Garden. Backyard, old house. The present. Spring.
A is an old man; B is a middle-aged man.
Character A: It was not so long ago, all of you children playing around here. Such mayhem.
Character B: Yes, I remember.
Character A: And you, the silent one. Reading. Near the pool. The same bench. Under the shadow. (Pause.) And now, look at you. Books. (Pause.) How is your son?
Character B: He’s great.
Character A: He must be very tall now.
Character B: That’s what they do, kids. They grow.
Character A: Yes. So true. (Pause.) I saw my grandsons growing up for some time, they used to come here. Every week. I was making marks with a pencil on the kitchen wall. Close to my son’s marks. They were growing up so fast, so fast.
Character B: Why doesn’t your son visit anymore?
Character A: He’s busy.
Character B: Must be lonely here.
Character A: He’s very busy.
Character B: Must be very lonely.
Character A: I have everything I need. (Pause.) I have a nurse now. Pills in the morning. I read some magazines, the newspaper. Then lunch, some saltless and tasteless food. It’s good for your health, she says. I have tea every afternoon. Some more pills. Green ones. They’re big, they’re bitter. (Pause.) The nurse comes here and … we talk about life. Life. (Pause.) She laughs so loud. She wants to steal you from your wife. She saw your picture. She will never make you laugh, for sure. But she isn’t the worst. The doctor that comes every Monday, he is the worst. He has a moustache. Wears a hat. Talks. He talks, and talks.
Character B: It’s Spring.
Character A: Yes. Already.
Character B: The birds are singing.
Character A: Yes. (Silence.) I was … very moved by your book. (Pause.) I like the birthday party chapter. The pool, blue and deep. It’s my pool. Our pool. I could see what you were imagining sitting at the bench. Looking at us, curious.
Character B: You should be the one writing novels. You imagine too much.
Character A: No, no. It’s no imagination. Just a sharp sense of … observation. We could see, boy. And you have the gift. Your eyes. (Pause.) Your father, he was a writer also. If you read his memos, they were the best. We used to read them aloud.
Character B: I tried. I tried to read his memos. I couldn’t. (Pause.) No one can read his memos. Not me. Not anyone else.
Character A: Listen, listen. They were very boring, those memos. Yes. Listen. Do not lose any of your precious time. You have a son now, a wife. Mind the future.
Character B: Why doesn’t your son come to visit you anymore?
Character A: He’s busy. (Pause.) He’s very busy.
Character B: Tell me about your work. (Pause.) I … I just want to … your job. Your work. (Pause.)During that time.
Character A: I wish your father were still with us. (Pause.) So you could bother him instead.
Character B: Did you like all those years? Did they … give you any pleasure?
Character A: As much as your father.
Character B: As much what?
Character A: Pleasure. (Pause.) If I liked it, isn’t that your question? Yes, we all loved our boring job. It was an important job. Important, essential.
Character B: I think that-
Character A, interrupting: As much as your father. Or any of our dear friends. We had-
Character B, interrupting: I think that it would be-
Character A, interrupting: Stop. Stop thinking.
Character B: I can’t.
Character A: You must.
Character B: I could. But I can’t.
Character A: You must.
Character B: I can’t.
Character A, looking at B: A lot of smart people, I knew a lot of smart people. It never ended well.
Character B: So that’s how it is.
Character A: No. Not is. Was.
Character B: So that’s how it was.
Character A: The freshness of it. The air was so clean and pure, in the office. So clean. We were so young. The whole world was so young. (Looking at B.) You could do it. You would do it if you had the chance. Your eyes, you’re the same. (Pause.) You … your father.
Character B: Why doesn’t your son visit you?
Character A: Why should he visit me? Why? (Silence.) You rehearse this, you rehearse this, the confirmation act. I tell you all that you know already. You stand up. And leave. Strong steps. How many times … how many times have you played out this scene in your head? But … your voice … your voice gives you away. You want a shelter. The shelter you need is a lie … a lie you want to hear from me.
Character B: There are things … there are things I can’t-
Character A, interrupting: You need a home to come back to.
Character B: There are things I can’t understand.
Character A: There will come an age. Older age. At this age you will be older than your father ever was. You will look in a mirror. There you will see shadows embracing you. This time will come. This time will come. And then you will need his hand. The hand of your father. Protect the good ghost. (Pause.) You could explain this to my son. He does not comprehend. You can comprehend. You can. You can explain. Make him see.
Character B: There were sons. There were fathers. At that time.
Character A: I don’t know what you are talking about.
Character B: There were mothers, too. And daughters. (Pause.) Families. Whole families. At that time.
Character A: I don’t-
Character B, interrupting: In the theater in my mind sometimes … sometimes you cry.
Character A, disgruntled: For what? Cry for what? For some lousy boring bureaucratic work?
Character B: No. No. You cry about it ending. (Pause.) It was taken away from you.
Character A: I don’t know what you are talking about.
Character B: You know what I’m talking about.
Character A: No, I don’t.
Character B: You know.
Character A: I don’t. (Pause.) I don’t.
Character B, cautiously: It must have been exhausting signing all those documents. I mean … all those years … singing documents … one after another.
Character A: You get used to things. All of us, we got used to that.
Character B: You were the best of all.
Character A: Yes, we were. We were the best. You should have seen us working, boy.
Character B: Sometimes I imagine it. (Pause.) I can’t stop thinking about it.
Character A: That’s why you visit me.
Character B: Yes. (Pause.) Yes.
Character A: Documents are … very delicate. It’s a shame you can only imagine. Oh, if you could touch them. Documents they … have emotions. They fear. Some nights the documents could not sleep. They just breathe there, in the shadows. (Pause.) I can remember all the documents I read and signed, every single one, all those years.
Character B: It must have been very tiring.
Character A: Yes, yes. Yes. It demanded a lot from us. Because a document, you see. A document, a document can lie. When you receive a document, all that it shows, all that is written, can be an illusion. The real meaning … is hidden. So you have to read the document closely.
Character B: Some documents must have demanded more than a close reading.
Character A: Sure, for sure. Documents can resist. (Pause.) We were professionals. What we did was necessary. A bureaucratic system must work like a well-oiled machine. With zeal, with order. Sometimes of course we had to write over the documents. (Pause.) And it left marks.
Character B: What marks?
Character A: Some marks. (Pause.) It was not enough to sign, to stamp, to reclassify. We had to go deeper with it.
Character B: How deep?
Character A: You know, deep, with tenderness. With care. (Pause.) Oh, your father could extract every subtext from any written syllable, word, sentence, paragraph of a document. He was the best. He was the best. (Silence.) There was once this document. (Pause.) A very innocent document. Not a lot written on it. We even all asked ourselves why that document was classified as dangerous. Dangerous enough to demand our care. Your father, he told us, this document is mine. (Pause.) But he couldn’t take care of it that same day because that day … that day was your birthday. So he told me, very seriously … he told me not to let anyone else touch that document. It was his document, he said. I’m the one signing it. (Pause.) He went home carrying a wooden horse that we all bought for you together.
Character A: I remember that night.
Character B: How could you forget? That toy was … wonderful. And we had organized a party for you for that same week. Here. (Cheerful.) The house was full. All of you children yelling, running around.
Character B: It was a beautiful document, I imagine.
Character A: Yes, it was. It was very beautiful. We respected him so much, not a single one of us dared to touch that document. We were … gentlemen. (Pause.) Your father came the next morning. The next afternoon. Another morning. Oh, your father signed that document so many times, signed it until there was nowhere else to sign. There were … holes in it. Ink blotches. It became so unreadable we had to hide it. It became so unreadable we had to bury it.
Character B: Where did you bury the documents?
Character A: Well, they went away the same way they arrived. When we looked, they were there. Waiting for our care, our reading. (Pause.) There was one man that came sometimes to repair the documents. We were very committed to our job.
Character B: I understand. (Pause.) He was a doctor.
Character A, anxiously: No. No. He wasn’t. I don’t know what you are talking about.
Character B: I mean. I meant. (Pause.) Not a real doctor. A document … a document doctor.
Character A: He was not like my doctor, for sure. Some documents, you see … it was not our fault … but some documents needed to be read more, so much subtext. It was essential. To know. That was the essence of our job: know more. It was important. It was important for our country.
Character B: And this document, my father. (Pause.) I mean … this document, my father … the document he-
Character A, interrupting: Overread? Well, if he could make it readable again, this doctor would be a priest. You know, your father did a great job there. Your father took from that document all that he could get.
Character B: I suppose … I suppose you think … I should be proud of him.
Character A: No. No. Not in the least. (Pause.) Not in the least. (Pause.) We gave this country everything we had. We gave this country our souls. (Pause.) Your father became very sad, very sad after … reading this document … for two years, more or less. He found some other similar documents. But … he told me … he told me, never the smell. You know. Never the smell.
Character B: In my memories of him, he’s always … smiling.
Character A: Mine too. Mine too. Those were golden times, boy. Those were the days. (Pause.) You loved that wooden horse.
Character B: It was the best gift I ever got.
Character A: Your father was very happy to give it to you. We helped. When you were born we all went together to see you in the hospital. The first kid of our group, a boy. You were the first one. (Pause.) I wish they were all alive to read your book. To see what you did with our lives. Of course, it’s just fiction. I know. But I can see me there, all of us. Together again.
Character B: Not everything is there.
Character A: All the essential things are there. All that is important. Love, family. Friendship. You could call my son, you could talk to him. Explain to him.
Character B: I’ll do that. (Pause.) We have a lot to talk about.
Character A: I think about my father now. I see his eyes. I would love to see my own son’s eyes when his time comes. If he ever … wishes that. (Pause.) He will live a long life. I’m patient. I’ll wait for him. I’ll receive him, in the world beyond. Be a good ghost, a shelter. Hold tight his hand. (Silence.) We had a fight. We had a fight, yes. (Pause.) We had a fight. He does not understand. It was necessary. At that time. Try to explain to him. He will listen to you. He will. (Pause.) You will see your father when your time comes, he will look you in the eye-
Character B, interrupting: I don’t know that.
Character A: Let him.
Character B: I’m not sure.
Character A: Let it be.
Character B: Not sure. (Pause.) I don’t know what I will tell him. Now that I know. I don’t know if I could look him in the eye. Now that I know.
Character A: But he will. He will look you in the eye. And I know what your father will tell you.
Character B: What?
Character A: Welcome home.