Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Excerptastic Theatre Tuesday: Nothing Changes
When I was in therapy about two years ago, one day I noticed that I hadn’t had any children. And I like children at a distance. I wondered if I’d like them up close. I wondered why I didn’t have any. I wondered if it was a mistake, or if I’d done it on purpose, or what. And I noticed that my therapist didn’t have any children either. He had pictures of cats on the wall. Framed.
He may have changed since then, but my therapist was the kind who, if you asked him a personal question, would take the entire session to answer. You had to take the responsibility to stop him. You had to learn to be selfish. So I always said that he was like drinking partner, except we never went drinking and I paid for the drinks.
I asked him, “Why didn’t you ever have any children?”
And he said, “Well, I was in Auschwitz when I was nineteen and the death marches were moving out as the Russians moved in. And I said to my friend, who was also nineteen, ‘I think now we have a beneficient Gestapo. Now we must run for it.’ And my friend said, ‘No, I am too tired. I must first rest.’ So I am watching him sleeping and I see blood from the corner of his mouth and I realise he is dead from exhaustion. So I run and escape and I make it to the border of Poland and Germany, and another death march of twenty thousand goes by, not so beneficient this time. They are shooting from horseback, and I surrender.
“They take us to the edge of this great pit and machine gun the whole lot of us. Everyone falls dead except maybe some twelve or fifteen who fall into the snow and live. I am one. I am shot in and around to the genitals so it’s a kind of vasectomy. Two days later the Russians find me in the snow.”
I said, “Two days in the show and you didn’t freeze to death?”
“What…,” he answered, “it was just snow.” (And I was the one in therapy?)
“Listen, this is going to sound weird, but I really envy you.”
“What, are you one of those who think suffering ennobles?”
“No, it’s not that. We’re all born by chance, no one asked to get born, but to be reborn by chance, to live like that, it must have made your life – you know – much more conscious and vital. Things must have changed enormously for you. Also, you don’t have to make a decision about whether or not to have kids. It must have changed your life is a very dynamic…”
“No. Uh-uh. Nothing changes, no. We thought that, you see. In the first reunions of the camps everyone was swinging, like a big sex club with the swinging and the drinking and the carrying on as though you die tomorrow. Everyone did what he wanted. The next time, not so much, not so much. The couples stayed together. The next time, we were talking about whether or not we could afford a summer home that year. Now when we meet, years later, people talk about whether or not radioactive smoke-detectors are dangerous in suburban homes. Nothing changes.”

-- Spalding Gray, Swimming to Cambodia.

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