Rumor of Days to Come

Glafira Rocha

Artwork by Samuel Hickson

Il dolore dei giorni che verranno
già pesa sola tua ossatura fragile.
—Attilio Bertolucci


HE/HIM:  Slightly deformed being.
MOTHER:  Young and beautiful.

The space is unimportant, since the characters will be able to develop throughout the setting already in existence, nevertheless there’ll be a plaza, the same characters will create it with their movements, not the scenery.

All of them are frozen, forming a circle where they surround
HIM, who is naked on top of a shoeshine box.

HE starts to talk, nevertheless HE can’t be heard, they all walk from one side to another, they whisper amongst themselves and only the movement of their lips can be seen. The dialogues and movements shall be the same from scene X, which appears almost at the end of the play. Nevertheless the characters don’t come out. The speeches would be clearly understood until reaching that scene. Shortly they’ll remain immobile surrounding HIM.

The Housekeeper leaves the circle and inserts herself at one end of the stage where a table with food is displayed. While the following dialogues occur,
HE begins to dress, puts on pants and a white shirt, as soon as HE’s done that HE’ll get off the box and will remain paralyzed.

HOUSEKEEPER:  They’re about to arrive, they’re running late. I won’t wait for them for much longer, it seems I haven’t taught them punctuality. If their father was so punctual, I don’t know why they didn’t inherit it. I hope they don’t come with their kids. (Starts to hide things.) I hope they don’t break a plate. They think that since they give me everything, I have to allow their Pablito or their Sergito to destroy it. I’m not waiting for them anymore, the food’s getting cold. (Eats.)

The GIRL and the BOY step out of the circle and start to play with a ball. The GIRL comes close to the HOUSEKEEPER and invites her to play. The HOUSEKEEPER declines. The GIRL and BOY keep playing.

HOUSEKEEPER:  Beat it, leave me alone. You’re so noisy!

The ball hits the HOUSEKEEPER on the head; she becomes annoyed and takes it.

BOY:  Give me my ball.

HOUSEKEEPER:  What enters here, stays here.

GIRL:  Please, lady, it’s the only thing we can play with.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I don’t care, why don’t you have respect? (Continues eating.)

BOY:  If you don’t give me my ball, it’ll go badly for you.

GIRL (to the BOY):  Shut up. Lady, don’t be a stinker, throw the ball.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I won’t give you anything.

BOY:  Bitter old hag.

GIRL (to the BOY):  Now what? I don’t want to play the same as always.

BOY:  First you say that and then you’re the one who starts.

GIRL:  I don’t want to.

BOY:  I do want to, come.

The BOY pulls the GIRL’s clothes, tries to lift her skirt, they tussle for a bit, she sits down embarrassed and inserts herself inside the circle, becomes paralyzed. The BOY does it too.

PROSTITUTE steps out of the circle and stands to one corner, as if waiting for someone. HE encounters the HOUSEKEEPER. All of the other characters will remain paralyzed while the following occurs.

HE:  I was missing you.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I’ve had lots of things to do; you know my grandkids come on the weekends.

HE:  You talk so much about them that I’m very curious to meet them.

HOUSEKEEPER:  When there’s a chance. Did you see the woman from the corner?

HE:  I always see her, she arrives at the same time, but she never has a client.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I pity people like her, poor thing.

HE:  You feel sorry for her, don’t sympathize.

HOUSEKEEPER:  It’s all the same to me.

HE:  Pity doesn’t help anyone, compassion does.

HOUSEKEEPER:  Either way, I just came to tell you the rent was due yesterday and you know I depend on that to live.

HE:  Yeah? I thought your daughters helped you.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I’m the one who helps them, their husbands don’t give them even a dollar and sometimes the kids get sick. Thank goodness they have their mother, that though old, I could still lend them a hand.

HE:  You do good. (Gives her money.) Here it is, yesterday I went to give it to you but I didn’t find you.

HOUSEKEEPER:  My daughters took me to the movies.

HE:  I figured.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I’m leaving; they’ll be here soon.

The HOUSEKEEPER nears the PROSTITUTE, takes her by the hand and together they insert themselves in the circle.

HE:  I like to believe we all tell the truth. What is the truth? No one knows it, but we all pursue it . . .

Now we can’t hear what’s being said. Some screams are heard. They’re the PROSTITUTE’s and the HOUSEKEEPER’s, nevertheless they are paralyzed and their dialogue is off.

HOUSEKEEPER:  You’re an idiot.

PROSTITUTE:  Please, lady, don’t hit me anymore, leave me alone.


HE is standing in the middle of the stage, naked again, atop a shoeshine box. Everyone surrounds HIM. Only what HE says is heard, the other characters continue talking but they’re not heard, it seems as if they only mimic. They’ll repeat scene X without leaving that act.

Her gaze followed me,
it was a pursuit,
I ran, walked, tripped,
the gaze was stubborn, her purpose,
to crush me, drown me, overwhelm me.
I got tired of the hunt, I surrendered.
The gaze pierced my body,
I felt it didn’t want to damage me,
it only needed me to take it
to that place where it belongs.
You were the spectators,
you condemned, damned and cast fire,
incandescent orbs that marked me
as the last of the mortals.
I was born different, that’s certain,
I’ve been compared with a monster,
I even scare the night,
I’m spat at and I place my head between my
Perhaps the crow stops being beautiful because it
eats the corn?
The crow takes flight and seeks nourishment, as do I,
the best way to nourish myself is by offering my soul.
It has not been you who have thrown me towards this
I know I have chosen it, it’s complicated.
Now that I see you before me,
a fear invades me,
I see you and I believe you don’t see me,
I speak to you and I know you don’t hear me . . .
my absurd words, meaningless,
shall be an echo you would not be able to calm.
Look, that’s how I am and I am happy for it.
Though my knees tremble upon seeing you,
I can feel the trembling comes from my
Hasn’t it been enough treating me like an animal?
Constantly mocking me to my face,
the best way to repay your scorn is
with my presence,
enough to show you the truth.
That’s it, I’m here, look at me,
don’t fear,
I’ve surrendered,
I am what I am.

Amongst the people, we discover that the PROSTITUTE walks about HIM, then she stands close to the BOY. The other characters freeze, forming the circle again, only the PROSTITUTE and the BOY speak. HE starts to dress in white and subsequently remains paralyzed.

BOY:  Don’t come close, please.

PROSTITUTE:  Don’t be scared of me.

BOY:  I don’t want to hurt you this time.

PROSTITUTE:  What’s one more time.

BOY:  Are you sure?

PROSTITUTE:  Come, I can protect you.

BOY:  No one protects me, I just came so you could give me what I need, I asked you to not fall in
love with me and you see. You’re such a fool.

PROSTITUTE:  I don’t think it’s foolish.

BOY:  You can’t love me; I’m not worth anything. I don’t know what I want; I’m travelling the world without a purpose.

PROSTITUTE:  Who cares about that, I just know that you have shown me how to see life differently. I’m no longer an animal for everyone’s use . . . and now . . . you leave me. I can’t live like that, believing I’ll be who I was before.

BOY:  I’ve never loved you and I haven’t deceived you, all of this started cause of your stubbornness, your need to have someone close to you, but I don’t think I’m suitable for that task.

PROSTITUTE:  Why did you change so much?

BOY:  I didn’t change; I’m the same one that hits you every time I feel like it.

PROSTITUTE:  So give me a solution, tell me where I can find another person?

BOY:  Where you found me.

PROSTITUTE:  I didn’t find you anywhere, you where the one who found me; you are always the one who seeks me out. So leave me alone.

BOY:  I’m trying that.

PROSTITUTE:  What can I do so you don’t leave?

BOY:  Nothing, please spare me the pain of humbling you, I don’t want to, I don’t want to hurt you now.

PROSTITUTE:  I get it, I get it. (It seems she goes crazy.) Get lost, don’t come close, leave, leave, don’t ever look for me.

BOY:  I can’t stop doing it.

PROSTITUTE:  Get lost.

The BOY inserts himself in the circle and becomes paralyzed. HE gets off the shoeshine box and takes it. The PROSTITUTE lunges at HIM and hugs HIM; HE squats and looks at the shoes.

HE:  Your shoes are very dirty. (Starts to clean the prostitute’s slippers.)

PROSTITUTE:  What good are clean shoes to me?

HE:  The shoes reflect what we are; they speak what each one of us is.

PROSTITUTE:  And what do these say.

HE:  They’re tired. They’ve walked much.

PROSTITUTE:  I should buy me some new ones, but where do I get them.

HE:  You’ll know. You have to work for that, but to obtain them you have to sweat.

PROSTITUTE:  You think I don’t sweat?

HE:  I simply think that what you do is a very easy job.

PROSTITUTE:  You don’t know what you’re saying, idiot. You think it’s easy giving yourself to men you don’t love?

HE:  I don’t think it is, but you look so pretty and so smart that you could do other things.

PROSTITUTE:  I’m not good for anything.

HE:  Sometimes I watch you for long periods and I realize you’re a good person.

PROSTITUTE:  You think?

HE:  Of course, but the one who has to believe it is you.

PROSTITUTE:  I could never believe that about myself, what happens is you haven’t taken a good look at me, I’m old and fucked, no one wants to be with me now.

HE:  You could be alone.

PROSTITUTE:  I’ve been alone my entire life; I don’t want that anymore; in order to feel accompanied, I’d be willing to do anything. Could you keep me company?

HE (nervously):  Me, not me, lady, I’m not cut out for that, you don’t see how I am?

PROSTITUTE:  That doesn’t matter, I only see you as a man.

HE:  I’d never forgive myself if someone like you were at my side. I was born to walk the earth, to be alone. I know I disgust everyone.

PROSTITUTE:  Not me, stay with me. (Hugs HIM.)

The PROSTITUTE attempts to kiss HIM, but her lips only stain the white shirt.

HE:  You’ve dirtied me, you haven’t noticed that. Leave me, go.

PROSTITUTE:  Don’t leave.

HE:  I cleaned your shoes. You weren’t taught to give thanks? What would you mother think if she saw you begging a monstrosity like me?

The PROSTITUTE feels ashamed, begins to cry, the GIRL exits the circle and comes close to her. HE places himself at the center of the circle and starts undressing, while HE does it, the following conversations will take place, then, HE’ll remain paralyzed.

GIRL:  Could you give me something to eat?

PROSTITUTE:  Don’t have. (Wipes her tears.)

GIRL:  What are you crying for?

PROSTITUTE:  I’m not crying.

GIRL:  Crying doesn’t do anything; either way everything stays the same.

PROSTITUTE:  You’re too young to speak that way.

GIRL:  Age doesn’t matter; I could know the same as you.

PROSTITUTE:  I don’t believe it. I know more than you can imagine, child.

GIRL:  I’m not a child.

PROSTITUTE:  Surely they’ve already done to you what they do to all, but you are a child.

The GIRL nears the table where now there’s a briefcase filled with makeup and a mirror.

GIRL:  Can you make me up like you?

PROSTITUTE:  However you want. (Gets close to the GIRL and starts to make her up.)

GIRL:  Before I didn’t like to play that, it hurt me, but after, I began to feel a tickling sensation all over, they were like bubbles in my body. Now I like to play that, but I know it’s something bad. Sometimes I dream a fairy appears and tells me I shouldn’t do it, but I do it.

PROSTITUTE:  It happens like that, first we suffer and then we seek it out. It’s natural.

GIRL:  You think now I can earn money like you?

PROSTITUTE:  Could be, but it’s best you wait, because later those bubbles will become knives.

GIRL:  I don’t understand.

PROSTITUTE:  You’ll want to die.

GIRL:  Die?

PROSTITUTE:  Yes, die. (Takes the mirror and smashes it on the table, grabs one of the fragments and pretends to cut her wrists.) Either way no one will remember you.

GIRL:  What are you talking about? I don’t understand you.

PROSTITUTE:  About nothing. (Leaves the glass and continues to make up the girl.)

The GIRL notices a bracelet the PROSTITUTE is wearing.

GIRL:  Your bracelet is so cute.

PROSTITUTE:  A friend gave it to me.

GIRL:  Will you give it to me?


GIRL:  Please, give it to me.

PROSTITUTE:  I can’t, I don’t want to give it to you.

The GIRL yanks the bracelet and breaks it, runs with it in her hands, inserts herself in the circle and remains paralyzed. The PROSTITUTE begins to cry. Blackout.

HE is on top of his box, naked, in the same posture and condition as before. The same characters observe HIM and talk, but they’re not heard. They’ll be heard in scene X. The movements continue being the same and they’ll continue within the space. The PROSTITUTE is the only one that hears HIM attentively.

The gaze allowed me to rest . . .
There are moments where I don’t feel, don’t think, don’t see,
I sit on a chair and look out the window,
everyone passes by,
they’re rushing, they’re always rushing
and while you run
a fly lands on my finger,
I pay attention to its tiny legs rubbing together,
I notice it just finished eating,
probably the chicken resting on the plate.
It looks me in the eyes,
it asked me how today went,
today is the same as every day, I tell it,
the fly responds no,
because that day I’ve met her.
A tremor shakes me upon hearing the tiny
Again, I near the window, I see them,
some raise their heads, they watch,
I smile and they lower their faces.
On turning my finger again,
the fly is no longer there, it has left.
I think had I not turned,
I’d still be talking to her.
How do I miss out on such beautiful things?
It disturbs me forgetting that small things also
have a space.
I dread confronting my shadow,
I’m afraid of returning to desire,
I want to die trying,
I want to placate all the voices,
don’t talk anymore, it deafens,
extinguish the murmurings and the silence,
don’t send me to the past.
Heartbreaking figure in the shadows
what are you telling me?
I can’t hear you,
shout, speak louder,
make my eardrum burst,
no, better yet hush.
Don’t talk now.
Don’t tell me.
Sleep . . .

The MAN comes close to HIM.

MAN:  That’s it, shut up. (Covers his ears.)

HE:  I won’t shut up, I can’t, these words choke me and should come out.

MAN:  You don’t need to talk and preach, do it if you can.

HE:  I say it because I already did it.

MAN:  You’re a poor fool.

HE:  You’re calling me a fool? When you allow her to manipulate you. She still has you by the hand, you’re the one who hasn’t done anything, you’re the same, you’ve always been the same.

MAN:  Shut up now, you don’t understand that your words enter and reverberate in my ears, they’re like an echo that follows me.

HE:  I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up now, listen to me, it’s the best thing you can do, cause if you don’t do it, you’ll remain as pusillanimous as ever.

The MAN covers his ears.

HE:  She’ll tell you to not leave her alone, please listen to me. She is not the world. Is not my world.

The MAN starts to scream to douse HIS words, but HE doesn’t stop talking.

HE:  Tell her you saw me; tell her I don’t love her anymore . . . (Remains paralyzed just like the other characters.)

The MAN stops covering his ears when he sees the LADY exit the circle, both head towards the table and begin to eat.

LADY:  What?

MAN:  Nothing, I didn’t speak.

LADY:  I know you, something’s wrong with you.

MAN:  Nothing’s wrong, don’t bother me, you think you know it all, but no, you don’t know anything, leave me alone.

LADY:  You’re so strange, surely something happened to you out in the streets and you don’t want to tell me.

MAN:  Why do you think you know it all? Nothing’s wrong with me, it was a normal day, but . . .

LADY:  But what, they did something to you, right?

MAN:  Nothing, they didn’t do anything to me, I was simply walking by that street you told me about and I found a lot of people, a man was saying things I didn’t understand, then everything was spinning and I had to come back.

LADY:  One of these days, you won’t know how to get back.

MAN:  There are exactly 1,243 steps to get home, but I don’t want to walk by that street now, I don’t want to see you, don’t want to talk to you . . .

LADY:  What are you saying?

MAN:  Nothing.

LADY:  Don’t come late anymore.

MAN:  I won’t do it again.

The MAN and the LADY continue eating.

LADY:  What?

MAN:  Nothing, I haven’t said anything.

LADY:  Best to eat in silence.

MAN:  Of course.

LADY:  What?

MAN:  I didn’t speak.

LADY:  Something’s going on and you don’t want to tell me.

The MAN continues eating.

HE and the HOUSEKEEPER exit the circle and sit at the other end of the table. The MAN and the LADY continue eating.

HOUSEKEEPER:  Did you like the food I left you?

HE:  Yes, thank you, you already know I really like chicken.

HOUSEKEEPER:  That’s why I prepare it for you, but there are days when I come and the food is still there, well where do you go?

HE:  I walk, I walk the entire city, I see everything, but then I get lost and I don’t know how to return, I wait for day to see the streets again.

HOUSEKEEPER:  You work a lot, you’ll burst one day, you’re very intelligent, you could dedicate yourself to simpler things, an office for example, there you’ll spend it sitting down.

HE:  I like what I do.

HOUSEKEEPER:  Shining shoes is not very decent work, nevertheless I don’t know how you make money.

HE:  I save, also I think my job is as decent as any office worker. Shining shoes is not easy, it’s an art. First you look at the shoes carefully, then you must touch them to verify the kind of leather, notice the dust and grime stuck to them, you can easily guess the paths they have traipsed, the joys they’ve lived and the times they’ve been mistreated. Slowly apply the grease, rub it in little by little on the leather, then the polish, you have to make it shine, but it’s not an abrupt shine, it’s a tenuous shine that transforms itself to light, then that light could blind . . . and ready, you leave the shoe with renewed life, prepared to take new paths and to live different things. If they return to my hands again it’s a sign they liked how I treated them, it’s like reviving someone.

HOUSEKEEPER:  Mmmm, well say what you want, but I wouldn’t feel pleased if a child of mine shined other people’s shoes, and worse, if they were like you . . . so intelligent.

HE:  I know I can do other things, but I like that, well, reading too, I read a lot.

HOUSEKEEPER:  I believe it, and what do you like to read?

HE:  Everything, though my mother only liked for me to read philosophy, she’d say that novels and the theatre just put crazy ideas into people’s minds.

The LADY gets up, the MAN follows her, both insert themselves in the circle and remain paralyzed. Now the MOTHER and the INFANT are the ones who exit the circle. HIM and the HOUSEKEEPER stay watching as spectators.

INFANT:  I read what you asked me to.

MOTHER:  Very good, so tell me what is the soul.

INFANT:  The term soul comes from the Latin anima, from the same Greek root as animus, wind. The concept of the soul could have the same significance as spiritus, which in Greek is psyche, blow, breath, life. It is commonly understood that the soul is the vital catalyst of the body or the immaterial beginning, which is considered the origin of the material life, of the sensibility and the psychic in man. Sometimes this name is given to the human mind or it is also called the spirit.

MOTHER:  And so for you that’s the soul?

INFANT:  That’s what I read?

MOTHER:  But, what is the soul to you?

INFANT:  I told you already.

MOTHER:  That’s fine, you memorized it perfectly, but that doesn’t tell me what you believe about the soul, that tells me what another person thinks.

INFANT:  Well, I believe the soul is like an invisible being that lives inside us, it’s what makes me different from you, my soul may go to heaven if I’m good, and to hell if I’m bad.

MOTHER:  Where did you come up with that foolishness, the heavens and hell don’t exist and I’ve told you that lots of times, only evil people and good people exist, but they learn that in the world, not anywhere else.

INFANT:  Fine, mom, whatever you say.

MOTHER:  No, my love, It’s also not whatever I say. I like that you believe the soul is an invisible being which lives inside everyone, because that is something you think, but heaven and hell are man-made creations.

INFANT:  Fine, now I understand you. Now, may I go out for a while on the balcony?

MOTHER:  No, you already know that people pass and they make fun of you.

INFANT:  I don’t care, I don’t pay attention to them, I just want to see how the sun sets bit by bit.

MOTHER:  You can see it through the window, without stepping out into the balcony.

INFANT:  It’s not the same.

MOTHER:  It’s the same if you want it to be, remember everything is in your head.

INFANT:  I know, so then take me for a walk.

MOTHER:  I get it now; what you want is to go out.

INFANT:  Please.

MOTHER:  Fine.

The MOTHER takes the INFANT’s hand. They walk amongst the other characters that remain still. HIM and the HOUSEKEEPER observe.

MOTHER:  Don’t turn around, eyes front, always.


MOTHER:  Don’t let go of my hand.

INFANT:  Fine.

MOTHER:  Don’t look at them, pretend they don’t exist; it’s only you and me.

INFANT:  Sure.

HE takes the INFANT’s hand.

MOTHER:  Walk slowly.

HE:  I always do.

INFANT:  Yes, mom.

MOTHER:  Not around there.

HE:  Whatever you say.

MOTHER:  Be careful with that rock!

INFANT:  I think it’s best if we head back home.

MOTHER:  Yes, that’s best.

The MOTHER and the INFANT enter the circle and freeze.


translated from the Spanish by Gustavo Adolfo Aybar