The Secret Life of Words
written by Isabel Coixet
Hanna: When I was studying in Dubrovnik, I always dreaded when we had to clean the patients. I felt ...I felt uncomfortable. Just thinking that they were uncomfortable. But ...I soon realized that ...people like being clean. No matter how you do it, or ...or who does it. They like being in your hands. They like trusting you with their bodies. ''It's only a body. You'll never know what I am thinking, or who I am.''
I had a ... I had a friend who studied with me. We got on very well. She was ... She was so cheerful. I've never been cheerful. I was so proud to be her friend. We used to read all the same books and we would stay up, late into the night, just talking about them. The books were always more real than ... More real than anything else.
We lived together during the war, and ... We were 20 years old when they closed the school. And we decided to go back to the town where we were both from. We couldn't get in touch with our families. They said that terrible things were happening. But you know, nobody really believed them. I mean ...People always exaggerate. It couldn't be true, I mean, war ...Somehow it always happens somewhere else. So we borrowed a car, she could drive, and we ...We set off. Nothing happened on the journey. We saw ... We saw fires far off, and ... dead dogs. Nothing. Lots of dead dogs. We listened to this cassette of Italian disco music. And we laughed. We laughed so much on that journey. Do you remember the, there was this song called, La Dolce Vita? It was so stupid. It was ... (she sings) "We're livin' like a Dolce Vita, this time we got it right, we're living like in a Dolce Vita, we gonna dream tonight"...
They stopped us just two kilometers from the town. They took us to a hotel. We thought they just wanted to steal the car. We were very worried about how we were going to explain this to the owner. It's ridiculous, isn't it? Your whole life is about to ...change ... And you are worrying about an old Fiat Turbo.
The soldiers were our soldiers. They were soldiers, they spoke like me, they spoke my own language. Some of them were only 18 years old. I remember, one day, UN troops were brought in, and ...We thought that day that they were going to take us out of there. No. Voices like yours, Josef. Talking like you. I remember that one of them apologized all the time. He would apologize ...while smiling. If you can imagine that they ...that they rape you, time and again, and whisper in your ears, so only you can hear ... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Forgive me.
There were fifteen of us women. Sometimes more. We knew that when the food ran out, they would kill some of us. They made a woman kill her daughter. They put a gun in her hand and her finger on the trigger. They put the barrel of the gun in the girl's vagina.
They made her, they made her pull that trigger. Saying something like, now you're not going to be a grandmother. Something like that. So, the woman died soon after, of sorrow. One day dawned and she had died of sorrow.
Know what they did to the ones who dared to scream? They said ...''Now we are really going to give you reasons for screaming.'' And they made hundreds of cuts all over their bodies, with a knife. And they rubbed salt in the wounds and stitched up deeper cuts with sewing needles. That's what they did to my friend. And I couldn't ... They wouldn't let me clean her wounds, so ... She slowly bled to death. It was just so ... It was so slowly. And the blood ran down her arms, and her legs. I just prayed that she would die quickly. I counted the screams. The moans, I measured ... I measured the pain. And I thought ...''She can't suffer anymore. Now she'll die. Now. Please. The very next minute, please."
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