As performed in Rock Bottom: monologues about starting over.
A Jason Miller Playwrights’ Project presentation
Scranton Pa. May 4-5, 2003
I used to think of myself as a person who fixes things.
“Adept at problem solving” appears on my resume
Or some similar line of corporate pandering bullshit.
It’s not a lie.
If we’re talking about other people’s problems
While they sat staring in shock at the enormity of the task at hand
Shaking their heads in doubt
I would sashay in and break it down into tiny digestible pieces for them
Show them exactly how we would get from here to there
and then we’d accomplish that goal
the lofty goal that sounded too beautiful to be achieved by the likes of us
the idealized way things should be
the job no one believed could be done.
My grandmother sent me a birthday card that said
“You deserve all the good things in life.”
Really? Since when?
The best things in life are free, that’s all I ever wanted. The freebees.
But nothing is free…
You’ve got to work so hard for it, you’re too tired to appreciate what you’ve earned.
People only give because they want something – usually from you, sometimes from God
It can be hard to see the difference.
What relationship isn’t two people joining forces,
working together to be a stronger whole because they can get more out of life that way?
Boyfriends buy you things you can’t get for yourself
And you tell yourself you loved them first, before the gifts, before they started to reward you for loving because they were afraid you might stop.
You gave yourself to them before they gave you anything because you were inspired to elevate them, to make them feel as glorious as you felt just by being next to them.
That’s how love works, right?
And you hope, as you tell yourself this again,
that it is still true
that the love hasn’t begun to imitate itself
that it’s not broken too, like the rest of your broken life.
The crashed car.
The empty fish tank.
The mattress on the floor.
Because you bought the parts for the platform bed from IKEA but you didn’t have the tools to put it together and if you had, you still would have needed help and you didn’t know who to ask.
I mean, you hinted … but no one bit
So you put the coasters and the pre-cut, pre-drilled lumber in the basement and you hoped someday someone would come along – the impossible lover – and see how much it upset you that you had been sleeping on the floor since the divorce.
He’d offer to help you, because it would only take a couple of hours really, and of course it would be worth it to see you so happy.
And you’d jump up and say, “I have everything we need already, bought and paid for, in the basement.”
But that was how many years ago now? And your lovers have been satisfied to fuck you on the mattress on the floor. And even when you lamented how you wish it could be otherwise, they’d just pat your head or kiss you on the cheek and say it was probably better for your back this way.
So if they didn’t think you deserved better –
these men who claimed to love you –
How could you say “I deserve the best things in life?”
Your parents didn’t care you were sleeping on a mattress on the floor. That the stove was broken. That the house was sinking and the landlord was a bully. That you were so unhappy and fighting too hard just to tread water and not drown and not getting anywhere close to the other side.
Ten years of brokenness.
And the day you saw yourself as this broken person, so overwhelmed you let the broken things stay broken.
And you cried the next day
And when they noticed and asked if they could help you
You cried even harder because their kindness was beautiful and sincere
And you were ready to ask for help
… just as soon as you figured out what to ask for, you would …
But for now, just holding hands was nice.
You knew the marriage was going to break. It never stood a chance probably, but you wanted your girls to have a chance of a life with their father
(something you were never allowed to have)
So you did it and you looked the other way as things broke,
As he deteriorated,
Until you had no choice to cut him loose because the weight was sure to pull you under.
And oh how he punished you for it –
For untying that knot
For breaking the promise
But until death do you part does not give the other person permission to drown you.
You always think of him in terms of drowning.
The bottom of Murakami’s well.
Dry, then filling with water,
You try to get a foothold in the moss covered stones
You try to climb up
Praying for a rope to appear, but it doesn’t.
And if you deserved the best things in life wouldn’t there be a fucking rope?
And when the pain of being broken became too much and you were scared it couldn’t ever be fixed and you lost hope and you thought about killing yourself but you couldn’t bring yourself to do it
They patted you on the head again and told you how proud they were of you being so strong
But just enduring, surviving it, is not strength.
There is no strength until you face the truth
Until you start doing the icky work.
The ugly unglamorous cleaning behind and under the furniture
Making phone calls
Confessing your weaknesses
Asking for help even though it’s embarrassing and people might not like you because they don’t want any more to carry, least of all your shit
You have to risk rejection
Admit your shortcomings
Expose your vulnerability
And accept their help which usually sounds a lot like,
Can’t you just be different?
Why can’t you just glue it back together and stop being broken because I love you but I’m kind of busy right now.
So is it any wonder I would run around helping other people with their problems?
If I can fix theirs, then it’s less embarrassing that I can’t fix me. I mean my own… problems.
Because I came close enough to death to realize I really did want to live after all.
And here in this desperate dark and scary place where I had been banging my head against the wall for years, not knowing where to begin, what repair to make first,
Suddenly like a pot of gold under a rainbow there was this toolbox.
And smiling faces with soft voices who had been waiting – waiting there all this time, they were just waiting for the lights to come up –
to demonstrate the tools inside.
To show me how they worked
One at a time
willing to show me as many times as it took, until I knew for myself, instinctively what to do,
as if I had always known.
Because there was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t broken.
I just couldn’t see it all. I couldn’t see the rest of me.
I am whole.
I am healing.