This post is reblogged from the Players of the Stage website. It is the text of a dramatic monologue by Sharon Gerdes: one of a series that make up a kind of spiritual memoir. Sharon performed the full set of monologues at Ekphrasis once. Enjoy.
Because of my hand injury, I’ve been thinking a lot about a monologue I wrote a while ago entitled Hands. The situations are different, but the assurance given in the monologue has been a comfort to me. Enjoy!
By Sharon Barshinger
(Hannah is preset, sitting on a chair. She is nervously wringing her hands. Something prompts her to stand and she stands like a deer in the headlights. Finally:)
Hello. Hell-hello. I’m sorry – I’m just – not very good at this. I’m just a little nervous I guess. I’ve never done this before. I – um – well – I’m sorry. I’m not good at this. I don’t know what to say. I guess it started with – well, I guess – (she gets distracted by her hands which she is still wringing)
Do you know what my favorite, my absolutely favorite body part is? Hands. You can tell a lot about people by their hands. I’m like a gypsy; I read people’s palms but not for their future. I read people’s palms to see what I can learn about them. Are they accustomed to hard labor? Are they so meticulous about their appearance that they give great care to their cuticles? Do they express themselves through their hands? Handshakes can tell me whether a person is weak or strong, confident or shy; strong and confidant, weak and shy. I’m sure my hands tell you what I am.
Then there is so much you can do with hands. You can plant flowers or pull weeds, make dinner or wash dishes, give someone a soft caress or a slap across the cheek. They grade papers, type lesson plans, tie shoelaces button buttons! We’d be absolutely helpless without hands. Helpless. You know what else, hands have their own language too. A touch can communicate friendship, animosity, or indifference. Hands can tell you whether you should come closer or go away. Through a soft caress or a slap hands can tell you whether you are beautiful, loved and important, or if you’re just trash; something to be used and then disposed of once it has no more juice left.
The only problem with hands is that there are two of them. They can give you mixed messages. One hand can tell you one thing one moment and the next the other is telling you something different. My Ex’s hands were like that. When we first started dating they told me I was beautiful and special and that I deserved to be handled with great care. As we went on, he switched hands on me. He started touching me more and more like I was absolute trash until I believed what his touch told me.
I don’t remember when the beatings began – they become so habitual I didn’t give them much thought – just like I don’t give much thought to washing my hands – it’s what is expected, it’s what I do. What’s the use of resisting? There really wasn’t any use but one day he made me feel so trashy and I was so tired of being something that was kept around to see how many uses it could give before being absolutely worthless, worthless. I wanted to be disposed of; I wanted out. Out – thrown out! I wanted out. I told him I was done, I told him no.
There was nothing mixed about his hands response. They flung out at me and tried to smack some sense in me; but I was done. I still said no. They hung at his sides surprised at my sudden determination. I knew – I knew he would not give up easily. He had a firm hand. I saw him prepare for a fight as his fists clenched. He gave me one more chance, but I was done, I told him no.
He let lose his hands alternating between harshly caressing my body and pummeling me creating a dissonant harmony that he had perfected in its embodiment. I tried to lift my hands to my face in a plea for mercy but I found none. He beat me. Again. He beat me again and again. He beat me all over my body. Again and again and again. He beat until I was black and blue, purple and red. He beat me into the floor.
Finally he stooped. I lay on the floor waiting, just waiting. He crouched down next to me and whispered nothing sweet into my ear. He was going to leave me for a while, by the time he came back I had better be ready, I had better say yes. With a kick in my back he was gone. I lay on the floor senseless, just waiting. What could I do? Absolutely nothing. There were no tears, no screams left in me. I lay on the floor dreading, just waiting for his return.
But I did not want to be ready. I would never be ready. I would rather be dead than be ready. A distant memory stirred in my mind; a childhood memory of someone that I used to talk to. It had been a long time; I didn’t know if I would even be heard. So I didn’t speak. I just lifted my hand and begged for a mercy I didn’t deserve; death and hell over being alive when he came back.
Fatigue came over me and I went unconscious. When I woke my eyes had trouble adjusting to what they saw but, I knew, I knew I was dead. I knew I was in hell and I was thankful that I was heard. I was safe. At least until he died and joined me, I was safe. Far removed from hands, I was safe.
I pushed myself up off of a warm, surprisingly bumpy surface and stood to explore. Finally my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I looked around at my surroundings. To my horror I saw that hell was a hand: a huge, massive, destructive hand that could grind my bones. I screamed and screamed and wept and cursed my death. I sought death as an escape and it landed me in the middle of a supernatural hand whose blows I could not avoid. I ran trying to find some means of escape. Fire and the worm would have been an absolute salvation! I ran and ran. I hoped to be able to find the edge of that palm so that I might fling myself off into the abyss. There was no end to that hand. I despaired and tried to climb the pinky that I might dive off from its point, but I fell from my attempted climb, and all I could do was lie there and wait.
I waited, and waited. I dreaded and waited. I cursed and waited. Absolute nothingness surrounded me. As the timeless existence wore on, I realized, I realized that this – this was not hell., this was a hand. Nothing happened. I just lay there cupped in that palm and nothing happened.
It’s funny I told you I like to read people’s palms to learn about who they are. I should have done that when I first saw the hand; it would have saved me a great deal of terror. A great deal. Absolutely everything about that hand was written in the palm, if I had read it I would have known where I was. I was in a Hand.