Diana Manole. The Child Who Did Not Want to Be Born

Also in Prose:

2. Таисия Короткова, картина из серии Репродукция, 2010-2012
Painting by Taisia Korotkova, from Reproduction series, 2010-2012.
Diana Manole. The Child Who Did Not Want to Be Born

 
A PLAY IN TWO ACTS
 

CHARACTERS
 
MOTHERS:

LIFEGIVERS: New mothers that delivered full-term babies and are breastfeeding them.

MILKMAIDS: New mothers are milking themselves so that their premature babies can be fed their milk.

CESARIANS: New mothers that gave birth through C-sections.

RISKERS: Pregnant women with a high risk of miscarriage.

CHILDREN:

BABIES: Healthy full-term babies in cradles.

PREEMIES: Premature babies in incubators.

ABORTED: Aborted children.

FATHERS: Of all kinds.

THE CHILD: The child who doesn’t want to be born

THE MOTHER: The mother of the child who doesn’t want to be born

 
PLAYWRIGHT’S NOTE:

The director/producer has the freedom to choose whether one or more actors play the collective characters. An ellipsis suggests that one character’s speech cuts into that of the previous character.
 

ACT 1
 
A room in the maternity ward, between the legs of THE MOTHER that cannot give birth. Her legs seem like columns that support the ceiling. The characters are grouped on the stage, doing what their character names suggest. THE CHILD is isolated on an elevated platform in the centre of the stage, in a small space that resembles a uterus, his home, surrounded by silver lighting. His movements are slow, as if in a liquid. The BABIES are in their cribs, and the PREEMIES are in their incubators, represented by puppets, worked by puppeteers dressed in black, standing next to the babies’ cribs and incubators, respectively. The lines of the BABIES and the PREEMIES are said by their puppeteers. The ABORTED are played by actors dressed in white, wearing baby masks that all have the same expression.
The LIFEGIVERS are dressed in hospital gowns. They enter the stage, obviously in a hurry. They sit on benches. Nurses bring each of them their child – a puppet. The LIFEGIVERS start breastfeeding their CHILDREN.

The RISKERS come onto the stage. They move slowly, keeping both hands on their huge bellies. They sit around the other women, forming a semicircle, on bean bag chairs. The RISKERS sigh, at the same time, then, in silence, gaze at the other women.

Another group of women dressed in hospital gowns enter quickly, shuffling along in a line. They are the MILKMAIDS. They approach a table on which there are many military-style metal cups. Each MILKMAID takes a cup and then all of them sit down on long, low benches similar to gym benches. They start milking themselves into the cups.

RISKER 1: I miscarried three boys, one after the other…

RISKER 2: Last time, I could’ve had twins…

RISKER 3: (blankly) I gave birth to a baby girl – she died.

RISKER 1: They locked me in the hospital to save my child…

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

MILKMAIDS: I never thought a 900-gram baby girl could breathe… Or a baby boy that weighs
1.4 kilograms… Or twins, of just 700 and 1200 grams…

LIFEGIVERS: When I first nursed him, he looked at me so strangely, it scared me.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD’s home lights up. He seems confused, as if having just awoken from a dream.
He looks around curiously and then starts talking, as if recalling a story.

CHILD:
The burnt-down candles
flicker
ready to go out
every time people open the doors
and leave the service
one by one.
Only the beggars keep waiting
quietly at the entrance.

(After a pause, as if in pain.)

“Help me, please help me!”

The CHILD goes into a foetal position and falls asleep. His home darkens again.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

LIFEGIVERS: Did you hear?

MILKMAIDS: Did you know?

CESARIANS: Did you see?

RISKERS: What? (No reply.)

FATHERS enter hurriedly, in a small, uniform group, almost “thrown” onto the stage. They are identically dressed and each carries a briefcase, folder, or portfolio. They look and act in an old-fashioned way. The whole group of FATHERS moves as one.

FATHERS: I wanted to marry her so much that I would never have married another. I wanted her so much that I would never have slept with another. I loved her so much that I would have jumped in front of a train if she didn’t love me back. When she said “Yes,” I was happy, I was so happy! Until I realized that we needed someone else, someone other than us. So, I took her to the doctor, and he said “yes” too. “Yes, she can give you as many children as you want!”

LIFEGIVERS: (suckling their babies) My baby’s sucking like he’s going to suck out my marrow, my brain and my blood!

CESARIANS: (walking with difficulty, holding their bellies) It’s still swollen like a boil! It’s so hot it burns! It’s so soft, that sometimes I feel like clutching it and wringing it out like a freshly-washed shirt.

MILKMAIDS: (milking themselves) The spurts of milk are thinner than the finest hair. Thinner than syringe needles! Thinner than the strands of dust that I move with my breath!

RISKERS: (sitting on the bean bag chairs) It’s too loud in here! My baby will get upset!

MILKMAID 1: At birth, the doctors looked at him like at a cockroach on the kitchen floor. They didn’t even let me see him. They didn’t want me to get scared!

MILKMAID 2: When I first took him in my arms, I thought he’d break into a million pieces. He was smiling, but his little head looked about ready to roll off onto the floor.

MILKMAID 3: My baby girl doesn’t have eyelashes, eyebrows, fingernails, or toenails… She can only be fed through a tube… (The MILKMAID rocks her metal cup like a baby) Sleep, sweetie, sleep…

RISKERS: It’s too loud in here!

MILKMAIDS: The milk is collected in the cups, as if for soldiers, inmates, or patients in psychiatric hospitals. Drop by drop, through our tired hands, bruised and filthy, smeared with dry semen and blood.

LIFEGIVERS: (as if chanting a lullaby)
Mama has a baby boy,
Small and frail like a toy!
Mama has a baby girl,
Small and shiny like a pearl!

RISKER 1: (telling a story) I slipped, I fell, I fainted. I woke up with a bloody heap of meat between my legs. Only at the hospital did I find out that it had been my unborn child on the grimy floor of the public bathroom. The second time, it was even faster: I sneezed and out he went! The third time…

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD wakes up and turns to face the other CHILDREN. The CHILD’s space and the entire stage darken. He exits his home and he walks toward the others. The only light is a spotlight following him. Puppeteers bring a big round card table to the middle of the stage. Then, they bring the child puppets to the table where they start playing cards. Each group of children can be manned by one or more puppeteers. The CHILDREN’s lines will be spoken by one of the puppeteers manning each group of puppets. However, the CHILD will only be manned by one puppeteer. Lights come up on the children’s table.

BABIES: (chorus) I was in the hands of God…

PREEMIES: (chorus) The silence surrounded me like a soft glove that was exactly my size.

ABORTED: (chorus) I was happy in my warm little part of heaven, when He decided that it was my time to leave.

CHILD: Maybe you were called.

ABORTED: Then she would’ve kept me’til the due date!

BABIES: You’ll never know. Maybe she called for you, but then she changed her mind. Shall we play?

ABORTED: And dumped me out like a present you don’t need? Of course we’ll play.

BABIES: Yeah, it feels nice to be alive. But don’t worry about it! Who knows what’s waiting for us in this world.

ABORTED: It’d be good if He’d take me back but… Stupid rule! “Children that die without being baptized …”

PREEMIES: The ones that get to see the light of day! You didn’t make it to birth. But if something happens to me… You know where I’ll end up! (laughing) A much, much warmer place. Who’s shuffling?

CHILD: I am. (He shuffles the cards very skilfully, in an elaborate manner. The cards are bigger than normal playing cards, and they are coloured red and white.)

PREEMIES: All the doctors look at me shaking their heads. “Preemies are always a problem!”

BABIES: Why?

PREEMIES: I don’t know, but in that incubator, it’s like I’m on display. Everyone’s staring at me – even my mother… You know what score they gave me at birth?

BABIES: What?

PREEMIES: A seven! (laughing) And I’m supposed to grow up to be an overachiever.

ABORTED: Seven’s better than nothing!

BABIES: What are we betting?

PREEMIES: Days!

BABIES: Days?

PREEMIES: Days of our lives. Mine aren’t a sure thing, but if I make it out of the incubator, I might get some.

ABORTED: I haven’t got any, and I won’t anytime soon. I’ll sit this one out.

BABIES: We could lend you some… with no due date to return them, of course!

ABORTED: (laughing) What about the interest?

PREEMIES: (getting the joke) Interest-free! But you have to ask us nicely!

CHILD: (deals out the cards) Good for you that you can laugh! I feel so… lonely!

BABIES: That’s the way it is before, you know.

CHILD: Everything around me is damp!

PREEMIES: Enjoy it while you can! Swim in her like in a bathtub full of saltwater foam.

ABORTED: (jealously) It’s nice, isn’t it?

CHILD: I can’t tell.

BABIES: Me neither! All I remember is that it was very warm and I wasn’t afraid of anything. (To the CHILD) Another card.

PREEMIES: I could hear her thoughts. Did you? I would’ve liked to stay inside some more and listen.

ABORTED: (very curious, towards the CHILD) Do you still hear hers?

CHILD: I don’t think so. But every once in a while, I hear a long, loud noise. Like the whistle of a steam train. (throws his cards on the table, backs up) Fold.

BABIES: What, why?

CHILD: It’s a very good hand.

BABIES: So?

CHILD: Don’t feel like winning!

ABORTED: (aside) Ungrateful ass!

PREEMIES: I’ll go.

BABIES: Mom spoke to me from the beginning. She called me…

CHILD: What?

BABIES: It’s awkward!

PREEMIES: (laughing and chanting) Tell us, tell us!

BABIES: All right! She called me “honey pot.”

ABORTED: Honey pot? Why?

BABIES: I don’t know, but I liked the way it sounded.

PREEMIES: (humming) Honnnnney pot. Not bad! (Each of the Preemies say one of the following fragments, according to his/her experience) Mine seemed like she didn’t even know about me. Working in the fields! She was very careful, barely did anything, but it didn’t help. Working the street. Cigarettes. Tequila shots. Running after the bus in the morning. Laundry, tons of laundry. Sex, tons of sex. Bed rest, mainly bed rest. Three other brats always whining to hold them in her arms. Gigantic bags of groceries. Bowling. Jogging. Prenatal yoga. Slipping on ice in her old shoes. Tripping in front of a bus rushing to pick up the others from daycare. Sex, smoking, sex. Until she was about to lose me. (After a long moment of silence, one of them addresses the CHILD) Two cards, please.

CHILD: (handing two cards to one of the Preemies) “An angel has passed…”

ABORTED: Huh?

CHILD: Chekov.

ABORTED: What’s that?

CHILD: I’m not sure.

PREEMIES: What does she call you?

CHILD: How about…

ABORTED: What?

CHILD: How about this. (tries to imitate the scream of the MOTHER) Arghhhhhh!

CHILDREN: (start laughing)

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILDREN’s space darkens and the MOTHERS’ space on stage lights up. The MOTHERS are moving slowly, like the action is unwinding in slow motion. The CHILD watches them curiously, then retreats to his place, and starts recalling a story.

CHILD:
The church smells like fresh bread
and communion wine,
painted saints drip down the walls,
an old woman kneels –
arthritis-crooked hands
clasped in a prayer
and a toothless smile
A small boy prays in a whisper.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

The CHILD goes into the foetal position and falls asleep. The CHILD’s home darkens.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

LIFEGIVERS: (each one has at her breast a suckling infant) Did you hear?

MILKMAIDS: (all are milking themselves in the metal cups, in sync and with the same motions) Did you know?

CESARIANS: (they all pass across the stage, supporting their bellies with their hands, moving slowly) Did you see?

RISKERS: What? (No reply)

A FATHER: (everyone is ignoring him) When she was pregnant, the first three months she barfed and slept. The next three months, she wondered day and night if it’d be a boy or a girl. The last three months she spent crying her eyes out, as if getting ready for a funeral, not a birth! She kept asking me: “Will it have ten fingers? Two eyes? Ten toes?” How should I know? I wanted it to end once and for all, but now she’s screaming louder and louder. (getting emotional) It’s not my fault, I’m telling you, it’s not my fault! She wanted it too!

LIFEGIVERS: Has anybody been to a church that smelled like fresh bread?

CESARIANS: What are you on about? It’s either a church or a bakery!

LIFEGIVERS: I don’t know… I thought…

CESARIANS: Just mind your kid!

LIFEGIVERS: Eat, little baby, eat!

RISKER 2: (telling her story) I was in my second month when my loins starting aching. All the midwives in the village gathered. They counted nine melon seeds, nine sprigs of thyme, and nine walnuts. They crushed them and boiled them in tsuica. I drank it all.

RISKER 1: I gave birth to a boy beautiful like the sun – he died.

RISKER 2: (continuing her story) Then they burned onions and bathed me in the smoke until my eyes burned and I was crying.

RISKER 1: I gave birth to a girl beautiful like a spring day – she died.

RISKER 2: (telling a story) Finally, they said it was over, that I would keep my baby to term, and the whole family got drunk off the rest of the tsuica.

LIFEGIVERS: And you?
RISKER 2: I miscarried on the kitchen table. No one noticed.

RISKER 1: They locked me in here immediately after I found out I was pregnant… Six months ago!

RISKER 2: Me too. If I don’t make him a boy soon, my man will dump me for a woman who can.

RISKER 3: (blank tone) I gave birth to a little girl – her skin shone like the skin of an orange under a neon light and her fingers searched for something to grab on to. She died with her tiny nose pressed against the incubator glass, as if trying to get a better look at me.

LIFEGIVERS: Mama has a baby boy,
Small and frail like a toy!
Mama has a baby girl,
Small and shiny like a pearl!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD comes out of his home and goes back to the other CHILDREN, as if he didn’t hear anything. The MOTHERS’ space darkens, and the CHILDREN’s space is the only one lit up. The puppeteers bring the CHILDREN puppets back to the table. The scene continues as if no time has passed.

PREEMIES: (laughing in chorus) Did you hear?

ABORTED: (laughing in chorus) Did you see?

CHILD: Did something happen?

BABIES: (laughing) Impossible! (Mockingly repeating the MOTHER’s “Arghhhhhh!”) That’s the sound of pain, not a nickname for a baby.

CHILD: Maybe that’s what I am; pain.

ABORTED: (after a few seconds of silence) Me too…
PREEMIES: Me too…

ABORTED 1: Maybe that’s why she threw me out. She hated me.

PREEMIES: Me too.

ABORTED 1: One card, please. (The CHILD gives him a card) Thanks. How can you hate someone before you even meet them?

PREEMIES: You can. I heard many times that I was the cause of all the trouble.

ABORTED 1: Did you hear that her life would’ve been so much better without you?

PREEMIES: Sort of.

ABORTED 2: She never told me that. She loved me.

BABIES: There it is!

ABORTED 2: Why did she throw me out then?

BABIES: Who knows?

ABORTED 2: Shut the fuck up! She didn’t throw me out! She lost me!

BABIES: How?

ABORTED 2: Just like anything else: a hankie, a book, a shoe… How do you think it felt to end up on the pissy floor in a public toilet? And there she was, at peace, like she was asleep. when she finally woke up, she started crying. (sarcastically) Thanks, mom! But it’s too fucking late to be sorry.

ABORTED 1: (jealously) And now?

ABORTED 2: I heard her talking about another child. She’s forgotten about me.

BABIES: (looking at their cards) I’ll see your five days and add two more, all right?

PREEMIES: Okay.

ABORTED: Isn’t that a lot?

PREEMIES: For me it might be all the days I have. (Toward one of the BABIES) Is it better in her arms than inside her?

BABY: (after a pause) No.

PREEMIES: No?

CHILD: I knew it!

PREEMIES: Oh, well! I can’t wait to get out of the incubator, so she can hold me in her arms. I hate being fed through a tube.

ABORTED 1: Must be nice making plans!

BABIES: Maybe she’ll give you another chance and she’ll be more careful.

PREEMIES: (one at a time) You’ll be born! Baptized! Have a life!

ABORTED 1: Guess what? (shows his cards with a flourish)

BABIES: You won?

PREEMIES: So fast?

ABORTED 1: (laughing) Yep. So many days – and I’ll never get to live any of them!

CHILD: (whispering to himself) I’m scared and I don’t know why!

ABORTED 1: (to the CHILD) I’ll give you my winnings!

CHILD: Noooooooooo! No, thanks!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The MOTHERS’ space lights up. They are moving in slow motion. The CHILD watches them, and then goes into his home, and starts recounting a story.

CHILD:
Starving woodpeckers drilled
through the shingles that cover
the roof.
It’s pouring down everywhere
inside.
Damp, poor, sneezing, the flock
keeps praying for one more miracle
to save their church.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

The CHILD goes into the foetal position, sobs a few seconds, and then falls asleep. The CHILD’s home darkens.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

CESARIANS: Did you see?

MILKMAIDS: Did you hear?

LIFEGIVERS: Did you know?

RISKERS: What?

A FATHER: (furious, but ignored by everybody) I want a son that looks like me! So far she’s only made me three little girls, and everybody’s laughing at me, saying that she’s doing it on purpose! I want a son to make me proud for the rest of my life! I want a son to carry on my family name! I want a son! I need a son! Why the hell doesn’t she get it?

CESARIANS: We have to do something!

RISKERS: What the hell are you talking about?

LIFEGIVERS: If it starts raining through the roof, the babies will get wet and catch cold!

MILKMAIDS: That would be horrible!

CESARIANS: Yes, we don’t have umbrellas!

RISKERS: What are you all talking about? How can it rain in the maternity ward? We’re on the second floor out of seven!

MILKMAIDS: (confused) I don’t know. Someone said that it rained through the roof.

RISKERS: Were you dreaming?

LIFEGIVERS: (one at a time, nursing their infants) When I cry, he cries too.

My kid’s sick. I can feel it.

She cries too. Like hooked up to a faucet tapping my soul, not my breast.

Live, baby, live! I beg you! I wanna be your mommy! (humming) Live, baby, live!

A CESARIAN: The first one died on the way home from the hospital. The second one was stillborn, and doctors don’t allow for a third C-section! What am I supposed to do?

A RISKER: That’s not true! It can’t be true! I don’t want it to be true! (She gets up from her bean bag chairs and starts roaming the stage.) I had two baby girls with two C-sections! I’m three months pregnant again and I want to keep this one, too!

CESARIANS: The doctor won’t even ask you if you want the abortion. They’ll just schedule it.

A RISKER: No one’s killing this baby! (gets up and runs away)

CESARIANS: Either they take it out, or you both die!

MILKMAIDS: She’s nuts! If she has two, why does she need another one?

A RISKER: Some people are like that! It’s never enough for them! Greed is a sin, and God knows it! But who am I to talk? (waves her hand in disgust)

LIFEGIVERS: (humming and nursing, to the RISKER) It’ll be your turn one day to have your tits chewed up by pink gums! Sharper than scissors!

CESARIANS: I can’t wait!

LIFEGIVERS: Stronger than the jaws of a tiger!

CESARIANS: I can’t wait!

RISKERS: Tighter than a bear trap!

MILKMAIDS: (milking herself, angry) Shut up! Nothing can be better than nursing your baby!

CESARIANS: When you give birth through C-section, you can’t even hold your baby, because your stitches might burst. The milk comes later, as if the distance from your belly to your breasts is too far, and a cut wouldn’t be enough for them to find out you had your child.

LIFEGIVERS: (tired, cradling baby) It’ll be your turn soon to hurt again, it’ll be your turn!

CESARIANS: (to LIFEGIVERS) Could you nurse my baby too?
And mine?
And mine?
I implore you, he needs milk! Real milk!

LIFEGIVERS: I’m not going to let your children gnaw at me! Stuff him with formula if that’s the best you can do!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD’S home lights up along with the CHILDREN’S space. The CHILD wakes up and goes back to the others, acting like nothing had happened. The MOTHERS’ space darkens.

PREEMIES: (chorus) Did you hear?

BABIES: (chorus) Did you know?

ABORTED: (chorus) Did you see?

CHILD: What?

BABIES: Whatever. Let’s play.

CHILD: No. No more.

BABIES: Why?

CHILD: I may have lost everything in another game…

BABIES: When?

CHILD: I don’t know.

ABORTED: Tell us! What’s it like in a church?

CHILD: Church? What’s a church?

PREEMIES: It’s… a house in which you light candles… and pray…

CHILD: I’ve never been in a church.

BABIES: Then why did you say-

CHILD: What did I say?

ABORTED: (bickering) Do you really think he doesn’t remember?

CHILD: I only remember that it was dark, and my face was covered with a towel that smelled like vinegar.

BABIES: Whatever! It’s still weird. I never talked before I… well, you know…

PREEMIES: Me neither. I didn’t even think about it.

ABORTED: Me neither. But now I feel sorry. Maybe if she would’ve heard me…

BABIES: I don’t think they can. Mine doesn’t even hear me now. I sit there in her arms, she nurses me, and that’s that. It’s strange!

ABORTED 3: When I was still inside, I think she heard me cry, because she cried with me.

BABIES: Why?

ABORTED 3: Everybody was telling her she shouldn’t have me. They convinced her. You know where she had the abortion? On the kitchen table, between dirty glasses and greasy plates. In the next room, dad got drunk, he was so happy.

CHILD: Why?

BABIES: What’s wrong with you?

ABORTED: Leave him alone, don’t you see he doesn’t get anything?

CHILD: Why are you talking like that?

PREEMIES: Like what?

CHILD: Like I’m not here.

BABIES: Maybe because… you’re different.

ABORTED: You should decide – you’re either alive or dead.

CHILD: Alive or dead?

PREEMIES: Yes.

CHILD: I don’t understand.

BABIES: Right now… You’re not born or aborted.

CHILD: What do you all want from me?

BABIES: Us?!

PREEMIES: What do you want?

CHILD: Nothing. I want everything to stay the way it is!

ABORTED: (laughing) You mean – stay where you are?

CHILD: Yes.

BABIES: (laughing) And live… inside your mother?!

PREEMIES: (laughing) For the rest of your life?

CHILD: Why not?

PREEMIES: What did I tell you? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!

BABIES: Maybe you should try being born!

CHILD: (suddenly screaming) Nooo! (All children look at him shocked.)

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The MOTHERS’ space lights up. The CHILD watches them curiously and then goes into his place and acts terrified. He looks around, trying to find the source of his terror.

CHILD:
Today, tomorrow, or the day after,
the little old church will crumble
to the ground,
even though no one touched it.
But You’ll do nothing! You’ll move
with everybody else into the new one.
The pretty one! The freshly painted one!
The neon-lit one.
At every service, from within the old walls,
A cry is heard.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

The CHILD moves into the foetal position, squirming and groaning a couple of seconds, and then quiets down, seemingly falling asleep. The CHILD’s home and the CHILDREN’s space darken.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

MILKMAIDS: Did you hear?

LIFEGIVERS: Did you see?
CESARIANS: Did you know?
RISKERS: What?

A FATHER (ignored by everybody): Do you know what it’s like to have your three-year-old son ask you for a candy and have to say, “I don’t have any?” And after I tell him, I want to cry, but I slap him instead. Then we both cry and when his sister hears, she starts crying too, and when their mother hears, she starts crying too, and if other people would hear, they’d start crying for the baby she’s now carrying in her belly but will lose in a few seconds, because I couldn’t help but beat her too, trying to make her understand that one lifetime isn’t enough for a man to buy candies for all the children she wants to have!

MILKMAIDS: I thought someone called for help just now.

LIFEGIVERS: You heard it too?

MILKMAIDS: I heard… something…

CESARIANS: We too!

MILKMAIDS: Maybe we should find out what’s going on…

CESARIANS: Who’s calling us?

LIFEGIVERS: Let’s help him!

RISKERS: Why? (No one answers)

MILKMAIDS: (After a couple of seconds, milking themselves) When I sit and stare at him in the incubator, I get so scared. His head is the size of a gourd, his hands are as small as clovers, and his legs reach down like two little noodles.

RISKERS: Be thankful he’s alive.

MILKMAIDS: (They stop milking) My child is as small as a ladle!

RISKERS: I’ll take him…

MILKMAIDS: (menacingly) What?

RISKERS: Give him to me and I’ll thank you for him like a miracle from God… MILKMAIDS: (menacingly) If you even touch the incubator…

A RISKER: (entering labour) Nooo!

ANOTHER RISKER: Don’t be afraid! The doctors will come and…

A RISKER: No! I don’t want to!

CESARIANS: Stop!

A RISKER: It’s too early, my child! Help me! Someone! Anyone!

LIFEGIVERS: Just stay calm! Breathe deep, and…

MILKMAIDS: Don’t push! Don’t push him out of you!

A RISKER: It’s pouring out of me! Stretching across my thighs like the seed of the man who pulled out terrified that I could get pregnant and miscarry again! (She laughs, despite everyone else’s horror)

LIFEGIVERS: She’s lost her mind! Someone help her!

A RISKER: Nooo! Not now! Not today!

MILKMAIDS: Hold on to her! Someone call a doctor! Her water broke!

A RISKER: (floundering) He’s ripping me apart! (very sweetly) No, sweet one, don’t come out yet! Just have a little more patience, and we’ll be together a whole lifetime. We were so happy with you inside me. You were in love with me, and I was in love with you, and a tired pigeon was resting on the windowsill, watching us… (She screams again and faints.)

LIFEGIVERS: She gave birth… (Rocking their babies)

MILKMAIDS: To a dead child…

CESARIANS: Oh, Good Lord!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The women start praying while the curtain is slowly drawn.
 

ACT II
 
Act 2 takes place in the same hospital room as Act 1. The BABIES are in their beds, and the PREEMIES are in their incubators. The CHILD is in his home. The LIFEGIVERS enter in a hurry and sit down on benches. Nurses give each of them their baby puppet. The LIFEGIVERS start feeding the babies. The RISKERS enter. They move slowly, holding their giant bellies with their hands. They slowly sit in a semicircle around the other women, on the bean bag chairs. The RISKERS sigh in unison and then gaze at the other women. Another group of women quickly walk onto the stage in single file – the MILKMAIDS. They get closer to the hospital table, on which there are metal cups, one for each MILKMAID. They each pick up a cup and sit down on the long wooden benches. The MILKMAIDS start milking themselves.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

RISKER 1: (blankly) I lost three boys, one after the other…
RISKER 2: Last time, I could’ve had twins…
RISKERS: I never thought I’d see a 900-gram girl…

A 1400-gram boy…
Twins… 700 and 1200…

LIFEGIVERS: When I nursed him for the first time, he looked at me so curiously it scared me.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The home of the CHILD lights up. He moves slowly, like he has just woken up. He looks around and starts talking towards the MOTHERS, as if not knowing that they can hear him. He repeats the poem he recited at the end of Act 1.

CHILD:
Today, tomorrow, or the day after,
the little old church will crumble
to the ground,
even though no one touched it.
But You’ll do nothing! You’ll move
With everybody else into the new one.
The pretty one! The freshly painted one!
The neon-lit one.
At every service, from within the old walls,
a cry is heard.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD groans a few seconds, and then quiets down, joining the other CHILDREN, as if nothing had happened. The MOTHERS’ space darkens, and the only space lit is that of the CHILDREN.

PREEMIES: (chorus) Did you hear?

BABIES: (chorus) Did you see?

ABORTED: (chorus) Did you understand?

CHILD: Did something happen?

NEW ABORTED: (approaches, stretching lazily, as if just woken up) How do you do. Have you been here a long time?

PREEMIES: Some yes, some no…

ABORTED: (intent on talking) It was bad luck, but you’ll get used to it and…

NEW ABORTED: Shut up! I meant, what do you do here?

PREEMIES: We pass the time. Want to play?

NEW ABORTED: Sure.

BABIES: Do you know the rules?

NEW ABORTED: Who doesn’t? (Looking at the CHILD, who is coming down from his home, and sitting down at the table, ignoring everybody) Who’s that freak?

ABORTED: A nutcase. He recites poetry and then screams for help. (laughing) As if poetry could hurt you!

NEW ABORTED: Do you help him?

BABIES: We would, if we knew how…

NEW ABORTED: What’s with the church he was just talking about?

BABIES: (surprised) You heard too?

NEW ABORTED: Of course.

ABORTED: Heh, heh! We’ve been trying to find out for so long!

PREEMIES: Ask him! Maybe he’ll tell you.

CHILD: I’d like to tell you all, but… I don’t remember.

BABIES: Just a moment ago, you were talking about a church! Everybody heard you!

ABORTED: (turning it into a joke) Everybody! The dead and the living, the born and unborn, even the people in the street!

PREEMIES: How did you forget so fast?

CHILD: (desperate) I didn’t!

BABIES: (to the NEW ABORTED) What do you think? Is he lying to us or not? (laughing) Is that is the question?

CHILD: I remember a blue mist… A bunch of people crying… And then they went…

PREEMIES: Where?

CHILD: Maybe to their homes. It was a holy day.

ABORTED: Did you go with them?

CHILD: (surprised) Is that what I said?

NEW ABORTED: (suddenly abandoning the discussion) Let’s play instead of listening to him!

BABIES: Okay.

ABORTED: We should bet lies, not days. Some might have more of those.

BABIES: That’s fine.

NEW ABORTED: Yeah. You know, while I was in her womb, I heard my mother say so many nasty things, that… (shaking off the feeling) I’m glad it’s over.

ANOTHER ABORTED: (amazed) You’re glad?

NEW ABORTED: Of course. Aren’t you?

ANOTHER ABORTED: (shrugs his shoulders)

PREEMIES: Who’s shuffling?

NEW ABORTED: I am.

The NEW ABORTED deals out the cards and the CHILDREN start playing, ignoring the CHILD who stands aside.

PREEMIES: Another card, please.

BABIES: Not me.

ABORTED: I’ll have two. What’s the blind?

PREEMIES: Three lies.

BABIES: If I lose, I don’t think I’ll be able to lie so much. Maybe later. (laughs) In three or four years, when I get used to it.

ABORTED: Okay, then only one, but just as big as his.

PREEMIES: Done.

ABORTED: I’ll see your bet.

BABIES: Me too.

CHILD: I’ve never lied.

NEW ABORTED: What do you think of that?

PREEMIES: Whatever!

A BABY: (showing his cards) Read’em and weep!

ABORTED: That was so fast! All our lies are yours! Who gets to start?

PREEMIES: Me! Listen! (solemnly) “I am happy in my incubator.”

The ABORTED and BABIES laugh and clap.

A BABY: That’s a good one!

NEW ABORTED: (grumbling to himself) That’s stupid.

ABORTED: It’s my turn. (solemnly) “I am happy that I wasn’t born.”

A BABY: That’s no good, do another one. (pointing to the NEW ABORTED) He says it might be true.

AN ABORTED: (yelling hysterically) Can we stop pretending? Whatever we would’ve become,
it would’ve been better than… NOTHING!

PREEMIES: (winking exaggeratedly to the others) He’s right, that lie doesn’t count. (kindly) Come on, calm down. We couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. No one ever asks us if we want to be born or not.

A BABY: (after a couple of seconds of silence, disappointed) What a pot I won. At least his lies sounded better.

NEW ABORTED: That’s what you think! Empty words!

PREEMIES: Stop picking on him. Don’t you see he’s mad?

CHILD: I’m not mad!

ABORTED: Can we keep playing?

BABIES: Sure.

PREEMIES: (to the CHILD) Do you want to play with us? It’s better than standing there alone, pretending to ignore everyone.

ABORTED: He’s right. It was more fun before.

CHILD: Why won’t you understand?!

PREEMIES: There’s nothing to understand. Either you die or you live. Are you playing? Make up your mind!

CHILD: Nooo!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The home of the CHILD lights up and he enters it. The CHILD walks slowly, as if he is having a hard time moving. He starts talking in a whisper, without looking around. The MOTHERS’ space also lights up, with the MOTHERS doing the usual things.

CHILD:
It’s a holiday and they couldn’t
all fit in the church.
They sit around it
knees in the gravel,
ears glued to the walls –
if only they could catch at least
a whisper!
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

The CHILD goes into the foetal position and squirms in pain a few seconds, like he is having a seizure. He then settles down and falls asleep. The home of the CHILD and the CHILDREN’s space darken.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

LIFEGIVERS: Is it true?

CESARIANS: Is it really happening?

MILKMAIDS: Is it possible?

RISKERS: How? (No one answers)

A FATHER: (Everyone ignores him) When my son was born, I was so happy that I knocked at my neighbours’ doors in the middle of the night until I woke them all up and told them the wonderful news! One old lady asked how many abortions my wife had had. What for? I didn’t answer, but she gave me very strange advice: she told me to pray to the other unborn children, to beg them not to take revenge on my newborn. Why would they do that? What did he do?

LIFEGIVERS: You heard it too?

MILKMAIDS: Yes.

CESARIANS: Me too! I can hear the screaming of a child.

LIFEGIVERS: Like in a story: Once upon a time, there was a woman who wanted a child…

MILKMAIDS: So she got pregnant…

CESARIANS: When the time came…

LIFEGIVERS: She started screaming in labour…

MILKMAIDS: Look at her: She can’t give birth to her son!

CESARIANS: Everyone is crowded around her swollen belly, trying to figure out why the child is crying.

RISKERS: Maybe we should promise him that he’ll never die.

LIFEGIVERS: Nonsense!

MILKMAIDS: Better yet, he should find out that life doesn’t last forever and that will make him
leave her belly!

RISKERS: What for? (The other women shrug their shoulders, without answering)

MILKMAIDS: (pointing to child in an incubator) Look at him! He’s just a little fish in an incubator, thirsting for my milk.

RISKERS: I won’t be able to give birth to him either, will I?

MILKMAIDS: What do you need a child for anyway?

RISKERS: My son might die and that’s all you have to say?

A CESARIAN: Look at me! They got him out with a knife, they cut his cord with a knife, and someday, he might be pointing a knife at someone and I wouldn’t know how to stop him.

A LIFEGIVER: (telling a story) The first Sunday, I nursed my first son on the front porch. He fell asleep. I pinched him. He woke up crying. I got scared.

A CESARIAN: To make myself start making milk, I went back to where I got pregnant. I cut a hole in the floor, and I poured a little water in.

LIFEGIVERS: (nursing their children) Eat, little baby, eat!

A CESARIAN: I listened to the water pass through floor upon floor, trailing into the basement, and entering the soil. I waited for it to come back through me, but I still don’t have milk. (Screaming desperately) I don’t have milk for my child!

MILKMAIDS: (crossing themselves)
Cross in the house,
Cross on the table,
Cross at four corners
Of the house.

A CESARIAN: (showing their breasts) Look! Nothing comes out of my breasts! How can you feed a child with nothing?

MILKMAIDS: (crossing themselves)
Cross in the house,
Cross on the table,
Cross at four corners
Of the house.

RISKERS: If you can’t help me, then at least… tell me what’s going to happen.

One of the CESARIANS slams the grey cup on the floor, while the rest put their cups slowly back onto the table. One of the MILKMAIDS approaches the table with her own cup. She places it on the table and lifts one of the cups left by the CESARIANS and looks at it in amazement.

A MILKMAID: There’s milk in this cup! And in this one! There’s milk in all of them!

CESARIANS: (approaches the table, looking into the cups, and bursting into yells of happiness)
Jesus Christ, my milk has come!
I can finally take him to breast and feel him eating!
Water has become milk!

The RISKER who aborted at the end of Act 1, the mother of the NEW ABORTED, crosses the stage, without talking or looking at anybody.

MILKMAIDS: (following the RISKER with their eyes and crossing themselves)
Cross in the house,
Cross on the table,
Cross at four corners
Of the house.

LIFEGIVERS: (rocking their babies, ignoring everybody) My breasts are searing hot, and swelling so much that I feel like they’ll burst like over-ripe melons, and my milk will spill all over the ground.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD wakes up and squirms around a few seconds, as if having a seizure. After a few seconds, he stands and goes back amongst the other CHILDREN, as if nothing had happened. The MOTHERS’ space darkens, and the only lit space is the CHILDREN’s.

ABORTED: Is it possible?

CHILD: What?

NEW ABORTED: (aside, to the other CHILDREN) He wouldn’t talk if he didn’t know what he was talking about. Let me try and I’ll make him tell us the truth! (toward the CHILD, like an interrogator) What holiday was it?

CHILD: I don’t know.

NEW ABORTED: How many people were at the service?

CHILD: I don’t know.

NEW ABORTED: Who was calling for help?

CHILD: Me.

NEW ABORTED: (triumphantly) What did I tell you? If he remembers that, then he remembers everything else too and he’s just wasting our time.

CHILD: The only other thing I remember is that they wrapped me in a cloth and tied me with long strips of it too. My head was also tightly wrapped in a towel.
NEW ABORTED: (amazed) Why?

CHILD: I don’t know, but the fabric was very rough and scratched me. My hands and feet hurt a lot.

ABORTED: (bitterly) Did they break your shins?

CHILD: No.

ABORTED: Did they cut you up so you’d burn faster when cremated?

CHILD: No… No, I don’t think so. (screaming) I don’t remember!

ABORTED: Then stop talking about pain! You’re lucky and you take it for granted!
CHILD: Sorry.

BABIES: Was it really that bad?

ABORTED: Yes!

BABIES: I didn’t feel anything. Only when they cut my cord it hurt and I started crying. I hated her then!

PREEMIES: Before I got into an incubator it was dreadful. My skin was wrinkled like an old cloth, my legs dangled like noodles, and my blood rushed through me so fast!

The BABIES start dealing cards in silence, completely ignoring the CHILD.

BABIES: What are we betting? (No one answers.)

PREEMIES: I thought that I’d eventually burst and my brain would scatter in her belly. Now, it’s quiet, and nothing hurts, and her milk is warm and tastes like vanilla.

BABIES: (to the CHILD) Don’t you even want to see her?

PREEMIES: (to the CHILD) How do you know what a ladle looks like?

ABORTED: (to the CHILD) Don’t you want her to hold you in her arms?

CHILD: Nooo!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The MOTHERS’ space lights up; they are moving as if in slow motion. The home of the CHILD lights up, he enters it and starts talking. He doesn’t seem to understand what he is saying.

CHILD:
They swarmed into the church
searching for the lost icon of
Mother Mary,
they scratched their knees
hands
cheeks
uselessly.
The bells rang for danger.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

The CHILD returns into the foetal position and starts crying instead of falling asleep as before. The CHILD’s home darkens, but his cry can still be heard, from time to time during the next scene.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

LIFEGIVERS: Did you hear? The child in the delivery room is crying!

MILKMAIDS: Did you know? The child in the delivery room is calling for help!

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) Did you understand? The child in the delivery room can’t
be born.

RISKERS: And the mother?

FATHERS: (ignored by everybody) What can be better than to have God forget you inside a woman? And not wanting to pull out for anything in the world? No matter how much she’d beg you! Because in the end, what’s the big deal? Why all the fuss? What’s an abortion if you do it at the right time? Is that a person? No! It’s just motherless and fatherless meat, drenched in blood. Why is that a sin?

MILKMAIDS: She couldn’t give birth at term.

LIFEGIVERS: She couldn’t give birth naturally.

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) She couldn’t give birth by C-section.

LIFEGIVERS: He’s just lingering in her like in an eggshell, which will soon burst.

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) He’s crying.

CESARIANS: Soon, babies will be pried by force from their mothers. You’ll see!

RISKERS: Or they’ll die inside, rotting little by little together with their mothers!

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) I wonder what these children see in their last moments.

RISKERS: They probably think of the warmth inside and crave the lost paradise of the womb.

The RISKER that aborted at the end of Act 1, the mother of the NEW ABORTED, slowly crosses the stage, without talking or looking at anybody. /////////

RISKERS: (following the mother of the NEW ABORTED with their eyes and caressing their swollen bellies) Maybe he actually doesn’t want to…

MILKMAIDS: What?

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) How could he not want to?

A RISKER: What about the children who died right in front of our eyes? What about mine? Did my baby girl choose to die? No. She’ll die inside me before I can give birth to her. Did you think I didn’t understand? That I was waiting for you to tell me?

LIFEGIVERS: Stay positive!

MILKMAIDS: If you keep her inside for seven months, then they’ll take her out and put her into an incubator. She’ll be fine!
Like mine!
And mine!
And mine.

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) They’ll help her live. They’ll force her to live.

A MILKMAID: Like ours? Numbered, measured, tied up in wires and full of needles, like a bunch of living pincushions?

RISKERS: Do you want her to live?

A RISKER: After they fill her up with someone else’s blood, because mine would be pure poison to her? Why is being Rh negative such a curse? It’s not as if I had a say in that.

CESARIANS: (nursing their children) Do you want her to live?

A RISKER: Pouring your milk down her throat, or your milk, or yours, because I couldn’t even nurse her?

LIFEGIVERS: Do you want her to live?

A RISKER: (screaming desperately) I do! I want her to live or I want to die with her!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD’s home lights up and he goes back among the CHILDREN, again acting as if nothing had happened. The MOTHERS’ space darkens and the only space lit is that of the CHILDREN.

BABIES: (mockingly) He likes it inside his ma and that’s why he doesn’t want to come out! Selfish since the womb!

ABORTED: It’s so warm and nice!

PREEMIES: Like in a kitchen where someone is baking cakes and it’s pouring raisins! Do you understand?

CHILD: What?

BABIES: You’re getting revenge because she made you without asking, isn’t that right?

CHILD: She didn’t make me!

ABORTED: (mockingly) Oh yeah? Then who did?

CHILD: (trying to defend himself) I only remember the smell of myrtle and the taste of aloe nectar. They put me on a cold red stone, and some women washed my body.

PREEMIES: Was your mother one of them?

CHILD: No. Maybe… There were three women, all called Maria.

BABIES: Maria what?

CHILD: How should I know?

ABORTED: Well, they were washing you!

PREEMIES: When did this happen?

CHILD: Long ago.

NEW ABORTED: I’m getting tired of his story! What are we betting?

PREEMIES: We’re betting silence!

BABIES: (bewildered) What?

PREEMIES: It’s very simple. The losers have to be silent until the winner allows them to talk again.

ABORTED: Great! At least this way, we’ll have some peace and quiet.

They start playing in silence, ignoring the CHILD. Everyone shows their cards. The NEW ABORTED wins.

NEW ABORTED: (sarcastic) A useful prize again! As if I’ll be needing a lot of silence from now on!

Everybody is silent a couple of seconds. The winner of the game is amused, watching the others.

NEW ABORTED: After such a busy morning, some peace and quiet is welcome. (getting bored) I can talk to myself as long as I want. And I could say whatever I want. A story, a lie, a poem. I could sing. I only know one song. I don’t know where I know it from. You won’t like it, but it’s not like you have a choice, seeing as you have to be quiet. (starts singing)

Mama has a baby boy,
Small and frail like a toy!
Mama has a baby girl,
Small and shiny like a pearl!

Mama has a baby boy…

The NEW ABORTED stops singing and starts sobbing.

NEW ABORTED: Oh, if I could’ve just been born instead of you!

CHILD: (starts screaming) Nooo!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The MOTHERS’ space lights up and they are moving in slow motion. The CHILD’s home also lights up and he enters it crying, as if he’d just woken up from a nightmare. He starts talking abruptly, as if not being able to stop thinking about the events in his dream.

CHILD:
Wind, rain, and thunderbolts
have surrounded the church,
the walls have cracked,
the tower has fallen,
the shattered bells have rolled
down the hill
toward the village.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD’s space stays lit. He remains still, softly sobbing, and staring straight ahead. The MILKMAIDS stand up and take their cups to a table near the wall on the left side. Before putting them on the table, they pick up labels on which they’re supposed to write their names. They only have one pen. A line forms beside the table, each MILKMAID waiting to use the pen.

LIFEGIVERS: Did you see?

MILKMAIDS: Did you hear?

CESARIANS: Did you understand?

RISKERS: What?

MILKMAIDS: What do I actually care about wind and rain? They’ll feed him soon. If I’m lucky, after that they’ll let me see him for a couple of seconds through the incubator glass. But they won’t let me hold him in my arms. Too high a risk of infection, they’ll say.

CESARIANS: We aren’t even allowed to get near their beds. In case, God forbid, we have a disease and we give it to them. As if they didn’t just come out of us anyway.

RISKERS: With so many problems, all we need right now is that woman constantly wailing.

CESARIANS: I was so lucky to be able to have a C-section! One cut and boom! I went to sleep fat and woke up with a child! When I can nurse him, there’ll be nothing else I need!

A FATHER: (ignored by everybody) I always wanted a child! Too bad I couldn’t make one by myself. The first woman I slept with never got pregnant. The second never got pregnant. The third, the fourth, the fifth, until I lost count. Then suddenly, one of them told me that I was going to be a father. I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it, and now… I keep looking at her in the incubator, and I still can’t believe she’s mine! She looks more like an unfinished toy, but she has a mouth, a nose, hands, and she even breathes! She breathes and looks right at me!

The RISKER that aborted at the end of Act 1, the mother of the NEW ABORTED, enters. The CHILDREN’s space lights up. The RISKER approaches the NEW ABORTED, and takes him in her arms. She starts slowly singing him a lullaby.

RISKERS: Thank you, God, for this child!

The NEW ABORTED suddenly transforms into a newborn BABY and starts cooing.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The MOTHERS’ space darkens and the only lit space is the CHILDREN’S space. The CHILD does not come down to the other CHILDREN, but stays in his home.

PREEMIES: Did you see?

THE OTHER ABORTED: Where did he go? How did he do it?

BABIES: Do you understand?

PREEMIES: No. Maybe he just dreamed that he came alive and returned to his mother.

ABORTED: Can’t be! We all dream that.

CHILD: (resigned) No, we don’t…

ABORTED: (laughing, to CHILD) Now I get it! That’s what happened to you too: you dreamt up a story and now you’re filling up our heads telling us that it really happened!

BABIES: How much longer?

ABORTED: Just tell us the truth already!

CHILD: I only remember that someone nailed me. On a piece of wood. Then, water and blood came out of me.

PREEMIES: Water?

CHILD: Yes. They burst forth, together, like a spring, and fell on the spear of a half-seeing man. The earth quaked, the cliffs crumbled…

ABORTED: No kidding!

PREEMIES: So vain! The whole world had to tremble because of him!

BABIES: Even the church fell down. You told us!

CHILD: NO!

PREEMIES: We’ve had enough.

PREEMIES: Leave him alone!

BABIES: If you want to chat, find somebody else.

ABORTED: Shut up or leave!

CHILD: I…

BABIES: What do you want?

CHILD: (after a couple of seconds of thinking, calmly) Nothing, except… I don’t want to be born a second time!

BABIES: (bursting out) What do you mean – a second time?

PREEMIES: (laughing) Who’s ever heard of that?

CHILD: No one.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD wails louder and louder, pushing his hands against the walls of his home, as if he’d want to get out, but can’t anymore. The walls bend outward without breaking.

CHILD:
The leftover incense starts
burning near the crumbled altar
as if by magic
the smoke
totally upright
an exclamation mark
seeking a message
a mouth
the word at the beginning
and the name at the end.
From the attic, a bat flies out
blinded by the flames
and raindrops trickle down
over the copper icons covered
in mould.
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Help me, please! Help me!”

The CHILD pushes harder and harder into the walls. He hits them with his fists, but, with every strike, the walls bend, but don’t break. The CHILD’s space remains lit.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

A RISKER: (laughing hard) That nasty brat is taking revenge on his mom!
CESARIANS: (nursing their children) I don’t think so.
A PREGNANT WOMAN: (laughing hard) A life of hard work for a moment of rapture! That’s a really bad deal!

A FATHER: (ignored by everybody) Where’s the dad? Why isn’t he here to help his son? If it were me, I’d have stayed until he was out and I could look at his little face made in my image, after my likeness!

A number of new women enter. They approach the ABORTED.

NEW WOMEN: (each speaks one of the lines) Forgive me!

I didn’t want to miscarry!
I’m sorry that I dumped you out!
I wanted a child, but I got scared!
Life’s so costly! How could you afford a third kid?

ABORTED: (horrified) What’s going on?

NEW WOMEN: (each speaks one of the limnes) You came back!

You really came back to me, as if nothing had happened!
I’m so happy!
I don’t want this child! I hate it! Oh God, make it go away!
It’s a blessing. A true blessing.
I didn’t think I’d be pregnant ever again!
A child?! Who wants a child?
He’s perfect! Just perfect.
Anyone?! Anyone can have him! I never want to see him again!

LIFEGIVERS: Where did these bitches come from?

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The puppets that represented the ABORTED fly slowly into the air, accompanied by eerie background music. Their puppeteers leave the stage one by one. The NEW WOMEN sit on the floor, stroking their suddenly swollen bellies.

BABIES: Did you see?

PREEMIES: Yes. All of the went back, one by one!

BABIES: It’s just us and the stubborn one!

PREEMIES: Don’t worry! He’ll die in a jiff!

BABIES: His mother too.

CHILD: Oh God, no! She didn’t do anything wrong! Up there on the cross…

BABIES: Cross?! What cross?

CHILD: (squirming) It was a hot day and they laughed at me…

PREEMIES: All of them?

CHILD: Not all of them.

BABIES: See? Be born and face the world like everybody else!

CHILD: It’s too early; it’s much too early!

PREEMIES: (laughing) How could it be too early? You’re long overdue! Didn’t you see what happened to the others?

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

MILKMAIDS: If she doesn’t get his head out, nobody can help her!

LIFEGIVERS: Get him out and smile at him: “Hello, son! Welcome to this world!”

CESARIANS: She should hurry up before they both die!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

RISKERS: What a poor excuse for a woman! Good for nothing!

The NEW WOMEN, now pregnant with the former ABORTED children go into labour and start screaming like the MOTHER.

NEW WOMEN: (screaming in childbirth pain) Arghhhhhh!!

RISKERS: (each saying one of the lines) Shut up!
It’s a miracle!
It’s a curse! You see how they’re sitting there? Like they’re in stalls!
Who cares? With so many births, one more death, two more deaths in the hospital register won’t even matter!

LIFEGIVERS: (disgusted) That’s right! No big deal.
She’s just a woman that can’t bring her son into the world!
A failure. Nothing more!

MILKMAIDS: And a child… who doesn’t want to be born! What a joke.

FATHERS: (panicked, looking at NEW WOMEN) Don’t let them die!

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

PREEMIES: Get born already and stop with the screaming! My head hurts.

CHILD: (resigned) I don’t want to.

BABIES: Why?

CHILD: (sad) I remembered how I’m going to die. Again.

PREEMIES: (stupidly) What’s he talking about?

MOTHER: (screaming in pain, seems about to give birth) Arghhhhhh!!

CESARIANS: Finally!

CHILD: (desperate) Nooo!

CHILDREN: Should we keep playing?

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

All the MOTHERS start praying as the curtain is slowly drawn.

EPILOGUE

The Epilogue takes place in the same hospital room. The BABIES are in their beds, and the PREEMIES are in their incubators. The CHILD is in his place. The LIFEGIVERS enter in a hurry and sit down on benches. Nurses give each of them her puppet-child. The LIFEGIVERS start feeding the babies. The RISKERS enter. They move slowly, holding their giant bellies with their hands. They sit in a semicircle around the other women, on bean bag chairs. The RISKERS sigh in unison, and then gaze at the other women. Another group of women quickly walk onto the stage in single file – the MILKMAIDS. They get closer to the hospital table, on which there are some metal cups, one for each MILKMAID. They each pick up a cup and sit down on wooden benches, like the school gymnasium benches. The MILKMAIDS start milking themselves.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!!

The CHILD’s home lights up, where he is moving slowly, as if just woken up. He looks around curiously, and then starts talking, as if recounting something.

CHILD: If they do this to the green wood,
What will become of the dry wood?
(After a pause, as if in pain.)
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

The CHILD goes into the foetal position and disappears. His home remains empty, but lit.

MOTHER: (screaming in pain) Arghhhhhh!! (Her scream softly quiets down.)

LIFEGIVERS: Did you hear?

MILKMAIDS: Did you know?

CESARIANS: (walking across the stage, very tired) Did you see?

RISKERS: What?

LIFEGIVERS: The woman in the delivery room gave birth.

RISKERS: Finally!

CESARIANS: Boy or girl?

LIFEGIVERS: NOTHING!

CESARIANS: What do you mean, nothing?

MILKMAIDS: Did the child die?

CESARIANS: Did they both die?

LIFEGIVERS: Neither. She pushed, and pushed, and just when everybody thought she was going to give birth – nothing!

CESARIANS: Nothing?

LIFEGIVERS: That’s right! Nothing came out of her!

CESARIANS: Maybe she gave birth, killed it, and hid the body.

MILKMAIDS: Maybe she only thought that she was pregnant.

RISKERS: Maybe the child just disappeared.

LIFEGIVERS: How?

CESARIANS: Where?

MILKMAIDS: Why?

RISKERS: God only knows.

The remaining on-stage characters continue to do their respective actions, until the curtain is fully drawn.

THE END

Translated from Romanian by the author

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Acknowledgements

First published in Romania, as “Copilul care nu voia să se nască”. Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1999. Its publication was the reward for winning the National Prize for Debut in Drama from Romanian Writers Union. The English translation was first published in Ecumenica, vol. 10, no. 1, 2017, pp. 44–72. https://doi.org/10.5325/ecumenica.10.1.0044
 
The author would like to thank Tudor Manole, her amazingly gifted and generous son, who helped her translate and edit not only this play, but also many other academic papers and poems.
 

About the Author:

Diana Manole
photo by Alex Usquiano
Diana Manole
Toronto, Canada

Diana Manole is an award-winning proudly hyphenated Romanian-Canadian postcommunist, postcolonial, and immigrant interdisciplinary writer, artist, and scholar. She holds a PhD from the Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies at the University of Toronto and has worked on numerous projects as a theatre director, dramaturge, and playwright.

Diana Manole Диана Маноле
Bookshelf
by Nina Kossman

A collection of moving, often funny vignettes about a childhood spent in the Soviet Union.

“Vivid picture of life behind the Iron Curtain.” —Booklist
“This unique book will serve to promote discussions of freedom.” —School Library Journal

by Ian Probstein

A new collection of poems by Ian Probstein. (In Russian)

by Ilya Perelmuter (editor)

Launched in 2012, “Four Centuries” is an international electronic magazine of Russian poetry in translation.

by Ilya Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967) was one of the most prolific Russian writers of the twentieth century.  Babi Yar and Other Poems, translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya, is a representative selection of Ehrenburg’s poetry, available in English for the first time.

by William Conelly

Young readers will love this delightful work of children’s verse by poet William Conelly, accompanied by Nadia Kossman’s imaginative, evocative illustrations.

by Maria Galina

A book of poems by Maria Galina, put together and completed exactly one day before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is Galina’s seventh book of poems. With translations by Anna Halberstadt and Ainsley Morse.

Videos
Three Questions. A Documentary by Vita Shtivelman
Play Video
Poetry Reading in Honor of Brodsky’s 81st Birthday
Length: 1:35:40