it is always a good time to read Nikaela, thanks for sharing,
“But moods, of course, are only points of view.”
– Adam Phillips
“The living room needn’t be full of living room detail, though it should feel human. The space should transform and surprise. The balcony should feel high but also intimate – a close up shot.”
– Sarah Ruhl (set directions)
My attractive husband is trying to convince me to write a musical. I don’t write music I say. Beside the point he says. He wants it to be about life in our house during the pandemic, during the different stages of lockdown. I picture “code red” going off like a signal in a dark theater, red strobe lights, people running for the exits only to find them locked.
We are eating pasta with a very salty sauce; he put anchovy oil in the breadcrumbs. It has been a sad day – the oldest child cried lots, I cried lots. Our movements are sloppy. The room is warm and people’s cheeks are flushed. “Picture a simple set, a stage with four rooms.” My husband is animated. “Five characters. There would be the scene where the boys fight, and then the scene where we fight.”
I picture myself as actor/dancer breaking up a faux fight between my stage sons. Stage left: mother is roused from her stationary position with book, by the noise of the boys in the other room. A light follows her as she moves towards the commotion. My body would be all elegant and strong, I would position myself between the boys, braving light sabers and unpredictable anger, fling my arms out to signal distress, exaggerate my shapes so those in the back of the theater could see.
My husband is still talking about the musical. “Bodies would move between the rooms. And moods would change and we wouldn’t leave the house!” The boys are bickering over who gets to blow the candles out at the table. We have two candleholders that work, the rest are full of crusty wax. There is sauce on their faces. My dogged husband talks over the bickering boys. “There would be lots of jokes!” In the musical version of this, the voices of my family wouldn’t compete but form a coherent song – discord turning into harmony, an appropriate amount of tension mounting and then breaking. A solo ringing out and dissolving into laughter.
In the real life version, I miss half of what is being said and move the candles to the center of the table. There is pasta on the floor. I am tired of tension.
I am at the same time irritated and turned on by this conversation. How campy, how ridiculous. How fun, this sense of play. It does feel somewhat invigorating to stray from our standard table talk (which, to be honest, is bit tired after being quarantined for half a year) into fantasy territory. But I’ve always found it weird to plan jokes in advance. Isn’t humor necessarily spontaneous? My irksome husband thinks about jokes this way – individual, articulate bites of funny. Things that start as an idea and get fleshed out into full form. A liturgy of humor. I’m not up for the task of authoring them.
But I imagine I’d enjoy planning the set. I could make the outer landscape mirror the inner. I feel a thrill imagining the control I would have. In a happy scene, one in which a boy reads to his brother, legs entangled, heads nuzzled close, there could be a string of lights, a child’s carefree and artful painting taped up behind them. Later, the audience would recognize the painting as the crumpled ball on the floor and the lights would have become askew, indicating a change in mood, mounting sadness, loneliness, fatigue. I could manifest our moods, project them into the world. Look, here is where we are bored. Here is where we pull on socks. Here is where we rage, see the tossed pillow, the mess, the broken toy? Here is a half-clothed boy gesturing in front of a mirror. Here is the comedy, the strain, the drollery and impatience.
“And here the light and here the dark.”
– David Bergen
Thank you Nikaela, always for your words and photos. And thank YOU all for reading x