It was a year since we got married. Things were going fine. We were working and playing our roles. Since I got married I had to stop moving to work from one city to another, because my husband, Harry, was working in the same store as a clerk for years now, and I did not want to make him change something in his life. Harry is an indecisive person, and it would be too much for him to take on such a change. Harry was always like that, but I found a way to solve this problem: our marriage became a series of plays. However, after one year in the marriage, we faced bigger problems. We literally ran out of plays to perform, so we had no other option other than to start performing the plays all over again. It was all right with Harry, but I wanted to feel new, brighter emotions, or at least to perform the play in a different location, so I bought tickets for us to go to New Orleans.
Harry was as cold as always. We were performing plays all over again; we were the same characters as when we first met, Stella and Stanley from the play A Street Car Named Desire. Harry remembered his character very well, so he transformed into cruel Stanley instantly when I handed him the script. He was so imperious and dominant. Next day we left town and headed to New Orleans, to have our first vacation together, which may as well be considered a late honeymoon.
It was a long and exhausting trip, but we finally arrived. I arranged a room for us in a hotel. The weather was hot and sunny; I never thought that it could be so hot, but despite that, we decided to have a walk. Streets in New Orleans were crowded at that time. We were wandering around until we got totally exhausted, and it was at this moment, when Stanley said, that we should crash in the nearest bar, but I just wanted to rest. I did not want to go to the bar.
“I just want to have some rest in the hotel,” I said.
“Honey, I told you, I want to go to the bar, so we are going to the damn bar now!” Harry was in the role; it was hard to manipulate him when he was Stanley.
He started the drama; he was angry and he was shouting. Without finding who was right and who was wrong, we continued to walk, but suddenly I felt dizzy. I continued to hear the voice of Stanley. It was getting louder and repetitive like an echo in my head, and then there was a bright flash of light and darkness. I fell to the ground.
I was looking and walking forward through the crowd, continuing to shout to Stella, who I thought was walking near me. It was far from the place where we actually lost each other when I realized that she was not around. I panicked and started to run in the opposite direction. I did not know what to do without her. While I was looking for her, it got dark and I noticed a small bar at the corner of a street, so I walked into the bar. It was dark and not a lot of people were there. I got to the bar and ordered a drink, then another, and then one more. While I was getting drunk, I was looking around; this bar was not an ordinary place.
On the shelf near the bar was standing an ancient tape recorder that was playing some strange opera music. I was going to ask what the hell is that thing and why do I have to listen to some kind of opera singing, when a half naked old man walked through the entrance, carrying a gigantic chair over his head. He approached the bar and ordered drinks. After he had a couple of them, he finally placed the chair next to himself. After a couple of drinks I got comfortable and decided to sit in that huge chair, so I walked toward the man. I looked at the gigantic chair, but the Old Man caught my glance and looked at me with eyes that said “Don’t you dare.” I got curious, so I sat near him, and we started to drink together.
The Old Man was not mean, but he never told me his name. Instead, we were talking about our problems. I told The Old Man about my problems with my wife’s sister, whose name is Blanche.
“See, the thing is that Blanche lives in my house for 6 damn months already, and I suspect that she is hiding money from me with my wife. What is that? Charity? Also, I started to have problems with Stella, with my wife. That Blanche ruins my life, it was all ok before she showed up!” While I was telling all this to The Old Man, the smile on his face was getting bigger and bigger. “What are you smiling at?” I asked him. “Do you think that this is not a big enough reason to have all these fights?” The Old Man replied: “I was just like you when I had everything, but when I lost it, all changed… now the only thing that I have is right there,” he pointed at the old tape recorder “See this thing? This is what brings peace in my life… and my drink”.
I shouted at him, while taking look at the old tape recorder, the opera singing was getting louder. “If you are old, poor man, and you don’t need the money, that’s your business, but don’t you teach me what to do.” While I was shouting, the opera singing got so loud, that I stopped hearing my own voice. “Stop this damn thing already”, I shouted and threw my bottle of beer at the recorder and it fell broken to the ground.
I left the place immediately after that. I was angry. Who is that man to teach me? I totally forgot about Stella, and I realized that I actually lost her, when I entered my room in the hotel and shouted “Steeelaaa!”
“What’s wrong?” I answered coldly, when I heard how Stanley was shouting for me. At first he looked angry, but then he changed his mood and started to ask me what happened and was asking me to forgive him for not looking for me. “Everything is fine, someone brought me to the hospital, and when I became conscious, I headed here right away. I am tired of it, and we are leaving tomorrow.” Stanley was confused and tried to fight me back, but he realized that I was not Stella anymore and he deflated back into being Harry.
In the morning, we packed our bags and headed toward the station to leave the city. We left the hotel too early, so I decided that we should go somewhere to kill time before our departure, and the only thing near us was that bar where Harry was yesterday. When we walked in, Harry received an angry look from the barman and turned red. We sat at the bar and ordered breakfast. Before the food arrived, I noticed a strange ancient tape recorder, broken and fixed, playing opera music. I asked Harry what he thought about such strange a music choice for a bar, but Harry did not respond and just sat, quiet and empty. While Harry was colder than usual, this music made me curious. As I ate my breakfast, I started to think about whether or not my relationship with Harry was going to survive. Do I feel the same way when we play our roles? Do I feel the same way towards Harry? And suddenly the clear answer to all questions came to my mind. I grabbed my bag, told Harry to wait, and left.
(This story is inspired by "The Chair Carrier" by Yusuf Idris, "Who Am I This Time?" by Kurt Vonnegut, and the short film, Bartholomew's Song)