by Jacobo Bergareche
“Nor has life in it aught better
Than this hour of clear coolness
The hour of waking together.”
Julieta, a 35 year old Mexican woman
John, a mechanically ventilated 35 year old man in a comma
A hospital room with a big window
Int. Hospital Room — Day
JOHN is wearing institutional pajamas. He is lying on his bed, mechanically ventilated and unconscious, in a coma. There is an empty chair next to his bed. We spend two minutes with him alone, listening to his breathing.
After the two minutes, Julieta enters the room. She looks relatively young. She is dressed informally, but with a touch of elegance, she wears a coat, and comes with a big umbrella, some flowers and a big handbag.
Julieta looks around. She takes her coat off and leaves it on the chair, she leaves the umbrella standing against the wall. She takes some withered flowers from a vase and puts new ones in.
It turned out to be such a nice evening, who would’ve thought? The sky is all colors now. Five minutes ago it was an ugly sky… and Dallas with an ugly sky is twice as ugly.
Julieta remains quiet and pensive for some time. She caresses John’s face with tenderness. She looks at him as she touches his face. Then she smells him.
Yep… you’re clean. It would be bad for them if you weren’t… (Combs his hair) Let’s get your hair right, babe. (caressing his hair and smells). Not the best shampoo, though.
Add: She goes to the table where her bag is placed.
I’ve got quite a lot to tell you this time. These two weeks have been … interesting, especially last night. But first, I’ve got a surprise for you.
She opens her handbag and produces a champagne bottle. She leaves it on a side table, by his bed.
Yes, the famous bottle. I still have it. It’s hard to get rid of it. I tried, but…
Anyway, here it is. Never touched it all this time. And I kept it just as you so anally insisted it be kept: lying down, in the dark. It was all dusty. You would’ve loved it, with spiderwebs and all, It looked like it came straight out of a chateau’s wine cellar. Very authentic, old bottle look. You would’ve posted a hundred pictures of it on instagram, not that you’d ever let a bottle sit that long to get the dusty look. I wouldn’t either, but this one… you know, (sighs) It’s okay, I made up my mind. Today we drink it…
Julieta places the bottle in John’s hand. She makes him touch it.
(Pause, touches the bottle). I meant to chill it but, I was at Matt’s place and it’s not like I could show up with the bottle and ask him to chill it and then not open it. I meant to open it there, but then… Anyway, it’ll still be good. It won’t be the same, and you’d tell me it’s a crime, but… es lo que hay, corazón.
Julieta can’t talk for a moment, she presses her eyes, trying to contain the tears.
I can’t have it any longer.
Julieta pauses, takes a deep breath. She tries not to cry. She composes herself.
It’s not like I’ve been staring at it. In fact, it’s been out of. sight. It’s just knowing it’s there that does it. I can feel it there. It’s been behind those boxes you stacked up in the garage. I was hoping to forget about it, but I can’t. I can walk by your hat everyday and it doesn’t register, but I walk into the garage and all I think of is that bottle, mostly ‘cause I’m always looking for an excuse to get rid of it. and just before getting into the car yesterday I told myself it would be a nice present for Matt’s birthday . He turned thirty-five and that’s an important age. You always said after thirty-five you’re not young anymore. It’s over. So, I thought, “that’s a big enough occasion to open the bottle, since he’s the first one to turn thirty-five,” then me, then you. Then I got there and I couldn’t open it. I couldn’t even get it out of the car. It didn’t feel right. I mean, it’s not like I could’ve opened it there like I had bought it at a random liquor store. And I wasn’t going to bore them with how important this bottle is… Carla probably thinks I’m a piece of shit for not bringing anything, but fuck her, It’s not for them. Anyway, we’re going to drink it, right now, here, like it should be. Even if I have to sleep in the car after we’re done. I’m not driving back to Austin with this bottle.
Julieta goes silent for a moment. She cleans another tear, and she manages to placate the impulse to cry. She caresses John’s cheek. She stands up, walks around the room, looks at the bottle, sits down again, takes the bottle in her hands, and reads the label.
I remember the day you came home with it. It was. the first Sunday of October. You came home with that bottle like you had returned from the Crusades with the holy grail. Just another one of those gifts we both knew was really for you. You know I don’t care about Champagne or wine or anything fancy. I don’t care about those things. You knew I’d rather get an airport t-shirt, a postcard, a flower, I would’ve been so much happier with just a flower. And when you saw I didn’t give a shit about your bottle you had to tell me you spent a thousand euros on it… a thousand euros, what’s that, fifteen hundred? That did it, then I cared Fifteen hundred. For a Champagne bottle… How could you tell me? You knew I was going to get angry at you… And I did.
Julieta is silent for some time, pensive. She reads the label again. She starts ripping the aluminum capsule around the cork. She fumbles inside her bag, takes her wallet and produces a scrap of paper. She reads it and laughs.
Yeah I’ve kept this in my wallet, all this time, like the fool I am. I still laugh at it too. I should’ve thrown it into the toilet with the champagne after you slipped it under the door (she laughs quietly, then imitates John’s voice as she reads) “I know you hate me right now, I know you think I’m an idiot, and you’re probably right, but you should know that what I brought to you is not a fifteen hundred dollar Champagne bottle. It looks like one, but it actually is an alarm that will ring the day a unique instant of bliss comes to our lives. An unmistakable moment when we will not be intimidated by the price of this bottle. An instant of shared joy in which we’ll feel that opening this Champagne or a Bud Light would be equally meaningless, for all things will have lost their value the moment the clock strikes on that radiant instant…” God you loved to talk. You were so full of shit…
Julieta sheds a tear but controls herself and calms down. Breathes deeply. Looks at the bottle.
Alright, so much for drama. It’s time for this bottle…
Julieta stands, exits on one side (the bathroom) Julieta grabs the bottle and starts pulling the cork off carefully, in a controlled way.
JULIETA(in the bathroom)
I’d love a champagne spectacle. A little scandal, the cork flying off, foam spilling. But it’s not gonna happen.
And comes back with a little glass.
I don’t want to be kicked out of here,yet, mi amor. Yes, very ugly glass, no shit… but what can you expect? We’re in a hospital…
Julieta opens the bottle and pours herself a full glass.
You taste it first. Maybe it’ll wake you up (laughs)… Four years without a drink. It’d be unbelievable.
Julieta grabs the bed sheets and dips a fold inside the glass, and then puts the fold on John’s mouth, she twists the fold, so the drops fall into his mouth.
I know, not cold enough, but don’t complain.
After making John taste the champagne, Julieta takes a short sip, tastes it, nods with approval and drinks the whole glass as if it were a shot. She serves herself another glass. She takes her phone out and takes a selfie with John and the bottle.
Weird selfie, right? But it’s the first time I drink here. (She takes another long sip) I like first times (She fumbles for an e-cigarette in her bag). You know how it is, there’s no drinking without smoking –If you can call this smoking… Don’t worry, I won’t get caught. And if I do? I’m not leaving until we’re done. One party night in four years. It was about time, wasn’t it?
Julieta stands with the glass, sipping a little, and walks to the window. She opens it and puffs a little from the e-cigarette and looks at John.
You’re dying for a puff. I’m sure we can do something.
Julieta takes a puff, holds the air in and walks to John, kisses him and blows the smoke into his mouth.
Bet you want more. (Laughs)… No más, mi amor. That’s enough. This is the kind of thing people get put in jail for.
Julieta walks back to the window.
This is stupid… (takes a last puff) Let’s not ruin the party. It’s only vapor anyway, nothing is real anymore.
Julieta drinks the whole glass, serves another one and takes a magazine she carries in her bag and fans around to clean the air.
So it’s like a felony now to smoke a real cigarette within a mile from a hospital… It’s crazier every day. People give you ojo if you smoke in their backyards. You have to ask for permission everywhere.
Julieta sits down and drinks.
Try smoking at Matt’s place now, you’d think it’s worse than spitting in Carla’s face. And he still smokes. (She takes another long sip) Last night at his party, I take out a cigarette before dessert, and I say, very politely, that I’m going out to the street to smoke, ‘cause Carla already made it clear there’s no smoking on the property, not even in the backyard. That’s how crazy she is. And I know they have two kids now, and smoking is a bad example and that cigarette butts makes the trash smell even worse, whatever, I understand. Even though I never knew a child who died because guests smoked near them after a fucking dinner party. In my house it was always like that, but anyway, I understand. I mean who knows how I’d go about it if we had had kids… So anyway, I asked Matt if he wanted to join me for a smoke, and that bitch, you should’ve seen her. She lost it, “can’t you wait until after dessert to smoke? You need it that bad, you don’t respect that I’ve spent all day cooking. for you?” She went nuts, she really was angry. And that’s how it is now. You wouldn’t like it.
Julieta takes a couple of sips. Raises the cup and looks at the bubbles against the light.
This is really good, hon. It really is a crime not having chilled it, but like I said, I couldn’t take the bottle to Matt’s, ask him to chill it and then walk away with it. I meant to do it, if only for Matt,
Julieta drinks the whole glass as if it were a shot and serves herself another cup.
I know you love them, they’re your bros and all, but… it doesn’t feel the same. Yesterday I just wanted to run away…
Julieta drinks. She remains pensive, drinks again.
And it’s not about the smoking it’s all about dinners now. You should’ve heard. Carla telling us how she arranged the sitting. She introduced such etiquette, like serious protocol, she planned the dinner like a diplomatic affair or something: “you sit here, sit there, boy, girl, boy, girl…” No couples together, ‘cause the rationale is for people to mix, so that it doesn’t all end with the guys on one side talking about work and football and the girls on the other side talking about diapers and strollers. And the arrangement kind of holds for the first hour, but it just makes everyone anxious to eat everything in five minutes. I mean, they have plates with their initials, and Pottery Barn tablecloth, and proper fish knives… Where were they. hiding all that shit back in the day? And you can’t enforce your stupid seating arrangement beyond dessert. You should’ve seen the moment Carla announced dessert was coming, all your buddies were already up and ready to disband. Some went straight to the bar, and the rest started lining up for the bathroom to feed their noses. One by one now, They don’t go in twos anymore… ‘cause officially no one does drugs. They’re all daddies. So anyway, dessert came out, and in just five minutes, the boys are with the boys and the gals with gals, and the girls are having a decaf around the coffee table, and I don’t know how, but I always end up with the guys. It’s not even a conscious thing, it’s just the way the party broke. up. I always end up with your buddies.It’s like I’m not a woman… or maybe like if I were the only real woman there. (She drinks) But, let me tell you what happened: so for the entree, Carla cooked this super fancy roast beef, which apparently took a. hundred hours to prepare. All sorts of caramelized shallots and what not, and of course all the conversation was about how incredibly hard it was to cook that piece of meat. And yeah, it was impressive, I mean, given that she could not fry an egg when we met her –and when I finished, I got a craving for a smoke. And- Matt was shaking and really anxious to smoke too, and that’s when I perpetrated my unforgivable sin. As soon as I said it, Matt got up immediately and said “I’ll go with you”, ‘cause of course he has a joint hidden in a flower pot by the door. And Carla saw him get up and pull my chair to help me out and she looked at us with this –psycho stare, intense. hatred and anyway, we went out to the front yard and there… (sighs)… Okay, this is weird…
Julieta drinks the whole glass a shot and serves herself another cup.
He kissed me. Matt! -Holy shit, right? But you know him. He does this kind of -no, this… this was way off, even by Matt’s standards. I mean he was half drunk, but we were in his front yard. Anyone could’ve come out, his neighbors, Carla, anyone, and he didn’t care he was just all over me before I could even realize it wasn’t a joke. I was shocked. I couldn’t even react. Then I pushed him back. Then there was this moment where he tried to convince me to kiss him, slurring, telling me how he’d always felt I was this… (She takes a sip) Anyway, I stopped him right there, before he could really fuck up. And don’t get me wrong, I was two tequilas short of having a romp on his driveway. I’m horny like an inmate, but imagine the mess. No, not with Matt. And it’s fine. We talked it all out this morning. After breakfast we took this long walk. (Takes another sip) I really felt bad for him. He started spilling his guts out, and told me absolutely everything. He started having sex with prostitutes, and how his life had turned so shitty. I just couldn’t stop remembering him last night, so close to my face, just feet away from his house, and Carla inside, risking his marriage, and I kept fantasizing with the idea that you were Matt, and I was stuck inside like Carla, putting away some piece of meat I had been cooking for a hundred hours, and commenting, to whomever, how I had learned to cook so well, and I could totally see myself after the dinner, talking in the kitchen with the women your friends married, comparing strollers and talking about how the Montessori will make your kid a genius… while you were out in the front yard, puffing a joint you had hidden from me in a flower pot, and hitting on the one woman there you could safely hit on. I don’t want any more of those dinners. They’re not my people. I’m done.
Julieta drinks what’s left in the glass and pours herself some more. She drinks, relaxes and then thinks for a while, she looks at the bottle, takes it in her hands.
So, see I couldn’t open it there. Not the famous one-thousand-euro-bottle. God, it just drives me crazy to remember the price. You could’ve brought nothing at all and it would’ve been okay. I would’ve forgiven you for that trip, like so many random things you did. But you had to come back with this stupid bottle. I should’ve thrown it out of the window right then. I even thought of cooking some chicken with it. I should’ve done that, and I wouldn’t have had this fucking bottle messing with my mind – — it’s not even the bottle, it’s the moment… “the unique moment”. For you it was blah, blah,, but for me — words mean things to me. You knew that, which is why you used so many words with me… (Pause) The “unique moment”. I fantasized about that unique occasion right from the start. I had planned it all out. I even had the menu. I called nana and asked her for her recipe for chile en nogada. And when I went back for dad’s birthday I spent a day cooking it with her… I really had it all thought out. I’m not like you. I don’t improvise things… and I was gonna use mom’s green tablecloth. And I would put a huge bouquet of peonies in the Lalique vase on the table… and we would’ve fucked right there, after drinking the whole bottle, ‘cause after that there wouldn’t. be any more drinking for me in a long time, and you know a Mexican can’t say goodbye to alcohol without getting drunk one last time… even if it was only going to be for nine months… (Sighs, pensive) It was so clear to me, but I didn’t dare tell you. I was so scared of telling you what that “unique moment” was going to be. Don’t ask me why… Now it just seems so normal, but then I was so embarrassed to tell you I had my mind made up about the big occasion. It was like if telling you was gonna make me so pathetic, so stupid. Like you were gonna think I was just like Carla and all your friends’ wives. You always said all they wanted was to get pregnant, so that they could get their little doll, with all the accessories, the van, the house in the middle of nowhere and the hubbie that wakes up early on Saturdays… Don’t get me started.*
Julieta drinks. She thinks. Walks around.
And it’s not like I feel superior in any way… it’s not that. I mean we’re not that different, are we? They’re educated, too. They’ve travelled. And that didn’t save them from the roast beefs and the gardening workshops… I’m boring you, right?
Julieta sighs, she holds John’s hand and caresses it slowly.
It’s all so strange… Yeah, drink some more, you need it…
Julieta damps a corner of John’s sheet with champagne and puts it in his mouth and squeezes it. Then she drinks too. She gets up and walks to the window.
When I was a kid I always thought that if you were gonna turn bad, it would all start at seventeen or so… I had this idea that if you were going to become a junkie, or a prostitute or anything like that, it would all start happening right before college, but if you made it past school, and you graduated from college it was all okay. You reached a safe haven. If you had a degree, it was like you’d be normal, like you’d be the person you thought you’d become.
Julieta goes back to John’s side and sits. Takes another sip.
And then you find out there’s still so many things to save yourself from, so many things you can fall into. Look at everyone who became alcoholics, or cokeheads or porn addicts, or all that together.And it’s the same for women too, only it’s Chardonnay instead of whiskey… but that’s just vices, and that’s not all. I’m talking about. It goes well beyond that. Like joining a congregation, for example, like seriously being part of whatever church you find two blocks from home. Or even just becoming a… stay-at-home-mom gossiping all day long, una vieja chismosa like mamá said… (Takes a sip) You think you’ll be yourself, the person you wanted to be, but then you just grow stranger… and you don’t even know how it happened and suddenly you’re a Methodist, or you’re a fat mom, or –Pete. You’re gonna love this! Pete Johnson, of all people. He’s hooked on hookers! No shit, that’s his thing. He has all the numbers, he knows all the places. He’s got a viagra dealer too, cuz apparently there’s viagra dealers now. Can you believe that? Yeah, Matt told me all about it this morning. Oh he really spilled it all. (Takes a sip, sighs) He says it’s all because he feels so isolated, so lonely… like it’s all changed. And all this time I thought I was the one who was alone, but then when I heard Matt… it’s even worse… ‘cause supposedly they have all they wanted. What we all wanted. The kids, the big houses, pools and all. You should see Pete’s, it’s like Schlitterbahn.But then they’re so… (Takes a sip) I don’t know… So Matt told me he only fucks hookers every so often, but that Pete does it all the time. Like very planned, scheduled with two partners from his firm. “poker night” they call it. And after “poker night” he goes back home to Jane, who’s pregnant again, and it’s all fine because he’s all showered and smelling nice, and he tells Jane he does it to take the smell of the cigars off. When did Pete became so audacious? And you see him, and you’d think it’s just the same old Pete. He still spends half his life at the country club playing golf with Jane, and they go to the same church on Sundays and it’s all quite normal except for the fact that he specifically likes threesomes with big, black prostitutes, mmhm. They must always be black and come in pairs. It’s a fetish. Big black asses… all according to Matt. But I believe it, you know I love to believe these things, and so do you… But tell me, when did Pete start fetishizing black women? When do these things start?… and don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a shit who’s ass. Pete loves to suck. What I’m saying, again, is that suddenly people do strange things and they become strange people because they keep doing strange things, and hiding them, until those strange things become routines. I know I’m ranting, you’d laugh at me right now (imitating John) “Being normal? Are you listening to yourself? So what’s normal? Tell me, love, you tell me”… But you understand me too. I know fucking prostitutes is a thing. What I’m saying is that suddenly it all takes an unexpected turn, and before you know it, you’re doing things you said you wouldn’t do… And to me that’s not the scariest thing, because after all we’ve always imagined how it could be doing the things we said we would never do, like we’ve already done them in our minds. The truly scary thing is the stuff you never knew you would do… the stuff you didn’t even imagine. That’s when you become strange, really…
Julieta takes another sip and realizes the glass is empty, so she fills it up again.
And I don’t want to become strange. I don’t want to let life change me like that. It’s like none of them really knows what’s coming next, like something is draining them empty, and they have to fill their emptiness with golf, or gardening, the dinners… whatever’s next…
Julieta remains silent for some time, holding John’s hand, she kisses it, presses it against her cheek. Then she stands up, serves herself one more glass and drinks it as a shot. She walks around the room.
What’re we gonna do, John? What do we do?
Julieta stays looking at John for some time, as if she were waiting for an answer.
‘Cause I can’t go on like this. I can’t… But then after last night, seeing all your friends, their lives. I say to myself… What difference will it make to switch you off? Other than not having to come to Dallas ever again? It would’ve helped if you had crashed two blocks away, really.
Julieta sits down and pours herself another glass, she lets the glass sit.
And it’s mamá, Carla, Pete. even Matt… they all think if I switch you off, I get my life back. And what does that mean? I fall in love, marry and have kids like everyone else, and it’s all solved? No more sadness? (Takes a sip) No, mi amor I’d switch you off just to make to make them all shut up.
Julieta tries to say somethings, but can’t find the words. She tries hard not to cry.
Es que no puedo más. No puedo… I don’t want to shut you off you just because of what they think (pauses, drinks)… and then all the paperwork here and in Austin. You gotta ask for thousands of permits.It’s like managing a death sentence or something. You need a doctor to approve it, a judge, and all that time you have everyone commenting on if you have the right to do so, if you’re doing the right thing. You have the Christians knocking at your door, chasing you, telling you to wait for the miracle.Like your aunt Christy. She sent me a bottle of holy water from the Jordan river, you know, in Israel, and she wants me to pour it all over you… you’d be amazed at all the holy water she has sprayed on you, like she were performing an exorcism or something…
Everybody comes bashing into your life. I don’t wanna go through that shit. It’s much easier for me to pull that tube from you right now and get it done with . Just the sound of it gets on my nerves (she imitates the sound of the ventilator). I really hope you can’t hear it, that noise all the time… If you could hear it, you’d shut it off too… (Pauses, drinks) Dr. Marsh says you wouldn’t can’t. feel anything. He says you don’t feel anything, and you can’t wouldn’t. feel anything…Like your aunt Christy. She sent me a bottle of holy water from the Jordan river, you know, in Israel, and she wants me to pour it all over you… you’d be amazed at all the holy water she has sprayed on you, like she were performing an exorcism or something…
Julieta drinks a small, sip. Pauses, breathes. She calms down and grabs John’s hand.
But then there’s all these people who really want a miracle. They think that if you’re not up and running around it’s because I didn’t pray hard enough… Like your aunt Christy. She sent me a bottle of holy water from the Jordan river, you know, in Israel, and she wants me to pour it all over you… you’d be amazed at all the holy water she has sprayed on you, like she were performing an exorcism or something… You’re gonna laugh at this, but… two days ago, I’m drove past that huge, ugly, white Catholic church… And as I drove. by, I suddenly took a turn and stopped there. Don’t ask me why ‘cause I don’t even know what got into me. I went into the church, it was empty, except for some old women praying a rosary together.And there was this homeless guy at the door –I gave him ten dollars, like you would’ve done. He reminded me how you loved to give money to anyone who begged you in the street… like that poor guy you took for dinner at McDonalds. (laughs) You were kind of a closeted Christian, weren’t you? But anyway, so I’m in the church, and I crossed myself… me, crossing myself, like I was seven and going to church with my nana I don’t even know why I did it. And then I sat there, in front of this huge, very serious Greek-style Christ, and I told him I was coming here today –telling him in my mind, not actually talking, I’m not so crazy yet — so I told him that I was so confused with this situation and and I see that in the corner there’s a confessional So I go to the confessional and I kneel down, (laughs) yep kneeled down. and I confessed. I told this priest all about us, and that I was coming here and how I was thinking about disconnecting you, shutting off the machine, just that. And he was quiet, for a like an eternity, and then he says, “sólo el Señor puede quitar la vida,” only the Lord can take life away. And I told him I didn’t want to kill you, I was only going to shut off the machine, and again he said, “ sólo el Señor puede quitar la vida.” So, I asked him if it was a sin to shut off the machine and again he said, “ sólo el Señor puede quitar la vida,” Like he was in a loop, he wouldn’t say more, so I just stood up and ran out of the place…
Julieta notices the glass is empty, she serves herself a little more. Takes a sip.
And what does that mean anyway? That if I shut you off it’s not me Who’s killing you? That it’s always God who takes a life? Or does it mean that I have no right to go and shut off this fucking machine? That I have to wait to see what God wants to do with you? See? It just added confusion… (Julieta drinks again) I can hear you laugh “that’s magical thinking, Julieta”, …
Julieta laughs and takes a sip.
So, I am starting to do strange things, without even thinking. Like the other day… I stole. I shoplifted. Me. These shoes. I didn’t even like them. , But it got into my head, and I just did it like a robot, automatically, no hesitation. It was so easy. I took my shoes off and I put a pair of six hundred dollar stilettos these on, and walked away all cool. And after I walked two blocks I started shaking, shocked at what I had done. And I went into this bar and asked for a dry martini, which I’ve never ordered before and I was trembling. Not because I had stolen, but because of what got into me. This thing of doing something out of character without knowing why, and doing it so naturally. We’re all becoming strange. Me, too. It’s scary…
Julieta stands up, looks at the ventilating tube John has on his throat, she touches it, she grabs it. She stays grabbing it and staring at it for a while. Then she lets go, she takes the glass and has a sip, she walks around the room.
Acting first and thinking afterwards… I don’t even know what I’m talking about, mi amor, maybe I’m becoming insane. It would start that way I guess, doing things and not knowing why. And then you wake up one day and suddenly, you’ve become a hoarder or something. ‘cause it all starts when you’re lonely. It’s shoes, or church… (Pauses, takes a sip, thinks) I thought I was lonely whenever you went on one of those random business trips., or when Matt showed up in Austin, and you went to see some band playing in town. And I waited for you reading in bed, until midnight, and then one, and two, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night and you were still not there. But, in the morning, a you’d be snoring next to me. And now there’s no one. It’s not easy starting the day alone. I open my eyes, and if there’s any light, I jump out of bed, and run into the shower and I dress not even thinking about what I’m putting on, and I rush out. I get breakfast on the way into the office or I simply don’t have breakfast. But the thing is I run away. Just like that. I can’t stay in bed in the mornings. Like the bed is full of razor blades. And maybe it’s not the bed, maybe it’s the light or … that moment, when I wake up. And I don’t know why I do it, this running away thing. I don’t think about it, I just leave the room. And then last week, it all became so clear to me…
Julieta stays thinking a while, searching for words. Her tone changes.
Cómo te lo digo… you’ll understand… it’s been four years and it’s not the first time anyway, you know that. But, it’s now that I understand.
Julieta thinks, pauses, she takes John’s hand.
So I’ve met this… well, I kind of knew him already, he’s a client –but he’s quitting the job, so it’s okay in that sense. But then he’s married… Anyway, it’s not like I’m in love. He makes me laugh, so that’s something. He comes to Austin almost every month, and he does like you did when you had your business trips, he squeezes all his meetings in one morning, and then he just parties for two days –and I’m not saying that’s what you did, but I’m sure you didn’t need to stay three days anywhere just for a meeting. So, anyway, yes. Neil. The thing with Neil –oh, by the way, you’re gonna hate this, he’s Canadian, but he’s like a cool Canadian. There’s cool Canadians. Anyway, you’d like him, but where I’m going with this is that he asked me to join him for dinner last week, tells me he’s getting together with this very cool couple he knows in Austin, so I thought it’s not like a date. But, then I get there and he tells me this couple had a last minute problem with their kid, and you can see it’s obviously a lie ‘cause the reservation is for two, and he had already ordered a whole bottle of wine. Boy I could see it coming… I mean the guy had the nerve to tell me after a couple of glasses that the thing (imitating Neil) “aboot” the couple was all bullshit, and that he really just wanted to get drunk with me. That he’s been wanting to do that ever since we started the project. And he just kept on pouring wine in my glass, up to the brim, as if he had to fill a pool with wine…We hadn’t even ordered appetizers yet and we had already drunk a whole bottle. Then he asked me if I wanted to switch to champagne. So he asked for a ridiculously expensive bottle of Krug. And he’s not rich either, he’s just viva la vida, you know? And, obviously, we end up drunk, happy-drunk, all pumped, wanting to go for more. So, at some point I went to the ladies’ room and you know how it is, you get a reality check there, alone, peeing. And I was sitting there thinking and I remembered you so much. Those random nights you took me out just because, and you’d spend, until the last penny, on the most incredible dinner and the best wine, on a random night. And we’d end up completely drunk, sleeping with our shoes on. And I started crying … no, no, no, mi amor, thank god I had eye drops in my purse. Anyway, I left the restroom and I went back in and I started drinking hard like a mariachi, like bad, drinking angry, ‘cause then I wanted anything to happen. I almost called Matt to ask him for a dealer’s number. I really wanted to do all the blow in the world and get fucked up… thank God I didn’t… so, we left the place and we went. to his hotel, and we fucked, and fucked, and… Oh, I’m sorry babe, I need to tell you all this… and it’s not about the sex… the sex was fine (She takes a sip, tastes it) Good champagne does the trick, right?… But I’m telling you this ‘cause… It’s… The way we fell asleep. I was hugging him… or maybe he was hugging me… I don’t know, we just were in this embrace… and it felt comfortable, like we found the way to fit all our arms, our legs, like the perfect position. Not like when you hug at night and you’re getting someone’s bad breath in your nose, and your arm is numb because your circulation is cut off. No… it was perfect. The kind of hug you can fall asleep in. There’s the warmth of this arm around me, and I’m. cozy, and… I guess being drunk makes it easier to pass out that way, but it wasn’t that… you know when legs get entangled like a braid, in which you dip your foot and it warms up, skin over skin, like an electric blanket? I had forgotten that feeling. Remember how we fumbled for each other’s feet? I’d wake up in the middle of the night and we had come apart. And I would fumble for an arm, a leg. And then that moment in the morning, with the first ray of light, looking at the hour, and there’s still plenty of time until I have to get up, so we hug again, and we see how the other one opens an eye, and smiles in silence and we mustn’t say a word, or the spell will be broken. And so we go back to sleep, embracing. And the day starts so slowly, so warm… (her voice quivers, like she will cry, but she manages to overcome it) I swear I closed my eyes and I tried not to think of you, or him lying beside me, not even me, nothing. I tried not to think. I just held his hand tight and thought of that braid of legs, and how the light came through the window, and the moving shadows of the trees on the wall… I didn’t want that moment to end. I didn’t want him to talk, or the alarm to ring… because in a half hour the alarm would ring, and the hotel would be a hotel again, and Neil would be Neil and I would be me… So I I tried to fall asleep again, but I couldn’t. I felt this anguish… una angustia tan grande… I couldn’t breathe, like I was drowning, so I jumped out of bed and into the shower to calm down, but I just wanted to run away. And I started to vomit and that. woke up Neil and asked me if I was alright, and I blamed it on the champagne, but it wasn’t the champagne — it was the anguish. He wanted to order breakfast in the room, but I couldn’t breathe, so I just left. He probably thought I was crazy –and maybe I am. He sends me a lot of messages, but… I don’t know… I can’t live without that moment in the morning. I can’t have that then not have it. (she struggles for words, she mimics an embrace) It’s that… and it was bad already, waking up, but after waking up with Neil, it’s so much worse. That feeling, I can’t explain. I know something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is, and I can’t stay a minute in bed. I have to shower and get my head back, like the shower is a safe shelter. I don’t want to get used to it. I don’t want that feeling anymore. And that’s what I realized last week. When I woke up with him, I woke up slowly, I wanted to stay there, and I wanted to see the sun coming in slowly, and the shadows of the trees on the wall, everything in orange, and the light going white so slowly… and the braid of legs… the warmth…
Julieta goes quiet all of a sudden. She stands up, goes to the window, puts a hand in her chest, she feels the anguish. Then she looks at John, scared. She gets closer to the ventilator looks at it, touches it. She thinks, she then sits back again. She serves herself some more champagne, it’s the last sip, there’s no more in the bottle. She empties the last drop.
Ay, Dios… it’s the last sip, mi amor.
Julieta puts a drop of champagne in John’s lips with her fingers, then she drinks the glass like a shot.
That’s it… it’s finished… we finished it. (Sighs) Se acabó, mi amor… se acabó.