Read Constellations Online

Authors: Nick Payne

Constellations (6 page)

Roland
   Okay I'm gonna just – I'm gonna just own up: I came down here because I wanted to – I had this whole speech written out. Took me a fucking age. And it's – It's just thrown me a bit.

Marianne
   Roland you're sweating.

*   *   *

Roland
   There's something I'd like to say. To you.

Roland readies himself to speak.

Um, so, as you know, well, maybe,
maybe
you know, there are, there are three different kinds of bees. There's the drones, there's the workers and there's the queen. And the, the drones are all women. Sorry, the, the workers, the
workers
are all women. The drones have sex with the queen. But then once they've, once they've ejaculated, they, er, they die. Shoulda written this down.

Marianne
   Roland –

Roland
   What I'm tryina say is that bees have a really short life. They have an incredibly short life and then that's it. Possibly the bit about the life span shoulda come at the start and then I coulda moved on to the –

Marianne
   Is there something –

Roland
   Do you remember when we first met?

Marianne
   Yes.

Roland
   You do?

Marianne
   Yes.

Roland
   At that wedding.

Marianne
   What?

Roland
   John and Ruth's wedding.

Marianne
   We met at a barbecue.

*   *   *

Roland takes a piece of A4 paper from a pocket and reads.

Roland
   There are three different kinds of bees. The drones, the workers and a single, solitary queen. The workers are all women. Their job is to forage for honey, pollen, etcetera. Their lifespan is potentially anywhere between five weeks and six months. And then they die. Drones exist solely to have sex with the queen. Each hive tends to have around a hundred drones. Once they've deposited their sperm, their penis gets ripped off and they die. Honeybees have an unfailing clarity of purpose. Their lives are often intensely short. But in a strange sort of way, I'm jealous of the humble honeybee and their quiet elegance. If only our existence were that simple. If only we could understand why it is that we're here and what it is that we're meant to spend our lives doing. I am uncertain when it comes to a great many things. But there is now one thing I am defiantly certain of.

Roland folds up the piece of paper, puts it back in his pocket and – from another pocket – takes out a small black box. He kneels and opens the small black box.

Roland
   Marianne Aubele, will you marry me?

Marianne
   Okay.

Roland
   Really?

Marianne
   Yeah, really.

Marianne kisses Roland. Roland slides the engagement ring on to the appropriate finger. Marianne kisses Roland.

Where was that speech from? Was it from a book? It was, wasn't it? Was it the Ted Hooper? It was, wasn't it?

Roland
   Bits.

Marianne laughs and then kisses Roland.

Marianne
   I've got to do a fucking tutorial.

Roland
   I'll see you at home.

Marianne
   Is that okay?

Roland
   Of course.

Marianne
   Thank you.

Marianne kisses Roland.

*   *   *

Marianne
   
If you're serious you write to them.

Roland
   
Meaning what?

Marianne
   
Outline why they ought to be taking you seriously.

Roland
   
And if they do?

Marianne
   
You meet someone.

Roland
   
Out there or here?

Marianne
   
Out there. You

You

You have to meet them a couple of times.

Roland
   
Always out there?

Marianne
   
I think so.

Roland
   
Then what?

Marianne
   
Then it's up to you.

Roland
   
How do they do it, how does it work?

Marianne
   
They use something called a Bar

Abar

A

A

Roland
   
It's okay.

Marianne
   
They mix it with water.

Roland
   
I don't really know what to say.

Marianne
   
You don't have to say anything.

Roland
   
No I know but I want to; I want to know what to say to you.

Marianne
   
A lot of people apparently never go through with it.

Roland
   
How do you mean?

Marianne
   
A lot of people, once they've been given the green night

Night

Once they've
          
A lot of

Roland
   
It's okay.

Marianne
   
They're, they're happy enough knowing it's there.

*   *   *

Roland
   How bad is it? Mary –

Marianne
   It's pretty bad.

Roland
   How bad is pretty bad?

Marianne
   They said being under forty might help, but –

Roland
   Mary, how bad is pretty bad?

Marianne
   I'm not sure I want to talk about it right away.

Roland
   Mary I've been waiting around on tenterhooks.

Marianne
   I'm not sure I
can
talk about it right away.

Roland
   Do you want something to drink, do you want some water?

Marianne
   No thank you.

Roland
   Do you want some booze, I mean –

Marianne
   I'm just after a moment's silence and then I'll tell you anything you want.

Beat.

He said, I think, something like a third, a third of people live for a year.

Roland
   What about the other two?

Marianne
   What?

Roland
   What about the other two-thirds, how long do they –

Marianne
   I don't know, Roland, I don't know.

Roland
   What did they tell you, what did the –

Marianne
   I don't – I don't know. I can't remember. They gave me some leaflets. I mean fuck me, why does it matter what happens to the other two-thirds?

Roland
   Why does it matter?

Marianne
   Yes.

Roland
   It matters because presumably we don't know which third you're going to be?

Marianne
   Why are you being arsey with me –

Roland
   I'm not being –

Marianne
   Yes you are, you're being arsey. You're getting mad at me for not remembering this number or that number – I mean who gives a fuck –

Roland
   All right –

Marianne
   I'll go upstairs and get my fucking handbag and you can rifle through the plethora of leaflets if it bothers you that fucking –

Roland
   All right. All right. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Did he talk about treatment?

Marianne
   He said they can operate. Try and remove it, remove as much of it as they can. Then they said radiotherapy but if I'm too weak for radiotherapy, they said chemo. Shitload of chemo. It's right at the front.

Roland
   The front?

Marianne
   It's all over the frontal lobe.

Roland
   I don't know what that means.

Marianne
   He said I might have trouble selecting words. Selecting the right words. He said I should expect seizures.

Roland
   Jesus Christ.

Marianne
   It's palliative. Whatever they do. It's not – They can't.

Roland
   Okay.

Marianne
   They said this is it.

Roland
   Okay.

Marianne
   This is it, they said.

Roland
   Okay. Okay.

*   *   *

Marianne
   Why don't you sit down?

Roland
   I need to sit down, do I?

Marianne
   Maybe. I mean. No, standing is fine.

Roland
   I would have come with you if you'd told me, you know.

Marianne
   I know.

Roland
   I would've cancelled –

Marianne
   I know. I wanted to go alone.

Roland
   I'm a bit angry actually, Mary.

Marianne
   Angry?

Roland
   I'm saying so that you know.

Marianne
   You're angry?

Roland
   I'm saying so that you know because I don't want to have an argument.

Marianne
   Glad to fucking hear it.

Roland
   All right.

Marianne
   I'm sorry you missed out on the sheer joy that was collecting the results of my biopsy, Roland.

Roland
   All right.

Marianne
   But, forgive me, I didn't feel like inviting along a fucking entourage of onlookers.

Roland
   All right! Christ. I'm telling you so I can get it off my chest because I want to be as honest with you as I possibly can. Because I don't know what you're about to say but it's clearly bad news and I want to be able to listen and not be thinking I wonder what she did with herself once she heard?

Marianne
   The reason –

Roland
   I wonder why she didn't call me straight away?

Marianne
   I knew that you were –

Roland
   Because I would have dropped absolutely anything and everything and I wonder if she knows that?

*   *   *

Marianne
   So I got my biopsy results.

Roland
   Today?

Marianne
   They called me and asked me to come in.

Roland
   Who did you see?

Marianne
   Dr Thorne.

Roland
   What did he say?

Marianne
   He said it's benign.

Roland
   What?

Marianne
   He said that it's a grade one and he said that it's benign.

Roland
   Wait, he said that –

Marianne
   He said that, ordinarily, with a grade one he would expect to see a full recovery.

Roland
   Did he use the phrase ‘full recovery'?

Marianne
   Exact quote.

Roland
   He said –

Marianne
   Ordinarily we would expect to see a full recovery.

Roland
   Fucking hell.

Marianne
   Yeah.

Roland
   What happens now?

Marianne
   They need to operate.

Roland
   But he definitely used the phrase ‘full recovery'?

Marianne
   He did.

Beat.

Roland
   Are you all right?

Marianne
   Yeah.

Roland
   Are you sure?

Marianne
   Yeah.

Roland
   Are you hungry, do you want some bolognaise? Home-made.

Marianne
   Have we got any of the nice spaghetti?

Roland
   I love you.

*   *   *

Marianne
   It's called a glioblastoma multiforme.

Roland
   Right.

Marianne
   It's a grade four.

Roland
   Right.

Marianne
   It's at the front.

Roland
   Okay.

Marianne
   Which is why I've been having trouble –

Roland
   Speaking.

Marianne
   He said he thinks they should operate.

Roland
   Great.

Marianne
   He said he thinks that's what they should start with.

Roland
   Great.

Marianne
   And then he suggested radiotherapy.

Roland
   Okay.

Marianne
   But he said that if I'm too weak for radiotherapy –

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