The Crack – a short play
Written by Monica Ng
A woman sits quietly on an armchair staring at a frosted window. She pulls her sweater on tighter in attempt to fight off the chill in the air. She sniffles and wipes the tears off her cheek with the back of her hand. Crossing the room, she grabs a box of tissues and returns to her seat. She puts her feet up onto the chair, hugs her legs tightly and tucks her head down between them. She hears a ding from the phone next to her. Glancing at the screen she sees a text message but decides to ignore it. Her attention is drawn to the person lying on the floor across the room with her head in a pool of blood. The woman gets off the floor, casually smooths out her bloodied hair and walks toward the armchair.
Beth: How did you get so weak? Why did you let yourself fall apart?
Glenda: What do you mean? I’m just fine.
Beth: Look at you. You’re so young and in such terrible shape. You can barely walk and can’t even bend down to pick something up off the floor. Plus your vision started to fade years ago. I don’t even know if you can see anymore.
Glenda: My joints are worn out –that’s all. And I can still see you. I’m not young anymore, you know? Seventy-two is old. It’s almost my time to go.
Beth: That’s nonsense. You used to do everything. You ran a business, raised us and took care of the household. Why did you give up?
Glenda: We all have a role in life. I raised the three of you and now you’re all independent. You all have your university degrees and lives of your own. My job is done.
Beth: You’re so stubborn. Exercise is so important and you always refused. Something simple as walking even. Remember when I asked you to take a walk with me and you yelled at me, telling me never to tell you to walk again? So frustrating! What about quality of life? You’ve fallen apart so much already. What if you live until ninety? Then what?
Glenda: Don’t give me that look. I hate exercise. You know that. I never liked it since I was small. I have no health problems.
Beth: You can fool yourself to believe that you have no problems…never mind, there’s no point to talk about it anymore.
Glenda: You don’t understand. I had a rough childhood. My parents were abusive and ruined my life. Your father and I worked so hard just to survive after we ran away from Vancouver. It was so hard to start from scratch, with little money in our pockets. On top of that, we had to learn how to speak French in Montreal and raise a family while working many jobs. Plus you’ll never know what it’s like to watch over your shoulder every single day, for fear that your father will find you and kill you. He was a violent man. You can’t imagine.
Beth: I know. You said your father was violent and that’s why we never met him. It’s true, I’ll never know what you went through, but you’ve been doing absolutely nothing for so many years. Isn’t there anything that you’re interested in at all?
Glenda: No. I just like to watch shows.
Beth: Then what? You’ll sit there watching television for the rest of your life? You haven’t left your condo for years. Do you even know what fresh air and the sun are? They’re good for your body and mind.
Glenda: I open the windows. Fresh air comes in. I’m tired. See how you feel when you’re older.
Beth: Fine. There’s no point to talk about it anymore.
Glenda hobbles toward the window. There is no view because of the frost. She holds onto the window frame for support and stares blankly in the general direction of the window, with her mouth hanging open in defeat. From the back of her head, the cracked skull is exposed. Glenda gingerly touches the bone and feels the rough edges with her fingers.
Beth: Watching you die slowly is horrible!
Glenda: What do you mean…watch me die? I’m not dying. Why are you crying?
Beth: I’m sorry that I didn’t take you to renew your health care card that time, but why were you in such a hurry? I would have taken you if you weren’t so anxious to get it done!
Glenda: I know you were busy so didn’t want to bother you.
Beth: That’s better than you falling! Now you’re too scared to walk. You’re losing muscle mass every day and getting weaker and weaker. Soon you’ll need a wheelchair and someone will have to push you around. Is that what you want? What kind of life is that?
Glenda: I don’t blame you for my fall, but I am scared of falling. Remember when you were young? I held onto the back of your bicycle afraid to let go because I thought you might fall. But I knew that I couldn’t hold on forever because then you wouldn’t be able to pedal and keep going. I let go because that was the only way to set you free – not that I wanted to let you go. So, you see? You can’t control everything in life. There’s no point to think back to the past and what may or may not have happened.
Beth: I know. I know.
The room is dead silent. Glenda gently touches Beth’s shoulder, gives her a smile and turns her back away from Beth. She struggles to walk with her body hunched over, toward the spot where she was lying down. Careful not to slip in the fresh blood, she slowly lowers herself to the floor.
Beth: Where are you going?
Glenda: I’m just going to lie down now. Not going anywhere. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.
Beth: Be careful not to fall.
Glenda: Is that the doorbell? I’m too tired to get up. Can you see who’s there?
Beth: Yes, don’t worry, I’ll get it.
Glenda: Who is it?
Beth: The paramedics. They’re here to close your eyes.
I’ve always wanted to write a short play, but never got around to trying until now. This is my first play ever. It’s quite different from novel writing because the focus is on dialogue. It took me some time to wrap my head around the format.
This play was inspired by a nightmare that I had about my mother. In my nightmare, my mom started to walk and crashed to the floor – cracking open her skull. I could hear the sound of the cracking. I called 9-1-1 but the lady on the phone wasn’t listening to anything I was saying. I watched the blood spreading on the floor, knowing that it was just a matter of time before she died.
Over the years, I’ve watched my mom go from being mobile, to less mobile, to becoming wheelchair bound. There’s no going back after you reach a certain point. I wrote this play with tears in my eyes. It’s so hard for me to watch a loved one be physically present, but in my view, dying slowly in front of my eyes. My take-home message, do everything in your power to stay healthy both physically and mentally. No one else can do this for you.