This is what I see in my dreams about final exams:
two monkeys, chained to the floor, sit on the windowsill,
the sky behind them flutters,
the sea is taking its bath.
The exam is the history of Mankind.
I stammer and hedge.
One monkey stares and listens with mocking disdain,
the other seems to be dreaming away --
but when it's clear I don't know what to say
he prompts me with a gentle
clinking of his chain.
— Wislawa Szymborska's "Bruegel's Two Monkeys", translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, set to
Two Monkeys (Zwei Aften): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562, oil on oak panel, 23 x 20 cm (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
In less urbanized areas of the world, many people are known by a single name; they are said to be mononymous. Some cultures even lack fixed names designating people, either individually or collectively. Certain isolated tribes, such as the Machiguenga of the Amazon, have no concept of a personal name at all. (wikipedia)
He is the author of the play, the opening performance at which he finds himself in an intermission after the second act. To his his genuine surprise---the act miraculously closed upon itself in a rapturous suspension of silence. He watched as the audience's blinking confusion was punctured by the final scene's wistful expression: a woman, dressed in green, blazing in confidence all the while dripping in golden suffering: "You speak as if...". The moment that follows is drenched in disbelief; the same storm writhes and swirls in the audience's anticipation; the audience is listening.
There comes a murmur and a shuffle as bathrooms are crowded, pissed and shat upon. Then a concern presents itself: what if, at the end of it all, nothing is said? more moments, before it comes again.
I do not understand your worry.
This is all impressive.
Time and time again he finds himself lost, straining in recollection of a name with little to go by save for the seeming sensation of it once having come so easily to the tongue. There are things of great significance that are all too easy to forget! no, more is possible---perhaps even the norm. Can one dream up a fate more cruel than a life lived in the false belief of already having found what is sought?
All this, despite the fact that that what is sought is undoubtedly already there; one habitually calls it by a false name, it seems, and that makes all the difference.
This all from another rude awakening. No, do not sigh like that! The waking is not unwelcome. On the contrary, there is a chance again, however brief, for a moment of rapturous silence.
Take note: the show was sold out moments after it was announced. The hours leading up to the performance were said to snake for several blocks out the door of the theater, each block counting another impatient hour. All about time is striated into packed cafes, Synagogues undergoing extensive reservation, a red dress anxiously selected from the green (dressed, as it were, with more than a layer of self-judgement); a cruelly-dismissed yelp-3-star-rated restaurant, its owner (Matias) mad at his mothe---excuse me, his wife---striving for the custom so wholly deserved yet always failing to arrive---and undoubtedly more textures unnoticed by the impatient crowd. Instead, they while while away the remaining hours in anticipation of a show that none have seen; no matter, it is said to be unmissable; how else to account for the maddened rush!
The story it purports to tell---even if badly misremembered---is old; old enough for the fact of the first telling's lost in time, followed by one miraculous rediscovery after the next, yet always lost again, and yet each time, some small sliver survives.
An angel is said to have visited some soul seeking refuge from time's relentless torrent. Though our protagonist is treated kindly at first, the angel quickly loses patience, for it has a deadline to report back by, and with great urgency needs to hear the protagonist speak. But what does it mean to speak, for that matter? Stones, no matter how finely ground, fail to bleed water.
Our angel demands the one in hiding speak; the one in hiding, convinced of not knowing how to speak, blinks a maelstrom of panicked confusion. A faint "why me" is heard in defensive refrain.
"Surely there must be someone else who already knows how to speak?"