FORGIVENESS BY THE BOOK by Sandra de Helen
© Sandra de Helen
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Kathleen Connor 30 year old woman
Frank O’Brien 50 year old inmate, with Irish accent
Prison visiting room; table and two chairs, divided by glass.
KATHLEEN IS PACING ON HER SIDE OF THE GLASS. ENTER FRANK, HIS WRISTS AND
ANKLES SHACKLED TO HIS WAIST. HE GOES TO CHAIR ON HIS SIDE OF THE
GLASS, SITS, WATCHES KATHLEEN PACE FOR A FEW BEATS. KATHLEEN ROUGHLY
PULLS OUT HER CHAIR, SITS ON EDGE, LEANS FORWARD TO SPEAK.
Look. Here it is. I’m thirty years old and I’ve never had a boyfriend. And, no I’m not a Lesbian.
Or maybe I am. Who would know? I’ve never had a girlfriend either. You know why? Because I
don’t trust anybody. I have “abandonment issues”.
She speaks, so. Kathleen Connor the guard said it was. And so ‘tis. The very picture of herself at
age twenty-five. Or thirty perhaps, as she says. A young mother, a good wife. A good woman,
except for that one thing.
You don’t mean me. You mean my mother. But whatever…
No fault of your own! I’m not blaming you Kathleen, truly I’m not. The sins of the father, so.
Forgive and forget they say.
You forgive me? That’s rich. No! I’ve come here to forgive you so I can get on with my life. I’ve
been reading self-help books, you know, like Dr. Phil McGraw, and Martha Beck, and Oprah
magazines, and so on. Forgiveness is not about you or what you did…
Oh, I would agree with that. I’m an agreeable sort of man. Or I would be if I could be but I can’t
and never was really. No, Kathleen always said I was disagreeable and she was right. I couldn’t
disagree with that. Although I did, of course. I was quite disagreeable. But I would agree to
forgive and forget if I could. I just can’t. Cannot forget. Cannot forgive.
You really are insane aren’t you? You know I’m not my mother, right?
The good book says “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she
loved me so much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her,
Thy sins are forgiven. Luke 7:47-48. Forgiveness is a tricky bit, ain’t it? They say you can’t
move on with your own life until you forgive the person who did you wrong. But what if that
person is yourself, Mary Margaret, what then? What if a person can’t forgive himself? How can
he move on?
I’m trying to tell you that it’s not about you. It is a process that I need to experience so I can let
go. I heard on “Oprah” that [SHE’S REHEARSED AND READY. THIS IS THE MOST
IMPORTANT THING SHE WILL EVER SAY IN HER LIFE] “forgiveness will release the wall
of resentment and blame that surrounds my heart.” That’s what prevents me from feeling good
about myself. That’s what keeps me from being able to love other people. It’s like body armor!
So, I have to forgive you. You understand?
Forget about it. I wish I could forget about it. But I was there, Mary Margaret. Oh, forgive me,
Kathleen. I saw what happened. It’s hard to remember. To forget you were once Mary
Margaret. To remember you are not the real Kathleen, but the new Kathleen.
I realize that it should matter to me that you are on death row and you are clearly out of your
mind. And I do care that people are being killed for killing other people, that in itself is nuts if
you ask me, but in terms what I have to do here, it doesn’t matter to me now if you’re crazy or
not. Why you did it. It does not matter. I don’t have to forget what you did. I don’t have to
remember either. Even though I do. Do you hear me? I remember everything!
I didn’t want to. But the voices, the voices … the sins of the fathers, Mary Margaret …
No! I don’t want to hear, just stop! Stop!
It was that night, the voices said because I was Catholic and your mother was not, you children
were not, that very night you would all die and go to hell unless I killed you myself, just like
Abraham, I had to sacrifice my own family, not just my son, but my wife, my sons …
Mother, Frank Junior, Jack, me, even baby Brigid? Every single one of us? In cold blood?
It was the only way I could save you from eternal damnation. The only way your souls could
rise unencumbered straight up to heaven.
I watched you. First I was under the piano when you were yelling at Mother. I saw you hit her, I
saw you stomp her. I watched as you choked little Brigid to death. After you got the bat, I
followed you outside. I was going to stop you from hurting the boys. I called out your name. But
you didn’t stop. You didn’t hear me, and I hid under the porch as you beat the boys … I pissed
myself. I sat in the dirt, in my own pee and bit my tongue raw to keep from crying as you went
round the house calling, “Mary Margaret, Mary Margaret…”
Mary Margaret ….
No! Mary Margaret died that day. I’m Kathleen now.
Sorry? Sorry? You think you can say you’re sorry and everything will be all right?
[HE GOES OFF, LOOKING ABOUT WILDLY, DOING EVERYTHING HE CAN TO
CONVINCE HER] We weren’t just randomly thrown onto a sea of rocks. We have a mission –
to save the world through the power of love. People know this and millions have prayed.
Okay, you’re off.
God heard us. He sent help. He sent you. That doesn’t mean you announce this to anyone. You
don’t tell people “I’m changed. I’m working for God now. He sent me to heal things. The world’s
about to shift big time.”
I can’t do this. I thought I could come here and forgive you. I thought it didn’t matter if you were
sane or not. I thought it didn’t matter if you thought you had a reason or not. I thought it didn’t
matter if I could ever forget. I thought …
To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that
were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.
What are you quoting?
The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. Our
job, should we choose to accept it, is to constantly seek a greater capacity for love and
Look at you. You’re not even scary. You’re just a man. Not that big. Okay, you’re kind of nuts.
Well, really crazy sometimes, right? But that doesn’t matter now, right?
Do you remember the loving thoughts you gave me in the past?
You mean when I was little?
When I was your Da?
What do you mean?
Remember those loving thoughts, Kathleen. And remember the love that I once gave you. All the
rest must be forgotten.
I can’t forgive, and I will never forget. I thought I was ready, but I’m not. Guard!
No! Kathleen, no, don’t leave. We’re nearly there.
You’ll just have to work on forgiving yourself.
Loving thoughts, Kathleen. Remember the loving thoughts ….
You should have killed me too, Da.
KATHLEEN EXITS. FRANK
WAITS UNTIL SHE IS
OUT OF SIGHT BEFORE
SPEAKING NEXT LINE.
Your mother forgives you. Frank Junior forgives you. Jack forgives you. Baby Brigid forgives
you. I hope you can forgive yourself one day. I forgive you for not saving your family, Mary
Margaret. I wish you could have.