VITERBO UNIVERSITY | SPRING 2014 | VOLUME 78

TOUCHSTONE

LITERATURE

from Narcissus

Joseph Gay

(Lights up on a dance studio where people are rehearsing for a modern dance piece. It is years later. Narcissus is still handsome but has aged from travel and exhaustion. He is at the front. Depleted. Constantly checking himself in the mirror. His dancing is still spectacular, but he is not fully committing, too distracted by the mirror. It is more forced, less at ease. His mind is elsewhere. After a bit of dancing the director gets up and walks to the front. Watching Narcissus closely.)

Director: Alright, everyone we’re done for the day. Get plenty of rest . . . but keep the new choreography fresh for tomorrow!

(They all start to leave)

Director: Narcissus you stay . . .

(Narcissus stops and comes back.)

Narcissus: Yeah? What!?

Director: First of all, drop the attitude. You’ll need all the positivity you can get!

Narcissus: What do you mean?

Director: It means you’re fired Narcissus! . . .

. . . sorry . . . but you’re fired.

Narcissus: What do you mean I am fired? I am the lead of this show, you can’t just fire the lead of the show!

Director: The truth is Narcissus. You are not what we are looking for anymore. This show is tired of you, the audience is tired of you, hell we’re all tired of you. It’s time for us to move on to something new and exciting! You have been spiraling Narck . . . maybe you should get some help?

Narcissus: I don’t believe this! If you wanted me to do better, you could have told me, I can adjust, I can do better!

Director: Sorry Narcissus . . . nothing I can do. Pack up your stuff and don’t come back, alright?

Sorry . . . (he leaves the dance studio)

(Narcissus begins to dance again, he dances harder and harder and his intensity grows. The figure in the scrim matches his quality of movement. He cannot stop looking in the mirror. He is trying a big leap, but keep falling out of it and tumbling onto the floor because he won’t stop staring in the mirror. He tries again and again and again. He is getting sweaty and looking very tired and weak, but he keeps pushing himself harder and harder. Echo enters quietly and doesn’t notice him at first. She sets down her dance bag and turns around to see him. Her voice is very raspy)

Echo: Oh! Hey . . . Sorry I thought everyone had cleared out for the day . . .

Narcissus: They did.

(They stare for a beat)

Echo: They did… right, ok. Well . . . I’ll go I guess!

Narcissus: They still letting you in here?

(beat)

Echo: (She produces a key from her pocket and holds it up to him). . .They forgot to take it from me. I have been coming here to dance . . .

Narcissus: . . . I didn’t realize you were still around here.

Echo: Yeah. I have been finding jobs here and there. I didn’t really feel like I could go back home.

(Narcissus nods)

(Echo smiles and starts to leave)

Narcissus: Where are you going?

Echo: Going home! I figured I’ll let you rehearse

Narcissus: Would you stay? I could use someone to dance with . . .

Echo: I don’t know Narck . . .

Narcissus: Echo, I’m not even rehearsing, the director told me today –

Echo: I know . . . I heard . . .

Narcissus: But -

Echo: I know, I just . . . should go! (She starts to go)

Narcissus: Please stay! . . . Echo. . . please?

(She stops and turns around. Narcissus starts dancing again and Echo timidly joins in. She is not nearly as good, but she dances with passion. They begin to dance together and slowly become a cohesive unit. The scrim goes up and the entire stage is theirs. Right before they are building as one unit, Narcissus takes his focus off of her and starts to check the mirror. He begins to dance circles around her. She tries to keep up and hold on to the passion and the hold his attention. Narcissus’ gaze is almost fully on the mirror. He attempts a lift but gets kicked in the stomach and drops her.)

Echo: Oh my God, Narck! I am so sorry.

(Narcissus waves her off)

Narcissus: Whatever . . .it’s fine, just –

( He snaps) Why don’t you just sit and watch ok?

Echo: Ok . . . sorry. (Hurt, she sits next to her dance bag. She wraps her ankle. She is nearly in tears)

(Narcissus is attempting a leap, spin. He cannot get it. He keeps falling out of it because he is checking himself in the mirror mid leap. He tries over and over, each time getting worse as his frustration builds. He is no longer sneaking glances in the mirror but will not take his eyes off of it from beginning to end. It is making his movement stiff and choppy. He falls out of it one last time, this time he goes down, screams, and hits the floor with his fist.)

Echo: Narck . . . Narck, I’m going to get out of here . . .

Narcissus: . . .

Echo: I’m sorry . . .

Narcissus: . . .

Echo: Look, this was a bad idea.

Narcissus: . . .

Echo: Narcissus, why don’t you take a break, you are going to hurt yourself!

Narcissus: I’ll get it!

Echo: Hah! (mimicking him) “I’ll get it!” . . . You don’t have to get it Narck, you can take a break!

Narcissus: I don’t want a break . . . I don’t need a break!

Echo: Break for, like, five minutes and just listen to me! You don’t have to do this, you don’t have to prove anything!

Narcissus: Quit trying to control me!

Echo: Me and you are going to step outside, take a breath of fresh air and then we can come in here and just dance. You need to remember who you were back in high school . . .

Narcissus: Stop talking to me like you know me okay?

Echo: Ok, first of all, I do know –

Narcissus: No! No. . . you think you know me, but in reality you know only what you’ve made up about me!

Echo: Me?!

(Starts to prep to leap. Echo grabs his arm and steps in front of him)

Echo: ME?? I’m the one who made stuff up? You spent the last years of our relationship making up lies. You lied to me about our future and then you completely ignored me and left me when I needed you the most. (He has stop paying attention and looks at himself in the mirror) Are you REALLY –

Oh my God, nevermind. I’m leaving . . .

Narcissus: Why’d you even come here anyways? I thought you gave up dancing . . .

Echo: Dancing relaxes me alright? Some people still do it for pleasure if that’s so hard to believe . . . remember how you used to do it because you loved it? Remember dancing together Narck? Because sometimes -

Narcissus: Ohh please. Do not start with that. You’re the one who always told me I could go all the way, you’re the one who jumped on board as soon as they needed a singer. You were the one who told me I was amazing! This was all your idea!

Echo: Your idea Narck! This was all your idea! I came along because I didn’t want to lose you! I never encouraged you to become this. I told you that I wanted you to come out here because I didn’t want to limit what you thought you could do . . . I wanted to marry you!

We could have been perfect if you had thought about anything but yourself for just five minutes.

Narcissus: I am perfect Echo. . . and I am going to get this leap perfectly. (He attempts the leap again and falls.)

Echo: Leap then! Just leap! The Narcissus I used to know would have just leapt!

Narcissus: You didn’t used to know anyone! You don’t even know yourself let alone –

Echo: Alone! That’s the word I was looking for. You’re going to end up alone!

Narcissus: This is what I am talking about . . . you are talking crazy! I have to wonder if you even know what is going on up there half the time!

Echo: Crazy? Again, I’m the crazy one?! God, sometimes I just want to show you how wrong you are about everything.

Narcissus: I know! Oh, trust me I know! You want control of every little thing. You want everyone and everything to go according to your little plan, well guess what!? I did that, I played your game for long enough and then you lost it! That’s right, you lost your mind and you screamed so loud that you lost the only thing that you have that you could actually control, and now you are here to try to reign me back in! Well, I am not going to be your sense of control anymore. I am going to do what I want!

Echo: . . .

Narcissus: Is that why you are here? (regaining his composure)

Echo: . . .

Narcissus: Ah . . . I see. You’re here to save me. (Gives a little laugh.) You came here because you pushed yourself to hard and look at where you are now. No voice, no family, and no friends . . .

Maybe you even thought I would appreciate you so much for saving me that I would wanna be with you.

Echo: You made it perfectly clear that was never going to happen.

Narcissus: Well then I guess you won’t leave disappointed (She starts to go)

Just to ease your mind. There’s no chance of that happening to me. I am stronger than you. And I am better than you.

Echo: You . . . are so stuck on yourself you wouldn’t know your savior if you were staring her in the face. Narcissus, you’re only ever gonna love one person in this world, and that person is you.

Narcissus: Just get out . . . !

(Echo leaves and Narcissus turns to see himself in the mirror. He stares for a long time. He continues to dance putting in all of his effort. He leaps and falls and spins and falls. He does not take his eyes off of the mirror. His dancing gets worse and worse. His frustration gets greater and greater. He builds in intensity and failure. He stops and stares at himself He is frozen . . . transfixed in his own eyes. On the mirrors a projection fades on of his face and the words “You will only ever love one person in your life.” Narcissus collapses.)

(Sound of sirens. Blackout)