May 2016 - Comments Off

Jeremy Geragotelis

Meeting, An Opera

1.

T

Hi.

P

Hi.

(Coughs)

I can’t talk long.
I’m just on my lunch break.

T

I thought about calling you,
And asking if you would want to meet somewhere else.
I thought maybe you’d want to meet somewhere warm.

P

No.  This is fine.
It’s right between us.
This is fine.

(Coughs)

T

That doesn’t sound good.

P

Travis: don’t try and take care of me—

T

No, no!  I just think that.
The cold sort of carves you out and leaves you empty, right?
And that coat looks real ratty.
Why not go somewhere else?
Somewhere warm?  //

P

Whatever you want, Travis.
Whatever you want.

T

//  Here is fine.

P

You are so full of shit.
I’ve only got an hour.
They expect me back.

T

Empty churches are weird.
They make all the noise in the world –
Holy screams and hollers –
But without any sound at all.
Empty churches on a Tuesday afternoon in March
Are very weird.

P

You are so full of shit.  //

2.

P

What do you want, Travis?

(T tries to kiss P.  P pushes him away.)

P

No.

T

Stubborn as an ox.
Let me care for you.
I know you need it.

(He tries to kiss him again.)

P

No.

T

I thought you—

P

No.

T

You came to meet me.
On your lunch break.

P

Not for that, Travis. 

T

I thought…

(Laugh)

I told myself you wouldn’t come.
And then you did.  And so I thought…
You’re here!

P

What the fuck do you want, Travis?

T

My mouth is stuffed full of words
(Jumbled like alphabet soup),
And I can’t find the strength to spit them up.
This is hard for me; harder than you can know.

P

I’m leaving.

T

No, Phil!
I still love you, Phil.
Can you see that?
I miss tracing the lines on your body:
The run of your hip like the lip of a
Brimming wine glass.
I miss tracing the lines on your body
Before you wake up and ruin me
With shrugs and nudges and pushes away.And scurry off to work.
I still love you, Phil.
Can you see that?

P

You are so full of shit.
We’ve turned this over four times before.
My teeth are caved in:
They don’t have anything for you anymore.

(Coughs)

T

Phil, I still love you.  I still love you.
And…  And…

P

What do you want, Travis?
By this church on a
Tuesday afternoon in March.
Give me more than “I still love you,”
Or I’m gone.  I’ve got to get back to work—

T

It sits low in my gut
And makes me feel like
I’m going to shit myself.
You don’t know.  You don’t know!

P

Jesus Christ!
I’m gone. //

3.

T

I know you’re sick, Phil.
The coughing, bringing up cancer-blood.
Not good, Phil.  Really not good.
Disease of the lungs;
Shallow, empty breath.

P

How’d you guess?

(Coughs)

T

James called me and James told me.
Last week.  Not good, Phil.
You need someone looking out for you
If you’re sick.  You need someone around.
And I still love you, Phil.

P

I’m fine,
Warding off
Doctors’ scalpels
Like I know how.
I’m fine.
Don’t try and take care of me—

T

Do you know that most mornings
When we were together –
When you would leave for work early
And abandon scattered-me in your bed –
I would make myself oatmeal and honey?
Because that’s all you had in your kitchen.
And no matter how many times I would
Make myself breakfast, I would always
Find that box of oatmeal full, full, full.
More than I left it the day before.  It was magic.
Is that where all your money went to?
You’d always be working and
You’d only ever have oatmeal.
But endless oatmeal.  Endless oatmeal.

P

Don’t worry about it, Travis.

T

You’d only ever have oatmeal. //
That coat! Looks like you sighed
All the warmth right out of it.
Always working, but you haven’t
Bought yourself a new coat in years.

P

Travis.
Don’t worry.
About it.

(Coughs)

T

Look: I know your wallet is empty.
The well’s run dry. I get it.
And hospitals aren’t cheap.
And doctors aren’t cheap.
I get it. So take this.
My love to you.
Full and rich,
Like the chocolates
You’d never give me.

(He tries to give him a wad of cash.)

4.

P

What the fuck are you doing?

T

Don’t argue,
Don’t fight.
Just take
This thing I’m giving you.
It’s what I owe you.
I feel it heavy in my gut.

P

Owe me?
No.

T

You’ve got to eat more than oatmeal
If you have cancer, Phil.
Oatmeal’s not going to keep you healthy.

P

Oatmeal is magic.
It’s the only thing
That satisfies.
You know why?
Because oatmeal
Doesn’t try and
Take care of me.
It just fills me up.

T

I know you!
I know your demons
And your darlings.
I know you!

P

You don’t.

T

I know you are sick.
And I know that your
Apartment gets cold
With all those windows.
And I know that the only
Spoon you own is rusting.
And I know that you won’t
Buy yourself a new coat
Even though that one is
Falling apart!

P

Stop.

T

And I know that, for whatever reason,
You won’t spend money on things
To keep you full and good and warm.
If you can promise me
That you have the money to…
I’ll leave you alone.
But hospitals aren’t cheap, Phil!

P

I have to get back to work.

T

Always working!
Where does all that money go?

P

Goodbye, Travis.

(Cough.)

T

Where does all that money go, Phil?
An empty pantry, but ONE endless,
Magic box of oatmeal.

(Laugh)

Don’t reject me, Phil.
I’m not an easy thing,
You can blow off.
There’s more in me –
More I feel I owe you.

5.

P

Why do you still love me?
I declared war on you
And my bedframe
Every night you came to me.
I left my convictions there
When we ended things.
I wasn’t good to you, Travis.
I wasn’t good to you at all.

T

I know that in my gut,
I can feel it swell in my
Stomach every time
I think of you.
But I still love you anyways.

P

Why do you still love me when you only know my mattress?

(Cough)

Understand this, Travis: your love is based on a lie
That you’ve made for yourself – that I could
Give you something more
Than you already have.
That’s as unfulfilled, but vital as the air.
I have nothing to give you.

T

Phil—

P

I pounded you sore, sour
Most nights.
I pounded you reeling
Most nights.
Even when you asked me not to.
I pounded you hatred—
And you took it,
Even when you asked me not to.
I pounded you
Trying to hollow you out.

T

I still love you.
Try to explain it if you can.
I still love you.

P

No, you don’t. //
When I left you, scattered in my bed,
Early every morning, making endless
Bowls of oatmeal, I would come here.
I would leave my bed to come to this church.
And I would sit here for hours.
Until I spotted you on your way home.
Then I would run back
To hide on my couch,
To cough my way
Through re-runs of “I Love Lucy.”
Day bleeding to day,
Week wheezing to week.

T

What are you talking about?

P

There is no work.
There is no work.
There is no lunch break.
There is no money.
There is no work.

T

I—

P

All a lie.
An empty thing.
You have
Nothing on me.
You have
Nothing to give me.
I’ve kept it all together:
The doctors, the knives,
The gasping, the fluid.
There is nothing for you to give me
Because there is nothing that you owe me.
Because your love for me is a mistake.
It’s all a lie,
An empty thing!

T

Then why do I feel this thing
Press from my inside out?
Why do I feel this thing
Playing checkers with my bowels??

P

What the fuck are you talking about?

T

You’ll take this.
You’ll take this
Thing I’m giving you.
You’ll take this!!

(He forces the money on him.  He wrestles him to the ground and shoves it into his mouth, or his coat, or his pants.  Anything.)

6.

P

I’m fucking gone.

T

I’m pregnant.

P

What?

T

I have something growing in me.
That you gave me.
I can feel it – it’s a bull, stubborn like its dad.
I can feel its horns scraping against the inside of my intestines.
At first, I thought it was a beautiful thing
That you would come back to me for.
A beautiful thing that would make you kiss me again.
But now I see that it’s a lie:
An empty creature that keeps me full.  //
Take the fucking money.

P

I—

T

Take the fucking money!

(Church bells)

P

Was someone here this whole time?

T

It doesn’t matter.
Those mornings I wasted
Dreaming of you at a desk
With a laptop and a ham
Sandwich for lunch.
These things I thought full
I am now finding empty.
Every day, my stomach grows
In time with your betrayal.
Here!  Here!  Feel it kick!
The monster that you planted in me
This voided beast that drains my life.

(He presses his stomach against P.)

P

You’re fucking nuts!

T

I loved you.  I loved you!
I gave you money because
I still loved you!
Now, I am lost.  I am lost…

P

You’re fucking nuts!
I’m gone!

T

I loved you!  I loved you!

(Church bells.  End.)

Published by: in Issue 2: Spring 2016, Prose, Volume 72

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