THE COMPLAINT

A Monologue in Three Movements

by Ares Demertzis (Dec. 2006)

 

 

Da Capo Aria

 

 

(i)

 

 

Adagio largo

 

 

I am convinced that my mother killed my father.  

 

I was visiting my parents in the “Old Country” where they had returned to retire years before in that premeditated and final obligatory pilgrimage calculated to leave their earthly frame in the land of their ancestors.  They had chosen to disregard the inconvenient fact that any Old Country is nothing more than the land of those progenitors currently archived in most recent memory, given that persistent and irrefutable historical chronicle of human migration throughout the eons.  Awkward historical detail notwithstanding, they went to die in the country which for a lifetime formed the core of their tribal allegiance; that country whose attendant fables they had embellished and deliberately presented as fact in a vain attempt to seduce me from considering any obligation to that new land which had provided sanctuary, but was never permitted to be called home: America.

 

It was the last evening of my brief visit, and the three of us were sitting in their living room when my father asked the question.

 

“Where you are living, in Amerika, is there room for me and your mother?”

 

“Sure, Pop.”

 

“Is there a piece of land where I can scratch the earth to plant my tomatoes in the spring.”

 

“Absolutely.  There’s a lot of land for your garden.”

 

 

Allegro ma non troppo

 

 

I am a film director.  My primary residence is an elaborate, unreasonably large house on the East Coast with a spectacular view of the Hudson River, surrounded by more land than most Old Country farmers own and till as arable farmland to eke out their subsistence existence - and those farmers lack my Olympic size swimming pool.  Some refer to my house as The Manor, others, more sophisticated Francophiles, as le Petit Palais.  It was my ex-wife who christened it “Monte Tara,” in homage to Scarlet O’Hara’s Ante Bellum mansion in Gone with the Wind; I continue to regard this as a surprising lack of obligatory diffidence on her part, given our obviously affluent economic circumstances.  This ostentation should have alerted me as to her true, albeit concealed nature; the cunning gold digger she publicly and imprudently, ultimately revealed herself to be.  Her startling usurping of the established convention of ownership failed to concern me, however, since we had signed a pre-nuptial agreement.  I am now grateful to that document, which allows me and my current spouse to continue occupying this home. 

 

Splendidly displayed beneath the cathedral ceiling of my chandeliered living room, framed against the soft pastel colored walls, are several original Warhol’s; two I purchased at Sotheby’s, the other three at Christie’s.  There are also a number of Pollock dribbles, one Picasso, and a few antique African wood sculptures - not because I necessarily appreciate the art of Warhol, Pollock, and Picasso, nor African primitives for that matter, but rather because my guests are invariably extraordinarily impressed that I possess them.  I am a film director; I only half jokingly allege that I make more money than God.  I have a license to steal, although not quite as exaggerated as that of rock singers, sports jocks, and movie stars.  The obscene remuneration of these personalities is a monumental confirmation of people’s eagerness to munificently compensate purveyors of ephemeral fantasy for a brief escape from their bewildering confinement.  Simply put: big bucks for a little entertainment; a glimpse of circus for those Henry David Thoreau tragically described as “the mass of men living lives of quiet desperation.”

 

 

Maestoso moderato

 

 

Without another word, my father, in his customary taciturn manner, opened the closet door and pulled out into the living room the large trunk they had used throughout their life.  It was in that container that they had, time and time again, crammed all their worldly possessions to flee the continuous political turmoil, unremitting insurrections, and revolutionary tumult that implacably chastised their beloved, hallowed Old Country.

 

“What are you doing?” my mother asked anxiously.

 

“We are going to Amerika.”

 

“You are out of your mind!  Why do we want to go back to Amerika?  We have everything we need here.”

 

“My son has a place for me in Amerika.  I can plant tomatoes in Amerika.”

 

 

 

 Accelerando grave

 

 

And I was witness once again to my mother’s nagging; the verbal complaints reminiscent of my childhood.  In those days, when my mother would initiate the harangue, my father invariably remained unresponsive, his face hidden behind the newspaper he was reading, or, as I assumed at the time and to this day maintain, pretending to be reading - for who could concentrate on a printed word while being the recipient of an uninterrupted cacophonic assault.  When the intensity of my mother’s strident voice rose beyond what I imagine was, for my father, a predetermined decibel, he would abruptly stand up.  Without a word of response, softly whistling minimally under his breath – actually it was more sibilating than whistling, or perhaps simply the exhaling of unvoiced frustration, my father would put on his coat and hat and walk out the door.  Hours later he would return, now finding my mother appropriately tranquil; she having worked out her frustrations on her young children who lacked the privilege to whistle under their breath and walk out the door. 

 

In all those years, I can affirm without equivocation that I never once heard my parents argue, “argument” being defined as the exchange of mutual recriminations; my father always maintained a stoic silence.  I can continue to sustain that conviction to this day because, on this occasion, I took the opportunity to say goodnight and discreetly removed myself to the guest bedroom for my last nights sleep in the Old Country.

 

 

Più Mosso rubato

 

 

It should be understood that my mother is a traditional complainer – a nag.  She is not a modern female; she has little patience with women’s libbers.  Actually, “stupid bitches” is her least vituperative and exclusively repeatable description for the strident and determined bra burning protesters.  “So what’s the big deal?  I stopped wearing bras when my sagging tits could rest comfortably on top of my stomach!” is one of her favorite rejoinders.  While watching the uncontrollable female mobs, like mindless bobbysoxers, discharging their irrepressible adolescent adrenaline, she would ask rhetorically:  “Why do they want equality when they’re the boss?”  And regarding matrimonial bliss, her favorite quip: “any woman who can’t manage her husband wasn’t brought up right by her mother.”

 

“I suspect women’s lib has something to do with equal billing, Mom.  You know, like in the movies, there’s resentment for someone else getting the credit when you’re the featured player.”  To my mother’s thinking, such superfluous hyperbole is simply rubbish. 

 

As a child, when I would approach her to ask for permission, she would invariably reply “I’ll talk to your father and see what he thinks.” 

 

“Aw Mom!  C’mon, everyone knows you’re the one who makes the decisions.”

 

“Shut up!”

 

My mother’s was a chivalrous age, when appearances were not to be confused with reality, nor candidly exposed.   

 

 

(ii)

 

 

Allegro lento  tempo

 

 

One week later finds me in my office on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty Seventh Street, finalizing the story board for my next commercial.  Well, alright, so there you have it.  Now you know.  Yes, it was a conscious and appalling deception on my part, however please find it in your heart to forgive me; I consider myself amply and suitably humiliated.  Yes, I provided you with only a half truth, a common enough human characteristic, however my offence should be considered a minor oversight, particularly in comparison to those alleged purveyors of truth and integrity, the news media, which have evolved into the consummate practitioners of  deceit in our times.  Admittedly I lack sufficient valor to spontaneously concede that I am a director of commercials rather than a director of real movies.  I was never given the opportunity to be an authentic artiste, an auteur, the creator of personal, socially meaningful feature length films.  Perhaps I should have made an effort to be a genuine film director, rather than squandering my infinite talent on raising a family; in coping with all those overwhelming economic responsibilities associated with domesticity.  No.  No.  Unjustified pretexts.  Pretentious excuses.  It’s time to admit that I didn’t mature into a feature film director, or an author of serious literature for that matter, simply because I have nothing of any significance to say.

 

 

Stretto Subito con brio

 

 

In truth, I never considered movies to be the “seventh art.”  Actually, I should confess that to my mind movies correspond fundamentally to what comic books are, vis-à-vis literature.  In the cinema, animated characters relate a story, much as in comic books, for those who lack the necessary imagination to visualize the written word, and the indispensable vocabulary to comprehend scholarly language.  To begin with, in an intensely collaborative medium should the result be considered the accomplishment of a single individual?  Should film directors be considered “artists,” or simply craftsmen, like my uncle the shoemaker, and my father the tailor?  Should one acknowledge as art that which is determined by box office receipts?  If that’s the case, then all profit seeking endeavors must also be included in this lofty category.  When focus groups define the content of cinema, should the resulting movie be considered art?  Can popular entertainment that traditionally panders to the lowest common denominator of the population, ever be art?  Can cooking, as in the art of cooking?  Can gardening, as in the art of landscaping?  Can environmental engineering, as in the art of garbage removal?  Frankly, I suspect that the expression “seventh art” is nothing more than Hollywood Hype, like the Academy Awards; an astute promotional scheme for the successful marketing of a product – excepting the rare appearance of such super novas as the astonishing “Det Sjunde Inseglet,” by the extraordinarily gifted Swede, Ingmar Bergman.

 

 

Meno Mosso

 

 

Be that as it may, I find myself sitting at my desk sketching the stick figures, frame by frame as in a comic strip, describing second by second what the preposterously overpriced advertisement I am to direct will look like.  Later in the day, I am scheduled to make my presentation with the anticipated condescending, egotistical aplomb at the client’s corporate offices. 

 

Admiring my reflection in the full length mirror of the private bathroom in my office, I carefully spray my hair with a fine mist of finishing Ultra Hold.  My substantial mane is pulled back into a lengthy pony tail that is the envy of all young women, and held in place with an ornate silver clasp.  I also run a comb through my beard, tangled now from the insistent meditative stroking of my fingers during that laborious, mentally fatiguing exercise expended in designing the story board.  And I liberally sprinkle myself with exceptionally aromatic cologne. 

 

I am not dressed in the homogeneous, monotonous businessman’s outfit: the suit and tie.  I wear the predictable uniform of the successful commercial film director: a very expensive, supple, brown leather jacket casually draped over an open collared denim shirt, blue jeans girded by a belt adorned with a large silver buckle, genuine crocodile Tony Llama cowboy boots, and a conspicuous turquoise Navajo bracelet.  Informal dress in my business is an imperative; I have an obligation to give the impression of being conversant with the hoi poloi, the proletariat; to be an unmistakable equal amongst the largest consumer base of the nation - the working class to whom my clients sell their products. 

 

I take the direct, non-stop elevator to the corporate conference room on the pent house floor with a panoramic view of Manhattan, the skyscrapers, the two rivers, and a long, rectangular polished wood table surrounded by leather chairs occupied by numerous, repugnant, perfumed and powdered executives.

 

 

Accelerando molto non troppo

 

 

It was one of these mentally deficient individuals – no, sorry, the politically correct terminology probably should be “academically challenged” - who accused me of being an “intellectual director.”  At the time I considered this a compliment, as insightful recognition of my superior directorial skills, however I soon discovered it was actually meant as a gross insult by a major figure in a business that shuns intelligence.  I was, henceforth considered a bona fide Typhoid Mary.  This intellectual midget would have suffered a coronary to learn that I consider thinking my favorite pastime. 

 

The men in the conference room, with impenetrable, unyielding features, sit around the elongated table or stand gazing cynically at their surroundings with indifferent eyes, pretentiously displaying expensive, hand tailored suits in various shades of grey. Their shirts are stiffly starched, French cuffed, and monogrammed.  I assume the embroidered initials are designed to discourage accidental theft in the locker room by a colleague when the legitimate owner is working out in the corporate gym, or perhaps they are necessary in order to establish identity in the event of an unexpected attack of amnesia.  Oh, and everyone wears impeccably polished, pricey, hand-stitched shoes.  Traditional Brogues and Oxfords.  Black.

 

 

Accelerando molto prestissimo

 

 

The decision-making women in the conference room are all brusque and forceful, thereby successfully distinguishing themselves from the ranks of the busy, pleasant, and accommodating secretaries respectfully promenading about.  One would have to be very confused indeed to request a cup of coffee or an aspirin from one of these abrupt female executives, rather than an obliging secretary.  I was witness on two occasions to a disagreement arising from just such a misunderstanding; one accidental, the other deliberate.  In the former, the consequence was simply an unnecessary, regrettably humiliating response to the offending male: “go get your own fucking coffee, asshole!”  In the second, the deliberate instance, the two women tore at each other, punching, kicking, scratching and biting; exposing costly, blood stained lingerie through tattered designer clothing by the time security arrived to separate them.

 

I am always very circumspect regarding female executives, and not necessarily because of the obvious physical menace they represent.  Experience has taught me that, as apparently in all of nature, the female of any given species is by far the deadliest.  Regarding the ladies on the penthouse floor, their venom proved invariably fatal when they considered themselves threatened by having their belligerence revealed as a disguise; as no more than a fragile mask attempting to conceal terrifying insecurity – nonetheless, it was insufficient to obscure the perpetual panic reflected in their eyes. 

 

My premeditated, artificial performance to this assembly of ravenous and ambitious sharks, unanimously keen to snatch at the minutest uncertainty, the first scent of blood, is why I make the big bucks; and the big bucks are the rationalization for my decline into the tempting, extravagantly lucrative purgatory of a mercenary profession, where mediocre individuals acquire without merit the opportunity to question talent.  The actual production of any spot is in reality a codicil to this meeting, which is nothing more than an expedient tactic practiced by all those overpriced, arrogant minions, designed to guarantee the longevity of their insecure employment.  “It wasn’t my fault.  We all approved it!”

 

 

Ritardando meno mosso

 

 

Back in my office, resembling a contemporary Neolithic troglodyte hunter returning from a successful foray into the treacherous Savannah, I delightedly caress the endorsed check I received at the conclusion of the meeting; a check replete with a long line of impressive zeroes following the initial digit.  It is at this economically seminal moment, which my jealous competitors allege has the effect of revealing my reclusive, inconspicuous creativity, that my secretary buzzes.

 

 

Ritenuto meno

 

 

“Honey, your wife is on one.”  When we are alone in the office, she has the inopportune, disconcerting habit of being overtly affectionate.  It is not my intention to be ambiguous or descend into outright deception and mendacity like Slick Willy, our first yuppie President, by forcefully declaring that “I never had sex with that woman!”   Now, let me be absolutely clear about this, it is not my intention to deny any man the pleasurable opportunity of clandestinely indulging in extra-marital fellatio, or outright, good old fashioned coitus for that matter; my complaint is that sexual harassment laws in the workplace apparently do not apply to the privileged few.  Not being a member of our elected governing elite, I run the risk of doing hard time for perjury and obstruction of justice.  It’s the law, irregardless of what that means these days.*  I, as a vulnerable citizen, have no recourse other than to admit that yes, I “had direct contact with intent to arouse or gratify.”**  I am fucking this woman.  Actually, more precisely, the reality is that we are fucking each other – both physically and, regrettably, also emotionally; leading contradictory, parallel lives.

 

My friend David is fond of repeating that “life is a shit sandwich, and every day we take another bite.”

 

I answer the phone.  It is my present spouse; her voice sounds distressed.

 

“Your mother just called.  I’m so terribly sorry to tell you this, darling.  Your father died.”

 

 

Rubato subito

 

 

My father died in an Old Country hospital where he had been admitted for a minor intestinal problem.  He died of a heart attack.  He died of a heart attack in a hospital!  No one dies of a heart attack in a hospital.  Well, no one dies of a heart attack in a hospital in that diminutive part of the planet known as the developed world, the first world, the civilized world.  People die of heart attacks in hospitals all over the world.  Sure.  People die of heart attacks in hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa.  No doubt.  My father had dallied in the Old Country one week too long, because had he been hospitalized here, he would have survived the heart attack.  No one dies of a heart attack in a hospital in America!  There’s too much money to be made keeping patients alive.  Unless, of course, the hospital finds itself in need of some body parts for which your organs just happen to be a perfect match.  The Hippocratic profession is, after all, a business not unlike my business.  Fuck!  My father was dead.  He had died of a heart attack in a hospital!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(iii)

 

 

Tempo Primo sostenuto

 

 

I flew back to the Old Country.  Black suit.  Black tie.  Starched, white, French cuffed shirt.  Polished black shoes.

 

“How did it happen, Mom?”

 

She had entered his room in the hospital with a paper bag full of apples.  She turned her back on him, preparing a plate to take to his bed.  When she turned around, seconds later, he was gone.  She called the nurse; the doctors rushed in only to pronounce him dead.  The End.  It was difficult for me to assimilate.  No one dies of a heart attack in a hospital.

 

At the funeral, I looked at his grey face in the casket.  I reached out to touch him for one last time, and was surprised to feel the roughness of his cool, rigid cheek where the hair follicles had apparently not yet received the message that the body had ceased to exist.  I thought about his last moments in the bed at the hospital, and it was then I realized that my mother had killed him. I imagined my mother walking into the room, argumentative; irritable at the thought of traveling to America.  I visualized her turning to prepare the fruit.  I listened once again to her stubborn, complaining voice.  And I suddenly knew, as well as I know anything, that my father, being unable to get up and merely walk out the door,  made the conscious decision to leave my mother anyway.  Forever.

 

 

Più Mosso con brio

 

 

My mother told me that she stayed in the hospital room, alone, sitting on the edge of the bed next to my father’s lifeless body - out of some inexplicable politesse, I find myself avoiding the indelicate word corpse.  A short length of gauze had been wrapped around my father’s head to keep his slack jaw from gaping; it was tied in an inappropriate and undignified large bow on top of his head.  My mother said she scolded him sternly for abandoning her, but concluded her bitter grievance by assuring him that they would soon be united once again.  I’m confident that my father, if the definitive premise of religion is to be accepted as accurate, was capable of properly understanding the consequences of that assertion.

 

 

Stretto subito

 

 

I divorced my first wife because she was an incorrigible nagger.  Also the second.  And a couple more that followed, come to think of it.  My current wife is the same.  They were all like my mother, given to never ending complaints, real or imagined.  Mostly imagined.

 

 

Rallentando  

 

 

I have finally arrived at the conclusion that complaining is a woman’s millenarian weapon for survival; a necessary atavistic ploy, unhurriedly eroding the immovable mountain into fine sand, to be ultimately consumed by the incessant waves of the sea.

 

 

Note:

 

It has come to my attention that there is circulating an uncorroborated, total fabrication by some unscrupulous, manipulative investigative reporters that I have been recognized inhabiting a remote and barren wasteland known as the Valley of the Dinosaurs, in the Atacama Desert, wearing only a hair shirt and howling into the void.  Not true.  The veracity of this assertion, as with all perceived discordant, unmelodious wailing, has been strictly confined to the words appearing on these pages.  Everything you have been led to believe while reading the text of this monologue, and indeed perhaps even existence itself, is nothing more than a figment of the imagination; the result of an overly prolific inventiveness, and should continue to remain suspect.

 

 

*U.S. Code.  False declarations before grand jury or court:

(a) Whoever under oath (or in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title 28, United States Code) in any proceeding before or ancillary to any court or grand jury of the United States knowingly makes any false material declaration or makes or uses any other information, including any book, paper, document, record, recording, or other material, knowing the same to contain any false material declaration, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

 

**William Jefferson Clinton, 43rd President of the United States of America.

Grand Jury Testimony, p. 95:23 - 96:20:

 

Clinton: Yes, it would if you had a direct contact with any of these places in the body, if you had direct contact with intent to arouse or gratify, that would fall within the definition.

 
 Question: So you didn't do any of those three things with Monica Lewinsky?


Clinton: You are free to infer that my testimony is that I did not have sexual relations as I understood this term to be defined.

 

 

END

 

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