“Our throw up is all mixed together.” (20) I think this quote sums up the play. Doug romanticizes their pain, causing him to have feelings for Kaylene that are not necessarily real. He idealizes her healing qualities and has convinced himself of a love that cannot work.
“It’s the most contagious thing in the entire world.”
“I’m not someone else. I’m you.”
Sense of the outside world
Despite the intimacy of the play, there is a wonderful influence from outsiders. Between Kayleen’s parents and the several significant others, we are given the shape of outside expectations and their lives outside of this relationship. My one complaint is that the other people that they date seem to have no importance to them whatsoever. They are excuses for them not to be with each other. They are place holders.
Handling of sexual assault
Doug’s reaction to learning that Kaylene was raped is particularly important. We should all feel that outraged when someone is sexually assaulted. Doug asks for no proof, he does not blame her, he doesn’t think she deserved it in any way or excuse his actions. He is setting a proper precedent for how boys should think about rape. This is reinforced in the final scene when Doug tells Kaylene not to touch him. She respects that. She hears him say no, and she doesn’t do it.
Visible vs. Invisible pain
The comparison of types of pain is quite astonishing. One character is dealing with physical pain and the other deals with emotional pain. Doug loses an eye, breaks his leg, gashes his face, etc. Kaylene is sick, has a mental breakdown, mourns, and cuts herself (see cracks and threads for rational on why this is not physical pain.) Joseph does not argue that one is more painful than the other. They are of equal weight. They both break people. This perspective is important in the fight to convince people that mental illness is legitimate. *Note, we do not see the scar on her stomach. It is hidden by her shirt.
The Word “Retarded”
It is used at least 5 times in this play and it is cringe-worthy. It’s become pretty widely accepted that we don’t use that word as an insult or a joke anymore. For a play written in 2010, it’s disappointing. I feel as if it doesn’t add anything to Kaylene’s character, except that I respect her a whole lot less, but I don’t think that’s intentional. I read Kaylene as being more aware of other people, more forgiving and considerate. I just can’t validate it. I find it particularly upsetting when she uses it to describe Doug, who is sensitive about being called stupid. She uses it far too casually for her to be intentionally hurting him. For a play about healing, it is highly inconsistent to bring in a slur.
This play fell into traditional gender construction. Doug is masculine, full of anger, makes all of the moves in the relationship, and is constantly being physically hurt. Kayleen on the other hand can be cold, is emotionally hurt, and compassionate. This robs the characters of unique perspectives. It’s also problematic that there is romance. It supports the idea that men and women cannot just be friends.
Doug is relatively flat. We are given a significant amount of background information on Kayleen, which is ironic because she is so closed off.
What is the proper amount of blood, size of cuts, and level of graphicness? How much is too small, how much is too much?
Is this a love story? If not, how can we steer it away from that?
Do we know how Doug got in the wheelchair?
Though I’ve battled with depression, I am lucky enough that I never felt drawn to cutting. I cannot say the same about one of my best friends. I relate to Doug significantly in Scene 5. The first time I saw her scars, it was an accident. She didn’t tell me about it for a few more weeks. I became the person she called at 2 am while she was sitting in a parking lot with blood dripping down her arms and I was the one to take her to the hospital when she accidentally cut too deep. Cutting is a means for people who are so severely depressed that they are desperate to feel anything or to feel something other than emotional pain. It is a physical manifestation of psychological torture. The pain from cutting is not the wound itself, it is what drives someone that far.
I have had two experiences involving loved ones getting shocking injuries. My brother, when I was 13 or so, was running a marathon and had a heat stroke. My dad received a phone call that he was in emergency services and we found him in a tub full of ice, his body with absolutely no color in it. He was taken to a hospital in Virginia, where he spent the night getting his temperature regulated. I have never been so scared about losing someone in my life. When I was 16, one of my close friends died in a car accident. That phone call changed my life. The breath was sucked out of my lungs and the pressure in my brain made it impossible for me to think about anything else, but even more unlikely that I could actually understand what was happening. These feelings, the lack of control, the sinking, are completely present in this play, particularly in Kayleen.
Kaylene pulling gravel from his hand (10)
Kaylene holds Doug’s hand in coma (22)
Doug touches the cuts on Kaylene’s thigh (27)
Doug touching the scar on Kaylene’s stomach (31)
ECHOES, REPETITIONS, & RETURNINGS
“Did it hurt?”
Angels, saints, laying of hands
The world is in a lot of pain right now. Though the romance of the play distorts this, I think it is ultimately about connection and communication. It’s about learning how to speak about pain, how to move on, and how to heal. People don’t communicate anymore. We hide behind emojis, passive aggression, screens, fake smiles, “how are you?” “good.” People are hurting, physically and emotionally, and we cannot figure out how to heal. We can’t talk about death, we can’t talk about mental illness, rape, violence. We can’t find comfort in each other because we are too focused on ourselves, on the next important thing. We need to learn how to talk about our feelings as well as our pain.