PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 26.2 (2004) 115-130
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Lydia Scheuermann Hodak
THE ONLY CHARACTER
MARIA, around 50 years old, with a pale, tortured face, sad eyes, thick hair tied low at the back of her neck. Dressed in a cheap hospital housecoat and wearing well-worn slippers. Under the gown she is wearing only underwear.
Time: A May morning in 1992
(A simple hospital room unpleasantly bathed in daylight. A bed. The bedcover turned back. A well-worn heavy skirt and a simple blouse and cardigan are thrown across the bed. Sports shoes stand beside the bed. A washbasin, and a mirror and rubbish basket in the corner. The window is open but concealed behind a curtain. It is May outside. A breeze sets the curtain in motion.
A Bible stands on the small bedside table.
An unfinished painting stands on an easel near the window. The painting shows the silhouette of a girl in a summer dress slightly ruffled by a breeze, all in light tones. The colors and the lines of the painting melt into a view of the horizon, a river and the sky shown in the background. The darkest thing in the painting is the girl's hair. Her face is not clearly visible. Gray and pale tones.
MARIA comes into the room. She walks slowly, with a heavy step, her mind somewhere else. She is carrying a document that has been filled out.Slowly, as if listening for something, she goes over to the bed, and a metallic voice is heard. It sounds like a tape-recording, official in tone, and uneven.)
You would be surprised at how beautiful she is, so small, with dark hair, a tiny, perfect baby. You should see her. She takes after your daughter. Actually, she takes after you. (MARIA seems uncertain about something.) First we thought it would be best perhaps that you take her. That's if you can, of course, because you are a displaced person now. (A pause.) But, she has no one else and if you can't take her, adoption is the only way . . . If only her father were alive, but your son-in-law has perished too . . . And his family, so we heard. . . (MARIA sits down on the bed stiffly holding the piece of paper in her lap, not really aware of what she is doing, as if listening.). . . Adoption is probably the best solution for the little one. All you have to do is sign the adoption consent [End Page 115] papers. You are her guardian now, by law. She has no one except you now. (A pause.)
(The rustling sound of the paper.)
In fact, she doesn't even have a name. We have her under your late daughter's name. Until she's adopted. If you agree, all you have to do is sign the consent papers.
(Unaware of what she is doing, MARIA lets the paper slip from her hands onto the floor. She looks at it, and then slowly gets to her feet, bends down, picks it up and goes over to the bedside table. She walks to the window, deep in thought.)
(MARIA speaking in a gentle voice.) It was a day just like this one. In May. (She remembers.) No, it couldn't have been May. It must have been June. It's in June that the black sour cherries ripen in the mountains, those lovely dark cherries, and the Danube is lazy and warm from the summer and the sun. (She moves the curtainaside and looks out through the window.) It was just that sort of summer long ago when I waited for the train at the village station with my mother. (Shespeaksslowly, carried along by her memories.) There were chestnut trees beside the station building, their crowns as high as the roof. Early morning. Mist. A girl was standing beside the tracks. Just standing there. Waiting. (She leaves the curtain. Turns...