The Stanislavski System

by Bethany Mathews

          She sits at the park bench, and her hair is pressed tight against her back, sending a soft tickle that wraps its way around her spinal cord as she tries her hardest to press herself to the sticky wood. It’s dark out; there’s a spot above her head where she knows there should be stars, but they were chased away by the city lights long ago. Through the soft support of a nearby street lamp, she can make out that the bench is meant to be a nasal, yellow color, but even its bright demeanor is dimmed by the clouds, covering the moon like brushes spreading blush over her cheeks. She wonders if the moon is beautiful, or if maybe the distance between her and itself are covering its flaws.

          “What are you doing here?” 

          She doesn’t have to look down, back at the earth, to know who is talking to her. 

          “Sitting,” she shrugs, kicking her feet back and forth like a child. 

          Devin takes a deep sigh, exaggerating the exhale as if to let her know that he wishes it would blow her away, scatter her like bits of a dandelion. He takes a seat next to her, crossing his legs over one another, and lets his head fall onto the iron arm of the bench.

          “Am I wrong to call this a visit?” He asks. 
          She shrugs again, but her legs falter, settling with the heels of her shoes digging deep into the concrete and shuffling a few rocky grains.
          “Just spit it out,” he says, halfway caught between pleading and letting it bite its way to her.
          She takes a deep breath, raising her legs like she is going to start the pattern again, but then just letting them hang in the air.
          “I’m a blimp,” she says. “To some ant down there, I’m the moon.” 
          “I want you to kill me.”
          “WWhat?” He jerks up. 
          She turns to face him, eyes rocks sanded down in the ocean. They don’t sparkle with the salt water. “I want you to kill me.”
          “YYou can’t just say something like that. Don’t you know how messed up that is? God, Mora. W-We’ll find someone for you, a specialist or something.” 
          She shakes her head, “No, you don’t understand; I don’t want to die. I’m not suicidal.” 
          “Then what 
          “I want you to kill me.”
          Devin sighs, “Yes, II got that part. Why? What’sWhat’s wrong?” 
          “Nothing’s wrong Devin… Don’t you see? Look at me, the pinnacle of youth,” she bites back a chuckle, “Sitting here in the park at midnight, I’m like a movie. A glamorous star in the moonlight- everyone wants me!” She rocks back and forth for a moment, realizing just how cold it really is, “I don’t want to be confined to this. This human life, these petty eyelashes. I can barely see you in front of me.”
          “So don’t wear the eyelashes,” Devin says. 
          “I can’t take them off. I’ve been wearing them since I was born.” 
          “Does that really make you want to die?”
          “I don’t want to die. I told you that. I just don’t want to live, haven’t you ever felt that?” 
          “Yeah, but when I do I take my pills. I don’t ask my ex to knife me.” 
          She hums, “I was thinking a gun. More of a clean wipe, y’know?” 
          “No, I really don’t.”
         “Devin, can you please just do this for me? If you do, I’ll be out of your life forever. I won’t be on your doorstep at two in the morningand I won’t leave you messages on your phone
when you’re in meetings. Hell, I’ll even-“
          “That’s not,” he takes a deep breath, “That’s not what I mean when I say that I want you to leave me alone. You shouldn’t be leaving the entire goddam planet alone. You’re twenty-one for christ’s sakes, go live life.”
          “I have. Two out of five stars, really.”
          “Stop talking,” Devin stands up, enjoys the harsh clash of his feet with the ground in
comparison to her still levitating pair, “You’re not serious. I know you’re not serious because I
know that you’re not this stupid.”
          “Didn’t go to college…” she whispers.
          “Nothing you’re saying is making any sense. You sound like some thirteen year-old who thinks suicide is the coolest new trend.”
          Her breath looks like a ghost as it climbs out of her mouth and fights against the freezing temperature.
          “It wouldn’t be suicide, it would be murder.”
          “Shut up!” She stands up to join him, letting her hands find solace in each other’s grasp, rubbing
together, “This doesn’t have to be what you’re making it out as. I’m going to die one day.”
          “One day in the very far future. One day fifty years from now with children and someone who loves you, not in some cold park all alone!”
          “I won’t be alone. You’re missing the entire point of this– I have someone who loves me now. I have you.”
         Devin looks up at the sky, trying to blink away the nighttime, “Mora, you know I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. You know that I care for you, but-“
          “Then do it. If you care for me, then do it. That’s how I want it to end, with someone who loves me when I still love myself, not when I’m old and decrepit. I want to die now because you care for me. What if that never happens again?”
          Devin sighs, “Oh, Mora. I know things have been hard lately, but they won’t stay that way forever. You’ll find someone again, I promise.”
          She shakes her head, “No, it has to be you,” her hands try to snake their way into the folds of his jacket.
          He places a hand against his forehead, feeling the worry lines press together, “And they say romance is dead.”
          Her nose scrunches up, and when she pulls away she’s sporting a thumbs down, “Overused line in my opinion.”
          “Sorry, I’ll try for something more original next time,” he lets the beat fill the air, not sure if he’s waiting for her to speak and take the empty breath away from him so he isn’t held responsible for it, or if he just doesn’t know what to say. 
          “So, what do you think?” She finally asks.
          “I think you’re insane.”
          “You’re going to do it?” 
          “I think you’re really insane.”
          He doesn’t respond. He knows the look she’s wearing now, a pout and eyes that look like a reflection in the glass of a fish tank. He doesn’t want to deal with this or acknowledge the possibility that it’s something she’d actually want.

           Mora reaches down and grabs something from between the crumples of a brown paper bag. Devin finally glances at her, expecting to see the glass edge of a bottle meeting her lips,when she places the cool metal of a revolver into his hand.

          In the light of the lamp, it shares its gleam with the nickels and pennies on the ground below.
          Devin jumps back like he’s been burned, letting it clatter onto the ground just spots away from a wad of gum.
          “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” He breathes out. 
          She gives him a wordless nod.
          “II can’t do it, Mora. This isn’t right. There’s something wrong with your brain, something that’s making you think you want this,” he waits for her reaction, however explosive it may be, but she just tries to force the weapon back into his clammy grip, “No!”
          “Devin, you owe me this! Don’t act like it’s some burden when I know that we both want it. Just admit that and we can get it over with.”
          “Jesus, Mora, you’re talking about taking a life.” 
          “My life. I can talk about it however I’d like.” 
          “Well not with me,” Devin says, following the path that the shadows of overarching trees have left for him to follow and leaving behind her snow globe eyes.
          “Don’t walk away from me!” She says, her fingers colliding with one another and creating cannonballs of her fists, anchors that weigh her down. She can’t convince herself to move as Devin’s form shrinks in the distance.
          She has to.
          “Devin!” The paper bag stays there, crumpled like a fifteen-year-old’s bottle of vodka.The only thing she cares about is the gun held tightly in the grip of her hands as her shoes clack against the concrete.
          In that moment, she can imagine that they do love each other. Her brain can convince her that they’re running into each other’s arms. 
          “Please, Devin,” she tries to force the gun into his hand.
          “No, stop,” he flails against its touch, but it won’t fall from between the jumble of their extremities. She’s trying to make it collide into his grip and let his finger fill the empty place around the trigger, and he’s trying to force a black hole to come right between the two of them so it can swallow the weapon whole, and they both should know where this is going, but the blast of gunpowder comes as a shock that shakes their bones.
          His eyes carry themselves up to her own, finally finding the tears he’d been expecting all night.
          “MMora?” It comes out more broken than he would ever want to sound. He doesn’t need a response though, doesn’t have to wait for one, with the way that her body is crumpling against his still extended hands.
          “I’ll call 911,” he says, hands patting all over his body in places that he knows there should be a phone but there isn’t. 
          “Don’t,” she says, and it sounds strained, but there’s a smile on her face. Not nostalgic,trying to convey contentment, but wide, showing off all of her peroxide teeth.
          “Mora, this isn’t something you want. You have so much ahead of you… I… Maybe we could try again, yeah? Look, just take my hand and we’ll get you somewhere, find someone.We’ll pull a car over. It’s New York, there’s plenty of cars.”
          “Don’t, Devin,” she says, her voice weaker now. She lets out a harsher laugh this time,coughing up blood the same shade as her lipstick. She’d say that she was beautiful, if she could see herself. 
          “WWhat am I going to do, Mora?” She doesn’t respond, just breathes heavier in strained gasps. Why were you so insistent upon this? Why did you have to do this? Why did you have to bring a gun? None of this would’ve happened.
          “Devin,” Mora’s eyes are getting glassy, unable to focus on him, but she still forces a crooked smile like she were laughing at an inside joke with herself. She’s going to die. She’s really going to die. 
          “You did it, she says, “Thank you.” 
           “II didn’t want to. I didn’t mean to.” 
          She shushes him, “My final wish,” she coughs, violently convulsing her body, “Is that they find you guilty. I’ll see you there,” and her body goes still.


Author Biography: Bethany Mathews is a junior at Woodbridge Senior
High School in the creative writing program. She enjoys running, playing
guitar, and, most of all, writing, which she hopes to study in college.

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