By Gemma Brió Zamora
Translated by Sharon Feldman
Volume 8, Issue 4 (Fall 2021)
Liberto (2013, titled “Llibert” in Catalan) is a text inspired by personal experience. With the support of two other performers (an actress and a musician/singer), a mother recounts the story of her infant son, Liberto, who died in the hospital after only 15 days of life, the result of cerebral complications at birth. Vacillating between elements of tragedy and surprising moments of humor, the three performers embody dozens of characters, culminating in a celebration of life and a defense of the idea of dying with dignity. Born of necessity, Brió’s text is courageous in its recreation of the painful experience of loss, as well as its consideration of the ethical contradictions inherent in the practice of euthanasia.
This translation was made possible by a grant from the Sala Beckett, Barcelona.
Gemma Brió Zamora (Badalona, 1972) is a playwright and actress who holds a degree in theatre arts from the Institut del Teatre, the Barcelona conservatory of theatre and dance. In the theatre, she has worked alongside a long list of prominent directors, such as José Sanchís Sinisterra, Joan Castells, Sergi Belbel, and Xavier Albertí. She has also appeared in several Catalan and Spanish films and television series. Liberto is her first play. She played the leading role when it premiered in 2013, under the direction of Norbert Martínez, at the Almería Teatre (Barcelona) and again in 2014, when the production was transferred to the Biblioteca de Catalunya. She also played the same role in the Spanish version of the play, which ran for several months at the Teatro de la Abadía in Madrid in 2015. Barcelona spectators selected Liberto for two Butaca Prizes in 2014 (“best play text” and “best small-scale production”) and nominated Brió for “best actress in a leading role.” In 2015, Liberto was awarded the Serra d’Or Critics’ Prize (one of Catalonia’s most prestigious cultural awards) for “best theatre production” and was a finalist for a Premio Max (the Spanish equivalent of a Tony) in the categories of “new theatrical writing” and “debut production.” The success of the play prompted Brió and her collaborators to form the company Les Libertàries, with which they continue to create and produce works of theatre, including a contemporary adaptation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño, which premiered at the Barcelona summer “Grec” festival in 2018.
Sharon G. Feldman is Professor of Spanish and Catalan Studies in the Department of Latin American, Latino & Iberian Studies at the University of Richmond, where she holds the William Judson Gaines Chair in Modern Foreign Languages. She has published widely on Spanish and Catalan theatre and has translated over twenty-five Catalan-language plays into English, which have been staged at venues that include the Abbey Theatre (National Theatre of Ireland), the Baryshnikov Arts Center (New York), the Theatre Passe Muraille (Toronto), the Tristan Bates Theatre (London), and the Melbourne Fringe Festival. She is currently writing a book entitled Àngel Guimerà in America on the work of one of Catalonia’s most celebrated dramatists.
By Gemma Brió Zamora
Translated by Sharon Feldman
A play for two actresses and a singer.
ME = ADDIE
YOU = EDNA
SCENE 1. WAITING ROOM
A waiting room
ME: I wait, to wait, I’m waiting, I wait, you wait, she waits, anticipation, a waiting room, wait, wait, wait… Waiting turns into despair. Wait, wait, wait, wait…. if you say the word wait several times, it loses all its meaning, wait, wait, wait, wait… if you see a waiting room enough times, it also loses all its meaning. It could be anything: a house, a green pasture… or… no… an old house, in rural Catalonia… with lots of sun, with a nice patch of grass, four children screaming in the inflatable pool, the trampoline from the sporting goods store, the little dog barking at the turtles, and silence in the background… waiting… and the song of the cicadas, waiting… Waiting room, waiting room, waiting room… Of course, the waiting room could also be a waiting room where there are people, lots of people, yes, more and more that’s the case with our public health system, but let’s go ahead and make it nice… they’ll only be the people I want there… two people: One who sings, without whom I could never find the songs, and my friend, Edna, who’s always been at my side and without whom I could never find the words. Oh! And you (referring to a member of the audience), who are listening to me.
SCENE 2. VIDEO
(Paradise for a father, pregnant mother and child: a positive pregnancy test. A growing tummy. Friends. Other tummies growing. Non-alcoholic beer. A large needle puncturing a fat tummy. Tense moments. Joy. Thinking about boys’ names… A glamorous tummy. More friends and non-alcoholic beer. Thinking about boy names… Beach, summer, children, laughter, swimming pools, sun. Thinking about boys’ names… Children’s clothing and things, stuff. Stress. Autumn. French music. A very large tummy. Fatigue. More friends. A small child kissing the pregnant tummy. A very big tummy in the bathtub. Eating ravenously. Thinking about boys’ names… we’ve got it! “I’ll call you Liberto.” A godfather and a godfather: Two godfathers. Swollen feet. A small child placing boots on the swollen feet. Joy and fatigue. A very large tummy and a child at the polling station, the Prado Museum, the theater, the Shakira concert, the circus. Contractions. Joy. Circus. Contractions. Joy. Circus. Contractions. Joy. Circus. Contractions. Fear. Contractions. Fear. Pain. Nausea. Heartbeat. Pain. Nausea. Heartbeat. Fear. Emergency cesarean section! Operating Room. Fear. The heartbeat stops. Caesarean. Extreme emergency! Extreme emergency! Weeping. Fear. Screams. Weeping. Fear. Screams…)
SCENE 3. CONFUSING DIALOGUE
ME: Did you ask them or not? You didn’t have the balls to ask, did you?… no… yes… yes, yes, yes you asked… how did it go? (she is confused, she begins to become conscious of what has happened, she begins to remember) is the baby alive?
YOU: Addie, the pediatricians have him under observation, because they had to revive him.
ME: I’m not asking anything else about the baby. Why didn’t you ask anything else about the baby? Did they fix the scar from my previous C-section?
YOU: Yes, Addie. We fixed it. It came out fine.
ME: But what do you mean? What the fuck are you asking? I’m not asking about anything else. They have him under observation, they can’t tell you anything. When he was born, the pediatricians also had to have Cain under observation before I could see him…
YOU: Addie, you need to finish waking up…
ME: Cain’s heartbeat also went down during birth. You don’t think Liberto could die, do you…?
ME: No. I’m sure he didn’t, they would’ve told you… I’m sure he’s ok… Come on, stay calm, you have to be calm and wait! I’m on “stand-by,” waiting, I’m not thinking about anything, I’m concentrating… You just have to be patient. That’s what’s best for the baby, and when he’s ok, they’ll bring him to you. (pause) I’m waiting… (short pause)
YOU: Addie, you had a uterine rupture.
YOU: Addie, the baby was without oxygen for a while…
ME: Who are you?
YOU: Montserrat, I think, the nurse who’s been with you since you checked in.
YOU: They had to revive him. The pediatricians have him in observation. Are you ok?…
ME: Oh my god.
YOU: Calm down.
ME: Brain damage! I know what it means when the brain doesn’t receive oxygen, I know!
YOU: Addie, stay calm. We need to wait.
ME: You can’t jump to conclusions. I don’t want to think the worst but not the best, either, because I know it won’t be… so I won’t think about anything.
YOU: Hon, they’re going to take Liberto to Hebron Valley, the teaching hospital, to treat him for hypothermia to minimize the brain damage.
ME: Treatment for hypothermia…
YOU: Yeah, Hon, it’s a treatment they only do there.
ME: Right, right…
YOU: They won’t be able to know what kind of damage he has or how he’ll react to the treatment until a few days have passed…
ME: Who are you now?
YOU: I’m Vince, your sweetie.
ME: Right, right, right… let them take him where they can give him the best treatment. Wherever. Don’t let them waste a single minute, please!
YOU: Right, my love!
ME: Hurry, hurry… Have you seen him? Is he handsome?
YOU: Yes, he’s beautiful. Do you want to see him?
ME: …yeeeees… but who are you?
YOU: The pediatrician, do you want to see him?
ME: …yeeeees!… but let them take him… the treatment… hurry, love! They show him to me, he’s in an open incubator, he’s intubated, but I don’t see the tubes. (brief pause) He’s beautiful!
YOU: He’s relaxed, he’s very handsome, I take his hand for a few seconds, and they whisk him away.
ME: But who are you?
YOU: I’m you.
ME: Liberto is beautiful.
YOU: We hug each other and cry.
ME: Who are you?
YOU: Vince, your sweetie.
ME: He’s very handsome, sweetie!
YOU: Addie, I’m the doctor.
ME: The doctor?
YOU: Yes, the attending physician during birth.
ME: Fuck, it took you a while to get here!
YOU: I stopped your bleeding, I cleaned up your entire abdominal cavity, and I reconstructed your uterus.
ME: Reconstructed my uter…
YOU: You lost a lot of blood, but you didn’t need a transfusion. Hon… I’m going to Hebron Valley with Liberto.
ME: You? The gynecologist?
YOU: No, I’m Vince, your sweetie! I’m going to Hebron Valley with Liberto.
ME: Right, right, go, sweetie!
YOU: I love you, hon.
ME: I love you, sweetie.
YOU: Addie, Cain is staying at our house, Nuria is sitting for him.
ME: At your house?
YOU: We’re your parents…
ME: It must be nighttime… How much time has gone by?
YOU: We hug you and cry. We take turns spending the night beside you.
ME: I wake up. Who am I with now?
YOU: I’m your father, Addie. Your phone is ringing!
ME: My heart jumps. Who is it?
YOU: Vince, sweetie, Liberto has been having convulsions, it’s not a good sign. You want to scream and cry, but you don’t, because you have to continue listening. You want to stay connected to the phone. If you cry too loud, you won’t be able to hear him. You just close your eyes, you keep from breathing, and you make a grimace of intense pain. I look at you and imagine what Vince is saying.
ME: Who are you?
YOU: (softly singing) Vladimira…
ME: I already know; you’re my mother.
YOU: Addie, your phone is ringing.
ME: My heart skips a beat. Who is it?
YOU: Vince, hon, the electroencephalogram doesn’t look good, it’s not a good sign, either…
YOU: …You want to scream and cry, but you don’t, because you have to continue listening. You want to stay connected to the phone. If you cried too loud, you wouldn’t be able to hear him. You just close your eyes, you keep from breathing, and you make a grimace of intense pain. I look at you and imagine what Vince is saying.
ME: Who are you?
YOU: (wanting to answer but cannot)
ME: Right, you’re my father.
YOU: Hon, hon… I’m Vince.
ME: You’re here?
YOU: No. I’m on the phone. We can’t know the scope of the brain lesions, but they’re certain they’re there.
ME: But who are all of you, what’s happening?
YOU: I’m your father, Addie. And I’m Vince, your sweetie, calling from Hebron Valley. I love you! I love you so much!
ME: I love you! I love you so much! The entire movie of my future life runs through my head. I know of so many cases with a son or a brother with cerebral palsy or something like that! I’ll be just like them: sad, tired, bitter, traumatized…
YOU: I hug you and cry. I don’t know what to say to you…
ME: Why? Why? Why? Dad, I can’t believe this is happening to me. It’s a dream. It can’t be…
YOU: I don’t know what to say…
ME: I’d never seen my father like that.
YOU: I love you!
ME: He says he loves me! In the midst of desperation, I begin constructing my future. I reflect. I go ahead and force myself be rational, to put my life in order, immediately!
YOU: But you continue crying and screaming.
ME: The one who doesn’t fit in with all this is Cain…
YOU: You don’t want to sacrifice his…
ME: I can’t stand thinking about it…
YOU: It hurts really bad…
ME: What will Cain’s life be like with a brother with cerebral palsy?
YOU: The pain of anesthesia.
ME: But who are you?
YOU: I’m you, dear!
ME: I’m falling asleep.
YOU: Wake up. Hey, I love you. If you want me to come, just let me know.
ME: Who are you?
YOU: It’s me, Edna. I’m a text message from your friend Edna.
ME: Did you hear what happened?
YOU: You feel a huge pain in your chest…
ME: My head is burning up, and it hurts.
YOU: Here, take this.
ME: What is it?
ME: The pain won’t go away…
YOU: I’ll give you some morphine…
ME: Who are you?
YOU: The nurse. It’s morning.
ME: Oh, really?
YOU: I hug you, and we cry. I love you!
ME: Is that you, Vince, my sweetie?
ME: What are you doing here?
YOU: I’m asking for you to be transferred so that you can be near Liberto, and I’m going back again. Addie, we don’t know if your transfer will be today or tomorrow.
ME: Who are you?
YOU: The nurse.
ME: Then, hey, nurse, you know what? Either my transfer happens today, or I burn down the hospital.
YOU: It’s true, you’ll do it…
ME: If I don’t see my son today, I’ll do it…
YOU: Finally, the ambulance arrives, we both get in, and it takes us to the university hospital.
ME: And who are you?
YOU: I’m your father.
ME: And who are you? (referring to a member of the audience)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Scene 1 Buzzkill.
ME: (referring to a member of the audience) This is Alexander Egea, Liberto’s pediatrician… I’ve done all this for you, Alex… well, not exactly… for you.
EDNA: Alex is a very important person for her and for the story.
ME: Right …
EDNA: She needed to talk, to explain…
ME: Right. I thought you only knew pieces. I thought…
ME: … and if he were to come? And if I were to explain everything to him, from the beginning?
EDNA: Yes, she means she’d like you to know all the details…
ME: Yes, because… just because… I mean… thank you, thank you for coming…
EDNA: Yes, thank you, thank you for coming, doctor.
ME: …doctor!… I once asked one of the nurses for Doctor Egea, and she didn’t even know who I was talking about… Oh, Alex, she said… Although I must confess (to Edna and to The One Who Sings) I call him…, right!
EDNA and THE ONE WHO SINGS: Yes, yes…
ME: …we gave him a name, a nickname, we called him Buzzkill…
EDNA: It was David’s idea. David, Liberto’s godfather. And the truth is, all my friends thought he hit the nail on the head!
ME: Vince wants to know if you can go up to the room, because I still haven’t been discharged, and you go up, even though you’re under no obligation to do so. It’s not like pediatricians receive overtime, either. It’s part of a government plot against childhood. They’ve decided not to pay overtime for teachers or pediatricians. It’s like the politics of only one child in China, but even more twisted…. the Catalan way. We wanted you to tell us what we’ll be up against once the treatment for hypothermia is over. What kind of chance does Liberto have?
EDNA: She told me you were a man with crazy eyes, who came by to clear things up!
ME: I see he didn’t spare a single detail. It was very scary, but he was very clear and wanted to be completely understood. Ok! That’s what I needed. Vince and I listen attentively, but you look at me the entire time and paint a very odd picture for us. You say that Liberto, definitely –and you stress the word definitely– has brain lesions.
EDNA: “the possibilities range from a simple strabismus, to severe cerebral palsy. It’s not an easy case, it’s not clearly black or white, it’s within a range of greys, and for now, because of the kind of asphyxia that Liberto suffered…”
ME: The type of asphyxia that Alex is referring to is called acute asphyxia, meaning it’s very strong and sudden and different from other kind of asphyxias…
EDNA: “…it’s more likely a dark grey than a light grey” (to the audience), but she doesn’t believe it.
ME: Because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, Edna! Liberto will be cross-eyed! Vince and I will have a cross-eyed child, whatta ya gonna to do… And that’s that.
EDNA: “Monday, when the treatment for hypothermia is over, we’ll do an MRI and gather more information, and then we’ll be able to decide what to do.”
ME: He said “decide,” although, at the time, we didn’t realize what he meant.
EDNA: “Right now Liberto is stable, and his vitals are normal, because all his organs are functioning, but it’s precisely the main one that’s failing: the brain.” She can’t stop thinking about the cases of cerebral palsy that she knows of!
ME: Beth from elementary school; my grandparents’ cousin…
EDNA: Dolores, from the apartment in the Born neighborhood… On Rec Street…
ME: That’s right, Peter’s daughter, our neighbor. Frank’s brother, the brother of the hippiest hippie in the town, that tall guy’s brother. It’s not palsy but something’s not right with him, Matilda’s daughter, who died…. that’s the life that awaits us, just like those mothers… they’re all so ugly…
ME: I don’t want to be ugly!
EDNA: But what are you talking about…
ME: I know, I know, it’s not right… and Cain will be like one of those brothers… Will he be like that tall guy?
ME: It would have been better if Liberto had died, but no one says his life is in danger, and so we’ll have to bring him home no matter what and move forward, and our lives will change radically…
EDNA: From now on I’ll have a friend with a son with cerebral palsy! I’m also willing to change my life, radically. During the summer, I’ll take him to the country for a few days, so they can take a break. He’ll play with the little dog and the turtles, we’ll bathe him in the pool, the children will perform circus acts for him on the trampoline… at the very least… and we’ll go to Houston and… But we need to wait…
ME: Right, Buzzkill says we need to wait… We’ll wait… We’ll wait, you’ll wait, they’ll wait, waiting… Wait. The waiting room, the waiting room, the waiting room, the waiting room. If you see a waiting room enough times, it loses all its meaning, and it could be anything, it could also be a cemetery or a funeral home… or no… an airport…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Strangers in the night…!
ME: Right, an airport, where a young thirty-nine-year-old woman arrives with her dead baby in a rectangular box, 50 centimeters long, made of Scots pine. An airport with police and a guard or whatever you call them… one of those security guards at the airport… who won’t let the young woman go by with her box, the ones who make you adhere to the rules and remain firm in their obligation, unperturbed… fuckin’ load of crap.
4.2. My child in my arms
ME: (she sees somebody in the audience) Damn, Judy! (to Edna) Judy, Judy’s here, too, Edna! (she discovers someone else among the audience members) And Olga!
EDNA: Olga, the one from the night shift. The one who has I don’t know what kind of thing with the Lliure Theatre “the Lliure.” Does she go to the theatre a lot?
ME: (to Edna) Yes, and Judy, the day nurse! Thank you, Judy, thank you for breaking the rules and the protocol for my “vajajay.”
THE ONE WHO SINGS: I think I love you!
ME: The protocol says I can’t hold the baby in my arms until they’ve removed the breathing tube, but Liberto still can’t breathe well enough on his own, and they can’t “extubate” him.
EDNA: (to Judy) If they’re not paying you overtime, that means you’re on your own time! And on your own time you can totally fuck the protocol.
ME: Liberto is bed 1 of unit 21, and Judy and Olga are his nurses… He’s fast asleep because, he’s still under the effects of the sedatives, from the barbiturates and the treatment. But he’s already opening his eyes ever so slightly! They’re dark. He’s moving, hey, he’s a normal baby… He’s so beautiful! Isn’t he? He’s handsome, isn’t he!
EDNA and THE ONE WHO SINGS: Beautiful!
ME: Judy, you make miracles possible! You let me hold Liberto in my arms for the first time, even though he’s intubated! The moment I should have experienced six days ago, the arrival into the world of my son, a mother’s embrace, the warmth of her body… My baby has gone six days without the warmth of the one thing he needed, and I’m also a lost piece of a puzzle that has finally found its place… Even though, with my baby coupled to me, against my breast, both of us fused into a single being, I have to recognize I didn’t want to love him so much. I was angry that he’d come to break up the peace and tranquility of our family: Vince, Cain and me.
4.3. “Stimulation Oh! Yeah!”
EDNA: (looking at the members of the audience that have been named) Now, we already have Buzzkill, Olga, Judy… who’s missing?
ME: A doctor who’s super interested in issues of hypothermia and all that stuff…
EDNA: Oh, right.
ME: (she points to any member of the audience) You, for example. You announce to Vince and me that the treatment for hypothermia is over. You’re beginning to warm up Liberto.
EDNA: He says that for the moment it’s good for all of you to stimulate him.
ME: “Ok, ok, ok, stimulation! Oh! Yeah!!!”
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (she performs a guitar solo)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: “Stimulation!”
ME: Infusion pump, bedside display, ventilator, monitor to measure spontaneous breathing… (she points to different devices on the stage)
EDNA: It’s the one that measures when he breathes on his own and when they’ll be able to “extubate” him.
ME: We touch him, we move his arms and legs, we kiss him, we sing to him… I sing to him, I sing to him a lot, I sing to him at all hours of the day before the treatment is over, I sing coplas to him (she sings a Spanish copla) but now I can’t sing that… now we have to stimulate him (she sings a happy song. Edna and the One Who Sings join in. There is an indicator that begins moving upward) Good job, Liberto! Good! Up, up! (the indicator begins going downward) no, no Liberto, up! (the indicator continues moving downward. She sings “The Internationale”) Your name is Liberto and you’ve come into this world to be a fighter, to make it a better place! We’re here for you! (the indicator goes downward) Today, it won’t be possible, but, maybe tomorrow.
EDNA: We’ll wait …
ME: We’ll wait, you’ll wait, they’ll wait, waiting… Wait. Waiting room, waiting room, waiting room, waiting room. If you see a waiting room enough times, it loses all its meaning, and it could be anything, it could even be… an airport…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Strangers in the night…
ME: … the one with the girl with the dead baby in the 50 cm box and the security guard who remains unperturbed and who still doesn’t fucking get it, but maybe he will finally get it: You want a fucking piece of paper to enter with the box, don’t you? I need a fucking document for the remains… a fucking death certificate, don’t I?… Well, I don’t have the fucking piece of paper, ok? But I have a ticket to fly to an old house on a patch of grass with lots of sun, to bury my son there, so that four children, a little dog named Ganchito, and two earth turtles can walk on top of it and tickle him, ok? Look! You see? What does it say here? “Old house on a patch of grass with lots of sun,” and I’m planning on flying no matter what you say and no matter what you do, just so you know, and you should also know that you’re not the only one who busts peoples’ balls, oh no… There have been many before you who’ve asked me for lots of fucking documents! I’ve had it up to here with fucking papers, because in life there are always forms to fill out, documents that you need, certificates to stamp… and in death, too… Look, I’m sure by now my baby boy must be at the gates of heaven, arguing with the fucking doorman, Saint Paul, or Saint Peter, I can’t remember right now, for a fucking piece of paper he needs to enter the fucking Kingdom of Heaven. Because, that’s right, my son is just like me, and he won’t obey orders or bow his head. My son will enter heaven with both his balls! Sure, I’d like him to come back, but he won’t!
EDNA / SAINT PETER: And the little guy comes up to me and says, “I’d like to enter Eternity!” Eternity, he says, for Jesus fucking Christ! like that, with such nerve! Hey, little one, what did you think? I tell him I’m Saint Peter, I swear to God! Let’s see… passport! And he goes ahead, and the little guy doesn’t even have the “stamp” of life, you know…! We’ll see if we have to go on letting in just anyone who happens to show up without documentation…
4.4. The MRI
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Scene 4 The MRI!
EDNA: You and Vince wait while they do the MRI on Liberto (she gives ME a sandwich while Edna and The One Who Sings eat some gummy candies. Long pause, ME voraciously eating the sandwich)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: You’re hungry, aren’t you?
ME: Yes. I always thought something like this would take away my appetite… but no…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Liberto Vargas Castelló!
EDNA: Buzzkill’s already come out… and that other woman… what’s her name?
ME: Patti LuPone.
EDNA: Patti LuPone? (she lets out a laugh)
ME: That’s right, that’s right, Patti LuPone, the neurologist, Dr. Patti LuPone, must be the one over in that dark corner (she points to a corner of the theatre space). The orderly is coming out now with Liberto! He looks good, doesn’t he? Maybe it’s true that it will be bright grey instead of the dark grey Buzzkill predicted. Buzzkill looks pleased!
EDNA: Patti LuPone and Buzzkill give us the results: “The MRI went well, given the circumstances. It will be somewhat difficult for Liberto, but he will be able to walk…
EDNA: …he’ll be able to talk…
EDNA: …and he isn’t affected cognitively!
ME: GREEEEEEAT!!!!!! (all three sing “We are the champions” ) See, Buzzkill, it was a light grey!!! Look what a Buzzkill you are! The good news spreads like wildfire! We receive a thousand messages congratulating us! Happy days!
4.5. The Registry
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Scene 5 The Registry.
ME: Officially, he doesn’t exist, and I would really like everyone to know that he’s come into the world. He’s in intensive care and all, but doesn’t he have a right to be a citizen of this world just like anyone else… or even more… because this little boy won’t leave anyone indifferent, just you wait and see!
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Oh! Explain what happened!
EDNA: What happened, you called, and…
ME: Oh, right! In the information for newborns from Hebron Valley Hospital, there’s a phone number. It says it’s the hospital registry. I call: “Good morning, listen, I need to register a child who’s in intensive care, and I would like to know if I can do it here at the hospital, or if I have go down to City Hall,” and the woman says: “excuse me, you have the wrong number, this is Adetca” Adetca? “The Association of Theatre Companies of Catalonia.”
EDNA: There, on the sheet with information for newborns from Hebron Valley Hospital is the phone number, printed incorrectly, for the Association of Theatre Companies of Catalonia.
ME: Yes, yes, really! 933097900.
EDNA: It’s a sign. Liberto will be an actor!
ME: Or maybe a theatre producer.
EDNA: Even better for us…
ME: In fact, it’s more likely he’ll end up as a theatre producer than a nuclear physicist… it’s more likely that with half a brain…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Now you’ve gone too far!
ME: Let’s leave Liberto for a few hours to go down to City Hall. We can finally register him! Oh…
EDNA: A problem?
ME: A problem: we need paperwork from the hospital. We’ll tell the person who works there that the baby is in intensive care, and we can’t come back again another day; we have to get him registered today! The woman who works there says she can’t do anything and that we should talk to the judge or his assistant or whomever…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Not the assistant! The judge, the judge…
ME: Whoever, a young guy with the face of a conservative politician who can’t deal. You, for instance (she points to someone in the audience). I’ll adopt the strategy of a woman in need –it works well with the right-wingers–, and I’ll tell him our son is in the hospital dying, he’s in the hospital dying!
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (to someone in the audience) “But what’s wrong with you? It’s a goddamn piece of paper! A goddamn piece of paper!”
ME: That couldn’t be farther from what I’m thinking about today! Liberto is fine, these are happy days! Finally, the conservative politician gives in and tells the woman who works there that she can register him!
THE ONE WHO SINGS: “Let’s see now… Li… beeer… t… a….with a “t” or with a “d”?
ME: … the woman is very slow… and my breast milk is leaking, and she looks at my tits and says – “Oh, do you have the little girl here with you? Let me see her.”
EDNA: “But she told you it’s a boy and not a girl!”
ME: And I tell her: “no, he’s in intensive care”; and she says: “Oh! Right… but he’s ok, right?” “No, surely he won’t make it beyond this week!,” “Oooh!… By the way, you’re the one on that soap opera, aren’t you?” “Yes,” “Oh! I knew it… I was just saying before to my colleague here, blah blah blah…”
THE ONE WHO SINGS: You see? Girl, she’s the one from that soap!
EDNA: “Uh, uh, girl, no, she’s not.”
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Yes, she is, she’s the one on TV, on that show, Family Passions. She definitely is!
EDNA: “No, she’s not, how could she be the one from TV? No, she’s not!”
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Yes, she is, she’s on that soap, I’m telling you, she’s Anna on that soap!
EDNA: “No, she’s not! What are you talking about, girl! How can she be from Family Passions! No, she’s not!”
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Stamp, girl, give it the official seal! Liberto Vargas Castelló! Registered!
ME: Even though it’s a Friday and the thirteenth, today’s our lucky day!
(explosion of happiness)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Ladies and gentleman! Allow me to present to you an ordinary showman, not much of a humanitarian, not much of a friend of friends, acting on the great stage of the Kingdom of Heaven! You can applaud if you like. Introducing, the fucking gatekeeper! Saint Peter!
EDNA / SAINT PETER: And the kid comes up to me and says, “I have a right to be a citizen of heaven just like anyone else, or more, bro!” Bro? Go ahead, throw it down, kid, throw it down and let them put a stamp in your passport, goddamnit! And come back tomorrow; here, we close up at two. And the kid, unmoved, you know, because he said so! “We shall not be moved! We shall not be moved!” and “Yes we can,” “We give birth, we decide!” and “End pork barrel spending!” Goddamnit! I phone up life: “Hello? Is this life?” Listen, I have a kid here who says he wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and he doesn’t have a stamp… What stamp do you think? The stamp of Life! Here, not even God gets in without proper documentation! And they tell me, “he’s not on the list” and “there doesn’t appear to be anyone here by the name of Kid.” Goddamnit! And what the fuck do I do now? I’ll have to speak to the boss. Jesus fucking Christ. 9330979…. you’ve got to be kidding!… he’s never even in his office! he spends the entire day “fucking around,” burning abortionists, trafficking in drugs, beating up on gays and touching the asses of little choir boys… And now where the hell am I supposed to find him! Goddamnit!!! And I tell the kid, “Kid you’re going to have to wait.”
4.6. They’re wrong
ME: They’re wrong, they were wrong, you were wrong, right? (she goes about pointing to each of the people in the audience who she names) Dr. Patti LuPone… Buzzkill… Dr. Rose Lagos (to the audience) is Liberto’s other pediatrician… The rest of the medical team that we’ve never seen… Everyone is wrong… ok, people make mistakes. LuPone… says that Liberto definitely won’t be able to walk.
ME: She said it, yeah, she said it, and there’s no doubt, she pronounced it clearly, there’s no room to think we didn’t hear her right, she said it, and she hasn’t shut up, and she just keeps talking and talking and talking…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (with a distorted voice) We expl… hosp… Liberrrrrrrrrto…
ME: …what is she saying?
THE ONE WHO SINGS: …swallowing…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: …is not good… the MmmmmRRRRRiuoughsh…
ME: …the what?
THE ONE WHO SINGS: …has hidden… assssspects that are reeeeeeally…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: …in a badddd mood…
ME: …what the fuck are you saying!
THE ONE WHO SINGS I EDNA: …he can’t swallow…
ME: …I don’t understand!!!
TOTES: …he’s not swallowing… it’s a bad sign…
ME: …what do you mean…!
TOTES: …he won’t be able to talk…
ME: …shut up!
TOTES: …he can’t swall…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: … cognistrict afectationblablablablablablablablabla…!!!
ME: I have the chills! We have another child, Cain. He’s not even two! I can’t speak. Vince can’t. He’s sunk in the chair. We touch Liberto, I can’t imagine myself! I’m suffocating! I need air! The street.
THE ONE WHO SINGS: “¿What’s going on with them?”
EDNA: Look, look…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Do you need help?
ME: (shakes her head no)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Are you ok?
ME: (she nods her head) (pause) And now what? What should we do now?
ME: We must have called someone. If not, I can’t explain it otherwise: at the Hebron Valley plaza, under the blinding sunlight and extreme cold, everyone is here. I can see Alvaro from afar, who’s moving quickly with his face contorted, and behind him, David, Edna, Sandra, Michele, Marta, Julio and Chris, Ivan, Sylvia, my parents, Sergio, Eva…
EDNA: (to Me) Vince’s parents aren’t here, because they’re with Cain.
ME: We go from embrace to embrace, like two dolls without a soul. They hug us, they kiss us. I don’t know how they all found out so quickly. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about Chris and Julio’s daughter! They had huge problems when she was born, and then they didn’t have any problems in the end! But now we know that Liberto’s case is very different… When they all leave, I remain alone with Edna. “We’ll go to Houston” she says, “we’ll do whatever Liberto needs!” She already has everything in order. All she needs to do is pull the low-cost tickets out of a hat. “All together, you two, Cain, Liberto, me and the kids –like when we went camping on the Costa Brava– and on the way there, we’ll learn English, and we’ll go and visit museums and have a good time…” She always makes me laugh. “To Houston,” supposedly, “they have the best doctors, and if Liberto has to be in a wheelchair or has to learn to talk or whatever, they’ll find the best treatment, and we’ll all help them and he’ll be our spoiled little boy!…” And she compares me to Matilda, who had a son with cerebral palsy who died last year at the age of 20. But I don’t want, I don’t want to be like her! I adore the woman, she’s never bitter, she’s pretty, she hasn’t left her job, she’s a dancer, she’s fun and cheerful, and, maybe, she’s even happy, but I don’t want her life, damn it! I don’t want it!!!
EDNA: And me to Houston, right?
THE ONE WHO SINGS: We’ll wait, you’ll wait, they’ll wait, waiting… Wait. Waiting room, waiting room, waiting room, waiting room. If you see a waiting room enough times, it loses all its meaning, and it could be anything, it could go back to being… the airport…
ME: Strangers in the night…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: …the one with the girl with the dead child in the 50 cm box and the goddamn security guard (to ME) Are you fucking going to give him hell or not? Come on, give him hell! Give him hell!!! (THE ONE WHO SINGS and EDNA encourage ME to give the security guard hell)
ME: All right, all right, all right! (to the security guard) Hey, you! Let me go through with this box, dude! We’re all in the same boat here! Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself there, you might as well know it! Because whether you let me through with my child without the fucking document or whether you remain firm in your fucking obligation, whether you feel free to interpret the rules in a fair and just way, or whether you’re a fucking pig who doesn’t have an ounce of compassion, what you have to look forward to in life, like everyone else, even though you’re a fucking cop, is that they’ll ask you for justifications, certificates, signatures, and papers and papers and papers and more papers until you die, and on into eternity!!!
THE ONE WHO SINGS and EDNA: What? (pause)
ME: And the guy goes ahead and tells me to wait, that he has to go speak to his boss!
(Brief discussion between EDNA and THE ONE WHO SINGS about the advantages or not of giving the guard a fucking hard time)
4.8. Considering the idea of death
ME: And if Liberto were to die? and if he died? Vince lowers his head and looks like he’s in immense pain. I don’t know what’s going on with him, but it could be anything; he could get right up and slap me in the face or faint right here. (to the audience) I don’t want to tell you when it was that the possibility that Liberto might die began to set in, that he was being kept alive artificially and that he would otherwise die. I don’t know… Would he die or wouldn’t he die?… Is it ok to think about it? Is Liberto so bad off that I might wish it? Vince says we need to do everything possible for Liberto to get better. He doesn’t understand… Or am I the one who doesn’t understand? Could he get better? I want to believe it; I want to believe it!!! … (with barely a voice), but I can’t. We need to talk again when Vince is ready. Maybe it will be too late… but I have to wait for him to be ready, right, I have to wait, I have to wait…
4.9. The two fairies
ME: Shall we go back to Liberto’s unit?
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Bed 1 Unit 21.
ME: There are two women performing some tests on him with some headphones.
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Scene 6. The Fairies
ME: They’re cheerful and calm… I don’t know who they are but they say he reacts very well to sound…
EDNA: “He reacts very well to sound!”
ME: And it seems like he can hear. They say we should try to give him a drop of formula to see if he can swallow!
EDNA: Now you’ll freak! (pause)
ME and EDNA: Ooh!
ME: Liberto just took the biggest gulp of his life!
EDNA: Did the women see it or not? How do they look?
ME: Good! Yes, yes, yes, they saw it, too! It’s just that when the doctors come by, he’s always half asleep… it seems like he only does things when we’re not around. Maybe he’s doing better than they think, and they just haven’t realized…
EDNA: The two fairies have examined him and even they’ve confirmed he can hear.
ME: Yeah! He can hear, and he also follows us with his gaze. They give us hope! “The plasticity of a child’s brain is enormous…”
EDNA: “…the neurons don’t regenerate, but often some parts of the brain can substitute for others.”
ME: Are they confident in his rehabilitation!
ME: Right… but what are the limits of that rehabilitation?
EDNA: I don’t know, they say there are no limits! “We have to grab onto these little things and go on pulling the little thread of hope to wherever it might take us…”
ME: What does to wherever it might take us mean? That’s of zero help to me! That’s of zero help me! Let them give us some examples, come on! They should talk about the boy with half a brain!
EDNA: The boy with half a brain?
ME: Yes, a boy who only had half a brain and went through life as if nothing had ever happened! Please! The boy with half a brain is our only hope!
EDNA: But they don’t.
4.10. Final diagnosis from Patti LuPone, the neurologist
ME: (pointing to someone in the audience) You’re Dr. Rose Lagos, right?
EDNA: (to the audience) Liberto’s other pediatrician.
ME: Thank you, Rose! Would you ask Dr. LuPone to come and give us a better explanation of the diagnosis? Don’t you think one is in order?
EDNA: Of course, it’s in order! She did a very poor job of explaining it before!
ME: Patti LuPone… (she searches with her eyes) she must be over there in that dark corner… she’ll give us a better explanation.
EDNA: “Liberto is still lethargic, he has soft muscle tone. He doesn’t manage his secretions well, and he can’t swallow. The area of the brain that controls speech and the movement of his extremities has been affected, and once he grows, he’ll have the typical rigidity associated with cerebral palsy… He has moderate to serious cerebral palsy.”
ME: But what does that mean exactly? He swallowed before, and those women said there are no limits. Are there or aren’t there? Where are the limits? What kind of future awaits Liberto?
EDNA: She knows but she hasn’t said it.
ME: Go ahead! Say it! Damnit!
EDNA: “…a wheelchair…”
ME: “…an electric one…”
EDNA: “Maybe a walker…”
ME: “…around the house…” “Maybe he’ll be able to say something… unintelligible. And cognitively… I can’t be sure… but maybe… that too. He doesn’t swallow, he’ll have to go around with a tube in his stomach… maybe rehabilitation… we’ve seen a case… maybe with time… he’d be able to swallow some small pieces… All of this… in the best-case scenario!” My little one!!!!
(Distorted guitar music)
4.11. The question
ME: (Addressing the audience) I have to ask you something… something… something impossible… I think… something surely illegal, but necessary, just, and… vital, yes… yes, vital. Vince won’t like me doing it, but I have to. We have to survive, even if it costs me my sweetie’s love! Is there any possibility of Liberto avoiding having to live a life that he really doesn’t deserve? Can you do it? Or will I have to do it?” (Whispering) I finally found the way to express it… an ethical way… I found the social expression for wishing that my son were dead. A dignified life for Liberto, a dignified death for Liberto.
ME: (reciting it as though it were a litany) Alarm, 7 AM, I slept so well! Breast pump, expressway, not much traffic for a Friday, parking lot, down the stairs, locker with the little fish cartoon: anorak, scarf, bag… I wash my hands, oh, no! my cell! I place it in silent mode in my tights… better yet, in my bum, down my underwear, if not, I’ll find it at my ankles mid-morning, ok now: hands, blue soap, up to my elbows, 3 minutes, the water is scalding!
EDNA: Good morning, good morning, there are some new parents here, what’s the look on their faces? There’s no paper, take some from the lactarium, there’s always some in there. The mini fridge, three jars of milk and the frozen colostrum, will they be able to read my writing? Liberto, bed 1, unit 21. I say hello, they give me a strange look… do they need to tell me something? I see the little bed. I’m coming! Here I am! I can see him! Good morning Liberto, my love!
ME: (she sings a lullaby)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Psst, psst… psst, psst…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Dr. LuPone.
THE ONE WHO SINGS: She’s come out from that dark corner. Ask her.
ME: Oh! Right. Ok, ok… Doctor!
EDNA / DR. PATTI LUPONE: Yes?
ME: Is it possible that Liberto could avoid having to live such an undignified life?
EDNA / DR. PATTI LUPONE: He could asphyxiate!
ME: He could what? What? What?
EDNA / DR. PATTI LUPONE: There is a way! … he could suffer from asphyxiation; his condition could worsen… but it won’t be easy…
ME: Asphyxiate how? I don’t understand… But Liberto unfortunately doesn’t suffer from asphyxiation! I mean he doesn’t suffer from asphyxiation… I mean I don’t want him to suffer from asphyxiation! I want him… I don’t want him… I want… ughhh!…
EDNA / DR. PATTI LUPONE: I’ll advise the pediatricians to talk with you (she leaves).
ME: So yes? It’s possible? There is a possibility! I thought they would say there wasn’t any, that he’ll just live and be handicapped. And I would like them to say they’re keeping him alive artificially and that, when they stop doing so, he’ll die quickly and calmly, but “asphyxiation”??? that his condition may worsen??? that “It won’t be easy”???
(Moooo, Moooo… she is interrupted by the sound of cows and cowbells and shepherd’s calls)
ME: Time to milk me! …Goodbye my love. Let me take a good look at you, since I might not ever see you again.
(She goes over to the lactarium, sits down, and begins to express the milk.)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Psst, psst…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Vince!
ME: Hi, sweetie.
EDNA / VINCE: Hi, hon.
ME: Patti LuPone says there’s a possibility…
EDNA / VINCE: No…
ME: Yes, she said…
EDNA / VINCE: No…
ME: Right… but…
EDNA / VINCE: No, no, no…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (at the same time as Vince) No, no, no…
EDNA / VINCE: I’m not ready for Liberto to die. We have to put up a fight
ME: No, sweetie, not anymore…
EDNA / VINCE: I need to hold on to something to be able to move forward. I don’t want Liberto to die… I can’t…
ME: I’ve opened up a can of worms…. Our family is going to hell!
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (singing) Goodbye, Liberto, my love, see you tomorrow! Mini fridge, three empty jars, locker with Nemo: anorak, scarf, bag, take my cell out of my bum, hospital parking lot, a fortune! Privatize healthcare, for cryin’ out loud! Expressway! Home! Cain, my little guy! Breast pump! To bed!
ME: I’m dreaming… Liberto can’t live here, we have to avoid it… a vegetable… Vince says he’ll get better… he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t want to understand, the diagnosis won’t change, they’ve said it… He hates me! Everything is going to hell!!! I don’t want, I love him… and Cain… (she wakes up startled) I can see it clearly now, Liberto shouldn’t go on living, no matter what!
ME: (reciting the litany) Alarm, 7 AM, I slept so well! Breast pump, expressway, not much traffic for a Saturday shopping day, parking lot, isn’t there a subscription? Down the stairs, locker with the little fish cartoon: anorak, scarf, bag… I wash my hands, oh, no! my cell! I place it in silent mode in my tights… better yet, in my bum, down my underwear, if not, I’ll find it at my ankles mid-morning… ok now: hands, blue soap, up to my elbows, 3 minutes! The water is scalding!
EDNA: Good morning, good morning, there are some new parents here, what’s the expression on their faces? There’s no paper, take some from the lactarium, there’s always some in there. The mini fridge, three jars of milk and the frozen colostrum, will they be able to read my writing? Liberto, bed 1, unit 21. I say hello to the nurses, they give me a strange look… Do they need to tell me something? I can see the little bed. I’m coming! I’m here! I can see him! Good morning Liberto, my love!
ME: (she sings him a lullaby) My love and if you don’t die?… and if I didn’t understand, and it’s not possible for you to die, what will we do, my love? I can’t stand having wished it… You have to help me convince your father, my love… tell him that you can’t live this way, that he shouldn’t be frightened, that we have to be brave, that nice little boys like you deserve a life filled with life and not death. That that’s what it means to love!
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Psst, psst… The pediatrician… Dr. Lagos… Rose… Is making her rounds…
ME: Doctor… we need to speak to you about…
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes
ME: Is there any possibility of avoiding…
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Dr. LuPone already told me…
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes, yes.
ME: It’s just that I’m afraid, because if he doesn’t die…
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes, yes… I understand.
ME: You do?
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes, yes…
ME: Ok… I mean it’s clear to me… but Vince…
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes, I understand…
ME: You do?
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes, yes…
ME: That rehabilitation… there are limits… but there is… right?
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: Yes…
ME: I understand… but Vince doesn’t.
THE ONE WHO SINGS: We have to do an x-ray! Would you mind stepping out?
ME: (talking at the same time) No… ok…
EDNA / DR. LAGOS: (talking at the same time) Yes, just a minute, I’m leaving, don’t do the x-ray yet… I’m pregnant!
ME: (She looks at her)
EDNA / DRA. LAGOS: We’ll keep you well informed, not to worry, we’ll explain to him how Liberto’s doing, and we’ll make him understand the seriousness of his condition… When I’m able to meet with the entire team…
ME: Thank you…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: X-ray! (a flash of light)
ME: (attempting to sing) “Once upon a time there were three little pigs, who had set out down the road…” (she cannot continue) What’s the use…
(Mooooo, Mooooo… she is interrupted by the sound of cows and cowbells and shepherd’s calls)
ME: Time to milk me! Goodbye my love. Let me take a good look at you, since I might not ever see you again.
(She goes over to the lactarium, sits down, and begins to express the milk.)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: Psst, psst… Psst, pssst…
THE ONE WHO SINGS: LuPone, Rose and Buzzkill… are meeting… they want to see you two…
ME: Finally… Vince, they want to see us…
EDNA / BUZZKILL: Have a seat, have a seat… First, I want to ask for your apology for the sudden change in diagnosis! The result of the MRI, at first, seemed much better than we expected, and we jumped to conclusions. Right Dr. LuPone? (she looks toward the dark corner) Up until now the entire team without exception…
ME: Without exception…
EDNA / BUZZKILL: …it’s clear to us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Liberto has a serious condition of cerebral palsy! Dr. LuPone has already explained to you the long-term expectations, right, Dr. LuPone? (she looks toward the dark corner) Dr. LuPone also mentioned that you would like Liberto to lead a dignified life…
(ME nods her head; she is unable to speak)
EDNA / BUZZKILL: We, the entire team, also agree. As you know, euthanasia is illegal here…
ME: Euthanasia, euthanasia, euthanasia… the word hadn’t yet occurred to me… euthanasia, euthanasia, euthanasia… it’s only in the movies…
EDNA / BUZZKILL: We need to be very cautious and stay within the limits of the law, but it is clear to us that we won’t go to great lengths with Liberto to keep him alive. We believe it would neither be just nor humane.
ME: Thank you, thank you…
EDNA / BUZZKILL: You already know that Liberto is unable to swallow his secretions on his own, which means his condition will worsen, and once we reach that point, if you decide to do so, we’ll only apply measures of comfort…
EDNA / BUZZKILL: We won’t do anything to keep him alive artificially… But I need to warn you that it won’t be quick or easy, because we’ll have to wait for his condition to worsen…
ME: And what do we do in the meantime?
EDNA / BUZZKILL: We wait…
ME: Can you sedate him?
EDNA / BUZZKILL: We’ll keep him from suffering, but if what you’re asking is if we can be more proactive… I have to say no, we can’t be more proactive… the law won’t allow it… we have to wait…
ME: Proactive? More proactive? What do you mean by proactive?
EDNA / BUZZKILL: If you like, you can talk about it among yourselves, and let us know your decision.
ME: Vince, you see…?
EDNA / VINCE: Yes…
ME: Liberto needs to die, right?
EDNA / VINCE: Yes…
EDNA / VINCE: Ok. (Cathartic screams)
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (singing) Goodbye, Liberto, my love, see you tomorrow! Mini fridge, three empty jars, locker with Nemo: anorak, scarf, bag, take my cell from my bum, hospital parking lot, a fortune! Privatize healthcare, for cryin’ out loud! Expressway! Home! Cain, my little guy! Breast pump! To bed!
ME: I’m dreaming… Liberto is beautiful, more awake than ever! It’s horrible! Before, it would have made me so very happy! Now it horrifies me! And if his condition doesn’t worsen? And if he doesn’t die? (she wakes up startled) Horrible mother! Any mother would be happy to see her son live!!!
ME: (reciting it as though it were a litany) Alarm, 7 AM, I slept so well! Breast pump, expressway, not much traffic for a Sunday, businesses open, parking lot, subscriptions? Quarterly, what the fuck! Fish cartoon: anorak, scarf, bag… hands… no! …cell! silent mode… down my underwear… ok now: hands, soap… elbows, 2 minutes, it’s scalding!
EDNA: Good morning, good morning… new parents… What’s the look on their faces? There’s no paper… take some from the lactarium… Mini fridge, three jars of milk… the frozen colostrum, will they understand…? Liberto, bed 1, unit 21. I say hello to the nurses, they give me a strange look… Do they need to tell me something? I can see the little bed. I’m coming! I’m here! I can see him! Good morning, Liberto, my love!
ME: (she sings him a lullaby)
THE ONE WHO SINGS / YOUNG NURSE: You sing so well! Look how handsome Liberto is, mommy! I bathed and aspirated him!
ME: You aspirated him?
THE ONE WHO SINGS / YOUNG NURSE: Yes, to keep him comfortable! (she goes on working)
ME: Comfort? He’s not a sofa! I don’t think dying is very comfortable…
THE ONE WHO SINGS / YOUNG NURSE: (she continues working all the while) Stimulate him, mommy! Stimulate him! He should wake up!
ME: No! Not anymore! We already decided… what do you call it… not… Not to resuscitate? Right? Don’t you know? Do not resuscitate, understand? (THE ONE WHO SINGS / YOUNG NURSE does not listen and continues to go about her work) Vince, that’s what they call it on House, right?
EDNA / VINCE: Yes, hon… I don’t know… I don’t know what it’s called… What the fuck do you call the fact that we’ve decided that our son should die?
ME: (To Liberto) You want to live, don’t you?… Of course… Even the most committedly suicidal people… There was a famous one, a quadriplegic named Sampedro, you know?
EDNA / VINCE: From the movie The Sea Inside. “The sea inside, The sea inside and my neck snaps…”
ME: Right. And even he surely fought to survive during the final moments.
(Mooooo, Mooooo… she is interrupted by the sound of cows and cowbells and shepherd’s cries)
ME: Time to milk me! … Goodbye, my love. Let me take a good look at you, since I might not ever see you again.
(She goes over to the lactarium, sits down, and begins to express the milk.)
(THE ONE WHO SINGS also sits down and begins expressing milk. EDNA / CLAIRE’S MOTHER enters, nods hello, and does the same… The sound of the squeezing is very loud. ME fills three jars of milk. The others only fill one. EDNA / CLAIRE’S MOTHER finishes and exits. ME calls out to her)
ME: Hey! You’re Claire’s mother, right? How’s your little girl doing? Is she on the wait list? Will they be able to do the transplant?
EDNA / CLAIRE’S MOTHER: Claire is doing ok, but they still won’t take her out of the incubator. Yesterday, she had a fever again. The transplant is our last hope, but it could be… It’s just that there are so few donations for such tiny babies… Anyway, I hope all goes well for you, girl! (she exits)
ME: I hope all goes well for you, girl! (she continues looking toward the direction in which EDNA / CLAIRE’S MOTHER has exited) Vince, Liberto’s heart will save Claire!
EDNA / VINCE: What’s wrong, my love? What’s wrong my little boy? Tell your daddy. Why are you crying like that?
ME: (to THE ONE WHO SINGS) Can’t you give him something?
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (she lowers her shoulders) Would you like a Tylenol?
ME: What the fuck a Tylenol, something stronger so he can go to sleep.
EDNA / VINCE: So that he can remain in a coma until the moment arrives… so that he’s not conscious of anything.
ME: Can’t you see he knows what we’re thinking?
EDNA / VINCE: Little ones understand everything.
ME: We’ve already decided.
EDNA / VINCE: That it breaks our hearts.
ME: Ok, how should we go about this?
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (she lowers her shoulders) I don’t know… the law won’t allow it, right?
EDNA / VINCE: The law won’t allow my son… we have to wait for his condition to worsen… wait until he’s even more agitated… wait until what hurts you now makes you hurt even more.
ME: And you know why all this, my love? Because you’re not a cat.
ME: Yes, darling, yes, because you were unlucky enough to be born a boy and not a cat… And not because cats have seven lives. No, that’s the stuff of fairy tales, but it’s not true.
ME: Cats really only have one life, like little boys, but they say they have seven, because their life is worth seven, because it’s a dignified life, the life of a cat.
ME: You know what, my love? I once had kitty cat named Norrell; she was beautiful, a calico with yellow eyes. One day she became very sick, like you, and she cried a lot, too.
ME: I brought her to the vet, the doctor for little kitties, and she told me it would be better for her to die because the poor little thing was so sick that she would never be able to have a dignified life again. So, I gave her hugs, I gave her kisses, and I told her not to be afraid, that they wouldn’t hurt her. Then the vet gave her an injection and, after five minutes, she died… But of course, she was lucky, because she was a cat.
(The two of them remain quiet, and Liberto cries)
ME: Vince, I’m Medea… I could kill him right now.
EDNA / VINCE: Yeah.
EDNA / VINCE: It occurred to me, too.
ME: I could go like this and break his neck…
EDNA / VINCE: Yeah, I would do it, too…
THE ONE WHO SINGS / BUZZKILL: Hi… I’m Buzzkill…
ME and EDNA / VINCE: Buzzkill….
THE ONE WHO SINGS / BUZZKILL: (it seems as though he is speaking, but, instead, he sings “Jingle bells.” EDNA / VINCE translate, with normal words, what he is saying.)
EDNA / VINCE: He says Liberto’s condition is beginning to worsen and that they will try to make sure it doesn’t go on for too long, because the date he’s alluding to is approaching. He says that next week is Christmas, and there’s a risk of always associating it with a bad experience, and it’s better to avoid that…
ME: Oh! Right! The father, dressed as Santa, kills himself going down the chimney, and ever since then, the kids are traumatized about Christmas! How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Those TV specials caused so much damage.
EDNA / VINCE: Right, I think that’s from Gremlins… I’m scared. I need this to end.
THE ONE WHO SINGS: (singing) Goodbye, Liberto, my love, see you tomorrow! Mini fridge, three empty jars, locker with Nemo: anorak, scarf, bag, take my cell out of my bum, hospital parking lot, a fortune! Privatize healthcare, for cryin’ out loud! Go to hell! Expressway! Home! Cain, my little guy! Breast pump! To bed!
ME: I’m dreaming…. No, I’m not dreaming tonight…
ME: (as if she were about to recite the litany of every day, but she does not do it) I’m not in the mood for that shit!
EDNA: Liberto, bed 1, unit 21
ME: (she sings a happy song)
THE ONE WHO SINGS (dressed as Carmen Miranda): The isolation ward! The isolation ward! There’s an empty space in the isolation ward!
ME: Are they transferring him?
THE ONE WHO SINGS (dressed as Carmen Miranda): Yes, I’ll take care of you now…
ME: Does this mean we’re coming to the end?
THE ONE WHO SINGS (dressed as Carmen Miranda): Yes.
EDNA / VINCE: Is this the end?
THE ONE WHO SINGS (dressed as Carmen Miranda): Yes.
EDNA / VINCE: Hon, Dr. Lagos says they’re beginning to sedate him now. She explained to me how the process of Liberto’s death would work.
ME: Death? Did she say death? She finally said death! It turns out that the doctor who seemed so refined has balls! (looking at THE ONE WHO SINGS / CARMEN MIRANDA) Vince, we’ve got Carmen, what luck!
THE ONE WHO SINGS / CARMEN MIRANDA: Final Scene. Death.
ME: Vince, I thought he would remain sound asleep, in, what’s it called, an artificial coma… or… an induced coma, that’s it… but now… He doesn’t want to die. Vince, he doesn’t want to die!
EDNA / VINCE: It seems like he’s begging us.
ME: It’s horrible! I can’t stand it! The agony needs to stop… it’s existed for millennia, and it still hasn’t occurred to anyone to extinguish it?… I’m really mad!
EDNA / VINCE: Liberto, my love! Free yourself! Fly, fly beautiful boy!
ME: Liberto, my love, fly! Go away!… Go away is an ugly expression, it’s too minimal. No one tells a little baby to go away; little babies don’t go anywhere; they don’t know how to. (To Vince) Sweetie, I’ve never lost another person before. I’ve only seen deaths in the movies. I don’t know how people die… I don’t want to know… Will we know when he dies? Will he stick his tongue out like when we were little and pretended to be dead?
EDNA / VINCE: I always thought families experiencing death knew all about cremations, burials, tombstones, and bureaucratic paperwork. I never thought they could be as ignorant and alien to the concept of death as I am right now.
ME: And me.
EDNA / VINCE: Rose says he’s now going to begin turning blue.
ME: Blue? That option didn’t occur to me…But blue, blue? Smurf blue? or something human, similar to the color blue?
EDNA / VINCE: I’m guessing it would be the second one.
ME: And will we notice that he’s blue? I’m afraid to be staring at him, wondering if he’s alive or dead? And that, after a short time, they tell me he’s already been dead for a while…
EDNA / VINCE: Rose says that after turning blue, Liberto, will finally pass.
ME: Vince, that will happen today, right? That will happen now… there it is… it’s almost over… my little baby will die now, my second son, my little guy, fifteen days old. He’ll have only lived fifteen days. He won’t have anymore. What day is today?
EDNA / VINCE: Monday, December 19… It will be today, December 19.
ME and EDNA / VINCE (at the same time): A moment from now, a moment from now, I’ll be an orphaned mother/father… orphaned of a son… orphaned of a little son… now… my little boy is going to die right now… my little one!!!!! My liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle one!!!!
EDNA / VINCE: (whispering to ME) Hon, the doctors are back, they’re right here, behind us…
ME: They’re probably here to certify his death, like in the movies.
EDNA / VINCE: The machines no longer have alarms, and the screens are behind us. I can’t bring myself to look at them. I’m afraid that, all of a sudden, the lines will be flat, and I imagine the beeeeeeep that will no longer sound.
ME: I’m very frightened to see him die, but I couldn’t deal with not recognizing it.
EDNA / VINCE: The doctors are very still, behind us. When they move, it will mean that Liberto has died. I hold his little hand tightly.
ME and EDNA / VINCE: (at the same time) I’m waiting… and I don’t want my liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle one… to die!!!
ME: Don’t be afraid, my love, momma is here, momma is with you, and she loves you very much, more than anything in this world, my love, don’t be afraid of anything.
EDNA / VINCE: Fly, fly, Liberto, fly, my beautiful boy! The skin on his cheeks is so beautiful, shiny and taught as though they just washed it with soap and water.
ME: He’s blue!
EDNA / VINCE: He’s no longer moving. He’s still breathing.
ME: The doctors aren’t moving.
EDNA / VINCE: Liberto, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid my love!
ME: He’s blue! He’s blue! I’ve never seen him look so beautiful!
(THE ONE WHO SINGS, still dressed as Carmen Miranda, sings a lullaby. When she is finished nobody moves. Absolute silence)
FINAL TEXT: In a single instant, everything that a moment ago was life, the box that is a hospital, where they save lives –there is no place with more life in the world– has become a death vigil. All is silence, not a screen switched on, nor a sound, only our tears, which can be heard more than ever, and a child, blue, dead, immobile. He appears to be asleep, immensely relaxed, more handsome than ever, but no, it’s perfectly evident, he’s dead!!! There you have it. It’s over. And what am I feeling inside? Well, nothing… nothing more than what I was already feeling. I was expecting a change, a final ending, something to bring it all to an end… but no, not even desperation can end my agony… I continue to wait.
But now, my son, my love, you’re finally free! Fly, Liberto, fly.