What Didn’t Happen – Monologue (Peter)

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A monologue from the play by Christopher Shinn


When they were arranging my book tour, I told them I wanted to branch out—develop a bigger audience, so I told them not to send me to Boston and L.A. and Chicago. 

The real reason was that I was ashamed of the book. I went to cities like Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor, where I knew no one. I was also really fat. Well. I am in Minneapolis. 

I give my reading. Afterwards, a middle-aged woman—a bit softer than middle-aged actually, but no longer young—this woman—who is black —approaches me. With a big bright nervous face. 

And tells me how much my books mean to her. I’m aghast, as I’ve never before been approached by a black reader. I ask her why she likes my books and she laughs as though it’s a preposterous question. 

“Because they’re good. They make me cry,” she says. I want to know more, so I say, “But why?” I’m thinking, What does this woman relate to in my work? My books are about rich white people. 

She says, “Same shit goes on where I work, people hurting each other, stabbing each other in the back, this one slept with that one, this one’s treating that one wrong, and everyone’s doing their best but it just falls apart, and it’s left like that, no way to put it back together.” 

So I invite her to walk with me to my hotel. She does. I say, “Come to my room and have a cup of tea.” She comes in. I make tea. We sit at the cheap shiny coffee table. I say, “I’d like to kiss you.” 

And quite calmly, quite sweetly, not an ounce of condescension in her voice: she says, “I think you’ll be just fine in a few minutes for not having done that.” And she smiles an extraordinary smile. 

As do I. And she is gone. Because. Do you? . . . For so many years I felt. Doubt and. Guilt . Over my work—over my life. And to see—as I sat there with her—ghost—in the room. 

I thought of her wisdom. Which so eclipsed mine.

Read the play here

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