A Speech from the Perspective of Edward Chamberlayne, of T.S. Eliot’s “The Cocktail Party”

Do you ever feel lonely?

Do you feel lonely right now?

I do.

She’s left me, you know.

Left after five years,

And now the party’s over and I’m here all alone –

Well. Not alone, exactly –

I mean, you’re still around, but…

But I can’t help feeling as if –

As if you’re all strangers.

It sounds odd, I know –

Oh, I’ve not been a very good host –

But, well…I suppose I just thought that I knew her.

I really did think so.

I thought we knew each other – at least –

As well as one can know another.

And now it’s just that –

Well it’s just that we were so used to each other, you know.

But do you know? Do I?

It puts one to wondering…

Wondering if one truly knows anyone

Wondering if people can know each other….

– I feel so disoriented.

But please, stay – “don’t go yet.

We’ll finish the cocktails.

Or would you rather have whisky?” (Eliot, 24)

No?

…Well,

I’m sorry for all this

But I want you here, really.

For some reason it’s always much easier

To explain these things

To people you don’t know.

But as I was saying –

It puts one to wondering…

Wondering what you were drinking!

Whiskey, was it? No?

It puts one to wondering…

Wondering why it is that we do all this?

Why do we hold these parties?

What’s the use of all these appearances?

Appearing here, appearing there,

Appearances upon

Appearances upon –

But we must keep them up, at all cost.

And so we keep on appearing, pretending,

Alone and with others,

Smiling and frowning and

Donning our stylish clothes…

Pretending to each other that we are the mask we wear;

Pretending to ourselves that there’s a self behind the mask.

But is there?

When you say a word a thousand times, over and over again,

You’ll find it has no meaning.

It’s nothing but babble,

Nothing but sound…

So why do we keep on talking?

…I imagine we are always alone, yes.

But is there even a self that can be alone?

It’s just that, I thought that I knew her –

Knew her better than anyone else, at least.

And I thought she knew me.

…I certainly thought I knew me.

But now I’m left thinking: what is there to know?

When you take your seat,

And the chair’s not there,

You fall to the ground like a sack,

Like an object.

…Is that all a person is?

Before my little fall, I was – well, I was…

…But what on earth have I been doing this whole time?

And why?

The tiniest break in my routine, and

I find myself sitting on the floor,

Gazing about,

Struck dumb

Because suddenly I can’t find the meaning –

The purpose behind all this,

Behind our cocktails,

Our chatter,

Our marriage….

Well, to be honest…

To be honest, I don’t think I considered it even once before now!

I never had to!

It was all going fine, not perfect, but fine

And I was so used to everything:

Used to her, and the parties, the appearances

Used to you all,

And everything went as it should…

But why should it?

We’re jarred from our pattern,

And we realize that life is so…

Solid.

Or is it hollow?

Reality is so…unreal.

Things just happen, exist, on and on…

So despite our best sentiments to the contrary,

None of it matters. We don’t matter. What is there to “matter”?

Matter itself can’t possibly matter…

But here we sit.

It may be strange, but

Here we sit,

Chatting and laughing and getting married,

Wearing our stylish clothes,

Playing house, playing doctor, playing cook, playing spouse.

Pretending to know each other,

To know ourselves –

As if there were something hidden, something to know.

Pretending that five years, that any number of years,

Could close the space between us.

Or perhaps there was never any such space to begin with;

Perhaps we dug the trench that divides us.

Oh! It seems so arbitrary now!

But here we sit.

Here we sit, drinking our – our – what was it? Whiskey? No?

…But these are not things that one says.

Will we ever be truthful with each other,

When we chatter over drinks?

Must we speak the truth?

For the truth is that I don’t know her – I know this now more than ever –

And I know that I don’t know myself.

Or you.

In fact, I’ve not a clue what we’re doing here

Or why exactly we’re doing it…

But still.

Still, I hope she comes back.

Perhaps there is no meaning to it all –

And perhaps we can only pretend to know each other –

But what does that matter if nothing else does?

Perhaps we must choose what matters,

Because without us, nothing can matter.

I suppose what I’m trying to tell you is that

Whatever it is, it matters to me.

This matters to me.

She matters to me.

And I do so love a good party.

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