Here, There and Everywhere

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Don’t Die!

From Angie’s Diary. Excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter by Gabriel Constans.

Don’t Die!

I fell in love with Robin the first day we met. She was playing her role, as a recently admitted hospice patient, with great style and flair, while I lumbered through my part as the experienced “seasoned” social worker.

She wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award and didn’t give a damn about her looks. Her body looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin painted on with a thick brush. A blue and green scarf covered her almond-shaped, balding head. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds and her smile hung in the air like the Cheshire cat.

She had a warmth and graciousness that the worst ravages of metastatic breast cancer could not hide. Entering her small, low-income apartment by the sea, felt like entering a sanctuary or coming home for the holidays.

Her one-woman play about a terminal disease had about a two year run.

She talked openly about dying, but more about living. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she loved life. She loved her mother, her boyfriend, her family and friends. She loved music, art, beauty and nature. She was thirty-eight years old and she wanted to live until she was an old woman with grandchildren. She kept waiting for a new treatment, another remission, some kind of hope or miracle. It almost came twice.

An experimental trial with a new drug regime was supposed to be available through her HMO but kept getting put off, then delayed, eventually fizzling away into the land of false promises. Then came the dream of a cure with Angiostatin and similar therapies, which exploded across the media and public airwaves as “extremely hopeful cures for cancer tumors.” Again she was told of some local trials and assured that she was eligible to participate, but this too seemed to fade into oblivion as time slipped by, leaving her to use whatever means she had at her disposal – blood transfusions, medications, hospitalization, intravenous therapy, diet, herbs, detoxification, prayer, meditation, visualization – she tried it all, but the cancer kept chipping away.

STORIES CONCLUSION AT ANGIE’S DIARY

The Window Cleaner – Part 2

from Saint Catherine’s Baby – Stories. By Gabriel Constans.

The Window Cleaner – Part 2 (Conclusion)

As Rob’s outrage about his mother’s cancer and subsequent death raged on, Steven waited for a pause, a cue, a sliver of an opening to address the pain that boiled below the surface. It came suddenly, when Rob abruptly stopped speaking, placed his hands on his knees and glared at Steven.

“Well?” Rob asked bitterly, “Now what?”

“I’m sorry you had to witness such suffering,” Steven said. “What an awful ordeal.” Rob waited. “You must love your mother very much.”

Every instinct of pride and privacy in Rob’s body strained to keep composure. It felt like his ligaments were tearing apart; his protective shell, of time and distance from his mother’s passing, stripped bare. Repressed liquids of loss and abandonment leaked like a broken faucet. He tried holding back the tears, by covering his runny eyes and nose with his hands, but it was as useless as trying to stop a tidal wave with a bucket. He felt dizzy, his cheeks burned and his stomach ached. He questioned his sanity and wondered how he had let his well-meaning wife convince him to attend this torture. “I must be a masochist or a nut case,” he reasoned.

Sure, he’d had some scattered days since his adoptive mother had passed on. “Who wouldn’t?” he figured. “She was only fifty-one.”

Her name was Nadine. She’d adopted him, as a single parent, when he was five years old. Everything he knew about love, security or life had come from her. She’d taken him on faith; not knowing what complications might arise as he got older. Her devotion ran deep. She had spoiled him with attention and confidence.

“How could she leave?!” his mind demanded, not able or willing to match the reality of her death with his belief in how the world should work.

He had admitted to his wife, Soledad, that he wasn’t sleeping well and didn’t feel like doing anything. “It doesn’t make sense; nothing matters anymore.”

Anxiety about the future knocked day and night. He frequently asked Soledad if they were OK; if she was sure she wanted to stay with him being so “messed up and all?” She’d smile reassuringly and tell him their love hadn’t changed since they’d met in high school. He was and always would be, “her man . . . her sweetheart. I’m not going anywhere.”

It was during one of these moments of insecurity that she suggested he call these people for help. She had promised that they wouldn’t do any touchy-feely, therapy kind of stuff on him. Now, here he was, wondering what kind of mess he was in. All he’d done so far was babble on about his private life and cry like a wet baby in front of a perfect stranger.

He should have seen the trap the minute he walked in the little claustrophobic compartment. Soft music; candles; a warm and friendly atmosphere – all there to seduce him into making a fool of himself! And there was something unnerving about this guy, like he could see right through you.

“It’s not fair!” Rob shouted, between chest splitting sobs, “Why’d she have to suffer; why not me?!”

Steven handed him some Kleenex from the conveniently placed box sitting on the glass table, waiting patiently to be of service and discarded. Rob wiped his contorted face.

“You’d want your mother to go through the pain your feeling?”

“No, but why; how could this happen?”

“Her dying or the emptiness you’re feeling?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.”

“Doesn’t make sense, does it?”

Rob nodded, blew his nose again and tossed the tissue towards the small plastic can peaking out from under the table.

Steven said, “It can be painful and confusing. The feelings are so overwhelming; it seems like you’re out of control; nothing fits together anymore.”

“That’s for sure.” Rob dabbed his wet cheeks with another willing tissue. “But why does it have to hurt so bad?” Salt water oozed from the corner of his eye and dripped on to the front of his pressed shirt.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the price we have to pay for loving somebody.”

“Pretty stiff price.”

“Sure is,” Steven leaned forward. “You’d have to be a masochist to choose this kind of pain.”

Rob nodded, “So why go through it?”

“Grief seems to be the one kind of pain that doesn’t change or go away, unless we let ourselves face it, feel it . . . almost embrace it. Most kinds of pain are good to get rid of; put a bandage on it, fix it or avoid it, right?” Rob’s river of tears trickled to a small brook as he threw his last drenched tissue toward the seemingly elusive wastebasket. “With grief there is no easy, quick fix; it’s not something you ‘get over’ or ‘recover from.’”

Steven wondered if Rob was making any connections. He was never sure. Even if the client said they understood, felt heard or thanked him for his time, there was no guarantee that his presence or words had any beneficial effect at all. There was no tangible, physical sign or material exchange, no finished product or sutured wound.

“But,” Steven emphasized, “if you allow yourself to experience it, with people you trust and at times and places that feel safe, it will lesson in duration and frequency.”
Rob shook his head in disbelief. Steven added, “Right now it doesn’t feel like it will ever change, right?”

“You got that right.”

Rob’s apprehension and anxiety flew around in his head like manic butterflies, while Steven, this quiet middle aged man with specs and out of date shoes, continued to provide his attention and seemingly sincere concern. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Rob’s fears subsided, as he realized he was safe and could allow his heart’s storms to rage.

He told Steven all about Nadine. He talked about their favorite holidays, Thanksgiving and Halloween; about where they had lived, in Providence; what she did for a living, working as a home care attendant; how he bought her a home, after working in real estate for several years. He told him about the difficult times they’d had when he was a teenager, when he was embarrassed to be around her; how he had pushed her away and his remorse at having done so. He talked about his wife Soledad; how she felt closer to his mother than to her own. He talked and talked and cried and cried and remembered.

As Rob told him about his mother, Steven thought fondly of his own. She’d had a heart attack and surgery about six years ago, coming precipitously close to death’s door. She was in her seventies now and doing well, but the thought of her dying still gave him the chills. It wasn’t like he was a stranger to loss. Various family members, friends and acquaintances had gasped their last breaths; but there was something about his mother, her solid, life-long presence and care, that struck close to the bone. The thought of her dying and disappearing from this material life, made him feel vulnerable and alone. He prayed it would never happen, knowing full well that such prayers were a futile exercise in self-delusion.

“Yeah, she was, I mean is, an amazing woman,” Rob concluded fondly, an imperceptible smile kissing his lips.

Hearing Rob pause and having a sense that their time was coming to a close, Steven asked Rob if they could meet again in a week or two. He noticed the strained expression, of someone trying to hold together a broken glass, had been replaced with a smile, a smile that said, “Thank God. I’m not going crazy. This is all to be expected. It will change. There is hope.”

“If it’s not too much trouble,” Rob replied. “Would you write down the time and date? I’ve been a little forgetful lately.”

“Sure.” He wrote down the appointment, as slowly and carefully as possible, so someone beside himself could read it and handed it to Rob.

Rob checked the time and date, then turned the card over. “Steven Rice, Ph.D.,” he read silently, “Bereavement Counselor.” He stuffed it in his front pocket, stood and firmly shook Steven’s hand. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I know this sounds crazy, but I think it helped.”

“I hope so,” Steven smiled. “I look forward to seeing you next week.”

Steven watched Robert walk down the red-stained ramp, back into his life, a life without the woman who had taught him how to live. He went over to the miniature desk, sat on the rolling office chair, took out a pink form that read, “Progress Note”, grabbed his pen and began to write.

The last hour was fresh in his memory as he looked out the dirty windowpane and felt the air through the screen cooling as the sun undressed to put on its nightgown of darkness. The old knotted pine trees stood gallantly in the gully, impervious to the suns disrobing. They stood without feelings of love, loss, joy or sorrow; without consciousness of there own existence or approaching demise.

Steven put on his alma mater’s long sleeve blue sweater and placed his notes in Mr. Hartman’s file. He put the file inside the four-foot high, rusted metal cabinet and attached the combination lock. Picking up his frayed, black-leather briefcase and bottled water, he looked outside once more, before turning off the light, radio and sound machine.

“I’ll have to wash that window tomorrow,” he said to himself. “It’s filthy.”

Steven Rice walked outside, closed the vacuum-sucking door with a bang, inserted his copper key and turned the latch. The flimsy box trailer and its precarious contents were safe for another day. He walked down the shaky ramp and wondered how we keep living with all our scars and open wounds.

THE END

PART 1

MORE STORIES

Just Around The Corner

Excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter
by Gabriel Constans.

Just Around The Corner: Hope and Healing

I fell in love with Robin the first day we met. She was playing her role, as a recently admitted hospice patient, with great style and flair, while I lumbered through my part as the experienced “seasoned” social worker.

She wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award and didn’t give a damn about her looks. Her body looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin painted on with a thick brush. A blue and green scarf covered her almond-shaped, balding head. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds and her smile hung in the air like the Cheshire cat.

She had a warmth and graciousness that the worst ravages of metastatic breast cancer could not hide. Entering her small, low-income apartment by the sea, felt like entering a sanctuary or coming home for the holidays.

Her one-woman play about a terminal disease had about a two year run.

She talked openly about dying, but more about living. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she loved life. She loved her mother, her boyfriend, her family and friends. She loved music, art, beauty and nature. She was thirty-eight years old and she wanted to live until she was an old woman with grandchildren. She kept waiting for a new treatment, another remission, some kind of hope or miracle. It almost came twice.

An experimental trial with a new drug regime was supposed to be available through her HMO but kept getting put off, then delayed, eventually fizzling away into the land of false promises. Then came the dream of a cure with Angiostatin and similar therapies, which exploded across the media and public airwaves as “extremely hopeful cures for cancer tumors.” Again she was told of some local trials and assured that she was eligible to participate, but this too seemed to fade into oblivion as time slipped by, leaving her to use whatever means she had at her disposal – blood transfusions, medications, hospitalization, intravenous therapy, diet, herbs, detoxification, prayer, meditation, visualization – she tried it all, but the cancer kept chipping away.

She went to the hospital for one final assault, then returned home. It was a glorious Indian Summer when I saw her for the last time. I knocked on her weathered door, heard her call out “Come in.” and entered her tiny sunlit living room, which was also her bedroom, library and dining area.

Moving towards the head of her hospital bed, I saw that she’d been through the ringer and was losing ground fast. Her face was black, blue and yellow, as if she’d just been in a bar room brawl. Her skin was almost translucent, stretched over her frame like a sheet of white plastic. Her arms were as thin as straws and she struggled to breathe deeply. In spite of her frailty and obvious diminishing returns, her eyes still danced and she spoke vibrantly about life and healing.

“I hope my life made a difference,” she said softly.

“You know it has,” I reassured. “You’ve given such love.”

“Yes, I guess so,” she said and touched my cheek gently with her fingers. “That’s been the best part.”

“What’s next?” I asked tentatively, wondering what she planned to do with her remaining days.

She turned away, looked out her large window and watched a mother and daughter lean against the cliff side railing, their hair blowing in the wind, the child laughing, screaming with delight. Without changing position, she replied, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Part of me wanted to run. My many years of listening and learning how to be present seemed to slip out the door. “I don’t know,” I said lamely. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe this day has come.” I followed her gaze, not really focusing on anything. My hopeless grasping continued. “I don’t want you to die.”

“Nice thought,” she smiled, “but just a wee bit unrealistic.” She rolled her eyes and grinned with amusement.

“Yeah,” I blushed. “It’s just . . . I don’t know . . .” I struggled to find the right words then looked her way. “How do you let go of everything you’ve known with such dignity and grace?”

“I don’t have any choice,” she said without hesitation.

“I know we don’t always have a choice over what happens to us,” I blundered along, “but we have a choice in how we respond to what happens, don’t we? If I was in your position, I’d be screaming and yelling to my last breath.”

Without blinking, she reiterated, “Like I said, I don’t have a choice. This is who I am.”

Robin died two days later. She died like she lived, tenderly and peacefully. I, on the other hand, keep wailing away at the ravages of cancer, thinking I have more choices in life than are probable and hoping a cure for cancer is “just around the corner.”

MORE GOOD GRIEF: LOVE, LOSS AND LAUGHTER.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 6

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 6

Plays Conclusion

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 6 – FINAL SCENE

(Chantall’s picture appears on screen/wall.)

GODDESS: Chantall. Seventy-six. Retired professor.

(There is the sound of the door opening and closing.)

GODDESS: (Continued) Husband died twenty years ago. Children and grandchildren. Present partner, Audrey.

CHANTALL: Partner and best friend.

GODDESS: Who’s there?

(Silence)

GODDESS: (Continues) Metastatic bone cancer. Chemotherapy unsuccessful. I’m spreading to her major organs. Death is lurking nearby.

CHANTALL: It’s always lurking, what’s new?

GODDESS: (turns on lights and sees Chantall in a wheelchair in front of the couch.) Chantall! You sneak you. You weren’t supposed to know yet.

CHANTALL: What part? That my body is failing or who my friends are?

GODDESS: (Grins and goes to couch to sit by Chantall.) You know which part. Don’t play games with me professor.

CHANTALL: No need. You play enough already.

GODDESS: How did you get in here?

CHANTALL: Same as you, through the front door. Your hearing must be slipping. You look tired. Maybe you should lay down and rest.

GODDESS: That’s my line! Don’t confuse me.

CHANTALL: You’ve been confused for years. You never did know how to divide properly without rearranging everyone’s DNA.

GODDESS: I’m a slow learner.

CHANTALL: You can say that again.

GODDESS: I’m a slow . . .

CHANTALL: (Overlapping) Don’t you dare!

(Both of them laugh. Goddess goes over to bar.)

GODDESS: Like some tea?

CHANTALL: Tea?! You call that a drink? Give me a margarita or a whiskey, straight.

GODDESS: Coming up.

(Goddess pours drink, brings it back to Chantall and sits. Chantall takes drink and downs it.)

CHANTALL: That’s better.

GODDESS: You didn’t just stop by for a drink. What’s up?

CHANTALL: What’s up? Can’t a girl just make a friendly visit to see her killer face to face?

GODDESS: (Suspiciously) What do you want?

CHANTALL: There’s something I have to ask you. It’s very serious.

(Goddess leans closer.)

GODDESS: Yes?

CHANTALL: Does this gray wig make me look too old?

(Chantall pulls off wig, reaches into her bag on side of wheelchair and pulls out a long, dark-haired wig.)

CHANTALL: (Grinning ear to ear.) How about this . . . the Cher look?

(She puts that one back and takes out a short brown wig.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) This is Audrey’s favorite. She says I look like K. D. Lang with wrinkles. Sort of sexy, isn’t it?

GODDESS: Which one do you like best?

CHANTALL: (She pulls off last wig and remains bald.)
This one. My Sinead O’Conner look. No fuss. No bother. Don’t even have to shave, since my hair fell out. (Pause) Think of all the time I wasted in my life washing, drying, brushing and styling; worrying about how I looked and what others thought. Good grief . . . what a waste of energy.
(Pause.) Say, we could market this and make a fortune. ‘New. ChemoDo! Hair treatment for men and women. Take intravenously or by capsule and in just two weeks you too can look like this!’

(She shows off her head proudly.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) ‘No fuss. No bother. Twenty-one day guarantee or your money back. Only nineteen ninety-five, plus eighteen dollars for shipping and handling! Call now and receive free anti-nausea pills at no extra charge. That’s ChemoDo. 1(800) FYU-CHEM. Operators are lying nearby.’

(Both of them laugh loudly until Chantall starts coughing.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) By the way. You don’t have a cigarette lying around do you?

GODDESS: Do I have a cigarette?! That’s like asking John Wayne if he has a horse.

(Goddess gets up and looks around.)

GODDESS: (Continued) I should have one around here somewhere.

(Goddess goes to cupboard, opens it and hundreds of
cigarettes fall out. She picks one up, gets a lighter, goes back to Chantall and lights it for her. Chantall takes a long drag and slowly exhales.)

CHANTALL: Thanks. You better sit back a little. You don’t want to catch any second-hand smoke.

GODDESS: Of course not. It can kill you, you know.

CHANTALL: Really. Oh my. Give me some more!

(They both crack up, then Chantall suddenly stops.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) Seriously. There’s something I have to tell you.

GODDESS: Really? What?

CHANTALL: You’ve gotten a rotten reputation.

GODDESS: (Feigned surprise.) Why, I never!

CHANTALL: Folks blame you for everything. They act like you’re the plague.

GODDESS: The nerve. Well, as Gilda Radner used to say, ‘It’s always something, isn’t it?’

(They both laugh. Chantall takes another drag and looks down at the floor.)

CHANTALL: (Matter of factly.) I’m not afraid of dying you know. I’m even looking forward to it a little. The only thing that’s holding me back is Audrey. She’s the sensitive type. You know, weeps like a faucet. (Pause) She tries not to cry in front of me. She knows I can’t stand such dribble, but I see it in her eyes. (Pause) What can I do to help her understand?

GODDESS: She is understanding, in her own way. (Pause) Let her be. You do it your way, let her do it hers.

(Goddess puts her hand on Chantall’s leg.)

GODDESS: (Continued) It’s OK to grieve, you know. I hear it’s even a healthy thing to do now and then.

CHANTALL: Perhaps, but it seems so asinine.

GODDESS: To you.

CHANTALL: Why can’t she just enjoy the moment . . . roll with the punches? We’re dying the day we’re born anyway.

GODDESS: Some laugh, some cry.

(Chantall abruptly changes subject.)

CHANTALL: Hey, did you hear the joke about the old guy who believed in reincarnation?

GODDESS: No, but you’re going to tell me, right?

CHANTALL: This guy believed so strongly in reincarnation that he had them hang a sign on his tombstone that said, ‘Back in five minutes.’

(They both laugh. A car horn honks off stage.)

CHANTALL: Gotta go Goddess. Audrey’s giving me a ride home.

(Chantall heads towards the door, then stops and turns her chair towards The Goddess.)

CHANTALL: (Continued) You’re a riot. You know that?

GODDESS: Not so bad yourself, for a vibrant, bald-headed, elderly professor. Now, don’t go being foolish with your time, OK?

CHANTALL: Time? Don’t be silly. There is no such thing.

(Goddess opens the door as Chantall exits waving
goodbye. Goddess closes door, turns back towards front of living room.

GODDESS: (Out loud to herself.) Leave ‘em laughing Honey. Leave ‘em laughing.

(Goddess goes to turn off lights.)

GODDESS: (Continued) Let’s see. Who is our next lucky winner?

(Blackout)

THE END

MORE PLAYS

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 5

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 5

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 5

(Barbara’s photo appears on screen/wall.)

GODDESS: Barbara. Sixty. Housewife. Mother of five children, six grandchildren. Married to Yusef. Abdominal cancer and surgery two years ago. In remission? (Act’s surprised.) Oh well, better luck next time.

(Goddess turns off projector and lights on. She goes to the bar, pours a glass of red wine and places it on the coffee table. There is a knock at the door. She goes over and opens door. Barbara enters.)

GODDESS: Barbara, what a pleasant surprise. Come in.

(Goddess offers her hand in greeting.)

BARBARA: (Glares at Goddess. Doesn’t lift her hand to shake back.) Nothing pleasant about it!

GODDESS: Of course not. You’re right. Sit down.

(Goddess and Barbara both go to couch and sit at opposite ends.)

GODDESS: (Offers glass.) Like some wine?

BARBARA: (Looking offended.) I don’t drink!

GODDESS: I’m sorry. Are you alcoholic?

BARBARA: Of course not! It’s religious.

GODDESS: Are you a Muslim?

BARBARA: No. Catholic. My family is originally from Lebanon.

GODDESS: So, you are a Lebanese Catholic?

BARBARA: No. I am an American Catholic! Yusef and I immigrated with the children in the seventies. Our faith in God sustained us.

GODDESS: Life has been hard?

(Goddess moves a little closer.)

BARBARA: Nobody said it would be easy. We’ve sent three of our five children to college. Of course, they don’t appreciate the sacrifice and suffering it took.

GODDESS: You’ve given a lot. What did you get?

BARBARA: Just knowing I gave everything I had is enough reward. (Pause) There’s a better place I’m going to.

GODDESS: I hope I can help. After all, if you are so miserable, what is the point of sticking around?

BARBARA: I didn’t say I was miserable. I’ve got grown children and grandchildren. I’m very proud of them. I just pray they don’t get taken in by life’s temptations.

GODDESS: Has that happened before?

BARBARA: (Pause) My middle son, Daud, was disrespectful to his father once. (She looks away sadly.) He moved in with a girl then had the nerve to say it was none of our business. His own parents! (Pause) His father said he would never talk to him again. (Pause) That was four years ago. They have a child we’ve never even seen.

GODDESS: Don’t you miss him?

(Goddess moves closer.)

BARBARA: Every day. (Pause) I try not to think about it. (Pause) When I had surgery a few years ago . . .

GODDESS: (Overlapping) I remember. One minute I was there, the next I wasn’t.

BARBARA: I missed him so. I thought, ‘What if I die and never see him again?’ I begged Yusef to call him. He refused. He misses him too, but he says he’d rather die than give in.

GODDESS: Would you?

BARBARA: What?

GODDESS: Die before making amends with your son?

BARBARA: No! But it’s not up to me. His father…

GODDESS: (Overlapping) You’re going to let your husband’s pride come between you and your son?!

BARBARA: No! I mean, yes! He’s the head of the household. If I disobeyed him he’d disown me.

GODDESS: How can he disown you? You’re not a piece of furniture.

BARBARA: You don’t understand. It’s God’s will.

GODDESS: Ah, but I do understand. If you start to question your beliefs now you may discover that you have been subjected to an archaic system of servitude designed by men, for men, under the guise of religion and morality.

BARBARA: Stop!

(Barbara stands and points at Goddess as she heads towards the door.)

BARBARA: (Continued) You’re evil! Only the devil would say such things.

GODDESS: (Stands and walks towards Barbara.) To you I’m the devil, to others I’m a nightmare, but I told you the truth.

BARBARA: Stay away!

GODDESS: I can’t help it. I want you. I want your mind, your heart, your soul. Anything I can get my hands on!

(The Goddess lunges towards Barbara. Barbara screams and runs out the door.)

GODDESS: Of well. She’s just as good as dead anyway. Her husband’s seen to that.

(Goddess goes and turns off light.)


Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 6

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 4

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 4

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 4

(Picture of Lennie appears on screen.)

GODDESS: Lennie. Fifty-six. Poet. Divorced. Children and grandchildren. Terminal lung cancer.

(Goddess turns project off and lights on. There is a knock at the door.)

GODDESS: Come on in Lennie. It’s open.

(Lennie enters.)

LENNIE: Hey, how you doing Goddess?

(Goddess walks up and gives Lennie a hug. They both stand back holding one another at arms length.)

GODDESS: Can’t complain . . . life, death, fear, hope . . . living on the edge like usual. You’re looking quite beautiful, even sexy I might add, considering your condition and all.

LENNIE: You’re so sweet. I try. People look up to me, you know. I can’t let them down.

(Goddess walks with her arm around Lennie to couch.)

GODDESS: Let me get you some Ginseng tea. It’s supposed to help your immune system stop me from spreading.

(Goddess walks over to the bar and brings back a cup of tea, hands it to Lennie and sits down next to her.)

GODDESS (continued): People look up to you? Why?

LENNIE: I don’t know. I guess I’m a good listener and they know I really care. I try to love people for who they are and show compassion for all living things.

(Lennie looks at flowers and plants.)

LENNIE: (continued) What beautiful flowers!

GODDESS: Thanks. I love being surrounded by life. (Pause.) When you said you love people, did you mean your family and friends?

LENNIE: Yeah.

GODDESS: Do you feel the same towards strangers?

LENNIE: I guess so. Yesterday, I was waiting for the bus when a lady said I had ‘kind eyes’ and started telling me all about her family and how it was falling apart.

GODDESS: Could you love anybody then, even me?

LENNIE: (Surprised. She takes Goddess’s hand.) Of course! It’s not your fault you act the way you do. It’s your nature. I know it’s nothing personal. You’re a biological abnormality that can’t sit still. Blaming you would be like yelling at the sun to not rise. It’s your karma.

GODDESS: And it’s your karma to die?

LENNIE: Of course. I deserve it.

GODDESS: You deserve it?! I thought everyone loved you.

LENNIE: They do, but . . . something happened once . . . I’ve never told my kids. I’m sure it’s why you came.

(Lennie sadly turns away from Goddess)

GODDESS: Tell me. Please.

LENNIE: I can’t. It’s disgusting. I’ll take it to my grave before I tell anyone.

GODDESS: (Laughs) Hey . . . that’s not a problem. I’m going with you, remember?!

LENNIE: (Looks around and sighs deeply.) Oh yeah. Well . . . how do I start? (Pause.) My father died suddenly from a heart attack when I was thirty. I hadn’t seen him for twelve years. The day I turned eighteen I left home and never turned back. He was a real Jekyl and Hyde. People in town thought he was a saint or something, but when he got home from work and started drinking . . . If my brother or I tried to stop him from hitting Mama he’d slam us against the wall and call us foul names, especially my brother. I don’t see how he survived. He ran away when he was seventeen. (Pause) We’ve never talked about it.

GODDESS: You’ve never told anyone?

LENNIE: No. We were taught to keep things in the family and he swore he’d kill us if we didn’t. But that’s not the worst.

GODDESS: What could be worse?

LENNIE: What I . . . I did . . . in front of his family.

GODDESS: What?!

LENNIE: I didn’t know I was going to do it. (Pause) You sure you want to hear this?

GODDESS: I’m dying to hear!

LENNIE: Well . . . everyone gathered at the graveside for my Dad’s funeral, with the family up front, you know how it is. (Goddess nods with understanding.) I was standing between my mother and brother, with my grandparents next to them. The priest was praying and everyone had their heads bowed. Suddenly, I felt a burning in my belly. It worked its way up my gut, got stuck in my throat, then spewed out of my mouth in a guttural scream, ‘I hate you! You bastard. I hate you! You’re a filthy Jack ass! Thank God you’re dead!’ (Pause) Then I leaned forward and spit on his grave. (Pause)

GODDESS: That’s it?! You think that is why I came?! (Goddess starts laughing.) Lennie Lennie Lennie. Listen. I had no idea. I didn’t know anything about it. How could I be your karma?

LENNIE: I just figured . . .

GODDESS:You just figured that since you’re so sweet, compassionate and understanding that you weren’t capable of such hatred. It doesn’t fit your self-image, does it?

LENNIE: No. I spit on his grave . . . in front of the priest . . . his parents!

GODDESS: Honey, that’s nothing. Sounds like you could have killed him yourself and it would have been justifiable homicide! He put you and your family through a living hell and believe me, that’s far worse than dying.

LENNIE: But he was my father!

GODDESS: I don’t care if he was the Pope. Nobody has the right to treat another human being like that, let alone his own daughter.(Pause) How about practicing some of that love and compassion on yourself, or don’t you think you’re worthy?

LENNIE: (Crying) I guess so, but . . .

GODDESS: Shhhhh. No buts about it. You are creative, beautiful, a talented poet, caring mother and extraordinary human being. The feelings towards your father are just as real and valid as your compassion.

LENNIE: OK OK. It’s useless to argue with someone who is killing me.

GODDESS: There you go. Now get out of here. You don’t have much time.

(Whispering to herself.) Damn. Now they’ve got me saying that time thing!

(Goddess turns back to Lennie and gives her a hug.)

LENNIE: Thanks. I hope I don’t see you for awhile.

(Lennie waves as she closes the door.)

GODDESS: (Crosses her arms and shakes her head side to side.) Sometimes this job stinks. But hey . . . it’s my karma.

(Goddess turns off lights and starts singing to way to the projector the tune of “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely” from My Fair Lady.)

GODDESS: All I want is a body somewhere, far away from the mammogram’s stare, with one lump here and one lump there, oh wouldn’t it be lovely. Lots of cells for me to eat, lots of tissue for me to meet. Warm hands, warm face, warm feet, oh wouldn’t it be lovely.

(Goddess turns off projector with picture of Lennie.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 5

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 3

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 3

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 3

(Stage is dark. Picture of Jennifer appears.)

GODDESS: Jennifer. Forty-three years on this chaotic planet. Physician. Married to Jeremy. Two young children – Zack, age ten and Delia, six. Breast cancer. Mastectomy and radiation two months ago were successful. No sign of me now. Another great opportunity to multiply cut short.

(Goddess turns off projector and switches on lights. Doorbell rings. he goes to door, opens it slightly, looks out apprehensively, then opens door all the way.)

GODDESS: I’ve been expecting you. Here to rub it in, right? Come on in and gloat.

JENNIFER: (Puzzled.) What on earth are you mumbling about? I just came to figure you out.

GODDESS: Really? You mean you didn’t come to show me up?

JENNIFER: Show you up? What on earth for? It’s not like we were playing a game or anything. I had no choice and neither did you.

GODDESS: Could have fooled me. Let me get you a martini.

(Goddess goes to bar as Jennifer sits on couch.)

JENNIFER: Thanks. I deserve it.

(Goddess hands her drink and sits on chair.)

GODDESS: You sure do. Won fair and square. All is fair in love and war they say. You have to admit I messed you up a little though?

JENNIFER: Just a touch. I knew it was a fluke. One or two flaws in my genes, something in the environment and wham!

(Jennifer claps her hands.)

JENNIFER: There you are.

GODDESS: That’s me all right. They don’t call me invisible lightning for nothing! Actually, I’d been hanging out for some time. Lucky chance you felt me in the shower that morning.

JENNIFER: Chance had nothing to do with it! I examine my breasts frequently. I caught you just in time.

GODDESS: (Talking to herself.) There’s that time thing again.

GODDESS: (She turns back towards Jennifer.) Yep, you spoiled my party, but I took part of you with me.

(Jennifer looks down at her chest.)

JENNIFER: Can you tell?

GODDESS: Not really.

JENNIFER: (Relieved.) Good. I paid a lot of money for that surgery. (Jennifer sits up straight.)

GODDESS: Had you scared, didn’t I?

JENNIFER: Not in the least! Well . . . maybe a little. Dying did cross my mind a time or two. There was one night, two weeks after the surgery and my second radiation treatment, when I couldn’t sleep. I found myself wondering, ‘What if they didn’t get it all? What if it comes back? What if I die? What about the kids? What if . . . what if . . .’

GODDESS: (Smiles.) You lost control.

JENNIFER: No, I didn’t lose control. It was just a momentary lapse. I got over it. (Pause) By the way, how do you decide who you are going to attack?

(Goddess goes to bar and gets herself another drink.)

GODDESS: Well . . . I don’t really decide, I just react. Smokers are a cinch. I usually single them out first. After that I look for those being effected by environmental chemicals and toxins . . . you know – gas, lead, pesticides, radiation. And some folks get the privilege of inheriting me straight from their relatives’ DNA.

(Goddess walks back to chair and sits.)

GODDESS: (Continued) Far and away my most prized possessions are those I select for no rhyme or reason. I love to see the shock on their faces. Especially those who think death doesn’t apply to them.

JENNIFER: You can’t keep killing us forever.

GODDESS: Why not? You think you’re woman enough to stop me!

JENNIFER: Every day we’re closer to discovering your secrets. Once we do, you’re history!

GODDESS: Dream on Doc. If it makes you feel superior to believe that propaganda, be my guest. Sure, technology can see me more clearly, but I break through anyway. A few of my forms have been lessened with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and diet; but all in all I still get my share. And some treatments are worse than the cure. All you scientist types are still hung up on the symptoms, not the cause.

JENNIFER: You’re full of it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

GODDESS: So, now you’re resorting to stupid old cliches. Must be getting pretty desperate, huh?

JENNIFER: (Angrily) You think you’re so hot! (Stands.) Better watch your back! We’re not through with you yet!

GODDESS: (Feigning fear) Oh no. I’m soooo scared! (GODDESS shouts suddenly) Watch out!

(Jennifer jumps and looks behind her.)

JENNIFER: What?!

GODDESS: (Points her finger at Jennifer and laughs.) Got ya!

JENNIFER: (Smiles and points back.) Pretty cocky, aren’t you?

GODDESS: Look who’s talking.

JENNIFER: See you around.

(Jennifer turns and walks towards door.)

GODDESS: I sure hope so.

(Jennifer exits. Goddess turns towards audience.)

GODDESS: (Acts like she’s boxing.) Damn! I love a good fight.

(Goddess goes and turns off light.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 4

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