What we need from life is precious little. Hot food, a drink of water, someone to share the roof, the food, the water, and our nonsensical thoughts with.
So it’s no surprise that the only thing I wanted from the Consort in recent times has been a room, a place where we’d both relax, find ourselves again and try and be loving. Not fighting. Discover maybe why we had so much fun sharing food and nonsense with each other in the past. A comfortable night. A comforting night. Maybe the moon would shine down on us and calm us. Maybe the moon would make him remember the old, courtly songs he wooed me with. Maybe the moon would teach me to be patient. Maybe the moon would teach us to love softly, first our own selves and then each other. Maybe the moon would teach us to forgive, first our own selves and then each other.
I didn’t realise then that I was asking for myself a scene from A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill, a play I first read when I was emotionally, spiritually, and physically strong. When I was in college. The college library had it and I wanted to read everything I could lay my hands on. Truth be told, there was no reason to pick up Eugene O’Neill. The Hairy Ape which we actually studied did not make me think of him as a great playwright. But somehow I picked A Moon… I remember crying for two days straight. I couldn’t stop. A lecturer just held my hand and said she was proud of me. And I saw that she too had tears in her eyes.
There was something wrong in the way Josie was being forced to live her life. A vulnerable, emotional virgin pretending to have slept with all the men in the village, profoundly conscious of her giant body, hiding her humiliation with a vitriolic tongue. There was something wrong about the choices James Tyrone Jr. made. A haunting past with all its repercussions is no reason to not look for a bright future, is it? It’s no reason to give in to the mess, and become an alcoholic, have whores every time it got too much, and pray to die in bed painlessly if possible.
At 21, I couldn’t live with so much wrongness and waste, even if it was in a text.
At 31, seeing it happen in my own life, I can bear it less.
At 31, accepting that I am one of the misbegotten has some terrible beauty and a vague, chilling comfort.
The comforting night did not happen. The dream of a sharing a roof, hot food, a drink, and mindless nonsense with a loved one will never happen again. The humiliation of being seen as a common, drunk slut with a sharp tongue and hardly any manners did. This Sunday I was Josie. The past did not set my Consort free. The past bound him irrevocably to the stasis that is his life, a stasis he embraced with more decisiveness than he ever held me as he continued to drink his vodka almost neat.
It happened. It’s over. There was a frightening amount of love and forgiveness on Monday. I should feel vindicated. After all, there is the comfort of having held each other through the worst of it. But I don’t. Because I know that the worst hasn’t even begun. The worst is the rest of our lives. The rest of our lives is going to be us hankering after the softness and comfort of a moon and not really finding it. The moon will shine – dimly at times, brightly at others – and look down eternally as two lives go waste. Two lives, maybe more, will go waste. He will tumble into strange sheets with strange women and I will eventually date men who don’t touch me but who will tell the world how I was a good lay. Our lives will be a waste. The waste is all that will remain.
The Consort and I. What absolute waste. Such pathos. And the pathos is what I tried to fight. What I refused to live with. What made me question my existence. What eventually led me to give up the night with the moon. Because I realised I was living Eugene O’Neill’s world. I was the misbegotten. And so there was no hope. There was nothing truly redeeming.
The misbegotten. We don’t worry about why life is the way it is, or why death won’t come soon enough to end the suffering. The Misbegotten. We only rue the fact that we were ever born as we stand under the light of a trembling moon and see a fading cigarette fume.
My eyes blur with tears and maybe shame. Or maybe I am just tired with the way my head aches. So then there is a lot of physical pain because my battered body cannot handle what is happening. There is such debilitating pain in the joints, the chest, the head. I feel something must give. I know it may never. A part of me wants to die. A part of me is dead. And so Josie’s last lines are the only comfort – ‘May you have your wish and die in your sleep soon, darling. May you rest forever in forgiveness and peace.’