Three years is a long time to search in vain. I spent everything I had
trying to find her. It just hurts when you stand here like this, calm as you are,
telling me I shouldn’t blame myself. I wonder how you can look me in the eye.

Strange Eyes (nodding sadly) I’ll go.

Tomas Please don’t come back this time.

As they stare face to face the lamps begin to flicker incessantly. Strange Eyes
steps backwards into the shadows, Stage Left, until he is gone.

Tomas is alone now and the lamps cease flickering.

Tomas Arrogant son of a bitch.

Tomas grimaces and returns to his chair at the table. He sits motionless for a while. Carefully he picks up the mic and stares at the tape recorder.

Tomas Baby, I cringe when I think about my first manuscript, despite all the nice
things you said. It was pretentious, naive, overwrought; all the things I didn’t
want it to be. But it sold well for a first novel, I guess because it was
confessional. Nicholas said they would lap it up. He was right.

Tomas puts the mic back down on the table, sighing.

Tomas I don’t think I can tape this. I have no insight really. It’s a gag, a trick. I hated
being interviewed, I hated the book signings. I kept thinking they would see through me. Maybe you were the only one who ever did, and you loved that fucking book. I should never have told you. I should have let the book say everything. But, I thought that secrets would kill us in the end, and the baby was coming, and...I just wanted to give you something real. It was too much. This is not blame, Anna. I’m not blaming you. You had a crisis, I think. You thought, ‘Is this the life I have to lead now? Sleeping every night next to a guy who thinks he can see through the world?’ I think I understand why you ran.

Tomas presses his hands to his eyes to stop himself from sobbing.

Tomas I’d have run too.

Suddenly one of the old televisions on the basement shelves blinks on. A square of white noise hisses on the large screen.

Tomas peers at it, uncertain and afraid.

Tomas Stop it. Please stop this...

The image of a pretty young woman in her underwear appears on the screen. A forest is
behind her. She has bled profusely from between her legs. Her panties are
soaked and her palms glisten with menstrual crimson. She presses her hands to her belly.

Tomas Oh Jesus, no...Anna.

The woman on the screen walks towards the camera until her face fills the frame. Tomas looks on from his chair, horrified.

The woman herself is now seen in the basement, entering from the shadows Stage Right, behind Tomas. She is also dressed in underwear, and bloody. The counterpart image onscreen does not move her lips.

Lookalike I’m not your Anna. This is a mask.

Lookalike moves to behind Tomas’ chair. He keeps his eyes fixed on the television screen, as though he doesn’t sense her actual presence.

Tomas Oh dear God...

Lookalike It’s not that she didn’t love you, Tomas. I wouldn’t even attempt to get you
to believe that. She loved you desperately, and she feared you. She didn’t
love herself enough, that’s the thing. Not enough to feel like she could be
responsible for your seed, your child...a son. In her mind that developing
life was already an image of you. So she ran, and she cut it out of her

Tomas begins a silent sobbing. He shakes, his face twisting with tears.

Lookalike leans forward slightly and places her hands on Tomas’ shoulders. There seems to be no malice in her words, just curiosity.

Lookalike She did it with the help of a surgeon’s knife, and the flair that those hands
possessed. Tiny pieces. There’s an elegant method, you know, an icy
brilliance in properly deconstructing a foetus.

Tomas Oh, fuck you... Jesus Christ, leave me alone...

Lookalike I’m not Jesus Christ. But I’m not your enemy either. I never hated you,
even back then in your mama’s garden. You hated. I whispered and kissed,
that’s true, but you did all the hating. I tasted you, and you tasted like fate.
At least in my imagination. Walk like a monster, Tomas, or you’ll be
trapped in these opposites you create. You know that your God is a fiction,
a story, and one I think you no longer enjoy. Broaden your fiction. Do you
really think there’s anything that doesn’t have its image inside you? I love
your little morality-play, because you suffer in it, and I enjoy watching you
suffer. But Strange Eyes offers you his hand, a poet’s hand, and you
confuse him away. You seek a surgeon’s hand instead, and I would offer
you mine as substitute.

Tomas (with anguish) Please...don’t show me these things. Oh fuck, Tomas...I hate
you...I fucking hate you...

Lookalike Would you rather I dressed as a serpent? Do we have to play those games
now? I thought you were smarter than that.

Tomas You wear my Anna’s mock me...

Lookalike Then continue compiling your library of interesting quotes.

The television screen blinks off and only the lamplight illuminates the basement.

Lookalike takes her hands from Tomas’ shoulders and recedes into the shadows,
Stage Left, until she is gone.

Tomas stares at the blank screen, still sobbing silently. Finally he clambers from
the chair and sinks to his knees. He doubles over, pressing his palms and his
forehead to the floor.

He gives in and begins making awful, violent sounds of anguish. His helpless
sobs continue for some time.

Eventually his cries subside and he remains motionless on the floor as the early
morning light penetrates through the small basement windows. It is as though
time has elapsed.

With a renewed focus he rises to his feet and glances around the room. He circles the table, looking up at the high basement windows. He takes his chair and brings it to the wall. Climbing up onto the chair he peers through the windows at things unseen.

Tomas Soy un hombre valiente? (Am I a brave man?)

Tomas jumps down from the chair and drags it back to the table. He sits down, picks up the mic and starts recording on tape again.

Tomas Baby, I don’t think you’ll be listening to this any time soon. I don’t think
you’re here with me. But maybe, somehow, it’s important that I say these
things. I can’t stand the idea that your love for me just went away. I spilled my
soul, and within a few weeks you were gone. Are you happier? Maybe you’re
carrying another man’s child. I want you to know that you have my blessing.
In stories, sometimes loved ones visit each other in their dreams. I

Tomas stops recording, peering back up at the windows and the early morning light.

Tomas Madre en Cielo, necesito a amigo. (Mother in Heaven, I need a friend)

Tomas sits and waits, his hands clasped together in prayer.

From Stage Left a young man dressed in black emerges from the shadows. It is Strange Eyes. Tomas does not see him at first, lost in prayer.

Strange Eyes Tomas, I’m here.

Tomas jerks up from his prayer and peers at the young man. He is still afraid.

Tomas El diablo vino a mi. (The devil came to me)

Strange Eyes I know. A fiction in your soul, a fairy-tale close to you.

Tomas Un hada-cuento que vive y respira. (A fairy-tale that lives and breathes)

Strange Eyes Yes, as all stories do. You and I, Tomas, we live and breathe, and we’re
just stories among many.

Tomas How many?

Strange Eyes Countless. We dream ourselves into existence.

Tomas ( with fear) Don’t tell me that. Please...

Strange Eyes It’s what a friend would tell you.

Tomas Then tell me....Santa Maria; does she imagine that she lives? Is she...does she
hear me?

Strange Eyes Yes. You’re afraid that your faith is a fiction, and it is, and so it lives
within you, immortal. Santa Maria is listening to every word we speak.

Tomas Does she love me still?

Strange Eyes Forever.

Strange Eyes approaches the table and presses his palms to its surface, peering across at Tomas.

Strange Eyes Does it scare you, that she loves you so?

Tomas presses a fist to his closed mouth, as if to push back the answer.

Strange Eyes It’s ok to be afraid, Tomas.

Tomas Tell me about my Anna. I need to know. Please, it’s killing me.

Strange Eyes It’s killed you.

Tomas Tell me everything. Please, Strange Eyes.

Strange Eyes ( nodding ) Of course.

Strange Eyes walks around the table and sits cross-legged on the basement floor. He motions for Tomas to join him.

Strange Eyes Come relax with me. I’ll tell you everything I know.

Cautiously, Tomas leaves the chair and joins the young man on the floor in front of the table. They sit only a few feet apart, face to face.

Tomas takes a long deep breath, glancing back at the morning light through the basement windows.

Tomas Ok.

Strange Eyes You think she ran from your madness, but she believed every word you
told her. That’s why she ran. Not from a psychotic boyfriend, Tomas.
She ran from a darkness that she felt in you – in the only man she ever
really loved.

Tomas nods and presses his face into his hands.

Strange Eyes She was so afraid of those possibilities, you see, and sensed truth in
them. Perhaps not like it was for you, but a metaphorical truth. A poetry
that was alien but real somehow. She packed her things that morning and
left. She’d emptied her bank account over the week, and she bought a
plane ticket back home. She stayed in London for a few days. She sent
her father an email and swore him to secrecy.

Tomas I knew he was lying, I could feel it. I almost beat it out of him.

Strange Eyes She never contacted him after that. She went to stay in Wales with an
old university friend. She looked for someone to terminate the
pregnancy. They told her it was illegal to terminate at such a late stage.

Tomas The baby was kicking by then...

Strange Eyes Yes, and she was afraid of it. The life growing inside. She couldn’t bare
to keep it. She found a skilled doctor who was willing, for a price.
There were unforeseen complications. She lost a lot of blood and nearly
died. But she survived, recovered, and the baby was no longer a terror
to her. She’s still living in Wales and she works as a substitute teacher
at a school in Cardiff, supplemented by her photography. She’s engaged
to a compassionate man who knows her secret. He loves her, never

Tomas Is she - ?

Strange Eyes Yes. She was very lucky. At first she thought she’d be unable to
conceive. But she and David are expecting a girl. Alice.

Tomas I wish that child all the love in the world.

Strange Eyes I know.

Tomas Tell me the truth, Strange Eyes. Are son?

Strange Eyes I know that you wanted me to be. I feel your hurting to the extent that
I...I toyed with the idea of pretending to be, if only to give you some
release. But I will not deceive you, as stark as the truth may be. I won’t
fuck with your perceptions.

Tomas Where is son? Does he even know what’s happened?

Strange Eyes He is a child, but he understands. It’s different here. Also, there are
friends and guides around him. Spirits who tend the children.

Tomas Spirits who tend the children? That’s a beautifully sweet idea. It’s something I
wish were true. I don’t know if I can believe it.

Strange Eyes We love the idea as well. We try to make it real.

Tomas Mama and papa? Are they nearby?

Strange Eyes They’re only as close as you imagine. Or as far.

Tomas Does he have a son?

Strange Eyes He has a name the guides have given him. Cameron.

Tomas Cameron. I like how it sounds.

Strange Eyes Time works differently. It’s just a filter we use to understand ourselves.
Cameron has a plan, I think.

Tomas I think I need to be alone now.

Strange Eyes Tomas, there is no judgement, or hell, save that which we imagine for
ourselves. I swear it to you. And this place where we sit, it is the Reloj del Corazon.

Tomas (laughing) Clock of the Heart.

Strange Eyes We all have one.

Tomas Please go now.

Strange Eyes nods and carefully rises to his feet. He smiles at Tomas and turns, walking towards the shadows, Stage Left. At the last moment he glances over his shoulder.

Strange Eyes Te quiero. (I love you)

Strange Eyes seems to melt into the darkness and is gone

For a long while Tomas remains sitting on the basement floor, glancing around the room, occasionally rubbing his face and pressing his hands to his eyes.

Eventually he rises to his feet and sits back down on the chair at the table. He picks up the mic and presses Record on the machine.

Tomas Ok, this is still tape three. You’re never going to hear this, are you? I miss you,
baby. I can imagine how guilty you must feel sometimes, but I’m happy that
you’re with a guy who won’t judge you for it, someone who’d try to
understand. That person isn’t me. I have some things to say to you.

Tomas sighs and presses his forehead to the tabletop. For a moment he stays that
way and then straightens himself again.

Tomas I want to thank you. For every kind word. Every tender embrace. Every kiss.
Every fuck, every blowjob, every film we watched together, every book you
ever gave me. Never tell Alice about me. I think Strange Eyes, this creature,
I think he’ll come again. Maybe this time he’ll bring me some books. Te
quiero, Anna.

Tomas hits the Stop button on the tape recorder. He hits Rewind for a few
seconds. The tape squeals and then he lets it play.

Recorded voice ...Strange Eyes, this creature, I think he’ll come again. Maybe this
time he’ll bring me some books. Te quiero, Anna.

The hiss of blank tape is now heard on the machine. Tomas turns up the volume.
The static hiss fills the basement, almost like the sound of softly running water.

Tomas gets up from the chair and circles the table, listening to the hiss of blank
tape. He presses his hands together and then crosses himself.

Tomas Bringer of light, come to me now. Come to me.

A pretty young woman in bloodied underwear appears from the shadows Stage Left,
approaching Tomas from behind. It is Lookalike. She seems cautious, almost

Tomas doesn’t turn to face her. Instead he peers down at the floor.

Lookalike Mi amor? (My love?)

Tomas There was this time once, in my mama’s garden. I was maybe six or seven
years old. I think it was the first time I ever heard you. You were singing. I
remember you had a beautiful voice. It chilled me. It went, ‘My love is
leaving, and I am afraid. My love is leaving, and I am afraid.’ Over and

Lookalike (with fear) A foolish song.

Tomas No. No, I think I understand now. I’m beginning to understand.

Lookalike comes up behind Tomas and slips her arms around his waist, pressing
her cheek to his back.

Lookalike You don’t have to stay here. Even I wouldn’t ask that of you, Tomas.
There’s life and poetry outside this room. There are witnesses.

Tomas I know. Sing it for me again, please. It’s been with me for so long. I could
never edit it out of my stories.

Lookalike (singing softly) Mi amor se esta yendo, y estoy asustado. Mi amor se esta
yendo, y estoy asustado.

Tomas Go away now. And if you come back again, bring me pen and paper.

Lookalike withdraws from Tomas and moves backwards into the shadows Stage
Left. Tomas is alone in the basement room.

Tomas I have a heart. I am alive.

A red light begins to fill the basement until the entire room is bathed in it.



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