Gateways: “Waiting” by Lindsay Morris read by Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT: Lindsay Morris is a local playwright and storyteller who lives in Andersonville. She prefers dark comedy and loves to write about all the ways her vagina has screwed her. She’s performed in dozens of shows in Chicago and recently had a play workshopped with the Agency Theater Collective. She describes her work as “Larry David meets Black Mirror”.

The walls are too white. It’s like staring into the sun. It gives me a headache, all this oppressive nothingness. The only break is the clock. Even though the numbers are useless.

This is an experiment or an accident.  I’m not really sure anymore. I’ve lost track. I’d probably have forgotten the beginning entirely if it weren’t for the clock.

 It’s always daylight, did I mention that already? The windows are fogged but the light seeping through doesn’t feel artificial. Sometimes it’s brighter, other times not. The difference is so subtle I never would have noticed before all this. Now I measure my life in those brief changing rays through a viewless window.

I’m wearing a white dress. Just above my knees, short sleeved and slightly flowy. Comfortable but not particularly interesting. I have no shoes or socks. My feet are always bare but I’m never cold. The temperature in this room is a constant tepid. I hate how oppressively accommodating the air is. It’s like living in a world with no opinion.

 My bed has the only real color in the room. Resting on a raised platform it is the center of my world. The sheets are a soft hazy yellow like the phases of the sun and I wrap myself in them to escape the glare of the walls. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to see another color. I bet it would be dazzling. Starved,  I’ve almost forgotten the range of hues that exist outside of this pure  tomb. I know their names but the images associated with them have begun to fade. As though they’ve ripped from my muzzled mind.

There isn’t a door in case you’re wondering. A door is an instrument of utility. A door leads somewhere, opens into something, it can be broken down, it can be reinforced, even a locked door can remind you that there is more than what currently is. But as I said there are only these walls. 

I have no need for a bathroom, or a kitchen. You don’t realize how much you miss the most mundane of bodily functions until you live a life completely devoid of them.. I’ve had moments where all i can do is fantasize about needing to pee. Here there is no urgency. My body calls no attention to itself, apparently I am permanently satiated.

Sometimes I think that maybe I am in a perfect world. The peak of physical contentment. This sort of thinking always depresses me. When things get really dark I do things I know I shouldn’t.You can’t bang your head on a soft wall and expect any real results.

I watch the clock. The light changes, 12 hours, 12 minutes? Or perhaps it’s been a day’s worth? It’s so hard to keep a consistent record. When my mind wanders and I don’t keep track things get worse for me. Instead I try to etch the days in my mind. Try to qualify time in the old way. 

Sometimes my dreams are filled with unfamiliar authoritative voices. These unknowns are always asking me questions, making demands on my body. What the experiment was or how I came to be here is a mystery.

There isn’t much to distract me from the never ending boredom. I started to try all sorts of things to keep me going, to keep me sane. I would act out my favorite tv shows. Play all the parts, laugh at myself, imagine that other people were watching me. That I was there to entertain them. In those moments I didn’t feel so alone. I could imagine their faces: rebellious teens with too much acne getting weepy over a particularly good death scene, bratty kids singing along as I taught them how to jailbreak their iphones. At some point though I began to run out of material. I tried to make things up, but I could see my invisible audience turn away with disapproval. They weren’t interested in original work I guess. 

My concept of time gets much worse when I sleep the days away. I find that I’m on the brink of insanity when I live in my dreams. 16. The only real break comes from the cube in the middle.

Sometimes it isn’t here when I wake up. At first I thought I was misplacing it but after searching my room a thousand times over I realized that this couldn’t be the case. The cube itself is white. It has little nubs on the outside that I can feel with my fingers. I move them vertically and horizontally, shifting the cubes outer layer into different spaces.. I can’t see the changes I make with my fingers but only feel the smooth conflicting edges as I rearrange it. I used to think that it held some great answers. That if I could solve whatever the problem was I could be free. Given a pardon from eternity.

I’ve tried every combination I can think of. I have child sized hands, my…. someone used to tell me that I think. At first I struggled to move my fingers around the cube but now I’m an expert. My fingers constantly moving and forming designs denied to me by my own perception.

 I gave up at some point. I stopped playing with it entirely for awhile. Then on a whim I went to reach for it and it was gone. I was scared it had never existed in the first place but it began making short appearances here and there after that. I didn’t feel any crazier when I had it in my hands so I decided that it must be separate. Put here by someone. This I think is the only reason I haven’t completely lost it. The cube is a small comforting hand. Its presence is a signifier of another thing. 

Left, Right, up down, down, sideways, got to get it before the light changes. I stare up at the clock. up, down, click, click, tick, tick…. Light changes, light resets. I can do this. I’ve got this it’s almost.. dam….

 

Sometimes I’ll imagine the door leading out. I’ll picture it so clearly in my mind, its every detail down to its chipped paint and rusty bolting. I have dreams where I’m reaching for it and just as I’ve grasped the handle I wake up, my arm stretched out in front of me. I know it exists. How else could I have gotten here? I was not born here. I had a life once. I drove a car. Had a name….. I, well, there’s a lot of other things that I did but I try not to think about my memories too often. In my mind they’ve become so faded and overused that they are mere shadows of what they once were.

God. Once I spent an entire 12 minutes screaming. I can’t even remember taking breaths. It seemed endless. I got lost in the croaking pitiful noises emanating from my body. After a few minutes it felt like the noise was coming from someone else. I felt sympathy for that wounded animal. Eventually it stopped. It was worse for a long time after that. The silence was oppressive.. Librarians worldwide would have rejoiced at the quiet. Nowadays I rarely speak out loud. Only if I feel like a thought is permanently slipping from my mind. Then I’ll repeat it over and over again. Trying to keep it fresh enough for my memory to grasp. Mom, I say that word a lot. Mmm_o__M. MoM. I try to elongate my tongue, place the tip just right so the M sound is distinct. 

You wouldn’t think it was so easy to forget the most important face you’ll ever know. Over time though she, my mom, just became a muddy puddle, something indistinct and unreachable. I’ve tried to rearrange the pieces of her but each time I lose my way around her eyes and then the rest of her face slides back into that part of my mind that’s already been claimed by these walls. In the absence of everything it’s her love that I long for and her love I remember most clearly. 

It is not easy to be a monkey in a cage. It takes effort, dedication, it has become a religion to sit here quietly.To let the waves of anger slide off me like an infinite sea. I need to do this. To worship the endless nothingness until there’s nothing left.

I think I succeeded. That’s when something shut off in me. Irreversible and deeply important. Looking back I can’t even remember what I’m missing now. I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this. I’ve made so many concessions, given up so much. Only a small part of me has managed to stay above the numbing waves of this room. It is that part that awakes to the sound of a Beep, faint but familiar. The sound….. I can’t quite grasp it. It’s been getting louder with each clock cycle. It’s started challenging the clock in an audio battle, Tick, Tick, Tick, Beep, Beep, Tock, Beeeeep, Beeep, Tick. I stuff the palm of my hand into my ears. I don’t like the conflict. I wished a thousand times over for a new sound but this is not what I wanted.

Everything seems the same except for the constant Beeping. It’s consuming me.  It’s getting more insistent.It’s getting inside of me. I cant block it out .I can’t. I can’t breathe. I can’t move. I want it to stop. I have no voice. I’m drowning in its monotonous onslaught. Make it stop! MmmMommm..I…I ….Beeeeeeeeeeep.

———

It was 9pm at night but you’d never know it thanks to the obnoxious fluorescent lights blaring down on the hospital ward. The coma section, normally quiet, reverberated a steady beeping, bringing Nurse Emma to room 12. The heart machine’s rhythmic noises slicing into her much deserved dinner hour. Thoughts of her half eaten tuna fish drowning out the sound of her heels montonolously clicking down the hallway. She checked the patient’s vitals, adjusted and refilled her catheter and moved the call button, a tiny square box with prickly little nubs across its surface more firmly into the patient’s left hand. Maybe she’d wake up one day and move her fingers. Her hand reached for the remote and turned on the white noise machine that had accidentally been turned off. The doctors insisted the soothing noise was a constant comfort to the unconscious. Having finished with her patient Nurse Emma began the walk back to her desk, her thoughts already returning to her dinner.

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, reading all of Shakespeare online with the 14th Night Players, and—of course—here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.


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