Margret, a university student, wrote the following contemporary stage monologue when she imagined re-visiting a public greenhouse she and a friend had stopped at the previous spring. At the time, the young women were heading to a nearby hospital, so Margret’s friend could obtain an abortion. Being in the warmth and beauty of the greenhouse 11 months later evokes feelings of regret and resentment on Margret’s behalf for supporting her friend’s decision to abort her child. She especially struggles with her friend’s insensitive manner following such a procedure, and her refusal to recognize Margret’s pain.
Setting: A greenhouse filled with a wide range of flowers. A water fountain sits in the middle of the room where water quietly falls to a pond below. Present-day.
When a little baby dies, you know of crib death or whatever, there’s a funeral right? A funeral and flower baskets and cards with little birds on the front that say, “Sorry for your loss.” There’s love and support from – everyone. Everyone, right? But when a mother’s little baby dies before it lives, there’s nothing. Just a long walk to the hospital, to the back part of the hospital where people aren’t supposed to see you go in and there’s sterile equipment and poking and pulling.
(Places hands affectionately on stomach. Long pause.)
But no funeral or cards, no pretty flowers. Oh, but there is a secret. The girl’s secret. And you know what’s not fair? The girl’s secret became mine. I walked all the way down Queen Street with her. From our apartment complex to the hospital, that back part of the hospital where no one can see you walk in the door. I brought my 35 and took photos along the way, to keep her mind off where we were going, I guess. We stopped at a greenhouse, a greenhouse so full of smell and living colour. Barely spring and there’s this lemon tree growing gladly in the corner, so warm within those four walls. I had never seen a lemon tree before. It was such a peaceful place, water falling from a rock fountain into a pond of goldfish, sun shining through tall, green ferns. I was snapping photos like crazy.
(Accidentally pricks finger on thorn, bringing attention back to the monologue.)
She looked pale next to that cherry hibiscus.
But the freckles came back to her, long after the greenhouse photos had been developed and framed. We were 20 hours apart that summer. I spoke to her once on the phone. She called me. I expected tears, but heard her smile instead.
(Places hands affectionately on stomach and becomes voice of friend.)
Everything’s great. Work is fine but I can’t wait to get back to school. Yes, I’m good. I haven’t talked to anyone, I don’t need to. I’m fine.
Fine. Fine. Fine. Not empty? Not sad? How dare she make me keep her secret?
I wrote a letter. It was the best thing, I thought, to explain myself, help her understand. Help myself understand, maybe. She ignored it, though. Are you surprised? She said to me, many drinks into her Thursday night, that the letter was selfish. I made her suffering all about me. Well, it was about me. It is about me. I may have walked all the way down Queen Street with her, to the hospital, to that back door where no one sees you go in – but I never wore a black dress for the baby, I never signed a card of sympathy, I never sent flowers. (Carefully plucks hibiscus flower from its stem and exits greenhouse.)
Margret Cyr is a pseudonym for a writer in a mid-sized Ontario city.