by Mel Waldman
Marvin Cohen: a middle-aged psychotherapist
Marvin Cohen, a middle-aged psychotherapist, sits at an outdoor table at the Sunflower Café. It is a sultry dog day afternoon in Brooklyn. He drinks a cup of coffee and looks downstage at the audience. In the distance he sees a pregnant woman. She strolls upstage and approaches the café. She is wearing a charcoal winter coat. Marvin looks quizzically at her.
Marvin (grimaces, his face twisted into a black mask of horror and suddenly he screams): No!
Pregnant Woman (unbuttons her coat, slides it off her body, and lets it fall to the ground, revealing that she is not a pregnant woman but a suicide bomber with a sophisticated bomb strapped to her body): Yes, welcome to eternity! As the curtain falls, the audience hears a loud, thundering explosion.
Marvin Cohen sits at an outdoor table at the Sunflower Café with Rose Cohen, his mother; Harold Cohen, his father; Ira Cohen, his elder brother; and Carole Cohen, his wife.
Marvin: What happened?
Rose: Look out there, in the barren distance, son, where there’s pitch-black darkness.
Marvin (gazes at the ominous darkness): I don’t see... Oh, no, the pregnant woman is coming toward me. But she’s a suicide bomber! My G-d! I’m blown — we’re blown — to kingdom come. My body and soul shattered, just shards of bone, human debris, and swirling dust whirling in the wasteland, forming a dark ghostly metamorphosis. My soul is dead.
Rose: Not your soul, Marvin. It never dies.
Harold: Your mother’s right, son.
Ira: The soul lives forever, my baby brother.
Carole: I’ve been waiting for you, Marvin, my beautiful husband.
Rose: We all waited that day.
Carole: Yes, it’s true. And after, I continued to wait. Until this moment, I’ve been waiting for my beloved.
Marvin: Waiting for me? Why?
Carole: Don’t you remember?
Carole: We were waiting for you at Windows on the World. You were late. We didn’t mind. It was a beautiful September morning. We had a magnificent view of Manhattan. We were on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. But then American Airlines Flight 11 came out of nowhere and...
Marvin: Oh, my G-d, I remember! Marvin stands up, stumbles downstage, and speaks to the audience. They’re all dead and so am I. What shall I do? I lost my faith in G-d a long time ago. I thought that death was the end of consciousness, a vast nothingness that one enters for eternity. Quite frankly, I believed that once you’re dead, you’re dead.
Yet here I am speaking to you. My death was a dark metamorphosis. In a nanosecond, a suicide bomber shattered my body, ended my life. And still, I’m here, thinking, feeling, and communicating with you. It’s incredible, yet real. But what shall I do? Marvin turns around, staggers upstage, and sits down at the outdoor table. He looks lovingly at his wife.
Carole: Let’s order lunch, Marvin. I’m sure you’re hungry and so am I. In fact, we’re all famished.
Marvin: My adorable wife, we’re a small group of ghosts. Ghosts don’t eat food.
Carole: How do you know? You’ve just arrived. You don’t know the score around here.
Marvin: I guess you’re right, Carole. Can you fill me in?
Carole (looks at the others): Shall I speak for all of us?
Rose: Of course, Carole. Tell my genius son what’s going to happen next.
Harold: Go right ahead, my sweet daughter-in-law.
Ira: It’s fine with me, my mischievous sister-in-law.
Carole: After lunch, we’re going to show you your new office. I think you’ll like it. It’s simple but elegant. White walls adorned with Monet prints, a black leather couch, and black leather armchairs. There’s a shortage of therapists here. So you’ve got a full schedule for the next couple of years. When we told the patients that you were coming soon, they were elated.
Marvin: You’re kidding me. Right?
Carole: No. We thought you’d be delighted to continue seeing patients.
Marvin: I am. But it’s quite a surprise.
Carole: There’s much more. Later, we’ll show you your new home. We have a house by the sea. And our neighbors are...
Marvin: Let me guess. My dad, mom, and brother.
Carole: Yes. The others smile wickedly.
Marvin: It seems perfect but... What’s the catch?
Carole: How do you feel?
Marvin: Don’t change the subject.
Carole: Marvin, how do you feel?
Marvin: At this moment, I’m happy. Surrounded by the people I love, I’m at peace with myself and with the universe.
Carole: Most of the time you’ll be blessed with peace of mind and joy.
Carole: Sometimes you’ll struggle. Here, we also have many opportunities for personal growth. But in order to grow, you must feel pain. You must pass through the darkness and transcend it. Perhaps, even transform it into the beautiful and the divine.
Marvin: A dark metamorphosis?
Marvin: Now, what’s the catch?
Carole: You will feel pain.
Marvin: What are you hiding from me?
Carole: Your first patient is a very special patient, Marvin.
Marvin: What do you mean, “special”?
Carole: She’s in a lot of pain. And she may be difficult to treat.
Marvin: I’ve had resistant patients.
Carole: I know. But what about patients you didn’t want to treat?
Marvin: I’ve had that type too.
Carole: You can handle such a case?
Marvin: Of course. I’m no amateur.
Marvin: So why won’t I want to treat her?
Carole: You know her.
Marvin: So what?
Carole: She killed you!
Marvin: The suicide bomber?
Marvin: Why me?
Carole: There’s no one else right now.
Marvin: Can’t it wait?
Marvin: What place is this — Heaven or Hell? Suddenly Carole, Rose, Harold, and Ira vanish. Marvin stands up, stumbles downstage, and speaks to the audience. Is this place Heaven or Hell? What shall I do? Shall I help the woman who murdered me? Let her suffer! Let her rot in Hell!
On the other hand, if I heal her, perhaps I will heal myself. If I forgive her, perhaps I will forgive myself. If I walk away, contaminated with the lethal virus of rage and hatred, I risk losing Carole. I risk losing everything.
He turns around, staggers upstage, and sits down at the table. Okay, I’ll treat her! Please folks, come back. I need my family. I love you.
Marvin closes his eyes and prays silently. After a long silence, he begins to sing. With his eyes shut tight, he sings a series of beautiful love songs. And one by one, Ira, Harold, Rose, and Carole reappear. Like the living, no one’s perfect in the afterlife. The dead make plenty of mistakes. But when you’re real and have a lot of soul, folks will forgive almost any sin. That’s what Marvin discovers when Carole kisses his forehead and lips too.
Carole: Open your eyes, Marvin. It’s me, you handsome ghost.
Marvin opens his eyes and gazes at Carole.
I love you, Marvin Cohen. Now, I know you want to ask me another question. But don’t. We’re ghosts and yet we have flesh and feelings. You felt my kisses and you enjoyed them. Don’t try to figure things out. This is the afterlife and not Brooklyn. But one thing’s for sure. It’s time to heal. After all the suffering, it’s the perfect time to heal.
Marvin: Yes, it’s time to heal, my precious wife. Marvin and Carole hold hands. Harold and Rose whisper sweet nothings and soon, they hold hands too. Ira watches the two couples.
Ira: I feel left out.
Marvin: Okay, Ira. I think I’ve got the solution. Let’s all stand up, form a circle, and hold hands with the person on one’s left and right. Now, let’s dance the horah! And they dance and dance and dance...
Copyright © 2012 by Mel Waldman