Two of these dramatic monologues have been published in the anthology:
Millennium Monologs, 95 contemporary characterizations for young actors, Edited by Gerald Lee Ratlif, 262 pages, $15.95, Colorado Springs: Meriwether Publishing Limited, 2002.
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I told my wife about my lover. I felt I ought to as the end is coming nigh. I wanted to tie up loose ends.
I didn't try to sugar coat it, yet I miss Jennifer now she's left town. The way I've started to miss my wife, knowing we won't be together that much longer.
My wife is small, independent, part Eskimo, met her in Alaska when I was doing field work. She'll do okay without me, you can't keep her down, but I know it's hard.
I'm an anthropologist who writes poetry. And it looks like I won't get far enough in either discipline to make a difference. Not even a footnote in some damn dissertation.
Cancer is eating me away. I've started to have that thin, gaunt look. I find I spend most of the day reclining in my chair. I tire easily and day dream of Jennifer who tasted like the bread my father used to bake. He'd never let me cut it with a knife. Said it had a better flavor when you tore the crust in your hands. When you spread butter onto it, hot and jagged.
He had come so far in life, a master baker, son of wheat farmers in the Midwest. As a boy I remember him making loaves on weekends, just for himself. Kneading the dough, letting it rise, filling the house with his scent.
I went even farther, first son to go to college, then graduate school. "Why did I need so much schooling?" my parents asked me for the entire five years I was getting my doctoral degree. I never could explain it to them. It gave me such freedom to understand traditions from within, to pick and chose my gods.
There's an old story about Alaska. An anthropologist offended his host when he wouldn't sleep with the Eskimo's wife, as was the custom. It took him days to explain that it wasn't because she was ugly, or that he didn't like her tribe. Finally they compromised. She chewed the leather on his parka to soften it, instead.
I've no regrets about Jennifer and the hours I spent savoring her roundness, her hands that made my skin feel as though warm water were gently pouring over it. We recited poetry we'd memorized like foreplay. And after we made love, we'd lie there in the quiet we had created, before I fell asleep. But then I always woke quickly thinking I smelled my father's oven.
Yet today when I look at my wife, who rarely cries, and see her eyes heavy with tears, see her trying to forgive and understand me, before letting herself feel the anger she should feel, I know I can't live with myself.
I turn my face and remember us courting in Alaska. It was early spring, only 20 degrees below. We went for walks in the bright full moon, almost like day light reflecting off the blue snow, looking for fox and rabbit tracks. She found a cavern, hollowed out by the wind. She pulled me inside and we kissed with our parka tops flung back, in this place where our lips wouldn't freeze. Then we hiked back to my cabin in our snowshoes and went to bed for days.
Loving two women is merely a fact of my life.
My wife so practical, in charge, a small whirlwind. My lover well read, insecure, playful, big boned as my Dad used to say.
Even before she knew, my wife never liked Jennifer. Nor Jennifer my wife. How odd it is that I can contain them both.
And now, especially now, I'm glad. I think of them like Indian spirits, the big and little sisters, who come to you and guide you. They are what I'm holding on to, looking for, to take me from this world into the next.
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