Monday, June 19, 2006

That Essential Inch.

My dear friend Toddy recently endured a very ugly face of humanity, and it got the two of us talking about integrity and personal accountability. The conversation reminded me of a passage from the book V For Vendetta that's recently been made into a movie. They kept this particular part in the movie almost word for word, and I feel it bears repeating as it sums up the depth and weight of integrity to a point that it nearly overwhelms the soul.

The passage is written by a woman who is being tortured to death to another prisoner (one of the main characters in the story) and passed through a rat whole in the wall to someone she has never met nor seen, but is also being tortured to death for information. These are her words:

"I don't know who you are. Please believe. There is no way I can convince you that this is not one of their tricks, but I don't care. I am me, and I don't know who you are, but I love you. I have a pencil, a little one they did not find. I am a woman. I hid it inside me. Perhaps I won't be able to write again, so this is a long letter about my life. It is the only autobiography I will ever write, and oh God, I'm writing it on toilet paper."

"I was born in Nottingham in 1957, and it rained a lot. I passed my eleven plus and went to girl's grammar. I wanted to be an actress. I met my first girlfriend at school. Her name was Sara. She was fourteen and I was fifteen but we were both in Miss Watson's class. Her wrists, her wrists were beautiful. I sat in biology class, staring at the pickled rabbit fetus in it's jar, listening while Mr. Hird said it was an adolescent phase that people outgrew. Sara did. I didn't."

"In 1976 I stopped pretending and took a girl called Christine home to meet my parents. A week later I moved to London, enrolling at drama college. My mother said I broke her heart. But it was my integrity that was important. Is that so selfish? It sells for so little, but it's all we have left in this place. It's the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free."

"London. I was happy in London. In 1981 I played Dandini in Cinderella. My first rep work. The world was strange and rustling and busy, with invisible crowds behind the hot lights and all that breathless glamour. It was exciting and it was lonely. At night I'd go to Gatew. This or one of the other clubs, but I was stand-offish and didn't mix easily. I saw a lot of the scene but I never felt comfortable: there. So many of them just wanted to be gay. It was their life. Their ambition. All they talked about. And I wanted more than that. Work improved. I got small film roles, then bigger ones. In 1986 I starred in 'The Salt Flats'. It pulled in the awards but not the crowds. I met Ruth while working on that. We loved each other. We lived together, and on Valentine's Day she sent me roses, and oh God, we had so much. Those were the best three years of my life."

"In 1988 there was the war, and after that there were no more roses. Not for anybody."

"In 1992, after the take-over, they started rounding up the gays. They took Ruth while she was out looking for food. Why are they so frightened of us? They burned her with cigarette ends and made her give them my name. She signed a statement saying I seduced her. I didn't blame her. God. I loved her. I didn't blame her. But she did. She killed herself in her cell. She couldn't live with betraying me, with giving up that last inch. Oh Ruth. They came for me. They told me that all my films would be burned. They shaved off my hair. They held my head down in a toilet bowl and told jokes about lesbians. They brought me here and gave me drugs. I can't feel my tongue anymore. I can't speak. The other gay woman here, Rita, died two weeks ago. I imagine I'll die quite soon. It is strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to nobody. I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Except one."

"An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world that's worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I don't know who you are, or whether you are a man or a woman. I may never see you. I will never hug you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you."

"I hope that you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better, and that one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you. Valerie."

I hope that none of us ever find ourselves persecuted and tortured to death for being who we are, but I also hope that none of us ever allows ourselves to lose that last inch of ourselves. That last inch of integrity.


Blogger Hot Toddy said...

I love that we have conversations about integrity. At the bar!!

If nothing else, our friendship certainly is ironic.


12:06 PM, June 20, 2006  
Blogger Zeroes said...

What better place to discuss a thing, than a place where that thing is forgotten.

12:41 PM, June 22, 2006  
Blogger zortnac said...

For me that was the big pay off of the film because it was my favorite scene in the book and I had the highest expectations of a faithfull and well done transfer to the big screen, and it was so great to see it so well done.

11:51 AM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger Zeroes said...

Also, Drucilla's voice was well-lent to the role :)

12:04 PM, July 09, 2006  

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