Death and the Maiden III


Translated by Lilian Friedberg © 2005

Rosamunde: Monster! O my mother, forgive me! O my words, my written words, forgive me! O my works, forgive me! Mother nature, forgive me too! O my written words, forgive me one more time! Skin tight jeans, forgive me! Sleeveless shirt, forgive me! Love, protect me, three times lucky! Willpower, rise with a will of your own! Or at least all fall down faster when the Strongman comes! All fall down when the Sportsman comes calling! Kick me when the scholar comes, no, not the scholar, just a hard-nosed scholastic! Who else, for godís sake? Foreign man, come to sacrifice me on the altar, forget me as soon as youíre done! Foreign man, come to sacrifice me on the altar, donít forget me when youíre done and gone! Donít you dare! You hear? Donít you dare forget! Everything that has gone before: null and void! O, and this rosy ring of protection around me, donít you forget me either, hey, oh no, thatís not a ring around the rosy, itís just a bypass ring, an outer ring around the outskirts of the city, designed to spare the cityscape, forgive me. Cityscape, someone elseís image of some other woman plastered to a billboard, forgive me if Iím not the splitting image of this one, that one or the other! O my thighs, my ass, forgive me for making you what you are! Forgive me for having scorned a woman scorned! O the ground where women dare to tread, forgive the fluffs of her feet that missed their cue when the stage was set for her grand entrance! O martyred Maries foraging at my breast, forgive me! Forgive me first and foremost for the fact that you found nothing there! Foreign man, forgive me for becoming your one and only! Foreign man, forgive me for not being there to become your one and only! Iíve gone my own way, may the road I have taken forgive me for the fact that it has always been a road already taken.

Fulvio: Iíd just as soon see the whole world out there doing the wild thingóit would put everyone in a good mood. You can forget about the rest. Normally, Iíd have only needed one woman, but the days of calling a Love Goddess by virtue of passion or persuasion ďslutsĒ are long since passed. Itís not that Iíd have ever believed or hoped that a perfect picture of a woman, a stark raving beauty, one so bright that all eyes are upon her, would so much as consider settling for someone like me, but then she did, yes she did, yes she did, I watched her light up like a light, watched the cord wrap itself around, not a chance, alas, the cord was wrapped round her neck like a noose. She sank to a watery grave without so much as a single thought, drowned, sank like a rubber duck encased in stone, no, like a dead duck, a dead dame. Sealed up tight in the end, like a long, endless avenue the first time you look down it, no end in sight. That woman with her Chinese lantern skirt, wearing those things has long since gone out of style. Nope. Thatís where youíre wrong. Prada has put them back on the rack, but by this time next year theyíll be coming out with something else altogether. What, you mean to tell me the woman is still looking for the rip cord? So she can pretend sheís flailing in the ropes? Just waiting for someone to come along at some unwonted hour and pull the cord so she can wake up and walk away, radiant and unscathed? Thereís the bus stop. Iím the man for you. And Iíll cut that stupid noose around your neck if I get the chance, youíll see, Iíll cut the cord just about when you reach the end of your rope and are ready to yank it harder than ever before. Water rushing. A mountain spring. No, not a mountain spring. Water from some other source. Heaven shall provide. Be my guardian angel. The feast is calling. Thereís always a feast calling us. So. Just roll out the barrel, Rosamunde. And when the partyís over, not a word that rolled off her loose-lipped tongue will be worth a damn dime. All just for show. Iíll cut out your tongue, and where does that leave the word? See, there it is, gone in a flash! And now the word sure wonít be as bad as you made it out to be. Itís nothing but an annoying invited guest who refuses to leave. Roll out the barrel, Rosamunde. Iím telling you, straight up: everything will be decided this very minute. And guess whoís decided to go with me, can you believe it? Youyouyou! Iíd have never guessed. One way or another, but do it now! Lickety-split! Oh well, itís no use, I guess Iíll just have to make the best of it. Cut with the girl talk! I must make you mine, your life depends on the gleam in my eye! Please, can you bring that camera in a little closer, ok, now I see, she has indeed decided to go with meóme and a half a million! And, if sheíd simply stuck to her own plan, it would have been three quarters of a million! A million! But the question in the ďserious musicĒ category was evidently too serious to be taken seriously. Címon, that woman is a joke! I always say: A joy ride on a dreamboat has precious little to do with how many passengers rode before you. And this one was a maiden voyage. Which makes wonder. Why wouldnít anyone get on board this glorious ship, why doesnít anyone get off on this grande dame? I have to wonder, o beguiled child of my love. O to mine heart doth be fain, and I shall fawn forever fondly at your feet.

Rosamunde: Monster! Troublemaker! Iconoclast! A perfect match for me! Who left me out in the cold? A foreign match-making service? Should I be on the make for someone else, one whoís none other than yours truly? I am everyone. Me: successful career woman. Me: fundamentalist-feminist, self-confirmed single. For a long time, I was a veritable walking nymphomaniac, but now thatís all overóonce and for all. All eyes shall be upon me no more. I demand, once and for all, that women claim more and more of their right to live out their sexuality. I demand, once and for all, that women claim the right to live once and for all. After all, men have always been able to have it all, so women should be just as ableófor once. While I was writing this but a moment ago, I was happy as a clam. Clamping onto it now, though, it suddenly doesnít seem so hot. Maybe it would be different for someone perched atop a mountain on Eastern seaboard of Cyprus. Who knows? Nothingís the same on vacation. And itís time to say goodbye, itís suddenly the same as it ever was. Same old, same old. There is no such thing as beauty. Not for once, nor for all: there is no such thing as beauty.

Fulvio: Stay! Because everything will be decided this very minute! Actually, it already should have been decided a minute ago. And any minute now, the whole thing could take a decidedly different turn. In the meantime, Iíll try to get a grip on myself. But what do I do after that? Roll out the barrel, Rosamunde. Why have you let women consume so much of your time? Itís one thing Iíve noticed about you: What makes you shrink in fear whenever a man lays his hands on you? So some guy sets out as a conqueror and returns, still a conqueror, only to immediately set sail again. Only to return again, his same old self. Then, all cock-a-hoop with his haul, he rushes headlong into the next business venture and makes a video out of it. Because there is a better video to be had, and it comes with a free cell phone offer to boot, conversations, free of charge, along with the tongue, free of charge, the voice, the vote, the electoral victory, too, free of charge, because heís already cast so many votes, made so many choices, free of charge, that he bags the election, too, free of charge. Get a grip! Get a new getup and get a grip! What, you donít get it? Itís beyond your grasp? You mean you donít get how you could make me the happiest man in the whole wide world? You donít get that getting it is beyond your grasp? Better to get it in writing? To put it in words? So youíll settle for inquiries and information? Do you put your mediocrity to good use by using it as a meretricious medium for learning how to speak? Hatred! Hatred! You canít come up with anything else. Did you ever come up with the idea that maybe youíre the only one who suffers under the brunt of that hatred? Why not lie a while with me instead of just letting things lie? OK, letís just cut and cut clean here and admit that we were on the wrong track. The media was watching us. Move along now, nothing to see here. No, unfortunately, the media wasnít watching. Other women admit to having cut and run a time or two, three, even more. But you. Yes, you. Yes, you women between the ages of 18 and 80, I just donít see how youíre any nearer the end than I, which end you nearer than I am, you, yes you, thereís just one question Iíve been losing sleep over ever since I first showed up at your door: How many sexual partners have you had to date? No, donít say it. Say what I am wont to hear: why you are a victim, a sacrificial lamb, why you have been victimized and sacrificed, and, placing all the eggs of your existence in one basket, why you want to be a victim, of all things, why you want to be my victim of all things.

Rosamunde: So Iím supposed to die like this, in the relative prime of my life?

Fulvio: How darest thou indulge the reverie, haughty wench, that thou hast triumphed over me? By God, Ďtis merry! Sugar and spice, everything nice, a Dutch doll, a slender reed in this sinewy fist! All the questions: immediately cease; health, suddenly desist. Turn it all back to the beginning, so you can spend yourself for the second time around. I tell ya. Thereís a price to pay! No one may begin to suspect the kind of people we are dealing with here in this countryóweíd be all over the press if word got out. At least weíre a folk thatís physically fit. I tell ya, the way they got their blood pumping. Stop the presses, I tell ya! Naw, Iím not telling you a thing. Let Ďem read what youíve written. Lots of surgical procedures could have been prevented just by reading, even some open heart surgeries. OK, here we go again, from the top, this reputation of mine: enjoy! Lay claim: take it on! These tasks: take me off the job. Everything: all for naught.

Rosamunde: Whatís love got to do with it? Love is but a pipe dream, darling! Certified sniveling moron, says the stamp in my passport, and the passport is valid, and I dare say, I do feel validated. Shall my hatred now wisp oíer the will like a friarís lantern flagging on the wind? I only ask because the flim-flam can lead you up the garden path or make you a nervous wrack. So tell me already, what is the consequence of my transgression! Tell me, so I know how far off the mark Iíve been, once again, when it comes to eroticism. Have I scored enough points this time? No? Fell short again? Iíll just toss my hatred like a hat in the ring at that trifling little Eurovision Song Contest, the Alpine Music Fest, the International Festival of World Folk Music and the anniversary broadcast of something or another, I mean, thereís always an anniversary of something being celebrated somewhere, and then Iíll just park my hatred atop the cars blocking the driveway and atop the house, darling little man, the one that should have lured you into my parentsí lair but which, for the past fifty years, has led to a dead end because my parents have been dead for longer than I. What an image. Had I been better born a man? I toss my hatred like a hat in the ring and toss and toss, toss and toss this hatred, long since obsolete, long since expired, dilapidated and in disrepair. What, you say youíll take it off my hands? It sure would be more at home in your hands. At least thatís what itís telling me. Please, do me the favor, if the sight of my hatred doesnít set your pants on fire, take it off my hands anyway and find something else to light your fire, baby! And while youíre at it, take the royal crown emblazoned bout my brow, reduced to but a flicker now, please, itís all yours, use me like a lighter to set it back on fire! Whatever you doótake it, but donít take it sitting down.

Fulvio: Oh no. You keep it, and keep your cool! But youíve never been able to keep your cool and you never will. One of these days youíll be groveling at my feet for the sake of my love, dear, the love you now scorn so haughtily in your highfalutin hubris! Mark my words! Donít take this tiger by the tail! Better to match my words your own, which will never be a perfect match! You have every reason to feel bad about that! Second fiddle. Always. But that looks pretty good too. Itís just that nothing is ever good enough for me. Allocutions seem to be your strong suit, lady! What? You canít seem to break out of the mold? No wonder, because if you did, it would occur to you that youíre little more than an ordinary bundt cakeóflavor: unidentifiable, unimaginable, especially with your limited show of imagination. And even if you could cobble together the props to frame any kind of show, thereíd be no way to set off the product of your imagination from the world around it. And already, youíre making the curtain callóright again. But you never had a mold of your own in the first place. You donít have what it takes be put in the show. And youíre not putting out much, either. So why bother with the curtain? As useless as a blinding sun on a landscape you never wanted to see in the first place and which doesnít look anything like what was in the brochure.

Rosamunde: Failure of the imagination, a flop. Oh well. I will. Lift your eyes to the hills, no, first lift your eyes, then draw back the sun, then the curtain, so as to block the glare, then look to the hills, then look to see if it was worth lifting your eyes all this time, long enough for them to lose all their luster--blanched white, the eyes. Bleached white snow-capped mountains. Leni R. What does she have to say to us today? The hellacious beauty clings to us like afterbirth. Everyone gets rid of it. No one gets over it. We avail ourselves of laser technology and cut ourselves a beTTer mold. The light starts out as blue, then turns: White. Yellowish white. Old. Colorless. Blank result. This light is the wrong color. And thatís supposed to be what weíve always thought was the sun? Hardened light, too hardened to blush red, the light. The mold: possibly a worsening condition. No. This condition canít get any worse. Anything else would be better, even a landscape painted, filmed or photographed, a point-by-point photographic reproduction that can never be restored: Anything else would be better and everyone else has always done everything better than I.

Fulvio: A voice. A voice. A voice. A voice. Says.

Rosamunde: I believe itís time you come down. Hatred is taking root in my heart as we speak, again, itís back, even though I forbade it from returning, strictly, oh no, itís not the others taking the hit of my hatred, itís me! Me, of all people, taking the hit! With quivering upraised arms, I try to fend it off, and who ends up taking the hit? Me! Even after I provided it with a such beautiful apartment, free of charge. That wasnít good enough. Well, you wouldnít be good enough for anyone who came in direct contact with your soul for so much as a single minute. You say it has bounced back, your hatred? Hatred hatred hatred, familial hatred, interdepartmental hatred, bilateral hatred. Hatred, hatred, hatred! Mutual self-inflicted mobbing. Isnít that a smile, delicate foam, curling up around my lips? No, itís not a smile. Itís wrinkles. No, not wrinkles either, thereís no way, Iíve been using that facial cream, after all. It is hatred, marching across the fields, calm cool and collected, laid back, self-assured, sowing the seeds with its hand. Isnít it a positive thing in a way? Forests, into the fire! People, out of the frying pan! Now you people are cooked. The whole lot of you: done.

Fulvio: Say. Sparks flying in hell. Totally superfluous. For love of you, I could not take back the heavens by storm. Gotta come down. The sanctimonious hypocrisy of this society is really starting to set me off. Iíd like to keep my sense of humor and a sound intellect, and I do my best to be warm-hearted, and I wonít sleep with anyone on the second date. I always take a good hard look beforehand, and another, and again, an even harder look and another, again, harder and harder. And then Iím there to stay. Then thereís nothing more for me to do. Is that the piece of a person I see there? Is that the perfect picture of a person there? Is there a person in that picture? Yes, that is a person in the picture. I know that guy! Oh no, no I donít. No, I donít want to leave, I donít, I wonít go, I wonít go! No, I will. Iím leaving. Indeed, Iím gone!

Rosamunde: My voice. My voice. My voice. My voice. Says nothing.


Rosamunde © 2006 Elfriede Jelinek
Translation by Lilian Friedberg © 2005


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