Back to: [Neda and the dogs][Teodora Dimova][SLOVOTO]
The setting of an old village house. The fire is burning in the fireplace, the floor is covered all over by homespun carpets and goat's hair rugs. Upstage Zara and Jess make love. Pleasant music is heard. A silhouette approaches the outer side of the window frame - for a while, hesitating what to do next. Then it disappears and soon the door to the room opens. Neda appears at the door. She watches for some time... The music is still on. Zara and Jess continue making love. They don't notice her. Finally she closes the door.
Lovemaking is over. Jess wants to get up from bed and get dressed, but Zara keeps pulling him back.
ZARA: You're great, Dan! Yes, you are!...You're extraordinary!...
Jess manages to get out of the bed, he starts dressing. He pours himself some wine, lights a cigarette.
ZARA: (gets up, covers her body in a bathrobe) You know what - you're the greatest man I've ever known!
JESS: Have you known many men?
ZARA: Oh! I shouldn’t have said that.
JESS: How many.
JESS: How few.
ZARA: You're not jealous, are you?
JESS: No, I'm not.
ZARA: Why do you ask then?
JESS: Nothing special.
ZARA: You're jealous.
JESS: One could easily assume that you've had many lovers.
ZARA: I'm good, is that what you mean?
JESS: To put it mildly.
ZARA: Shall I take this as a compliment?
Jess kisses her distractedly. Zara makes constant attempts to embrace him, but he pushes her away gently.
ZARA: What's the matter? Are you nervous about something?
JESS: No, I'm not.
Jess begins smoking even more nervously. Pause.
ZARA: All right then, I'll tell you.
ZARA: How many men I've had.
JESS: Have you managed to count them?
ZARA: Who do you think I am?
JESS: Look, it doesn't really...
ZARA: (interrupts him) Of course!... If you're interested, I'll tell you everything...
JESS: No, please,...what everything?
ZARA: (with enthusiasm) Well, everything... from the beginning to the end... how all of a sudden the clouds disperse and the sun comes out shining again, Oh God, what am I saying...no, this is not what I meant...in fact, you don't know anything about me...just like I don't know anything about you.... Doesn't this upset you, Dan... we've been seeing each other for a year now, every week...and it's so strange...
JESS: Look, Zara...
ZARA: (interrupts him) All right, all right... I know what you'll say...
JESS: No, you don't...
ZARA: I know... my intuition is very strong... I can feel things coming before the others can... that's why I want to tell you everything right away...why are you silent? Don't you think it's unnatural to know nothing about each other?
JESS: No, it's not unnatural. That's how it should be.
ZARA: I don't believe you really think so.
JESS: But that's what I think.
ZARA: Perhaps it's only what you want to think.
JESS: I don't get you.
ZARA: All right, I'll explain.
JESS: No! I don't want you to explain!
ZARA: I think I've fallen in love with you... It might seem ridiculous to you but... You could have been my son!
JESS: We have to stop seeing each other.
ZARA: So, you've also fallen in love with me?
JESS: No, I haven't.
ZARA: A woman knows...or rather feels more than a man can express...
JESS: It's not what you think.
ZARA: You haven't realised it yet...but I know it... the way you look at me... it seems like electricity running through me... the way you desire me, the way you penetrate me... as if you're afraid of losing me, as if you feel like dying inside me...staying forever...
ZARA: I think that... it's more like you're in love with me than...the other way round.
JESS: That's stupid!
ZARA: But it scared you!...
JESS: You're imagining!
ZARA: Is it your first time? Is it the first time you've been with a woman, Dan?
JESS: Let's talk like adults.
ZARA: How do you think we talk like?
JESS: Like children.
ZARA: All right, let's hear what you want to say...come on...I'm listening...
JESS: We won't be seeing each other any more.
ZARA: When I told you to talk, I didn't mean to talk nonsense!
JESS: I can't live like that any more.
ZARA: All right then.
JESS: And I don't want to.
ZARA: All right.
JESS: Because I can't do this job any more!
ZARA: All right!
JESS: Not because I'm in love with you!
Zara starts laughing.
ZARA: OK, slow down...I'm not sure I've fallen in love with you too.
JESS: One way or the other, we won't be seeing each other any more.
ZARA: You're not pleased with the money?
JESS: No, this isn't the problem, at all.
ZARA: You prefer to have younger lovers, is that so?
JESS: You're not my lover.
JESS: All right.
ZARA: All right, then.
Jess has already put on his clothes. He sits opposite Zara, watching her. She smokes quietly.
JESS: You're a terrific woman.
ZARA: Tell me how much you want.
JESS: I want to change my life.
ZARA: One hundred and fifty?
JESS: I can't live like that any more, Zara. It's eating me up.
ZARA: Two hundred?
JESS: I can't sleep.
ZARA: Then you say how much you want.
JESS: I don't want to do this job any more, Zara.
ZARA: What job?
JESS: If I didn't like you, I wouldn’t have even spoken to you.
ZARA: I know.
JESS: I would have simply disappeared. And there's no way you can find me. You don't know where I live. Neither what I do. Nor my true name.
Jess puts on his jacket, heading for the door. Zara rushes after him.
ZARA: You can't be serious.
JESS: Let's not make any scenes.
ZARA: OK. I'll give you as much as you want.
JESS: You don't seem to understand at all what I'm saying!
ZARA: I do understand! But I won't let you treat me like that! I'm paying you, isn't that so? I'm paying you really well. You can live and study on this money! And since I pay you, you're obliged to come here and...and...
JESS: I'm not obliged.
Jess wants to open the door and leave. She wouldn’t let him out.
ZARA: So you can't stand me! You're so disgusted fucking me that even...even two hundred dollars for an afternoon do not seem to be sufficient? Is that so?!...You need to look at porno magazines before you sleep with me, is that so?
JESS: I can't sell something that doesn't belong to me any more.
ZARA: But all you sell is your penis!
JESS: That's right.
ZARA: I can't make anything of this.
JESS: It's your problem.
Zara slaps him. He stands unabashed.
JESS: I'll find you a replacement. I'll send him next week, the same time.
Jess opens the door. Zara slams the door with all her might, turns the key and takes it.
JESS: Don't force me to be rude.
ZARA: I won't let you go! I won't lose you! What on Earth do you want! Perhaps you're sick and tired with this place here? I should have thought of that earlier! Do you want us to go somewhere else? At my expense? To the seaside...Or to the mountains?...We can leave immediately...do you want to go?
JESS: No, Zara.
ZARA: But I love you...I love you, you son of a bitch!...You ragamuffin...I won't let you go...Oh, God! This is ridiculous... I don't know how we've come this far...You like being with me, don't you?...Don't you like being with me? Why are you silent? All right, say it then: "No, I don't like being with you!"...Say it! It's all the same to me if we'll be seeing each other again, just say it!...You see, you can't say it!
JESS: I wasn't coming here because of the money only, Zara. In fact, I awfully enjoyed being with you.
ZARA: You're the only thing in my life that...
JESS: Pull yourself together, Zara...
ZARA: I just want to tell you that if you stop coming...
JESS: (interrupts her) I will stop coming.
ZARA: I can't put up with this.
JESS: Yes, you can.
ZARA: I'll kill myself.
JESS: That's blackmail!
ZARA: You must have fallen in love!
JESS: No, I haven't fallen in love!
ZARA: With one of your younger clients!
JESS: Believe it or not, but I've never had another client, and I won't have any! I took the money because you gave it to me and I needed it!
ZARA: Then you must have a girlfriend - someone your age, wearing shorts and sneakers...and you've fallen in love with her!
JESS: No, I'm not in love! I don't have a girlfriend!
ZARA: Say it again!
JESS: I'm not in love!
ZARA: You're lying!...You lie to me!...Why don't you tell me the truth face to face! Why don't you tell me that I'm so ugly and old that even the huge sums of money I'm paying you can't make up for it! Why don't you tell me the truth, Dan!
Jess goes to her, takes off rudely the towel she's wrapped herself into, and takes her to the mirror.
JESS: Look at yourself! Take a good look! How old do you take yourself to be? Thirty-five? Or thirty-six? Because I can assure you that you don't look any older! Look at your breasts - perky and pointed! Look at your waist and the hips! One would say you've never given birth! Now, look at your face! Smile! Can you see any wrinkles around the eyes? Is the skin on your neck sagging? Look at your bottom - perfectly rounded! You can sleep with anybody you want! You can have a whole gang of lovers!
ZARA: Now you look straight into my eyes. How old do you take them to be?
JESS: Your eyes are like the eyes of a child - when you smile.
ZARA: What about yours?...Why do you always look at me so intensely ? So fixedly...
JESS: Goodbye, Zara.
ZARA: I won’t survive if you leave me!
He stops, looks back.
ZARA: I laugh only when I'm with you.
He goes out.
ZARA: (screams) Dan!
He re-enters. He seems to be ready to stay for good. She takes out money from her purse and gives it to him.
ZARA: I almost forgot...
He leaves, slamming the door. She lights a cigarette, goes to the mirror. Her movements become again stiff and mechanical - just like those during the scene with Ignat's letter. It looks as if on the way to the mirror she's about to commit suicide. She hesitates to dress or undress completely. She starts studying her face and body - gradually her amazement further grows into admiration...ecstasy even. As if she performs a strange dance with her own image in the mirror. No music.
ZARA: Me?...To me?... You?.... God has created you! A special creature - he needed millions of years, assisted by all his angels, in order to... When light and you were the same thing...you used to say: I have no secrets, my skin is transparent...Oh, God! What has happened?... Have I forgotten about myself?...Have I turned blind?...
Lights down on Neda, sitting at her granny's feet.
GRANNY: Look at the Silver bridge, little Veronika. That's what brought you here and will take you back, said the Angel, dressed in white. But first twilight will come. It will descend all over you and the brightness of the Silver bridge will disappear. The Garden of the Spirits won't look like today. It will be very dark and sad. But you shouldn't be afraid, the Angel comforted her. I'll be always by your side, I'll watch over you. And I'll be there to light your three candles. Then suddenly a huge grey veil fell over the Silver bridge, and Veronika could no longer see anything. She was surrounded only by deep silence and sadness.
The set is bare. The home is not visible. Neda is seated on a chair. Jess circles around her. The pauses in between his lines are very long.
JESS: Say at least one word! One sentence only!...(Pause)
Repeat after me: I am Neda. I love Jess...All right, then, say the opposite: I'm not Neda. I don't love Jess... (Pause)...Say: "this is a window"...OK. Say... "it snows out there"... Then I'll call emergency.
Jess stays on phone, dialing.
JESS: Hello? Emergency?
NEDA: This is a window.
Jess hangs up.
JESS: I don't believe it! You've finally said something!...After twelve hours!...The silence vow has been broken...(Pause.) Or perhaps this was simply to stop me from calling emergency?... (Pause) Don’t start it again!... Listen, Neda...I'm worried, I'm really worried... tell me why you don’t want to speak...(Pause) Or give me a sign to show that you're not turning insane!...(Pause.)...But this is... this is extremely cruel to me!... Do you want me to go insane? (Pause.) Or perhaps your silence is a form of a heavy pre-menstrual syndrome? Neda, is it going to be like that every month around this time?... I don't mind, I just need to prepare myself psychologically...(Pause.) Do you know how to plant ivy? (Pause.) First I'll decorate the flat. I'll throw out all the furniture that my aunt loved. Or I could sell it. I'm not going to be an artist, I'll be your husband. I'll buy a huge bed. I'll polish the parquet floor. We'll have a bed and a record player. Nothing else so that there's enough room for you to dance. You would play the records and dance. While I lie in bed, watching you. We'll have our meals on the terrace at the wicker table. I'll plant ivy around.
Lights down on Granny.
GRANNY: Soft-spoken voices were heard from far way: "Look how white our blossoms are," the spirits would say to the lilies. The heavenly dress you will put on one day would be as white and clean as the lilies. "Look how red our floral cups are" - her ears would resonate with the voices of the roses. Meanwhile the grey veil grew darker and thicker. It covered the Garden of the Spirits all over, and even Veronika couldn't see through as clearly as before. The Silf reached out and said "Good bye, Veronika". Don't go away, I don't want to be alone. You won't be alone. Your guardian angel will watch over you, though you won't be able to see him. You wouldn't even remember him for a long long time... but he'll be always by your side. And then darkness descended over the Ireloh castle.
Jess and Neda again in the same position as before.
JESS: What’s this?
NEDA: She called you Dan.
JESS: Who is she?
NEDA: My mother.
JESS: I haven't met your mother.
NEDA: I have to go.
She gets up.
JESS: Wait, what do you mean?
He places her back on the chair.
NEDA: My mother called you Dan.
JESS: I’ve never seen your mother.
NEDA: I have to go.
JESS: Please, explain this to me.
JESS: What Zara.
NEDA: Zara is my mother's name.
JESS: Your mother's name is beautiful.
NEDA: Yes, certainly.
NEDA: I have to go. (Pause.) I went out to pick up elder flowers.
NEDA: That's right.
NEDA: Near the country house.
JESS: Which country house?
NEDA: Our country house
JESS: Did you pick up any?
NEDA: No, I didn't.
NEDA: They hadn't blossomed. I have to go.
JESS: I didn't know you had a country house.
NEDA: I've never been there since daddy left. But yesterday I went there.
NEDA: To pick up elder flowers.
JESS: But you didn't pick up any.
NEDA: No, I didn't.
JESS: Because they hadn't blossomed yet.
NEDA: No, they hadn't.
JESS: I could buy some palm trees, if you want. We could plant palms on the terrace instead of ivy. Do you want me to do it?
NEDA: I have to go.
JESS: What do you prefer?
Neda is silent.
JESS: Palm trees or ivy?
NEDA: I simply have to go.
JESS: No, tell me what you prefer - palm trees or ivy?
NEDA: I don’t know.
JESS: You have to know - palm trees or ivy!
Neda is still silent.
JESS: (hysterically) Palm trees or ivy!
NEDA: I want you to go away for good.
NEDA: Far away.
JESS: Look, I have to explain something to you.
NEDA: The earlier, the better.
JESS: We need to talk, we have to...we must...
NEDA: For good. This is the only thing you can do for me.
JESS: I'm not what you think I am!
NEDA: If everything was true, if you didn't lie to me, that's the only thing you can do for me now - go away.
JESS: It's not what you think, Neda. Please, listen to me!
NEDA: No, I won't. I have to go. We won't see each other again for the rest of our lives.
JESS: I want you to hear what I have to say!
NEDA: No, I won't.
JESS: Please, do.
NEDA: I will not.
JESS: I've never begged anyone, no one!
NEDA: I said no.
JESS: I've had nobody in my life but you.
NEDA: Cut it.
JESS: Then you have to forgive me.
JESS: You must forgive me and forget about it, do you hear me?
NEDA: No. This is the only thing you can do for me. Go away. For good.
NEDA: And then he left. I haven't seen him for thirteen years now. Sometimes I think he's dead. But sometimes I feel he's alive. Once I had a dream - I was walking through the desert. And I found him. And he said: I'm sick, very sick. I'll die soon. Then I told him: no, you won't die. I won't give you away. I won't give you away - not for the world.
GRANNY: That same night Veronika couldn't fall asleep for a long time. She lay in bed, wide awake when suddenly the room became very bright and she saw the Angel from the Silver Bridge by her bed. Veronika recognized him immediately and she was deeply relieved. How nice of you to come, she said. I was a bit worried. What I've gone through today is too much and too important. That's right, Veronika, the Angel answered back, and looked at her with much affection in his eyes. Today you saw the Garden of the Spirits and the Silver Bridge for the last time. Then the eyes of the sky closed. From now on, all they can see will be the House of the Shadows. Dear child, may you be blessed on your journey into twilight... And remember, when the darkness surrounding you gets at its thickest, when monsters come stalking on you out from the darkness and loneliness, all you have to do is remember that I'm always by your side, watching over you. You should be certain about it...
Neda washes the wooden floor meticulously with a stick and wet clout. Zara enters, carrying a letter in her hand. Neda doesn't look up at her.
NEDA: Good afternoon.
Zara leaves the letter on the table, takes off her coat and starts taking out various parcels from the plastic bags.
ZARA: A letter has arrived.
Neda freezes for a moment, then she continues scrubbing the floor, without looking at her mother.
ZARA: Did you hear me? A letter has arrived.
NEDA: Yes, I heard.
ZARA: Aren't you interested who it's from?
NEDA: Who is it from.
ZARA: It's from Paris. From Naum. (pause.)...Do you want to know what he's written?
NEDA: I know what.
NEDA: That he misses me a lot. That he wants me to go there. That he would take me to Disneyland every Sunday. Is it so?
ZARA: Have you eaten anything?
NEDA: Yes, I have.
ZARA: What have you eaten?
ZARA: You've had nothing again! You don't eat anything. You'll get sick in the end.
NEDA: I did!
ZARA: What everything?
NEDA: Bread, milk, cheese, butter, dolmas, stuffed peppers, beans, olives, yoghurt, cornflakes, chicken with rice, lentils, cheese cake, eggs...
Zara watches her.
ZARA: Why don't you tell me what's the matter with you!...Why are you silent all the time!...
Zara takes out of the plastic bag a few sweaters, puts them on the sofa, and examines them. Then she takes out a magazine - first she looks at the sweaters, then - at the sweater patterns in the magazine. Scrubbing the floor with the wet clout, Neda has reached her feet - she cleans around very carefully. Zara feels nervous about it, though Neda does not notice her reaction.
ZARA: Didn't you clean this spot in the morning?
NEDA: Yes, I did.
ZARA: Or perhaps you're still scrubbing it, since morning.
NEDA: Yes, since morning.
Zara hesitates to say something, then she gives up.
ZARA: They offered me to make ten more sweaters like this. One hundred dollars a piece. They sell like hot cakes, can you imagine?
NEDA: No, I can't.
ZARA: You have to help me because the sweaters have to be ready in a week.
NEDA: I will.
ZARA: But this time they want them more winter-like, for skiers.
Neda doesn't answer, she keeps scrubbing the floor.
ZARA: Did you hear?
NEDA: Yes. (Pause.) They want them more winter-like, for skiers.
ZARA: And why have you been scrubbing the floor since morning?
Neda stops. Looks her straight into the eyes. In a while, she answers.
NEDA: Because it's dirty...The whole place's dirty. You can't imagine how dirty it is.
ZARA: Are you sure?
NEDA: I can do laces only.
ZARA: Come on! Laces on skiers' sweaters!... It's not true!
NEDA: Yes, it is.
ZARA: No, it isn't.
NEDA: Granny taught me.
ZARA: It's not true that you can knit laces only.
NEDA: The whole house needs cleaning.
ZARA: At that speed, it will take years.
NEDA: A whole life.
The telephone starts ringing. This scene should be as identical as possible to the previous telephone scene where Zara picked up the receiver, thinking Ignat was at the other end of the phone line. Neda rushes to the phone, making extremely abrupt movements, untypical for her condition.
It is obvious that the person at the other end is silent. Neda obviously thinks that Jess is calling. She obviously wants to tell him something but she doesn't dare...Obviously she still loves him a lot. All this should be conveyed through the following words "Hello... who is it... who's calling.... can you hear me?" as well as by means of the play with the telephone receiver and the cord that she unconsciously wraps around her neck. Her voice begins to tremble. She falls down on her knees, crying. You can hear how the person at the other end of the line hangs up the phone.
Her mother approaches her, unwraps the telephone cord, and embraces her.
ZARA: We'll clean the house, sweetie...we'll scrub the floor...When spring comes we'll wash the carpets... we'll decorate the place...we'll buy new furniture...Then you'll go to see Naum in Paris... you'll find a job... you'll become very famous...they'll admire your talent...I’ll visit you someday... and then the three of us - we'll all go to Disneyland.
NEDA: My life has been broken...
ZARA: It can't get broken by itself, nor somebody else can break it...Only you can do it...Come on, your life’s before you...and I love you so much!
Neda pulls away abruptly, stands up.
NEDA: Don't say that!
Neda begins scrubbing the floor again.
ZARA: Not again, please stop it!...Don't start scrubbing again!
Both exchange looks.
ZARA: You think I don't love you?
NEDA: And you think there's no need to continue scrubbing? This place is so dirty?!
ZARA: Since recently, you've become so strange that...
NEDA: (interrupts her on purpose) Do you want to have coffee together?
NEDA: Or brandy?
Neda takes out of the cupboard a bottle of brandy, pours herself a whole tall glass and drains it. The way she does it repeats Zara's gestures from the past. Zara moves toward her, takes the empty glass, as well as the bottle.
ZARA: Please, don't...You shouldn't! You know that no matter what...
NEDA: (interrupts her in the same way) Yes, I know, I do...I do know!...
ZARA: What do you know?
NEDA: That I could still find a refuge or perhaps I could find out what to do with the leftovers of my soul, if...if only...
ZARA: I'm sick and tired hearing about your soul! Sick and tired of your inferiority complexes! Of your constant moaning and groaning! I don't know what fault I have! I don't understand what you want from me!
NEDA: You don't realise what you've done!...You're not aware what’s been happening to me through all these years!
ZARA: Which years!...What years are you talking about?
NEDA: You see!...You haven't realised even that!
ZARA: What am I supposed to have realised?...Tell me what I should have realised. Can't you be happy about something, can't you...
NEDA: (interrupts her) What can I be happy about?
ZARA: Well, what really!...That you're still breathing, that you're alive and kicking, that your whole life’s before you, that the sky is blue...and the trees are green, that....
Neda seems to be mustering courage to speak out.
At this moment someone rings the bell.
ZARA: This must be the neighbour from downstairs...I won't open.
NEDA: Open the door.
ZARA: She'll keep me an hour at the door.
NEDA: Open it.
Zara goes out. In a while she re-enters - very slowly, stiff and mechanical as in the beginning.
Ignat follows after her. He carries a suitcase and a raincoat over one of his arms.
ZARA: Oh, God! My hair!...I look awful!
She rushes to the bathroom, Ignat grabs her by the hand. They look at each other for a long time.
IGNAT: No, you look.... great!
He collapses at Zara's feet. Zara slowly kneels down next to him, embracing him slowly. Neda watches them. After a while he gets up and makes a move toward Neda. Neda steps back.
NEDA: (while watching her mother and father fixedly) I'm leaving you. I'm leaving for good. I don't want to live with you any more. I don't want you to look for me. If I find a job, I'll be sending you money. The greater part of the money will be for you. I'll be sending it on the tenth of every month.
Before the stage falls in total darkness, Zara cries out Neda's name.
It's a cry about her wasted life, about Ignat's now meaningless homecoming, about her loveless attitude to everybody, about her music, dreams and life - not having come true.
Lights fall on Granny. She is about to speak but decides against it. Then the lights fall on everybody in the home - as frozen as in the beginning.
Neda circles again among the rest, lighting a match after match.
NEDA: Then I went to Paris. Naum's daughter was born there - Neda. I went on living like that. Here I am - at the end of the world, surrounded by monsters, creeping out of the darkness and loneliness. And there's no place I can run further. I called out Naum's name - Servant! Servant!... I order you to shoot me! You're the only creature who loves me, therefore I order you - shoot me dead! But you're so far away, Naum, your bullet won't reach me from Paris!...But if it is true that suicides' souls get reborn as dogs, then there's a great chance to find you Jess, I'll walk all over the Earth and I'll find you by the smell - sooner or later I will....Granny!...What was the ending of that fairy tale about the little boy or the girl who...who...What did she do?...What happened to her?...Granny?!...Answer me!... Ever since you died you don't seem to hear me, granny, please!... What happened to her?... What! (She seems to be trying very hard to remember but in vain. She can't. She'll explode.)
Finally the Angel comes. He makes a move toward her. She watches him with widely opened eyes.
NEDA: Is that you really...Oh, God!...Is it you?
He takes her by the hand and she embraces him happily.
Translated from the Bulgarian by Kornelia Slavova
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