Today a friend of mine who teaches English to middle-schoolers asked me if I had a good monologue for a teenage girl. I said of course, because I am a teenage girl inside, just like my Gram.
We went back and forth. “Easy reading level,” he said.
“Hm,” I chatted back. “Sex or no sex? Cursing or no cursing?”
“Mild to no sex, it’s for a high school audition, mild cursing,” he typed.
I took a look through my files. My files are super organized, because they are digital, and where possible I prefer objects in my life to be digital. Every time we move, I find myself tossing stacks upon stacks of pages of words that I wrote. I toss the printed pages, not the notebooks, which I keep in a tall file cabinet in my storage closet. The past 13 notebooks have all been the same make. I get them special at Kinokuniya Bookstore near Bryant Park, and can’t do without them. Even in the age of digital, I need to keep a notebook in my bag, a pen in my hand. I buy the smaller ones now though, to account for how much writing I do in transit, on my phone, on cloud.
I remembered I piece I wrote for a character named Lily. The play was mounted for a small run, in 2000. The role was played by Ms. Amanda Schoonover, an actress who, if you’ve seen her perform, you’d remember her forever. She brings a depth of emotion, passion, and warmth to any role, just like she did for Lily. Before Mandy, the role was played by Jasmine Solorzano, back at Sarah Lawrence College. I was so moved by the performance, by Jasmine’s small self and the huge presence she had, the atmosphere of the whole thing, the delicate strength of her delivery.
I dug out Lily’s monologue, along with a few other good pieces for a young woman, and sent them over to my friend. He chatted me back “your work’s a hit!”
“Which did she like?” I asked.
“The one about licking blood.”
That’s Lily. My dear little Lily, lying on her back in the grass before the sun comes up, stealing time for herself, steeling herself against the day, finding a home in her body, in her head, a home to which she alone has the key.
I wrote the play when I was 19. Revised it slightly when I was 25. I feel like I remember everything, even though I’m sure so much is left out. My Gram says that, when she looks in the mirror, or down at her hands, she’s surprised at the age she sees there, because she still feels 18 in there. Me too, Gram.
I still feel like Lily, and everything that’s come after, all at once. So I’m sharing it with you.
From Overnight, by Libby Emmons
Lily is 14. She lives in the New Jersey woods with her brother and her mom. She gets teased alot at school, and her mom is pretty unavailable. Her brother is mean, and she likes the time alone, just as the sun’s coming up, with everyone in the house asleep. She lays back on the grass and looks at the sky.
Layin’ there on the my back like I always do. Sorta’ cold, but y’know, I’m always kinda’ cold- and the grass under me is sorta’ soft- an’ I sorta’ melt in, a little niche just for me an’ my ass. I’d lay my palms out flat, an’ lift ’em up again to rub my eyes, always forgetting the little bits of rock stuck to my fingers. But they wouldn’t cut me up, just mean there’s more to rub away.
An’ I’m watchin’ the sky ’cause I always do and the stars are all bustin’ themselves up with sparkles like dust, fairy dust or somethin’. And so I’m rippin’ at the grass, pullin’ up the dirt. The air all around was so dark, like mud I thought, and the grains of it were all around me- purple and red- almost made it hard to see the sky. Funny, the air gettin’ in the way of the sky.
An’ I reached down to scratch my toe an’ caught this bug in my hand, the bug that was tickling at my foot. A blood sucker, a little tic- dug into the palm of my hand an’ I watched it grow fatter and fatter. Jus’ suckin’ on my blood- the way the air does, an’ the grass does. An’ I started wonderin’ why everything seems to be suckin’ on me, or expectin’ me to give. Almost no control over the blood sucker bug- over what it does or what it takes. But choice, I guess, an’ that’s the same difference, right? So I pulled the safety pin outa’ my sleeve an’ poked at it, denting the skin a little all over, until it ripped and popped- same way as mine does if I poke at it for long enough an’ hard enough- an’ the blood spread all through my fingers. An’ I went to wipe it on the grass, the bugs little legs still stuck into me, ’til I realized it was my own blood.
I licked it off, sucked it off my fingers, ’cause it was my blood, an’ I wanted to have it back for my own. I wanted my whole self to be that red color- same as my blood and the specs in the air- an’ I wanted to jump into the sky. A big red star. But I knew I couldn’t. So I lay back down again an’ the grass ain’t so soft as clouds, jus’ feels like it’s pullin’ me in, an’ I realize the sky’s the only place to be, the only place to stay clear and glitter like crazy.
I spent some time looking for pictures, but the digital files have failed me.