The Untold Story of The Sick American Woman
I know a woman who set her life on fire. I know two actually. No, three. Three women who set their lives on fire because - no four, I know four women who set - no five, sorry, no six! I know six women who set their lives on fire because they couldn’t do it anymore. In a Nelson Algren, “I just can’t” kind of way, in a Shakespearean, operatic “O” appraisal, a nod to every Girl Interrupted.
Everyone always knew what was right for them. Do this, do that. “If only they listened.” They shut them up, diagnosed them into apathy, and called them, “sick.” And their cure? More nothing.
But what if.
What if they needed culture? A history to hold onto. Lovers. They should have left. They should have run. They’d still be themselves if they’d had fresh flowers and more sleep and better poetry. They needed a reinvention of their senses. They needed more languages to express the freedom of their loneliness and the poisonous well of western hope. But they couldn’t, and in the face of another Groundhog Day, man, they just did what they could.
I pick up the traces of your research. (Pick up isn’t right. Traces? That isn’t even correct.) This is where the woman takes a long sigh, and mumbles to herself, “Vanilla.” I re-light the wick you were burning. (still hate it.) You were so much smarter than me. After looking at your work, I fear I’m an idiot. (We’ll leave that there for now. Don’t touch it.)
You had none of my resources and got there twice as - (No twice isn’t right. Let’s be exact. "Remember that show with the name everyone squirms over? In one scene he says, “I love a straight line. A straight line is perfection." Remember?”
(Try again) You had none of my resources and you were ten times faster. (That’s better.)...(No it isn’t, ten is an arbitrary number. Who cares about ten! I feel nothing!) What if I never figure it out? "So later on Kraus tells him, “Sorry. I don't think a straight line equals art. They don't call it the Philadelphia Museum of Lines." Remember?"
An egyptologist in your corner room at the hotel on Broadway. Cupboards creaking the crypts. Like any good detective story, the reason why you went looking is the most important part of my study. It must’ve been like - ( No. No, no simile works, because “Metaphors are the clearest way to communicate," says everyone. Yaddayaddyadda) Will I ever take another deep breath in my life after this?
"Remember that line in Coffee in Cigarettes, when he says, “I drink a lot of coffee before I go to sleep so I can dream faster?" I love that line.”
"I remember, I remember, hand me the Dunhills you stole, won’t you?”
It’s 2017. There’s nothing for me to do at the theater office at seven am. I’ve already made labels for basic supplies. Desk. Computer. Cabinet. The only reason I’m assigned this shift is to make the office look open in case the dean walks by. He walked by once at 7:15 am and was disappointed no one was here. That’s where I come in.
In my sixth-month tenure the dean has walked by twice, and calls me Kristen.
The dean did not walk by today either. I have to leave a report in a notebook before I leave: The dean did not walk by today either.
Grace Murphy recently wrote shorts for DreamWorks, and prior to that sold her feature, Christmas Hotel, for Lifetime. Before life in LA, Grace spent significant time in Chicago co-directing an ongoing original show at The Drinking & Writing Theater. At the end of her tenure in Chicago, Grace had the honor to tour with About Face Youth Theater and support LGBTQIA+ youth and their allies. Grace also writes poetry and prose and was recently invited to read some of her work at the Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center in Orange County. Currently working on a manuscript, you can find some of her thoughts and musings on her popular writing page @gracemurphywrites on Instagram.