Welcome to Our
25th Year of Publication

July 2024

Promise Me A Garden


Arthur Danin Adler

On this, our 25th anniversary,
here is a tribute to that beginning
and the woman who inspired Scene4:

Madelin de Rumba

A platform somewhere. The driving sound of Latin music. Madelin appears, colorfully dressed, dancing with a male mannequin, a soft, floppy dummy dressed in a tuxedo with a bow tie. His feet are strapped to her feet. She holds "him" erect by the arms... among other places.

They dance, she and her dummy, in frantic movements, huge sweeps to the floor, dizzying spins across the stage. Suddenly she stops, shifting her shoulders, rolling her hips, staring at her partner. Then she snaps her head to the audience, if any.

Madelin (in a thick, mocking Spanish accent) I am exotique... no? I am passionata... eh? I am a mujer with hair... I am desire with fire...
I am woo-mahn... I am love...(hissing) I am sssex...
(whispering) I am crazy... muy loca!

(She dances off with her "man". At one point, she grabs his ass and makes his body bolt into the air. At another point, she drapes "him" over a chair and kisses "him", roughly, bites "him" in the neck, spreads her legs and his, and rhythmically pumps "him" up and back. She stops abruptly, whirls around, plops in the chair letting go of the dummy's arms. He falls over in a backward arch, his feet still strapped to hers.)

(With no accent) Crazy... and tired. Olá, am I tired... of all the bullshit dripping from their faces. The two-faced looks... the two-faced talks... the this-is-the-way-I-am-today, and tomorrow-is-another-day. Oh yes... I'm tired, but not too tired to go on living, to go on dancing, to go on f...

(She jumps up, lifts the dummy erect, and dances off.)

You know, I got married once. He wasn't my first man and he sure wasn't my last. But I married him... tall, dark, handsome phoney-baloney who thought he was Orson Welles. No... that's not true. I thought he was Orson Welles. He thought he was god's gift to me.

What a straight up married life we had. And there was some love in it. Then he got bored and I got boring. He was a dreamer and I was a sleeper. He was a rat and I was a mouse. He was smart and I was dumb. And when I got smart, he got numb. Ha! I got a life and he got a wife. Man, was I good looking... can't you tell... real good looking. So what's a girl gonna do. Hey, what is a man anyway? A hunk of meat, a stick of skin and blood? Does he make the sun come up? Hell no! But he sure can make it go down.

(She pirouettes)

Hey... how old do think I am? Pretty old? Older than you think? Yeah. The body wants to give up... wants to sag to the floor in a quiet mess. But not me. See... this is me inside. I'm in here kicking and juicing... I'm breathing hard and trying to breathe harder. And until this silly shell finally collapses, I'm a whirling, twirling, stomping, romping, kiss of a woman... a big, wet, kiss of a woman. Hey... want to know how to make time stand still?
Keep moving!


Dancin', I'm dancin', my legs are in the air

Movin', I'm groovin', there's color in my hair

Isn't it exciting that I simply want your body dripping sweat

You're panting.

Isn't it exciting that you simply make my body very wet

I'm panting.

We're dancin', we're dancin', your balls are in the air

We're movin', we're groovin'... phew, your dust is in my hair.

(She stops and spits)

How old am I? I'm older than my father was when he died. Man, there was a man. A Latino man. Gorgeous, a Latin Lover. He had it, he knew it, they knew it... he couldn't keep his pants on. He took every woman that came his way. He gave them what they wanted and they gave him every drop of passion they could squeeze out of their tongues. He left them dry because he drank them up like they were banana daiquiris. He was a vampire, a banana daiquiri vampire who left each victim in a glass full of crushed ice, with a smile on her face and a maraschino cherry between her legs. He was gorgeous. My Latina mother didn't kill him. I didn't kill him. He married another woman, another Latina woman, but this time a gray-faced woman and gave her a daughter. So what did they do? They set themselves up like a firing squad. They just shot at him and shot at him until they filled him with so many holes you couldn't see him any more. Why? Why did he take that? This Latin lover, this hunk of filet mignon, this woman's man. Why? Got afraid... that's what did it. Couldn't take his eyes off the clock. Stopped moving. But not me! I'm his daughter but I'm a lot further along than he ever was. And the only hole in me is the hole of holies, the pit of purpose, the cave of candy, the mouth of mystery, this garden of liquid gold.


Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Did I tell you I was married? Yes, I did. And when it was over, and he went on to another adventure, and the kids we had went on to theirs, I started moving again.

I was free. A little sinus-drip of guilt now and then, but I was free. All that time... ten years later, twenty years later you turn around and say: What the hell happened to the last twenty years. It's like waking up in the middle of the night with your covers on the floor and the heat off. It's cold... and dark... and very lonely. Why lonely? Because you're finally left with the only person you can trust... yourself... and you don't know who the hell she is... because you never met her. Comprende?

What happened to the last twenty years? It's the Rip-Van-Winkle syndrome! Ha! It's the Night-Of-The-Living-Dead in the morning. It's gone and you're naked... oooh... and either you wrap yourself in a Dollar Store housecoat full of regrets or you run your hands over your body and say: I like this, oooh... this feels good. What happened? This is what happened. You just... honored your family... you just... respected your culture... you just... did the right thing. Bullshit! It's fear, woo-mahn... it's fear. Afraid not to go to college. Afraid not to take that job. Afraid to go on that date. Afraid not to go on that date. Afraid to fuck. Afraid not to fuck. Afraid to light a candle, close the bathroom door, look in the mirror and say: You... you're me. My eyes to your eyes, you're me. Fear... that's the train-ride that takes you through all of life's little PMSs until you reach the final stop: Sagsville. Everything droops, your mind droops and you wonder what the hell it was all about. Hey Dr. Alzheimer, where were you when I needed you?

(She unhooks the dummy from her feet and carefully places "him" in a sitting position on the chair. Then she sits in his lap, drapes one of his arms over her shoulder, the other over her breast. It slips.)

Darling... don't be coy!

(She moves his arm up again, it slips again. She grabs his arm, opens part of her dress, stuffs his arm in. Then she smoothes her hair, crosses her legs, and smiles.)

(Sings in a quaint voice)

Fear makes the world go round

Fear lays your back on the ground

If you will grieve that he will leave

Fear makes... your world go round

It's fear... yes it is... indeed it is! Twenty-four hours a day... seven days a week... month in and month out... year over year. It's the lipstick and mascara of your mind. All the roads lead into you and then they're plastered shut on the inside. Fear... that's the enemy. Where did it come from? Who knows and who cares. But it's there, when you're awake, when you're asleep... poking you in the gut, making your mouth dry, making your pants wet. Shouldn't, wouldn't, couldn't, didn't, oh my! Fear... how do you get rid of it? You move, my baby, you dance and sing, bigger and louder until all you hear is your own voice, until all you see is the nose on your face and the light in your eyes. I did!

(She grabs the dummy and dances off)

You know I think it all unraveled when people stopped dancing together. What a shame. Just think about all the different scenes and reasons and times that people just... got up and danced together. It was a way to connect. I touch your hand, you touch mine. I hold your arm, you hold mine. I see you, you see me. I smell you, you smell me. And then we move together, try out some rhythm, feel the energy, feel the... feel! Olá

(She stops abruptly and the dummy falls flat on his face. She reaches down and pulls "him" up by the seat of his pants, drapes "him" over her shoulder and starts to walk off stage. Then she stops.)

So what did I do? I whined... I moaned... I even cried. Then I got a job. I got some money. I looked in that mirror and I got a life. Ha! I don't want to talk about all that junk, all that waste of time. I don't care how much money you stick in the bank. I don't care how many dresses you buy, how many tv shows you watch, how many trips you take. I don't care about how hard you try not to be bored. There's only one thing that counts... loving and being loved. Man, woman, whatever. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Wall Street, Rodeo Drive, Michigan Avenue, Champs Elysees... it's all the same when you're just standing around picking your nose. No more truth than that.

(All through the next, she punches the dummy into various shapes and sizes to illustrate her words.)

It's a journey, this life we live, isn't it? A long search for connections... a long search for him. For him!

(She places her hands on her face and closes her eyes.)

The first him was Manuel.

(She draws a shape in the air.)

A body like this with shoulders like that and it all came to a point... here. And what a point. We went out, we dressed up... it was dinner here, the clubs there, my bed here, his bed there. But after a few months, we were deaf and dumb... he was deaf and I had nothing to talk about. Besides, he drove a truck!

Now Peter was different. Thin, wiry, very smart, very hip. He could talk... and sing. He also slept a lot and thought I was his live-in cook. He was divorced too, so he'd been there. After a while, when he got very comfortable and felt very safe, he started playing fantasies. You know what I mean? Muy kinky... I can get into that... but stinky kinky? You can believe we didn't have too many friends. So one night I created a fantasy... he was to be a dirty, old magician and me, a clean, little princess. When he began to conjure and slobbered out the magic words... I said "poof" and disappeared... for good.

Ralph was rich. Awfully, terribly rich. And he was elegant (a rare commodity today), and kind, and gentle. He loved to give me gifts. He loved to take me out, take me on trips, make brunch on Sunday mornings, drink champagne on Monday nights. He loved to love me and I wanted to love him. I did, Ralph, I really did! But Ralph was 81 years old, and I was afraid I'd break his ribs.

One after another... searching. Connect... then alone, empty. Manic-depressive, high and low, up and down. It drains you... it draws the blood to your feet and the fat to your hips. It makes you feel like a library book: good to read but always on loan. Check in and check out! Until one day... I found him. Him!

(She lets the dummy slide over head and drape behind her, his arms around her neck)

He was... como se dice... how should I say it... meant for my skin. He was passionate, as I was passionate. He was sweet beyond the taste of ripe mango. He was all the man to all of my woman. Quiereme mucho! We had both been there and back... know what I mean? We could look into each other's eyes and see the years that passed behind us... the good times and the bad, the pleasures and the pain, and we could laugh, oh how he could laugh and I could laugh, and we could love. It was... come se dice... how should I say it... muy sabroso... delicious... we tasted each other hour after hour, day after day. And we danced, we danced until every inch of our skin touched. Muy peligroso! Muy sabroso!

(She slowly brings the dummy around her body and wraps herself with "him" as she slowly dances in circles to a distant, soft bolero.)

Not a bad word between us... not a mean moment. If we both had to die, then, right then, it would have been all right, all right, perfección! Perfect!

(She turns in a long circle with the dummy and ends in a posed embrace. Suddenly she kisses "him" hard on his "lips." Then she pulls back and spits.)

(hissing) Either you need a shave or your face is falling apart!­

(She turns the dummy so that his "back" is up against her. She folds her arms over his and glides off in a tango-like movement. She smiles at the audience.)

Why am I telling you this? Why do I care that you hear this? Because you are as poor as I am. Because like me, you were born bankrupt and we spend our time, our lives trying to break even, to get un poco, a little bit of credit. So when one of us finds a piece of treasure, a piece of glowing gold... it must be shared. And I share this with you.

(She dances as if to leave, then dances back staring at the audience)

I share with you..my grand love, this two of us... this me, Madelin, and my Tomas... Lina and Tommy, a match, a couple, a hot, breathing, melting of two bodies and two minds into one beating heart. For all of the weeks and months and years (there were only two!) that we were together, it was as if we kissed for the first time, over and over again. Mira... can you see it, can you feel it? Could you live it? I did!

(She stops dancing and collapses on to the chair, the dummy on top of her.)

Then where is he? Here? No. Back there? No. Gone? No. I'm gone! It ended, this glory of my life, because I went, left, walked away.

(She carefully places the dummy on the floor at her feet and lets "him" splay over like "Raggedy Ann." As she speaks, she walks around "him" in a circle, occasionally patting "him" on the head. )

How could this be? Like a caterpillar in a cocoon I broke free and kept changing my skin into a more and more beautiful butterfly. And when I finally found a shell and wings I could slip into, that made me feel exciting, and exotic and... expensive...

That's where the trouble was. You see... my Tomas, my Tommy never changed. It was his shell I slipped into, but he never slipped into mine. He could have gone on forever (as long as his hormones held out). He danced in circles, from first time to first time... but for me, the rhythm would change and we had to change the way we moved. We had to!

(She falls to the floor and lifts the dummy's head.)

Ay, mi Tommy... you wanted everything, forever... so much for such a long time. One never-ending roll of the dice! And if our luck ran out, and we went round and round and never got the brass ring... and the merry-go-round stopped... and we were two strangers instead of one love... then it was all for nothing... only a memory that can't be touched or felt or tasted.

(She begins to cry.)

I loved you, mi Tommy, as I loved the air that I breathed. I wanted us to go on, like two flowers on the same tree. Blowing our pollen over each other... each with our own sweet perfume, each with our own faces to the warm sun. How could you want me to fold my petals into yours... forever?

(She cries softly for a moment, then stops. Suddenly, she slaps the floor hard and jumps up, throwing the dummy over her shoulder like a sack.)

Because you're like a goddamned snail... all you can think about is poking that hose up and out. Me... I'm like an oyster. I take it all in but I need to push it out again to keep it moving.

(She smiles) I love oysters!

(She begins to stride with dummy over her shoulder.)

No more Tommys! So where does that leave me? On my toes, my sisters. Open to the world, my brothers. I hope I never see him again. He almost got me off the path. Not him and not my father and not my ex-husband, mi esposo el oso. Ha!! I've got my work, new things to learn, new people to meet, new living to live.


Dancin', I'm dancin', my legs are in the air

Movin', I'm groovin', there's color in my hair

What did I tell you... all that counts is loving and being loved. Man, woman, whatever.

How can you go wrong? The last count I heard was eight billion people-persons on this Earth. And at least half of them are of the male persuasion. Here I am... persuade me. Olá!

(She flips the dummy upside down and dances with "him", his legs draped over her shoulders. After a moment, she pulls on the zipper of his pants and looks in. She smiles to the audience.)


(Then she pulls on the top of her dress and looks down it. Smiles again.)

Very promising!

(She dances off with the dummy, singing as the lights fade.)

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika

Chika, chika, boom, chika, boom, chika, chika, chika...



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Arthur Danin Adler is a playwright, writer and the founding Editor of Scene4. For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.


©2024 Arthur Danín Adler
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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