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Voices From the Workshops: Diana Manole

December 6, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (7)

Books, Blood, and Seagulls by Diana Manole

Old Diana (OD)
Young Diana (YD)

Both characters are performed by the same actress.

YD: I’m 24 years old and finally back to school. I’m taking night classes and working part-time in a bank. Three times a week.  Mopping, dusting, cleaning the toilets. Sometimes, I’m asked to count money. What a strange feeling: to hold in your hands stacks and stacks of money when you’re always broke. Some bills are wrinkled with dark spots like the skin of an old man. From all of them, the country’s great heroes stare back at me.

OD: It was the smell that drew me there. The smell of books crowded on the shelves and growing old together. Have you ever smelled a new book? My friend, the poet, was doing exactly that – every time he bought a book, he’d open it, stick his nose in it, and took a huge sniff. Yeah, like he was snorting cocaine or something. Last year he sent me a friend request on Facebook. The smell of his bloody clothes came back into my nostrils!

YD: When I’m not at school or at the bank, I’m at the library. Ironically, the librarian in the Old Novel section is an old lady with a huge nose and a lot of moles. Every time I go there, I can’t help staring at them. I end up giving them names. The pinkish one on the left cheek is Sleepyhead. The small one is Bashful. The huge one on the left cheek with two black tick hairs is Grumpy. When I’m waiting in line for my turn, I’m talking to the moles. “Hey, Sleepyhead…”

OD: In fact, I came to the library to study for the TOEFL test. The $12,000 I had to come with are almost gone and I haven’t even scored a job interview. I don’t even have the money to fly back home. Back to school, that’s all I can do! If I pass the test. Each morning at 9:30. Like a job. But it’s great. Something to do. Somewhere to go. My basement room is small and smells awful. They had a flood some years back and the smell of sewage never went away. I keep my clothes in zipped bags. (gesturing towards the audience) Do you think they smell anyway?

YD: The university library is in a royal palace expropriated in 1948. They took everything out but the ceiling lamps. And the wallpaper. I read. From open to close. I’m in modern languages and my reading lists are so long! I wear ski overalls and gloves. In winter, it’s like the national uniform. They only give us 2 hours of heat per day. The national austerity plan to repay the country’s external debt.  But you can’t stop shivering. I look at the dark red walls, the golden decorations on the ceiling, and the other students struggling to turn the pages with their mittens on, and I feel better.

OD: I’m on the fifth floor. I can’t help it. I have the TOEFL book and pretend to be reading. Staring out the window at the ravine and listening. I can hear words coming from the stairs. Or the performance section reception desk. Someone is asking for a book. Someone is answering a cell phone. Two men are whispering something as if having an argument. Or maybe not. A feeing of absolute peace. And safety. When I’m home, I always keep the radio on just to hear people talk. Or riding the bus to eavesdrop. Did you notice that people chat more on the bus than on the subway? I wonder why.

YD: “…we are a vegetal people/ Who has ever seen a tree rioting? ” And then… Crowds in the street. I’m in the crowd. Waves of people leaning towards each other. Loving each other. Two happy sunny days. And then… People arrested. Killed. Blood on the pavement. A 19-year old shot in front of the university. A wooden cross with a black and white picture. My friend, the poet, showing me his scars from his night in prison. Huge scars. Ceausescu flying away in a chopper. Crowds in the streets. “Olé, Olé, Olé   /Ceausescu is gone!” I’m chanting too. And then… Street fights. Bullets flying around. Terrorists or revolutionaries? “Death to the dictator!” On the 24th of December 1989. The library burning through the night. The red wallpaper, the tall windows, the books… all melting away… And then silence and the seagulls flying over the black walls, still smoking. It’s cold again, but I don’t know where to go.

OD: Suddenly, a pigeon is flying above the bookshelves on the fifth floor. I shiver. She’s circling me and then she flies towards the elevators above the people in the main lobby. “She’s smart! The Humane Society was here but they couldn’t catch her,” says someone.

                                                                                                                                          

        

This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

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Playwright David Young will be blogging in this space from October - November, 2011 as Toronto Reference Library's Playwright-in-Residence.