“But moods, of course, are only points of view.” –Adam Phillips
I relax on the couch and read “The Memory Police” by Yoko Ogawa. (Read this book!) but a friend tries to convince me to write a musical. I don’t write musicals I say. Beside the point he says. He wants it to be about life in my apartment during the pandemic, during the different stages of lockdown, during Christmas time. I picture “code red” going off like a signal in a dark theater, red strobe lights, people running for the exits only to find them locked. My sort of movie that is running in my head. But then I start thinking about it:
My Pandemic Musical
We are eating pasta with a very salty sauce ( I cooked) while he pours me a glass of wine. It has been a sad day. My son cried a lot because he had a bad day at school (school is still a thing these days). I was angry he misbehaved at school. Then I cried a lot because of some pretty bad news I received from back home. My movements are sloppy. I am tired. But the kitchen (my favorite place in the apartment) is warm and our cheeks are flushed from the spicy sauce. “Just picture a simple set, a stage with three rooms. You will come up with something. You are creative.” My friend is animated I guess. “Three characters. There would be the scene where your son has a fight with his puzzle, and then you get a phone call with something else crazy.” Okay, I let it go and start writing:
Scene 1: Weather conditions: Cold, damp, foggy, grey, winter, and no sun. We are stuck in the apartment. Again.
I picture myself as an actor/dancer breaking up a faux fight between my stage son and his puzzle. Stage left: Mother is roused from her stationary position with her book, by the noise of the boy in the other room. A light follows her as she moves towards the commotion. My body would be all elegant and strong, I would position myself between the boy and the puzzle, braving light savers and unpredictable anger, fling my arms out to signal distress, exaggerate my shapes so those in the back of the theater could see. Then I explode and cry. Endless sobbing. Enough is enough. Not another death, I think. Please! I have seen so many people die in my work-career but not privately. Enough! My son says he can calm down, no problem. He will put away his toys. He will behave in school. He hugs me and tells me, “Everything will be okay, mommy. We are together.”
Scene 2: Bodies would move between the rooms. And moods would change and we wouldn’t leave the house. My son is annoying because he keeps asking if he can blow out the candles at the table. I tell him, as usual, that I want to keep them burning. There is sauce on his face. He still wants to blow them out. My friend talks over the bickering boy. In the musical version of this, the voices of my family wouldn’t compete but from a coherent song – discord turning into harmony, an appropriate amount of tension mounting and then breaking. A solo ringing out and dissolving into laughter. Voices would fade in and out. “We need jokes to make this work,” I say. “We have to laugh about the whole thing and not take it too seriously. Look, we are healthy, we are financially okay. It is just another lockdown,” he adds.
“And here the light and here the dark.” – David Bergen
Scene 3: I miss half of what is being said and move the candles to the center of the table. There is pasta on the floor. I am tired of tension. I am at the same time irritated and turned on by this conversation. How absurdly exaggerated, how ridiculous. How fun, this sense of play. It does feel somewhat invigorating to stray from our standard table talk (which, to be honest, is a bit tiring whenever someone mentions new Corona rules and regulations) into “fantasy territory” that is so real in a couple of days. But I have always found it weird to plan jokes in advance. Isn’t humor necessarily spontaneous? Many think about jokes this way: individual, articulate bites of funny. Things that start as an idea and get fleshed out into full form. A liturgy of humor. I guess I am up for the task of authoring them.
I imagine I would enjoy planning the set. I could make the outer landscape mirror the inner. I am thrilled to picture the control I would have. I would add a happy scene: One in which my son reads by himself, legs entangled, curled up in pillows and blankets, there could be a string of lights, my child’s carefree and artful painting taped up behind him. Later, the audience would recognize the painting as the crumpled ball on the floor and the lights would have become askew, indicating a change in mood, mounting sadness, loneliness, fatigue. No school but homeschooling. He misses his friends. I could manifest our moods, project them into the world. Look, here is where we are bored. Here is where we put on socks. Here is where we rage, see the tossed pillow, the mess, the broken toys? Look at the paper planes everywhere in the apartment. Millions. Here is a half-clothed boy gesturing in front of a mirror. Here is the comedy, the strain, the drollery, and impatience for all this mess to be over. In the end, I would scream: Can somebody please fix this?