Michel’s Monologue

Michel’s monologue from Past Imperfect.


I would like to talk to you about stones. A handful of stones. I once threw a handful of stones. I threw stones at a man I did not know. (BEAT) Aaron Farber. (BEAT) I knew Aaron Farber was Jewish. That was all I needed to know. I believed — No. I was made to…moulded to believe that Aaron Farber was a threat to me. Yes. This 64-year-old man was a threat to me, nineteen years old and tall as a tree. This little man, he was a symbol for everybody who was not like me. He was not born here. He did not speak my language. He ate different food. If he…if his kind didn’t leave, there would be nothing left for me. That is what I believed. It is what I wanted to believe. And it made me angry. Who can explain the hate of a young man? I binged on nationalism. Extreme nationalism. You see it everywhere. In Quebec. In Canada. (BEAT) In Israel. Who can explain the blind passion for a nation, a fierce love that feeds on a hatred for immigrants, newcomers, even those who have shared the same soil for generations but have a different last name, a different colour, a different history. When you are angry and you have a stone in your hand, the stone doesn’t stay in your hand for long. What happened to Aaron Farber happened quickly. I know I was there. I know I threw some stones. The rest is a blur. (PAUSE) What happened the next day is very clear. There was a picture of Aaron Farber in the newspaper. The late Aaron Farber. In the picture he is holding his grandson. They are both smiling. The grandson, he looks just like my cousin Andre. I look once, I look twice. I have to rub my eyes to make sure it’s not him. I start to shake. I feel sick. I empty my stomach right there on the street. Sometimes, it happens. A picture, a moment, a gesture can change your life. A few days later I show the picture to my uncle. Andre’s father. He is more like a brother than an uncle. He agrees: Farber’s grandson looks just like his boy. He asks me why I’m so pale. I tell him what I had done, the way you tell a brother. He takes a long time before speaking. The longer he takes, the more I shrink. By the time he talks, I am the size of an ant. My uncle, he tells me I must go to Aaron Farber. I must apologize and ask for his forgiveness. It’s too late, I say. He is dead. My uncle shakes his head. No. It’s never too late. How will I find him, I ask. He tells me to go to every Jewish cemetery until I do. (PAUSE) I found Aaron Farber. It was difficult because, as you know, there was no tombstone. The man at the cemetery, he told me about Jewish custom and told me to come back in a year, when the tombstone would be unveiled. He asked me how I knew Aaron Farber. I said nothing. (PAUSE) I kneeled by his gravesite. I apologized. I told him how much his grandson looked like my cousin Andre. I asked for his forgiveness. I wept so hard, it was like I was watering the ground in which he was buried. A year later, I returned to the cemetery. Aaron Farber had his tombstone. On top of the tombstone I noticed some stones. I asked a woman nearby about the stones. She explained that when you visited the gravesite, you placed a stone on top of the tombstone to show that the deceased had not been forgotten. So I picked up a stone and placed it on Aaron Farber’s tombstone. I left a stone every year after that. Year after year after year. I stopped leaving a stone only after I married for the second time, to a beautiful woman who is here tonight. I don’t know why I stopped visiting Aaron Farber’s gravesite after I married Evelyn. Perhaps…Perhaps I felt it marked a new beginning. Like the day I saw the picture of Aaron Farber’s grandson. I knew Aaron Farber could not forgive me. And so I decided the best way to honour him was to live honourably. I have tried my best to do just that. (PAUSE) This morning, I visited a Jewish cemetery for the first time in many, many years. I walked for a long while. I got lost. I kept walking until I found what I was looking for. I picked up a handful of stones and placed them on the tombstone, one at a time.