A young woman sits on an ancient bench, feels the wood through her clothes, grain roughened by years of weather – though the seat is still strong and stable. She stares forward, never turning her head except when her body turns with it.
“I am blind but I see. I see so much, too much perhaps. Too much to fit into this world of the sightless.” She flicks her hair as if it is moved by a zephyr. The locks stroke her shoulders and back.
Boots clump towards her, slow down and stop. The bench moves a little as someone else sits. A deep male voice, to her sounding common and rough, asks, “What is it you see too much of?”
“Yes,” she replies, “Now that you have asked for my permission so politely, you may sit beside me.”
“My apologies. I am but an uncouth old man. You wish me to go?”
“I would hate it,” she jerks forward and almost spits the words out in a sudden passion. “Stay if you can see, or know of someone who can see what I can!”
He asks, “What is your name? You with the sightless eyes that see so much. What is it you see?”
She relaxes and laughs. “You may call me Iris. What do I see? I see there is fear in happiness, hope in pain, wishes in agony and doubt in love … and I see that I am but a part of a person, incomplete.”
“You see too much.” The man laughs too. His laughter shakes him and the bench until he roars.
Iris chuckles as his happiness infects her. “What is it you laugh at so? You who have failed to introduce yourself…”
“Yonder, over the river, in the mead. A goose took off, flew in front of another and landed in the grass. The second took off and landed in front of the first. They’ve done it again! It looks like a pair of boots walking by themselves.” He settles and runs a fingernail along a groove in the wood.
“What is that rasping noise?” Iris asks, “Is that you making it?”
“Aye, me it be. It’s the grain in the plank … and a knot. Looks like a fish an’ its eye.” He sighs. “Don’t think me rude. I cannot introduce myself. I know not my name, good lady.”
“You need not possess a name. You are who you are. I know what you are now – from the words you spake. Just keep looking and finding patterns in our experience.” Iris flicks her hair again.
The man goes on, “I met another bloke, a furlong back or more. He was still as a statue on a tomb. Like he was deep in thought, miles away… Miles further than I can think anyways.”
Iris leans back as if to let sun play on her face. “I know him too. I met two others of us this morning. One who weeps constantly for mistakes she has made, for the times she was less than good: less than honest. Her moans break my heart – break her heart too. The other person needs you. She plans … plans so far ahead for a future that may never come to pass. There are so many of us… We can’t know them all and must live in ignorance of so many.”
She’s interrupted by the voice of someone sitting three rows back in the middle of the theatre’s auditorium. “Candice! Stop flicking your hair. I know what you’re getting at but…”
Candice rolls her eyes and stamps a foot on the stage – a hollow thump, dust jumping between floorboards. She peers through the glare of the footlights. Her voice drops the dreamy quality of Iris, and lapses into a London accent. “Mike, stow it. Get a bloody wind machine or something. We’re supposed to be outdoors by a bloody river with ducks … geese … whatever.” She elbows the actor beside her on the bench. “Tell ‘im. Hair moves outdoors. Bloody twonk.”
The male actor barely suppresses a splutter as he says, “You’ve seen it on TV or something, have you?” He’s dropped the fake yokel accent; now he sounds like a product of Eton.
Mike, the play’s producer, says, “No wind machine. Have you heard of a budget?”
The male actor splutters again, “She probably thinks they are kept in cages and fed seeds.”
Another voice, harsh and commanding, shouts, “And cut! That will do. Given that we’ve made up time, we’re going to squeeze in a go at the police station scene again. Lighting, arrange yourselves for that set.” The film director strides into the light and says to Iris/Candice, “Sheila, you’re doing well. I’m so glad you were able to replace Julia at such short notice. How the hell did you get into character so quickly?”
Lights come on; actors disperse to change into relevant costumes. A man calls from over the clipboard clutched to his chest. He addresses the actor playing play producer Mike. “Remember you need a torn red handkerchief in your hand.”
Sheila answers the film director, “How did I get into character? Isn’t that what it is all about? You are doing it too. You are just a part of a person, incomplete.”
The director frowns. “Are you messing with me?”
“We all mess with each other. We’re being messed with and the people messing with us are ourselves and others and they’re all being messed with. None of us are complete. I doubt that the thing which makes us is complete.”
“Are you on something?”
“Yes, on paper or on a screen. Don’t you see anything? Must I really live in a world of the blind? I’ll never survive.”
Jackie, an eighteen-year-old school pupil, sucks a pencil and stares at her exercise book. She whispers, “Yes, you will survive, Sheila … all of you. We have to – even if we meet no one else who can see. You are a part of me: I wrote you so you must be.” She runs through her essay, changes the name Charles to Mike, wonders if a ‘play producer’ is the right title for someone who tells actors what to do. She doesn’t really care; she has at least an hour’s physics revision to do today and feels this essay will suffice for her English homework.
Iris Ascott, a young woman, sits and dozes on an ancient bench, feels the wood through her clothes, grain roughened by years of weather.
Iris, having finished going over her memory of a daydream … or sleeping dream … or a bit of both, about a girl called Jackie doing homework, turns at the sound of geese in the meadow on the far side of the river. Tears glisten at the corners of her unfocussed eyes; a zephyr flicks her hair. She whispers, “I see so much, too much perhaps. Too much to fit into this world of the sightless.”
©Gary Bonn: 2016