MONOLOGUES FOR WOMEN
Adam Szymkowicz's website
From time to time, actors ask me for monologues. I thought it would be easiest to put them all in one place. Here are some monologues from my published plays for men.
The size of the balls on this bastard comes to my district lighting fires. Causing chaos. The streets full of screeching fire engines. The danger of speeding traffic. The heat of the fire itself. Little old ladies crossing the street. Fire hoses. Dalmatians. Ladders. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What kind of person causes such chaos? It’s sick is what it is. And not a clue to be found anywhere. It’s days like this I rethink my career choice. Maybe I could design rare vases or be a scuba instructor. I’d give it all up tomorrow but then the arsonist would just get away.
I should drink coffee and stare at the photos taken at the scene of those last fires and pound my fists on my head and swear I’ll catch that arsonist. I should stare and stare at them for that one clue I’m missing and rail at God for only giving me an adequate brain and not making me a staggering genius. I should make models of the fires, map out scenarios, I should smoke one cigarette after another and not sleep and not eat and drink large amounts of Jack Daniels.
But I’d rather stay in bed with you and hold you and breathe in the smoke from the nape of your neck.
I thought I loved a woman once. We went on picnics in Central Park. We took bicycle rides. We picked out monogrammed towels. We planned to go away on vacation together on a cruise ship to the Caribbean. At the last minute they needed me at work. Crime never sleeps. And so she went alone on a cruise and met her fiery death. I thought I loved her, but then I met you and I learned what love really is.
Oh, Elise. I can’t come with you. My blood is the blood of a detective. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from hauling you off to jail. I can hold it at bay while you get on this boat. I can let it leave without trying to find out where the boat is going, but that’s your only hope. And it’s not that I don’t love you because I do, but I don’t know how long I can keep you from myself. So I need to know you’ll not perish in a flaming boat. I need to know you won’t burn yourself up. You have to convince me because otherwise I’m taking you to the station right now. Say it.
Tell me you’ll never light a fire again.
You don’t have to mean it. You just have to make me believe it.
(PRINCE JOHN is tying a message to a pigeon’s leg. He goes to a window to throw the carrier pigeon out.)
Go Florence. Go! Fly with all speed. (Holding up to his ear as if she has spoken) What? Yes, speed! Find your way to my men straight and true like an arrow. (Again.) Yes, my men. The Sheriff. Or someone who can read. Be hit not with the arrows of my enemy. Go, fly! (Again.) Yes, that’s what I said. Don’t stop to fraternize with other pigeons. Fly as if your life depends on it. Because mine surely does. A pigeon. A pigeon. My kingdom for this pigeon!
(He throws the pigeon out the window. Physically, this pigeon may drop to the ground, comically. But he watches it fly into the distance.)
(In EVAN’s room. EVAN sits in front of his computer. He is trying to tape a video for JENNY. We see the video he’s making in real time projected behind him.)
Hi Jenny. Here’s a video just for you. A sexy video. I’m . . . not wearing any underwear. No. (He stops taping. Starts over.) Hi Jenny. (Blows her a kiss.) No. (Stops tape, starts over.) Let’s do this. Hi Jenny. (He takes off his shirt.) There. That’s better. Nobody gets to see me like this except in the gym locker room. No. (Stops tape. Takes off the rest of his clothes. Starts over. The video just shows him from the waist up.) If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this. This is me. All of me. I’m not holding anything back, Jenny. I will show you my soul. Because I feel like you have shown me yours and it’s beautiful. You know, I like birds because they float above us without effort. You’re like that too, Jenny. I wrote you this poem. Okay, yeah. I’m just going to read it. (Reads from paper)
when you move
all the world stops
to watch you sail past
a vision in a tanktop and jeans
and where you stop
everyone fumbles with their hands
and their hearts and nervous systems go into shock
and when your eyes fall on us lucky few
we feel the blessing of your gaze
but it’s like we’re standing in front of the whole school
and everyone is waiting for us to fall over
You make me fall over
twenty times a day
I love you
(EVAN gets to a bad place in his head. EVAN goes to his laptop, films himself. He is projected much larger on the back wall, like before.)
Okay. So I guess this is it. I always thought—well that doesn’t matter. I always thought somehow someday I would figure out what I’m good for. But . . . now . . . it’s clear I’m not good for anything.
I guess I should say don’t blame yourself. This isn’t your fault. No, fuck it. If you feel a little bit sorry for me at all, it is your fault. It’s everyone’s fault. It’s my father’s fault. Mom, this is your fault. Everyone at school, all the students, all the teachers, the principal, this is all your fault. I want the guilt to eat you up. I want you to wonder what you should have done for the rest of your life. (pause) What am I talking about? No one will miss me. No one will care. No one will feel bad. You will all be happier.
I could never fit in. I’m too weird. And that’s not going to change. I can’t not be who I am. I wouldn’t know how.
So, I guess I’ll never get to kiss a girl. I will never see a Red-Crowned Crane in the wild. But what’s the point of that anyway? It’s just a fucking bird, right? No one cares about fucking birds.
I’m sorry for being in your lives, for wasting your time.
Okay. This is it. Goodbye. In my next life, I would like to be a bird. If requests are allowed. So long.
(EVAN raises the gun to his head. A beat. Another beat. A tap on the window. He looks up. JENNY is outside.)
(to the screen.)
Okay. Hold on a second. I may be hallucinating.
I’ve been careful, always very careful. Before touching a woman I put on rubber gloves. Some women are taken aback sure, when you pull out rubber gloves and dental dams but what kinds of women are those?—women that know they have diseases. And those are not the type of women I want to know in any case. So when people ask me if I’m upset at being a virgin at my age, I say no way.
I’m just looking for a clean woman. I am not against kissing—I just want to make sure her mouth is well cleaned first. If she would brush her teeth and then gargle with mouthwash for a minimum of sixty seconds. I, of course would also brush and mouthwash. I like cleanliness, that’s all. We are all dirty. God knows I scrub my hands before putting those rubber gloves on.
THE WHY OVERHEAD
You better run. You better be afraid of me. I am a man. I am a big man and I won’t take this kind of insanity from a girl like you! I have scaled mountains. I have forged rivers. I have run in races. I built snow caves and spent the night in them. You hear me?! I jumped out of airplanes. I drove a motorcycle. I am very hairy. I work out two or three times a week. With free weights. I eat lots of vegetables. I am a fairly good pool player. Also pinochle. I could catch a tiger if I had the right equipment and enough time on my hands and if I was in the vicinity of tigers. I have a charming personality. I can make up jokes that people repeat later and don’t even realize they’re mine. I can make intricate cages out of popsicle sticks. My chest is enormous! I am a wealth of knowledge about music and musicians, especially in the years nineteen fifty nine to nineteen ninety-four. I write poetry. I won an award once for punctuality. My smile is terrific. I used to be a choir boy. I can peel oranges with great speed and dexterity. I am good at choosing shoes. I once played tennis for three hours. I am omnipotent! Okay, well maybe that last one isn’t true. But I am a man and I will crush you. You hear me?! YOU HEAR ME?!!
“Manifesto to leave behind after everything has happened to explain why in case it is less than obvious.”
(DONALD clears his throat, reads.) “There are certain times in history when certain actions become necessary. Right now it is a time when there are great inequalities. I have taken on the responsibility to right wrongs to stop injustice and to use the pen here and later the sword so that the words from my pen will be read. Anyone can write anything, but you also have to get people to read what you write. That’s what the sword is for. I stand before you a man ready to take drastic actions. There are men that take actions and men that do nothing but complain. We are all angry but only the brave few who stand up and fight back will be able to accomplish anything of note. History will show that my actions were the right actions at the right time. History will record today as the turning point for America when a wave of citizens led by me took back their country.”
“I ask that in my absence, one of my future followers take care of my cat Mittens. She needs neither food nor water. She has evolved beyond life. She only requires company and for someone to talk to her and listen to her. I know that Mittens and I will see each other in the next life and I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a conduit for my messages from beyond the grave. In the past, I have spoken to many great leaders through her. Like Marie Antoinette, John Adams, Martin Van Buren, Henry Ford, and a spirit guide dog named Hamish. So when you need to reach me, ask Mittens nicely and I’m sure she will oblige. And through her I will give you future guidance on how to overthrow the government and corporations and create a civilization for the people by the people. The right people, that is.”
“In conclusion, when statues of me are built, I ask that Mittens be portrayed as well in bronze or gold or whatever. Her guidance has been incredibly helpful and without her I couldn’t have accomplished what my actions accomplished. Like the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the small deeds of today will reverberate for generations.”
“I sign this with my left hand though I am right handed.” And then I signed it. Do you like it?
At the end of the day, when the shit goes down, it turns out I’m not who I thought I was. And that makes me sad. I mean it’s important to know, but I want to be the kind of person that starts a revolution not the kind of person that doesn’t. I don’t know. I’m going to need to go home and talk to my cat. If she’s still there, that is.
FOOD FOR FISH
When you have visions that beat at your brains while other people are talking. When you hear non-stop streams of screams. When synapses pop or won’t stop crackling, and when blood pumps, and the pounding don’t stop pounding. Then you look for an exit to start the ending or search sideways in vain to extract a distraction, but even then, what will curls of hair give to you, hips and breasts, lips sip out of you, in a moment, distract what abstraction pounds-pounds ‘til you steal . . . a kiss.
I dress in haste, pull the hood on my head and I take to the street, boot in front of boot to find her. Who will she be tonight?
Last night she was brunette, blue-lipped and serious, mouth curled around a tiny white smokestack, long leopard-fur coat collecting snowflakes on its tips. When she stopped in the streetlamp, I was there. I was a boy and she was not afraid. She took a drag and I took her lips and all her smoke and sadness drained into me. She gasped in the kiss and the snow fell on her lashes. When she opened her eyes, I was gone.
That night I took my silver pen knife from the drawer of my desk—the only furniture I own. I opened the blade, splayed my left hand on the desk and stabbed myself with the right.
(BOBBIE stops typing.)
No! No! NO! That’s not right. No one would do that. It’s so fucking stupid. It’s so fucking . . .
(BOBBIE stops himself, takes out a knife, and stabs himself in the hand. He yells out in pain.)
(A coffin sits prominently in the sister’s apartment. BARBARA –played as a woman by a man in drag--sits beside it. ALICE is reading a scientific journal and making notes. SYLVIA is reading a newspaper.)
It’s been a year since Father died. When Mother died, I was only seven and three quarters but I had to become the mother to you both as well as your older sister. Did I do right by you? I tried, you know.
I had to learn how to be a woman from television. “One Life to Live,” “Days of Our Lives,” “All My Children,” “General Hospital,” “Daylight Menagerie,” “Passionate Embrace,” “Dallas” and the magazines of course. I skipped Seventeen and went straight to Mademoiselle, Ms., Playgirl, Good Housekeeping, Home and Garden, House and Kitchen, Modern Woman, Lady of Leisure. I stayed home like a mother would and studied, catalogued every gesture and practiced-practiced to be an adult so that you didn’t have to. Then when you came home I would show you what I had learned and you would smile. Because I had kept you from the pain and from the responsibility of being a woman.
Now that Poppa is dead I must learn to be a father to you as well. I watch my husband carefully to see if he is the right model. He must be firm yet flexible, strong yet not afraid to show weakness, quiet and reserved, yet emotional and expressive. He must be bold. He must be vulnerable. He must not be afraid to show fear or to cry in front of others. He must not be a sissy. He must work all day and then come home and then he must take out the trash. He must give orders and take suggestions. He must do as I say but never be influenced by exterior forces. The leader of the house, and of course, my servant. In short he must be a man, the new man--like Father was and like Father would be still if only . . .
Do you remember a year ago today? Father fell asleep watching Fox news and didn’t wake up. There was a panic of course and the shock and the sorrow eventually.
(BOBBIE paces, he looks at the letter again. He crumples it up and throws it. He pounds the desk in anger, then puts a new sheet of paper in the typewriter. He types.)
Dear Sir, Did you even read my masterpiece? If you had, you would not be sending me this form letter of rejection. Not unless you are indeed a complete and worthless moron. I do not accept you as an arbiter of real talent. I have more talent than all of you put together if it comes to that! You with your hackneyed conventions, have usurped the foremost places in art and consider nothing genuine and legitimate except what you yourselves do. Everything else you stifle and suppress. I do not accept you. I do not. It was optimistic of me to think that you were not an undiscerning fool.
Are you all conspiring against me, you with your form letters on separate letterheads that converge into one voice? As punishment for this, your highest crime, know that you have pushed me to eschew publication altogether. Know that you and the others and the world at large will miss out on the rest of my work which I shall never again let you touch with your dirty and destructive hands. My work belongs to eternity now. To the universe of ephemera. But never to you. May you find your just punishment knowing you have kept another genius from the hungry world who aches to hear him. Sincerely, The Author Who Would Have Made You Famous.
I know the tricks of being a boy. I know how to act like I’m not interested. I know how to feign disinterest. I know how to walk away, how to not call, how to ignore her insinuations that she likes me. In short, I know how to play dumb. I know all this not from being taught but because I am a smart boy and that’s what smart boys know.
But I can no longer use my tricks of being a boy. Because suddenly I am in love and all the crafty tricks I’d collected are useless against her laughter, her dimples, her eyes. In short, I am no longer a smart boy. She has made me dumb.
About us. We got married too quick. Your father was sick then already. And we leaped into the thing even though we didn’t know each other very well. You were my first love and then before we knew it we were married. You were taking care of your father every day and then the fear came for you and you stopped leaving the house and I trudged to work day after day and tried to become numb and not think about what was I doing. It was my life. Work and home and work and home. And at home, your father was coughing into his oxygen tank and your sisters were bickering. I was becoming smaller. In the office, I had a new boss every few months--they were interchangeable in their corporate slogans and brand name business attire and just as I would get used to one, he or she would be promoted and so I never knew any of them long enough for them to even know what I was supposed to be doing. Not that I could tell you that. And I still can’t. I’m not even sure who I am. I’ve become so insignificant.
HEARTS LIKE FISTS
(Spotlight on DOCTOR X, a truly terrible creature with sunken eyes and deep scars all over. Disfigured, stethoscope round the neck, wearing a doctor’s lab coat, carrying a doctor bag.)
I have a face like a bowl of worms. Squirming around the ticks, the scars, the moles. It’s disgusting. A face like this. It’s absurd, without meaning or purpose. And I honestly can’t say if I’m an experiment gone awry or if I was just born this way. I have no origin. I have no memory. I can only remember you. The way you looked at me, the first time you saw me, it was like you saw the bowl underneath the worms. Your face was like a china plate. Perfect. Whole. Pristine. And you looked at me, the way you looked at me—
The patient had died. That much I remember. His wife was wailing but I couldn’t hear her. Because you were there and everything else melted away. “Let’s have a drink,” you said with your face like a plate. And we drank and we drank and we went to my place and we made love like normal people. And it continued that way for days, weeks, years. I can’t say for sure. Why can’t I remember? If I could only remember, maybe I could find you.
Or maybe I could figure out when how why you grew tired of me. Was it then I became what I am? Your body was like liquor and I couldn’t get enough, couldn’t spend a night without you, a minute, a second. I didn’t know you weren’t drunk on me. How could I have missed the diagnosis? How could I have avoided the bald shock, the morning discovery, to wake up and find your note?
And now I can’t remember anything except you. Your face everywhere I go. You will pay. Everyone will pay. You will all pay dearly.
She will hurt you. She will break you over her knee. She will hurt you and she will tear you and she will rip you apart. Who are you that you think you can withstand her? You are just a man. You are a vulnerable man with tiny veins and blood rushing through you too fast. You have your career. You don’t need complications. Not now. Now when the heart is just about ready to be tested. You are no one. No one and the heart is everything and you can’t sacrifice these things for a tingling in your toes. For a pretty face. Such a pretty pretty face. Carries an electromagnetic field wherever she goes. Makes your heart beat faster than it has in years. She will break you. She will hurt you and tear you and break you and pull you until there will be nothing of you left. She will—
(PETER stands. He takes his coat and leaves the restaurant.)
(DOCTOR X approaches a sleeping couple who have arrived surreptitiously. He prepares his needles.)
I don’t have to think when I’m working. I don’t have to feel. I don’t get angry about the things I can’t remember because all I need to know is the work in front of me. Everyone will pay! And the things I can remember don’t haunt me. Her face like a plate. Her disappearance. Or her laugh, always startling, but runs right through you. Or who I am. Who am I? I don’t have to think about that now. I have lovers to kill. I can concentrate on the damage I will inflict. You will all pay! There is something satisfying about an accomplished task. How can you be ever truly depressed if you accomplish all you set out to do? Someday it’s just enough to get out of bed. Or to kill a couple of people. No more. Yes the refrigerator is empty but as long as something was accomplished, well then, it’s back to bed. A sleep and maybe in the morning, a remembering. A thought about my mother. A vision of a room. And her, always her, with a face you want to eat off. (He injects them both.) Well that’s done.
(PETER in his workshop in the hospital, takes an artificial heart out of a box. It beats.)
Here you are, my spare heart. Mother said, always have a spare. You never know, she said. Do everything twice. Just in case. Always have an extra pencil. Always bring an extra sandwich. And give it away if you can. To the kid with the torn jacket who smells like pee. And if they say thank you, say “you’re welcome,” or “think nothing of it,” or “no thanks is necessary.” Tell them “I can see you’re a human being who needs something. We all need something sometimes and if I can be the one to help, well that is good, but next time it could be you that helps and that will be good too.” Always do what you can to help. And if you think someone is laughing at you, look away. Look away. You’ll save them all some day, she said.
And now I will. I look to you, artificial heart. I look to you and I hope you know how to beat endlessly like I taught you. Because I’m going to make a million of you, and then another million, and another. Anyone who wants you, can have you. Anyone who feels weak will be made strong by your comforting weight and your life-saving pumping. You will be the circulatory saver of this world. But right now, I’m the one in need of your help. I’m the weak one, the sick, the damaged, the other. I’m the kid with the torn jacket, except the jacket is a heart.
Tomorrow, they will crack my chest open and put you inside, and then I will never need to be afraid again.
They say it’s like riding a bicycle, you never forget how to perform surgery. But I’m not sure they were talking about those of us with brain damage. We’ll have to see, just have to see. My hand seems to know what to do. Sometimes the hand knows things the brain doesn’t and we should just trust the hand. Now we make the incision. How about there? That seems to be a good place for a heart.
I don’t have to think when I’m working. I can just slide into the moment, escape into the process. Surgery is a kind of escapism. You can leave your self behind and cut cut cut. It makes me wonder if my self is still here. Maybe I was never lost. Maybe I was always here, just waiting to pick up a scalpel. It feels good. I’ll say that. It feels good. Sleep, now, sleep. I owe you that.
My cat died last week. Thirty seven years old and died falling off the counter. She was dead before she hit the ground I suspect. I still haven’t buried her. I’m too sad about it. I just stuffed her in the freezer and now whenever I want a popsicle, I see her and I start crying again. On top of that, yesterday, I was sitting on my couch and I noticed a tear in it. I should probably get some thread and stitch it up. It’ll just get bigger if you don’t do something about it. You know what they say, a stitch in time . . . something something. Something about stitches. But it applies universally. To all ways of fastening things. Like pull up your zipper now or you’ll be cold later. Or take the antibiotics now before you giveit to other people. Or like, go to rehab before you OD on cough syrup or PCP or whatever. Or like, take care of your mama. My mama’s doing okay. In fact, I was having a pretty good day if I wasn’t thinking about the cat or my couch. But then Shotgun shot me in the foot. I’ll probably get gangrene. I’m hoping the burlesque show might cheer me up. Hey what are you guys doing?
Thanks. I just don’t want to come off as fragile or something. Just because I don’t like roller coasters. I mean to say, I function in this world. No, I guess, not all the time, like there was a while when I just wanted to crawl under my bed and spend the day there but I was really unhappy and I just got out of a bad relationship and had a terrible job and I just
hated my life. And yes I guess I still do have panic attacks sometimes and suddenly am afraid my hand is going to fall off or that I’m going to stop breathing and I freak out but then I realize I’m still breathing and I’m probably not going to suddenly die and I’m OK. I suppose I thought for a long time I would be dead by now like in some horrible plane crash or car crash or like a stray bullet and I would be dead by like twenty but here I am and I’m not dead. So what I’m saying is that I’m, you know, pretty healthy now, not depressed or anything and I’m not like a daredevil. No, I don’t have tattoos or piercings and I’m not going to drive a steel rod through my head, but I’m not going to curl up on your couch and cry or anything.
I learned early that if something is pretty it must be wrong. Or it made me do things that were wrong which was the same thing. It’s not my fault there is beauty everywhere.
Because when you look at something beautiful, it takes a little piece of your soul away. But you can’t just let that happen. You have to do something. So you take the beautiful thing and run, because you think that will make you feel better but it doesn’t help. It makes it worse somehow but what else can you do? You have to try to grasp it. You have to hold something like that in your hands. And when it takes from you, you have to take back. You can try to stop, but . . .Why aren’t you drinking?
Some people get locked up and some people never do. If you try to kiss the staff they will lock you up. It is illegal. Many men in suits never go to jail. That’s because that’s because that’s because they aren’t me. They aren’t broken. They walk on the surface of the water while everyone else is stuck in traffic or your car breaks down. Their cars never break down. They are super untouchable. They get married they have wives and children because they are men that are not born broken. They are the people who are up on the big screens. They are on the TV on the radio in the newspaper because they are the chosen the good, the other people. They can kiss whoever they want or kill even. Even kill. Because they are uncatchable or they are forgivable or they are perfect. They have people lying to help them. Their mothers loved them and told them so. Their mothers helped them up the stairs. Their mothers had a lot of money and a lot of good things in their bodies that they passed on while they lived in their good homes. They were beautiful and rich and were friends with all the people you are supposed to be friends with. Like doctors who can lie for you. Like doctors who can fix you. Except they don’t need fixing. Not the super untouchable. They have legs like razors and eyes that magnetize. They are pretty. They are everything. Like Allegra. I wonder if Allegra is super untouchable.
MONOLOGUES FOR WOMEN
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