By murmurante teatro
WRITTEN BY NOÉ MORALES MUÑOZ
DIRECTED BY JUAN DE DIOS RATH
PRODUCED BY ARIADNA MEDINA
ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY FER DE LA CRUZ
SCENE CREATOR: JESÚS HERNÁNDEZ
SCENE CONSULTANT: JORGE VARGAS
PSYCHOPEDAGOGICAL CONSULTANT: DE PAULINO DZIB
There is a borderline that, on some occasions, is presented for us to decide whether or not to cross it. It is a threshold. To cross it is to transit from one reality to another. When you cross that threshold, you´re no longer the same.
All of us here have once found ourselves in front of certain thresholds which fascinate us, scare us and before which the hunter or the pray, the wrong doer or the victim will find himself in a game of intermittent roles which we all have sometime played.
We present you with these tales as lose pieces left in a crime scene, with the intention of building a guide with them not to provide solutions or certainties but to formulate questions
about the hunt that goes on in the so called “white” Mérida of Yucatán.
I AM 55.2%
I always wanted to play the trumpet since I was a girl but it wasn’t until I was in a prep school in arts that I had the chance to play the violin. My dad gave me a new piano as a present. I started to take clarinet lessons right away but had to quit them, along with school, to work in a cantina. I wash dishes because I don´t feel ready to deal with customers. I am been told that they can be rude or they´ll touch you or are nasty with you.
There´s a musician in my family, though: My brother; my older brother who left to Mexico City to study music, and with whom I haven´t spoken in a very long time. I have much to tell him but I don´t call him for fear of telling him things I may later regret, even when there are things that we can say to each other without words.
A little while ago I found his old cassette tapes and I wanted to put something together with them, along with the empty bottles that I brought from work, to create an object that may form something of the two of us. It reminds me of some exercises that I did when I was still in school but this is just for me and its meaning cannot be measured with a grade.
I still miss school, my friends, some of the teachers, some routines but there are things that I realized being out of school, like the fact that at the school they´ll promote competition not only among students but also among professors and parents. It´s always the thing of who knows more, who believes to know more, who deserves better grades, as if grades were to define what one is. A grade is only a number. Numbers themselves are cold as statistics.
Statistics in Mexico say that every 52 seconds a student drops out of school and that, of every 100 students who enter elementary, only 14 reach college, and that more than half of Mexico´s teenagers are below poverty line. But my brother went indeed to DF to study.
It´s not that everything is perfect for him. Sometimes he has no money and calls home; then my folks send him what they can but it´s never enough. Soon will come the time when they won´t be able to help him and he´ll have to think of what to do to survive.
Sooner or later, we all have to think of what to do to survive. This may be the reason why they had fire drills at schools. The bad thing is that not everyone took them seriously; not even I.
I remember the drills in which the teacher, upon hearing the fire alarm, would get up calmly, chatting with other teachers or scolding the students that were being silly. There was a time that a teacher wasn´t notified that there would be a drill and was teaching his the class in my group. He got so scared when the alarm went off that he forgot what he had to do as a responsible adult in front of a group and simply took his things and went out running. He just fled. After that, the teacher became the whole school´s mockery. Both students and faculty remembered his face all scared and his clumsy run.
I now understand. I understand that teacher. The fire drill made sense for him because he believed in the need of saving his own life. Fleeing became an act of life or death. I understand those who flee. I understand my brother because I wish I could flee, leave everything behind, chase a dream or wake up to a nightmare.
But, at the same time, there are little things, people, and routines that don´t let me run away, even when I´ve been wanting to for so long. I may be just waiting for something to happen, or cultivating nostalgia, growing old.
I´m already judgmental of myself again, feeding what corrodes me.
THE SCORPION AND THE FROG
The Scorpion and the Frog is an ancient fable of African origins but I know a different version that I would like to share: The scorpion is anxious to cross the river because otherwise he will die. Then he sees the frog swimming nearby and he thinks it´s his last hope to cross. He calls him and says: “Please, help me, the humans burnt the forest and threw pesticide on this side of the river and, if I don´t cross it, I will die and won´t be able to join my kind.”
Ths frog stares at him and says: “Yea, right! I help you cross and, when we´re in midstream, you will bury your sting on my back. Then, when I ask you why, you´ll say ´Oops! I´m sorry, I couldn´t help it. It´s my nature.´ I know the fable. it´s older than the tortoise; so I won´t fall for it and risk my neck this time.”
The scorpion looks at it with awe and says: “Well, you´re right in that the fable is very old and, of course, I also happen to know it but it´s not quite correct. The true nature of a scorpion is not to kill the frogs that risk themselves to help them. The true nature of a scorpion is to survive, just as any other animal. That is why I ask you to help me join my kind who are in the other shore.”
The frog is convinced and allows the scorpion to climb on his back. They start to cross. When they´re in midstream the frog grabs the scorpion´s stinger and stings himself with it. Terrified, the scorpion looks at him and says: “What is wrong with you. Why did you do
that? No we will both drown!” The frog replies: “I´m sorry, I couldn´t help it. It´s my nature.”
I think there are a couple of things to think about this. One is that, by principle, a frog and a scorpion should not cross a river together. I feel like I grew up the son of a frog and a scorpion who decided to cross a river together, who hurt each other and this made me grow up in fear and guilt. Fear made me vulnerable as a scorpion with its stinger folded. That is why I ate too much; so much that I grew very fat. I was a fat and fearful kid and the other kids would realize it. At school there were certain acts that I would suffer; for instance, crossing the soccer field. Every time I crossed the soccer field I would get hit by a ball, or by a few balls. I would feel fear and fury and would sweat. I´d sweat a lot. My clothes would get soaked until one day that all changed. I was about to cross the field and I started sweating oceans, as usual, so I stopped and took off my wet shirt. I left it on the side and crossed the field with a bare torso. I´ve no idea what the others thought. I don´t know if they laughed at me and mocked me. What I do know is that I stopped playing a roll. I understood that fear makes us play certain roles that change constantly. Sometimes we sting others; other times we get stung by others but we generally sting ourselves.
[Text projected on the wall:
The emperor scorpion is a very frail being, actually.
When I have it on my hands, I feel its enormous fragility
and the fear of hurting him is greater
than that of being hurt by him]
CAN ONE LIVE FRAGMENTED?
The only thing I wanted to do was to stop feeling what I was feeling at that moment. It´s an escape. It´s as if nothing existed upon closing my eyes; as if the world ceased to be.
Falling into depression is total despair. You feel agony, an oppression in the chest, you´re short of air, no one understands you, you feel unprotected, you feel the world falling upon you.
This happens because we all have a limit: a limit to laugh, a limit to cry, a limit to tolerate. When you really try to, your life changes and it´s no longer the same. You exceed the limit and it´s as easy as saying I live, I don´t live, and what? Who cares? It´s my life, mine and no one else´s.
It´s a very strong pain. It´s as if you had a broken mirror and saw your reflection in it, as if you saw all the fragments and no matter how hard you try to put them together, it will never be the same. It´s that no one can live fragmented.
After knocking on so many doors, I finally got a job. I learned my lesson: I didn´t mention that I was under psychiatric treatment, because in the world out there, as I call it, when they
know that you attempted suicide, they´ll point the finger on you and marginalize you, more so if you´re a woman.
Now I am in a dilemma because I have a job and I am happy but the schedule is in conflict with my therapy and I can´t go. Also, I can´t take the medication as indicated because it would affect my performance at work. But I´m happy because I have a job.
Not that long ago, it happened here in Merida—the so called “white city”—that two friends got together to chat. They were old friends. As it often happens among men, their friendship was based in aggression, mostly subtle aggressions, heavy jokes, disapproval disguised as just kidding. As in many friendships among men, one was the constant aggressor and the other one, the victim.
That afternoon—or evening—when they got together, they were into their beers or rum for that matter. The thing is that the aggressor started to victimize the victim, as usual. But this time a limit was reached. That afternoon—or evening—in the heat of the beers—or rum—the victim didn´t play cool with his usual roll and decided to counterattack. Surprised, the aggressor felt his warm blood flowing up his face and let himself be driven by it, and by an instinct to defend himself, even when that man who was just returning the previous aggressions was his friend, one of the people closest to him.
Then another limit was reached when the aggression became physical: A hand padding the other´s back stronger than usual; a finger coming too close to the other´s face; a hand that pushes it away; a push followed by another push; a slap in the face; a fist that travels in the air and thrusts into a jaw, into a nose, and the air full of fear, of strikes, of blows, and the sequence gets out of control. The fists tremble with the arms. The bodies strike and retaliate as never before. The faces are heat up.
The victim can no longer stand it and runs inside his house to his room from the yard where he received his old friend as many times before. Frantic and covered with sweat, he feels his stomach boiling. A sharp pain between belly and genitals makes him fall. He gets up at once and opens a drawer where he looks for something messily. He finds the gun. A gun that someone gave him once and he decided to keep, “just in case one day…” A gun he had barely touched before but he grabs, he checks—all six bullets are in place for him to unload on that asshole who´s out there yelling at him and keeps on yelling although he no longer can distinguish any words. He´s no longer there—he´s nowhere actually. He is one with the gun, completely alone for the first time in years; alone with his thoughts. He closes the drum, releases safety catch as it goes click.
And the victim goes back that night to that house, to that room; thee victim that falls heavily; the victim who hits the floor; the victim who refuses to go over the threshold; the
victim who won´t become the aggressor and who stays there, in that room, alone for the first time in years, feeling how time has become something else.
UNDER THE MERIDA SUN
The heat in Merida. The Summer heat in Merida. The Summer heat in Merida every day that you have to wear the school´s uniform. It´s amazing how you sweat after a few steps; how you sweat when you realize your classmates restart a cycle you know well; a cycle that has you as an axis; a cycle consisting only in mocking you, in screwing you up. They´ll study you more than their Math books. They´ll detect any change in you, if you wear your hair differently, if you´ve drown anything new in your notebook, if you say something in class.
And you sweat much more when the bell goes off announcing that the school day is over, and that you´ll get out alone, and that you´ll have to cross that empty lot full of rocks to head for home. You know what it´s coming: Two or three will be there at the empty lot before you and they´ll await you.
When you get there, soaking wet, they´ll have everything ready: An arsenal of mockery for you; newly thought ideas and, when the moment comes, the push, the slaps, some random kick, until they get you on the floor and kick you harder. They´ll take your backpack, they´ll hide it, they´ll throw your belongings to the dry, red earth. If they´re in the mood, they´ll take your shoes and will throw them far away. They´ll deal with you as a chicken in a kitchen, except that, here, what gets on your sweaty skin instead of flames is the dry red earth. They may even record your humiliation with a cell phone, to then upload it for millions of people to witness it.
Today, however, something went different: Your hand found a rock of a good size and weight. Your fingers clutch it with no one noticing. They don´t notice it indeed as they´re laughing of you: How ridiculous you must look like that with your face all red as if broiled with sweat and dirt, moving clumsily as a circus elephant. But you´re now standing and your hand is gaining impulse with the rock toward your closest attacker. When you see him laying there, covered in blood, you cross the threshold to realize you can no longer stop. Then you crash his head with the rock once and again until you see his brains.
And then, the silence. A silence almost peaceful that no one dares to break. As you run away, you don´t know where you´ll stop, nor you care to know. You only know that, when you´re asked later if you would do it again, you won´t help it but to smile before you say yes.
PEOPLE HERE WILL DRINK ANYTHING
When I was 14, my sister asked me to come with her every time she went jogging. She wanted to lose weight and gain shape as she was going to run in the Miss Yucatan pageant. I accepted. We would wear our sweat pants and go out jugging, every day, around the neighborhood.
My sister always wanted to participate in the Miss Yucatan thing, maybe because my mother was queen of the Lion´s Club in the city where she grew up and my sister used to look at the old pictures and admire her crowning ceremony, my mom wearing elegant dresses, riding on a carriage all nicely decorated. Beautiful she was.
My sister didn´t win. Twice she didn´t. She never became Señorita Yucatán so she quit working out and jugging but I continued. For years I wore those sweat pants in the morning, even if I´d gone out partying the night before. I went jogging on Avenida Campestre, by myself. It was my moment of the day to be alone, especially since there was always some sort of tension at home; a strange tension. I think I´ve managed to handle tension even when I´ve lived in it all my life. Well, as my mother used to say “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and “Every cloud has a silver lining”. I imagine she knew that well. She was from Sinaloa, in Northern Mexico. She grew up milking cows, riding donkeys, and chasing chickens. As a girl she was a free soul. Her headaches started at age 14, during the time when my grandma left my grandpa for being such a bohemian and a womanizer, you know what I mean? A bohemian as many local men, being Yucatan one of the states with the highest rates of alcoholism nationwide. My father was bohemian too. I suppose that´s how tensions started, since my Sinaloan mother married my Yucatecan father; when my Sinaloan mother, who wasn´t bohemian, married quite a bohemian “yuca”. She who would always get headaches that made her lay in bed for days. He who always liked to drink; a habit I found out about when I was older. I must admit that he had I never saw him drunk when I was a girl, because my mother took good care of putting us to bed very early, way before the sun was down. I never understood why she did that or what it meant to be an alcoholic. I though it was some kind of an allergy or skin rash. I never saw them argue. Everything seemed perfect, even when there was always something in the atmosphere creating tension, for instance, my mother´s migraines. She loved having children. She has five and used to say that she would have loved to have thirteen or more, as aunt Chelo did; that pregnancy was one of the happiest stages in her life, she´d say. I don´t really share her view. When you get pregnant your body gets deformed, your feet get swollen, everything hurts. Of course, it´s a good excuse to keep your husband at bay.
One day, after years had gone by, when I already knew of my father´s alcoholism, I asked my mother why she had never left my father; why she had never divorced him. She said because of us, her children. “It´s the cross I must bare”, she said, and bore it to her last days. One evening, when she was already very ill and could barely speak, she asked me to tell my father to let her go. What he did was ask the doctors to give her “quality of life”, whatever that may mean. What it translated into was prolonging her suffering a few more months until she died without having had the opportunity to do what she willed during the last days that she could talk and move around.
We, the relatives, are very selfish. Despite the tensions that have´n ceased, I think my life has been better. Tensions of skin, tensions of gender, tensions that, true, won´t unleash the
same forms of violence as in other parts of the country, still detonate things that mark people profoundly; things that people don´t talk about, situations that people hide… Maybe that is why my mother got sick. Maybe that is why people will drink anything here in Yucatan, what makes them dizzy, what makes them drunk, what they like, what they don´t and what hurts.
[Statistics projected on the wall:
6. Yucatan holds the first place in alcohol intoxication nationwide.
5. In Mexico, one of every 6 children who suffers bullying commits suicide.
4. In Mexico, about 15 million illegal weapons circulate.
3. In Mexico, suicide has become the third cause of death between the ages 18 and 35.
2. Mexico holds the first place in violence against minors worldwide.
1. 55.2% of teenagers in Mexico are below poverty line.]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Noé Morales Muñoz was born in Mexico City in 1977. His professional activities have developed mainly as a playwright, theater critic, teacher, translator and literary essayist. He was the theatre reviewer of the Mexican cultural supplement La Jornada Semanal from newspaper La Jornada for almost a decade, and has been a regular contributor for other newspapers and magazines. He has received artistic development grants from the Mexican Foundation for Young Writers, the National Fund for Culture and Arts, the Laboratorio Fronterizo de Escritores/Writing Lab on the Border, the Royal Court Theatre of London. He took part in the 2009 edition of The Word Exchange, a fifteen-day residency at the Lark Play Development Center in New Yok City in November 2009. He has received two awards for his work. The first of them was the 2007 National Theatrical Essay Award, convoked by the National Institute for Fine Arts and PasodeGato magazine. The second was the 2010 Chilango – fmx Scenic Arts Award, promoted by Editorial Expansión and the Festival del Centro Histórico of Mexico City. He has had four of his plays produced throughout México, and has developed collaborative scenic works as dramatist, stage manager, producer, director and assistant director with some of the most outstanding Mexican theatre companies, like Teatro Línea de Sombra, ASYC Teatro de Movimiento, Realizando Ideas, El Rinoceronte Enamorado, and Cardumen Teatro.
Fer de la Cruz is a Yucatecan poet born in 1971. He has received two national, two regional, and one state-wide poetry awards in Mexico and is a member of the founding faculty at the School of Creative Writing of the State Center of Fine Arts, in Mérida. He is also coordinator of the Historic Mérida branch of Centro de Idiomas del Sureste, where he was a teacher for 20 years. He holds an MA in Spanish from Ohio University and a BA in Philosophy. As an independent editor, writer, translator, and cultural promoter, he has participated in cultural festivals, conferences, and book fairs in Mexico, Cuba, France, and the United States. His poems appeared in the books “Redentora la voz” (Ayuntamiento de Mérida, 2010) and “Aliteletras. De la A a la que quieras” (Dante, 2011), as well as in the chapbooks “La cuenta regresiva. Radiografía urbana mesozoica” (El Drenaje, 2012) and “Seven Songs of Silent, Singing Fireflies” (JKPublishing, 2008): firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artist: Mel Blossom