1.8 A Fine Figure
written by Eli Barraza
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton
[[SFX: Rocks crunch under Peri’s feet as she walks up a desert mountain. She slows as the sounds of a recording grow louder.]]
SONIA: I was the possession of my obsession. I both mattered and did not matter. Rather, the facets of my existence mattered but my perspective did not. I would close my eyes and run my hands over my face, my fingers skirting over each imperfection, repulsed by it all, intent on fixing each aspect, all of them ultimately immutable.
I remember the day the foundation of that obsession cracked. It didn't come tumbling down but it was the first fissure that would eventually lead to its destruction.
[[SFX: The recording quality fades, Sonia’s voice emanating from a blackbox theater.]]
My aunt and I sat on her porch. She lived near the mountains and I was always glad to see her. She was far older than my parents, an age where the veins stood out on her hands and her spectacles hung on a chain.
Dearest, she said. She always called me dearest.
Dearest, today I feel like the mountain.
Look at it.
Isn't it beautiful?
With all its crevasses and pockmarks, the living things it cares for.
It's beautiful, I agreed.
My face, she said. My face has crevasses and pockmarks and I care for many things, like you, my dearest.
I was silent.
And so, I am beautiful. See how the sun rises behind it? And we are sheltered from the heat in its shadow. Look at its silhouette, does it not cut a fine figure?
I agreed, quietly. But the sun pokes out behind it, I said.
My aunt slowly stood
Indeed it does, dearest.
She walked in front of me. Between me and the mountain and the sun.
And don't I cut a fine figure? She said, leaning on her cane.
She did. I said as much.
She knelt down in front of me.
Auntie, your knees!
She smiled but ignored my concern. She held my face in her hands.
I love the mountains, she said. I love the valleys and the plateaus. The rivers and lakes. I love the geography of the land almost as much as I love the geography of your face.
She kissed my forehead, got up, and went inside.
[[SFX: Peri slips on a rock and gasps.]]
SONIA: I stayed outside a while longer, examining the mountain before me.
[[SFX: The record stops.]]
ROGER: You can come out now. I don’t bite.
[[SFX: Peri makes her way closer.]]
ROGER: Frankly, I’m relieved you’re not a mountain lion.
PERI: I wish I was a mountain lion.
ROGER: Yeah, coming across a stranger in the middle of nowhere, desert, yeah I’d want to be one too.
PERI: Why are you in Nowhere Desert?
ROGER: I’m playing this record for the rocks.
PERI: Were you able to finish?
ROGER: No, there’s still a bit left.
PERI: Well, sorry for interrupting.
ROGER: It’s alright. I’m Roger, by the way.
ROGER: And what are you doing all the way out here, Peri? Not a place you usually run into people.
PERI: I’m looking for my brother. Guh, canvassing.
ROGER: Desolate place to be looking for your brother.
PERI: Desolate place to play a record. Who’s voice is on the record?
ROGER: My sister. From quite a long time ago actually.
PERI: Do you mind if I sit?
ROGER: Rest away.
[[SFX: Peri sits.]]
PERI: Would you like some crackers?
ROGER: I’ve got my own but thank you. You’re more polite than a mountain lion would be.
PERI: Pretty low bar for politeness. Why isn’t your sister here to keep you company?
ROGER: (mutter) Because that woman took her away.
ROGER: My sister’s gone. But she, uh, always wanted to scream from the top of a mountain where only rocks could hear her. And I figured this was the next best thing.
PERI: Why did she want to scream?
ROGER: Don’t you want to scream sometimes?
PERI: Not really, no. It’s kinda loud.
ROGER: I think she had too much pent up inside. And the only way people would accept her letting it out was on stage. I think that’s why she wanted to yell at rocks. It’d just be for her.
PERI: Do you ever want to yell at rocks?
ROGER: Not particularly.
ROGER: Uh, I dunno. When someone in your family does all of the yelling, you don’t much feel like adding to the noise. At least, in my experience.
PERI: Well, she’s not yelling in that recording.
ROGER: No, she isn’t. Sonia, my sister, she took to my aunt. And I know our parents would never say it out loud but I think they were always relieved when she took my sister off their hands for a little while?
PERI: Was your aunt actually like that?
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah, she was. My sister made an entire show about her, actually. Long monologues, like, uh, like that man. Oh, I forget his name, had a color in it. He went swimming or something? No? Anyway, never much cared for him really. My sister was better. Though I might be biased. She would do this awful thing whenever I went to see her perform. She’d stand onstage and proclaim ‘Everything you are about to see and hear is truthful.’ Then’d walk into the audience, right, and stand next to me. She always made sure I had an aisle seat and she’d say ‘This is my brother. If you doubt any truth in the show tonight, you can ask him about it.’
PERI: And was the show always truthful?
ROGER: Uh, I’m sure it was always her truth. That’s what I’d tell people. ‘I know when she lies’ I’d say. ‘And on that stage, she never lies.’ There was one time though. She, uh, she did lied. I can’t remember the story she told but her eyes fluttered, as if they were a little too dry. And there it was, it was just this very untrue part of her. And after the show, a few people came up to me. They’re almost always a bit shy and they say things like “Are you really her brother? Is it weird to see her say and act those stories onstage?” The usual lead up to “Is it all true?” I saw my sister walking towards me, changed into street clothes, ready to grab post-show drinks with me and the tech team. And I felt my mouth opening and I said “No.” And I saw her, I saw her face realize that for once, her brother didn’t believe her. Of course, the questions that followed were “Which part?” “Was it all a lie?” “How could you tell?” And uh, I took that last question to have a different meaning. Like, how could I tell them that she lied when her shows were predicated on truth? But I guess that, in that moment, I realized that I had always been a part of the show, like a special guest performer and if the show was to remain truthful, like in its totality, the lies within it had to be recognized. But see, the audience didn’t know that I was a part of the show and I don’t think that my sister really knew either. Until later I mean. She gave me the cold shoulder once we got to the bar. And she, uh, accidentally spilled her drink on me. I asked her why she did that. My sister had a lot of “accidents” so. She asked me why I told and I tried to explain and then everything was so loud. People only liked her being loud onstage. So we went outside. I left my emotions at the door, because she had enough for the both of us.
PERI: She was angry you told the truth?
ROGER: She was angry that I told on her, she was angry that I told those people she was lying I think. Sonia thought a lot about people, when she was trying to be quiet, she’d think about people and what she thought of them and how they act. But she spent so much time thinking about people that she forgot what it meant to include them, to include their perception of who they were. That maybe she didn’t have the whole picture and that maybe people are more than the pieces they hand you. She thought that being her brother was more important than telling the truth. And I disagreed. And, uh, both of us were wrong.
PERI: And when you’re wrong about a person, that’s upsetting.
ROGER: Yeah, a bit. I never wrote a play about it though.
PERI: No, but you tell a stranger in the desert about it. When your sister isn’t around to tell on any lies you might’ve told? About who she was. About how she thought about you.
ROGER: In my defense, I was always the truth keeper between the two of us. Always keeping honest. What makes me great at my job actually. I’m a hospital administrator. I know, not as exciting as a detective or a reporter. But, yeah I try to keep things transparent.
PERI: I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.
ROGER: I guess you will.
PERI: Would it be alright if we listened to more?
ROGER: Yeah. Yeah, I think she’d like that. One more audience member.
[[SFX: Roger plays the record.]]
SONIA: If I can live upon this earth and look upon it with wonder, I can live within the landscape of my face and believe the shadows that it casts no lesser than the shadow created by the mountain before me.
My aunt could not hear the crack in the foundation of my perception that she had caused. But once I went inside, the smile on her face and dearest on her lips told me she felt the rumblings of a new beginning for the way I looked upon the world and my face within it.
[[SFX: The records spins.]]
VOICE ON THE RECORD: Her eyelids fluttered and I heard the truth that beat between her ribcage, a rhythm to which I was free to dance and she to join me. And so she came with me, and left the lights which lay bare her dishon--.
[[SFX: Roger gasps and stops the record abruptly.]]
PERI: What was that?
ROGER: The reason why Sonia’s gone. A woman whose voice invaded her mind and convinced her of things which weren’t true.
PERI: I’m sorry.
ROGER: I just uh… she whispered into her ear in her quietest moments. I just never thought I’d hear her in mine.
PERI: Are you still sure you don’t feel like yelling?
ROGER: You said you were looking for your brother, right? Do you know if he’s even in a place you can find him?
PERI: No. But I’ve gotta try. Until I can’t anymore I guess. Like how you play the record for your sister.
ROGER: Well, if you’re gonna keep looking around here, the next living person is an old lady who gave me directions to this place. Down the trail over there, you’ll find a road. Head south a couple miles and her place is the only house you'll see, it’s set a bit of a ways back. She's a bit suspicious but, um, she’s helpful enough.
PERI: Oh, cool, thanks. I should get going then. Anyways, it was nice, um… thank… um… it was interesting to meet you.
ROGER: Peri, right? Could I offer one more bit of advice for your search? Just, be careful. I’d hate if… make sure you don't… attract attention. Is what I’m trying to say.
PERI: Yeah, thanks. I won’t. And… um… I hope that you’re okay, Roger. In your quiet moments. Whatever happened, your sister was your sister and you’re you. And, uh, yeah. I think this is my exit. So, bye then.
[[SFX: Peri walks away. A moment before the shattering of the record. Roger yells.]]
The Far Meridian
Created and written by Eli Barraza, directed and produced by Mischa Stanton.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, Ian McQuown as Roger, Taylor Bennett as Sonia, and Lily Richards as the Voice On the Record. Music by The Album Leaf.
For more information and links to support the show, go to TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian. You can also help support us on Patreon, Patreon.com/TheFarMeridian.
We’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, may you always find your way.