Saturday, October 22, 2011

tell the truth, shame the devil

I remember, when I was in college I took a class with Mary Zimmerman--she taught Performance of Poetry and Presentational Aesthetics, and probably a few others in my major, Performance Studies. This is all B.T.--before Tony--so I don't know if she has the time or inclination to teach anymore.

In class there was this girl, a redhead with freckles and a fierce, strong, feminist personality. Lampshade Norton. Lampshade was no one to fuck around with, I knew that from the start. There was also a guy whom I could never really get a read on: Notebook Reilly. The class was full of Theatre majors who wanted to take a class with "Mary Zimmerman", and there were a few people like me, for whom Mary was great, but also faculty in their department, so the class was kind of required for graduation. But Notebook, I think he might not have been either. He reminded me of an athlete. He was taller than practically everyone else by a foot, and broad-chested and blond--there was something about him that read offensive lineman, you know? He and I were friendly to each other, but never really connected.

One day in class it was Lampshade's turn to perform, as often happened in my classes--no tests, but performances, and occasionally papers. She stood up in front of the room, in typical dancer rehearsal ware--tights, a leotard, and ballet shoes--and took the barre in front of the mirror. She had a tape recorder somewhere that played her voice, saying things I couldn't really make out. It was clear that they were difficult things, judgemental, harsh, antagonizing, anti-woman, maybe even violent. Her voice on the tape was sharp, deep and guttural. But I don't remember what she said, and I remember not being able to hear what she was saying.

Sometime that same class period after Lampshade's performance, it was Notebook's turn to perform. He sat on the floor in front of the class, bent over, with his head in his hands, and said in a loud, shaking voice, "A year ago... I raped Lampshade."

Nobody moved.

Then Lampshade moved. She got up and ran out of the class, opening the door so hard that it slammed against the cinder block wall of the room.

The room was silent. You could hear Notebook sobbing, sniffling. Then Mary went to him, also sobbing and knelt beside him, and put her arms around him. After a few seconds, she turned around and said tearfully to the rest of us, "I think we should end for today."

The rest of us, in quiet shock, collected our coats and bookbags, and crept out of the room.

I still, after more than ten years, only sort of understand what happened that day. I don't remember if Notebook came back to class. I remember Lampshade did. She didn't look resilient, but she looked like a survivor. Shit, I guess she was, is. I think about that day a lot, when I think about honesty, what it means to confess, what it means to forgive, or to hurt, or to try to understand trauma. I think about it a lot lately.

I am glad that Mary Zimmerman hugged Notebook. I don't know what she whispered to him after the class left. Hours later, back in the building for a rehearsal, I peeked through the doors of that room, expecting to see scorch marks on the wall, a hole in the floor, the mirror broken, and bits of people left behind. But it looked normal there. Like nothing had even happened.


Regina Rodriguez-Martin said...

Amazing story. Really amazing.

Gailen Audie said...

chills down spine.

Hope said...


Anonymous said...

Really? Lampshade? Notebook? These aliases are silly sounding and distracting. You have a serious story here, but the line "I raped Lampshade," which I assume is meant to be a serious statement, only made me laugh and envision someone fornicating with a literal lampshade. Why not just use real names like Thomas or Pam or Alex?