Archive | January, 2017

Orange Crayon

16 Jan

If I were placed inside a box of crayons

I’d fit between the yellow and the red,

a niche for wildfire in my head,

an orange scaled to brilliance of dawn –

I’d streak across the skies of Vietnam,

cast sunset on the mountains up ahead

to outline mountaintops with golden thread –

ignite their peaks before the evening gone.

I wouldn’t be sweetest tangerine;

I like my fruit with quite a little kick,

a sour, natural antihistamine

to clear the sinus, strong and doublequick –

Though some prefer a softer yellow-green,

I’d draw a steady orange for the skeptic.

Boots (ONE ACT PLAY)

4 Jan

Boots

Characters:

SAM – 18

MOM – mid-forties

EVA – 17

DAD – mid-forties

Note:

SAM is ticing throughout the play. Under emotionally/physically strenuous situations, his ticing becomes more intense. Changes in tic intensity is noted within the text.

SCENE A

MOM is meticulously arranging raspberries around a stack of buttermilk pancakes. The bubbling of hot water from a kettle on the stove can be heard. Her apron is smeared with flour and maple syrup, a show of her handiwork.  

SAM
From offstage.

Can I come in yet?

MOM

Not yet, Sam! Patience! Five minutes.

The kettle whistles and MOM rushes to pour a heaping scoop of Nestle hot chocolate into a mug, followed by the steaming water.

SAM

I can smell exactly what you’re making.

MOM

No you can’t; it’s a surprise.

SAM

Tell that to my nose.

MOM
MOM pours a glass of orange juice.

Your nose can wait another two minutes.

SAM

Mom, I’m hungry. And school starts in an hour, and you know the buses are real early sometimes on Friday, so I need to get there at least ten minutes before usual.

MOM

You’ve never missed the bus once.

SAM

I’ve almost missed it twice. Both times on a Friday. Mom, I’m hungry.

MOM

Okay, okay, you may approach.

Stands proudly behind her culinary masterpiece. SAM walks in wearing his mud-crusted boots, jeans, and an old Navy shirt. He looks delightfully ordinary.

Happy birthday, Sammie!

MOM rushes over to shower SAM in celebratory smooches.

SAM

Ma. MA! C’mon I just showered.

MOM

Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t help it, you’re too delicious. Plus, I’m obligated to make you feel uncomfortable with parental affection on your birthday. It’s tradition, and it can’t be breached.

SAM

Touche. Besides, you don’t make me feel uncomfortable. Maybe a bit suffocated at times, but never too overbearing.

Making his way towards the pancakes.

I’ve never been hungrier in my life.

MOM

Indulge, my handsome, eighteen-year-old, almost-highschool-graduate.

SAM
Forks the pancakes and slices down the stack. Stuffs a huge piece of pancake in his mouth. Speaks through the food.

It’s February. Six months don’t count towards almost graduating.

MOM

You know I started the countdown in September. It’s on my IPhone and everything.

SAM

Yeah but that’s a very abnormal thing to do. Most people start counting in the spring, at the earliest. I, for one, won’t count until exactly a month away from graduation, May 23, because any longer than that, I’m just going to get restless with all the counting. But I guess I’m counting down until the countdown… But I’m not restless yet so I’m not worrying. Mom, these pancakes are so good.

MOM

Thank you, my love! You know what time I got up this morning to start cooking?

SAM

Ten after six.

MOM

How’d you know?

SAM

You make a lot of noise when you cook.

MOM

Oh no, I’m sorry I woke you! You should have come in here and told me to shut up.

SAM

I didn’t mind, I only started getty fidgety after the first hour.

MOM

Well. I hope it was worth the wait. (sighs) Eighteen. I can’t believe it.

SAM

Why not?

MOM

Eighteen is huge, Sam!

SAM

Why is that?

MOM

What kind of question is that?? You’re a legal adult! You can… buy property. You can vote. Oh my God, you can go on field trips without my permission…

SAM

I don’t think it’s that huge a deal. I think I’m eighteen now, but I’m also seventeen and sixteen and all the numbers before those numbers. Because when you think about it, when you become a year older, where do all of the rest of the years go? You’ve still experienced all those years. I’m as much a seventeen year old as I was when I was seventeen. I’m just also eighteen now. Understand?

MOM

Sam, I don’t think I can deal with being forty three numbers.

SAM

It doesn’t matter what you can deal with, it matters what you are. And anyway, you’re still forty two.

MOM

Barely.

SAM

Don’t think too much about it. You’ll just feel older. (Beat) What’s your schedule for today?

MOM

Why? Planning something that I should know about?

SAM

Of course not. Just curious.

MOM

Well. Besides starting to organize your incredible, eighteenth, almost-highschool-graduate birthday palooza-

SAM

Mom, I thought we agreed. No parties.

MOM

I know we did. But I’m going to go ahead and violate our agreement this once, for celebratory purposes.

SAM

I understand it’s all in good faith. But you know I’m really not great in party settings…

MOM

Sam, every good mother knows: there is a specific checklist that must be completed before adulthood, and an eighteenth birthday party makes the cut.

SAM

How can we even afford to host a party right now? You’re not dipping into my college fund for a birthday palooza, are you?

MOM

Don’t worry about the expenses. I’ve been saving up for a couple weeks, actually. Working a bit overtime and saving the tips.

SAM

So that’s where you’ve been these past few nights? You work too much already, you shouldn’t have spent the extra time.

MOM
Seriously.

I would find a way to add hours into the day and days into the week to work for you, Sam. You’re my whole life. (Beat) I know we’ve been struggling recently. This party is as much for me as it is for you. To get our minds off of work. To celebrate something good. Humor me this once?

SAM
Sighs.

When? So I can prepare myself.

MOM

Friday. That’s two whole days you can allot towards mental preparation.

SAM

forty-eight hours. Another countdown begins.

MOM

(Beat) Well, you should get going soon. And I’m going to make a Shoprite run and start preparing the best dinner you’ve had in your eighteen years of life.

SAM

You say that every year.

MOM

My cooking gets better annually.

Suddenly remembers: walks over to counter, picks up an envelope.

Ah, before it leaves my mind. I was sorting through the mail yesterday and forgot to give you a letter.

SAM

Who’s it from?

MOM

I’m not sure. There’s no return address. Maybe a birthday card from church?… No, they always use the same kind of envelope. (Slides it to SAM.) Well, I’ll leave the mystery to you.

SAM

Okay. I’m going to finish my pancakes. Thanks again for breakfast.

MOM

No thanks necessary. Don’t be late.

SAM

I’m never late. Except for those two times. Almost.

MOM

Touche.

Kisses SAM on the cheek, grabs her purse and coat, and exits.
SAM takes another monster bite of pancake and hums to himself, through the food. He tears open the letter. Lights fade, and DAD appears on the opposite side of the stage, a single light shining down on both him and SAM. DAD speaks as SAM reads the letter. Throughout the letter, SAM’s tics increase in intensity.

DAD

Sam –

I’ve written this letter at least a hundred times. I’ve thought about all ways I could word this, all the combinations of phrases I could use to properly introduce myself to you, and they’re all wrong. All of them. Too composed, too curt, too formal, too familiar. I wish I was more eloquent, and I have no idea how to write this letter.

So I’m just going to start, simple and sweet – hi. Hello. Wow. Hi. It seems crazy that such a short greeting would require so much courage to be written and still… this is a little crazy, isn’t it? Or maybe I’m just a damn coward. Maybe both of those things are true. But regardless, hi.

Sam… I’m not sure what exactly to say. I’m not really sure what I want to say. I just know that I want to say it, say hi to you, right now, with my awful handwriting, on my cheap stationary. I guess it’s me showing you “me”, in a way. Bad cursive and cheap printer paper, really clunky combinations of words and a very, very overdue letter saying hello to my son.

You’re probably very confused. And probably equally as angry. Really confused, and really upset, and no two feelings have ever been more justified. I can’t expect this from you, I never would, but I’m asking you, if you would consider it, to give me a chance. I want to know you. I left my cell number and address on the back of this letter; if you have some time, maybe you could give me a call and I can take you out for dinner. Start catching up. I know this means very little, but for what it’s worth, I hope sending this letter is my first step back into your life.

Happy birthday, son.

From,

Your father.

Lights fade on DAD’s side, and fully rise on SAM’s side.

SAM sits in silence, staring at the letter on the table. He is ticing uncontrollably, and is unsure of what to do.

He glances at his watch, and decides it’s time to go to school. He retrieves tupperware and carefully places the pancakes into the container, places the container on the counter, then places the plates into the sink. He is very meticulous; everything must be perfectly in order. He takes a napkin and wipes down the table, carefully circumventing the open letter. He discards of the napkin.

He stares at the letter on the table for another moment, again unsure of what to do. After a moment, he picks it up and walks over garbage; he considers throwing it away. After a moment, he carefully folds the letter into two and slides it into his backpack.

Suddenly, MOM reenters.

MOM

Forgot my phone. You’re still here? You’re going to be late, Sam

SAM
Trying to hide his frantic-ness.

You’re right. I was cleaning.

MOM

Of course you were. You don’t have to worry about that today. (Sensing something is off) Is everything alright, honey?

SAM

Of course everything’s alright. I’m just… nervous that I’m going to be late. I better go. I can’t miss the bus. That would be awful; I’ve never missed the bus.

MOM

… Maybe I could drive you today?

SAM
Too quickly.

No. I mean, no thank you. I’m not going to miss the bus. Thanks for breakfast.

SAM rushes off.
MOM is left baffled. Grabs her phone from the counter and exits.

SCENE B.A

Bell rings to indicate the end of school. EVA enters, rolling onto stage a huge rack of books. She takes a stack, plops them down on the “kitchen table”, now the front desk of the library, and begins logging ISBN numbers onto a sheet of paper.

SAM walks in and swings his backpack off his shoulder. His father’s letter is still on his mind, but, as always, EVA helps him forget.

SAM

Hey, Eva.

EVA

Sam!!!! (Exclaiming too loudly for a library; she catches herself and lowers her voice) Sam! Happy birthday!

Attacks SAM with a bear hug.

SAM

Oh, ok. Wow. Hi there.

EVA

Sorry, sorry, I know you’re not a big hugger. But eighteen, dang! Do you feel like a senior citizen yet? It’s creeping up on you.

SAM

No.

EVA

Why the long face?

SAM

I don’t have a long face.

EVA

You’re right, your face is pretty normal-sized. Maybe a little egg-shaped, but nothing too overtly abnormal.

SAM

Pauses.

Eighteen significantly less of a big deal than people say it is. It’s not like there’s any real weight behind it. I mean, it’s as heavy as seventeen was. It’s just a number. (beat) But my mom made me pancakes this morning.

EVA

Smart woman. Pancakes are always the way to go on a birthday morning.

SAM

They were pretty great.

EVA

Well, to commemorate the day you entered the physical world via the womb –

SAM

Stop.

EVA

… I got you something.

Ducks under the desk to retrieve book wrapped in newspaper.

Ok well, I didn’t actually purchase it… I might have taken it from the books in the back.

SAM

What?! You stole it?

EVA

I didn’t steal it, I simply displaced it so it may be put to proper use. Anyway, I found it in one of our storage boxes. Nobody’s gonna notice. Open it up.

SAM

No. I refuse to feed your thieving habits.

EVA

Please? C’mon, look at how pristinely it’s wrapped. And even the wrapping paper is interesting! Last week’s headlines!

SAM

It is recycled…

EVA

I know how green you are. C’mon, open it.

Sighing, SAM carefully lifts the tape from the sides, and slides the book from its paper. Inside is Leonard Cohen’s poetry collection, “Book of Longing”.

SAM

“Book of Longing”; I didn’t know Leonard Cohen was a poet.

EVA

I didn’t either until I found this book in storage.

SAM

Now it makes sense why “Hallelujah” is so cryptic.

EVA

My thoughts exactly.

SAM

Why “The Book of Longing”? Do you have a crush on me or something?

EVA

What? No. If I were to confess my affections, it wouldn’t be through a birthday gift. That’s too easy.

SAM

Okay, what then?

EVA

Well, he wrote it when he was living in a monastery, for five years. I expected it to be super zen and Hallelujah-esque-cryptic and all-enlightened but, it’s not. It’s like, a slightly poetic diary. Lots of doodles of Jewish stars and naked women and stuff like that.

SAM

And that somehow reminded you of me?

EVA

Think of it like this. He voluntarily put himself in a place that was emotionally and mentally and physically challenging. The guy wasn’t born a monk, he was born in Canada. But, he found a way to overcome his obstacles: by writing about them. And he somehow survived in a monastery for five years.

SAM

I’m not following.

EVA

You remember when you started working here? You never said it, but I knew you were nervous that your tics would get in the way of your work. I mean, you needed a job and it was the only position available for students. You were like a tomato during your first couple shifts. Consistent tomato complexion, for at least the first month. But you fought through whatever insecurities you felt. Realized that, really, nobody paid any mind to your ticing. And you continued working here, even after other positions outside the library opened up. And look at you now. You’re one of the best employees here.

SAM

I wouldn’t say that.

EVA

I would. I don’t know what we’re going to do when you graduate. I don’t know what I’m going to do when you graduate.

SAM

Then you’re going to be a senior, then you’re going to graduate.

EVA

Don’t remind me. We’re getting so old.

SAM

Age is really something you don’t have to keep count of if you don’t want to. If you wanted to, you could just live perfectly happy and not count time. Personally, I very much dislike birthdays, but I appreciate knowing how long I’ve been alive. (Beat) And thank you for the book.

EVA

You’re welcome.

Contented, SAM begins logging ISBN numbers from the stack of books. EVA joins him.

So. Any special birthday plans? Parties that your strategically not bringing up?

SAM

Sighs.

My mom is planning something for Friday. I’m sure she’d love it if you came.

EVA

Wow. I honestly expected that question to be rhetorical. You hate parties.

SAM

I know. But she’s been saving up for this one. (Beat) You should definitely come.

EVA

I’ll be there. I will save you from socializing with the general public. (Pause.) It’s going to be strange seeing you in party attire. You’re going to have to change out of those boots for once.

SAM

Why can’t I wear my boots?

EVA

I don’t know, wouldn’t you want to spice things up for a party? I’ve only ever seen you in those shoes.

SAM

I don’t even think I own any other shoes.

EVA

That’s a shame. What size are you? 12?

SAM

I’m not sure.

EVA

Maybe you could fit into my dad’s…

SAM

Eva, I’m wearing my boots to my party. But thank you for offering your father’s footwear.

EVA

(Beat) Out of curiosity. Why do love them so much? They’re so… crotchety.

SAM

It’s not that I love them, I just… wear them. I always have, since I could fit in them.

EVA

Were they a gift or something? I thought you didn’t like gifts.

SAM

Not a gift. They were my dad’s. I just… always wore them.

EVA

Ah, they seemed pretty retro. Following in your old man’s footsteps, huh? (Chuckles at her own joke.)

SAM

No. Definitely not doing that.

EVA

Sorry, that was insensitive. (Beat) I just realized we never really spoke about your dad.

SAM

Ticing increases.

That’s because I never wanted to talk about him. Can we stop talking about this?

EVA

Yeah, of course. I… I’m sorry if I pushed a nerve…

SAM

No, it’s just – (Ticing increases) Ugh, why did you bring him up, Eva?

EVA

Looks around, as though people are starting to stare at the noise SAM is making.  

Just, just calm down. Think about something positive. It’s your birthday!

SAM

Yeah, what a fucking celebration.

Grabs his bag and exits in a fury. EVA is left dumbfounded.

SCENE B.B

SAM is outside the library. He is breathing, trying to calm down. After a moment, his phone rings. He looks at the caller ID; he doesn’t know the number. He picks up.

SAM

Hello?

No answer.

Hello…?

No answer.

Who is this?

No answer. He looks at his phone, and the person hung up.

Weird. Maybe it was Eva…?

Exhausted, SAM considers going back inside. He decides to go home.

SCENE C.A

The next day.

SAM sits cross-legged in his room; both to his left and to his right are two neat stacks of paper. His boots are neatly beside him. He takes one sheet from the pile on his left and cautiously begins composing a letter.

SAM

Writing.

Dad…

Crosses out.

Father…

Crosses out.

Frank. I… appreciated…

Crosses out.

Was taken aback…

Crosses out.

Appreciated your letter.

Groans. Slides the paper over to the other stack – the discarded drafts. He sets another clean page in front of him.

Frank. Thank you for your letter…

To himself.

Yeah, that’s good.

Continues.

Thank you for your letter. It was… strikingly unanticipated. However… I kindly ask you to refrain from sending any further letters. Please… keep your distance. (Thinks) Thank you.

Satisfied, he signs the letter, carefully folds it, and slips it into an envelope. He stands and automatically picks up a boot to slip on. He pauses.

He places the boot back on the ground and stares at them intensely, trying to decide whether he should continue wearing them, as he always has.

With a determined huff, he picks them up and places the in his closet, quick like a bandaid. He searches for a moment and retrieves a pair of old sneakers.

Slowly, as though exploring a new territory, he slips into and ties the shoes.

He stands, shifts his weight. Feels strange. But he is determined. He takes his backpack, and makes his way to the kitchen.

SCENE C.B

Mom is sitting at the table, writing furiously. Papers are scattered across the table.

SAM

What are you writing?

MOM

Organizing the menu for your soiree. It’s not a party unless hor devours are involved.

SAM

What have you got so far?

Leans in to peak at the menu. MOM snatches the paper that on which she’s been writing.

MOM

It’s a surprise!

SAM

You know my nose can decipher anything you make. It’ll find you out well before the party starts.

MOM

Well. I’m going to keep your senses guessing until I start the cooking process. Your nose is sharp but it can’t smell the future.  

SAM

Touche.

MOM

Continues writing. Scratches the paper for a second.

Ah, my pen ran out. Honey, can you grab me that pencil on the counter?

SAM

Sure.

SAM turns to retrieve the pencil. MOM notices the shoes. She is surprised.

MOM

What happened to your boots?

SAM

I took them off.

Hands mom the pencil. She holds it, then places it down.

MOM

Why?

SAM

Because I decided it was time to.

MOM

Silent for a moment.

For any reason in particular?

SAM

Quickly.

No.

Composes himself.

I don’t know why I ever wore them in the first place. They’re not aesthetically attractive at all. Pretty crotchety, really. And it’s not like we can’t afford nicer ones.

Pauses.

Could you buy me new boots for my birthday?

MOM

Surprised. He’s never asked for a gift before.

Of course, honey. If I had known… If I had known you wanted new ones, I would have gotten them for you years ago. You’ve always been so attached to those boots.

SAM

Satisfied, proud of himself.

Well, consider me unattached.

MOM

Did something happen honey?

SAM

Nothing happened. (Pauses.) If the shoes are any trouble, I could buy a pair for myself; I have quite a bit of spending money left over for the month.

MOM

Not at all. Don’t think of it. It’s just… you’ve never asked for a gift before. (Beat.) I like the sound of it. A pair of boots it is. (Returns to writing.)

After a moment, SAM sits beside MOM. His ticing flares.

SAM

Mom?

MOM

Yes, honey?

SAM

Why did Dad leave?

MOM

Puts the pencil down.

We’ve spoken about it.

SAM

Once or twice. You’ve never given me a straight answer.

MOM

It was… a very complicated time for us.

SAM

For whom?

MOM

For all of us.

SAM

It wasn’t complicated for me

Ticing increases.

I didn’t know what was happening. It only got complicated after he let me grow up without a dad.

Pause.

Did you… know about it? Did you know it was going to happen?

MOM

Sighs.

We had discussed separating for a while. We were fighting a lot. Over too many little things, insubstantial things. Things too insubstantial to hold any real weight in an argument.

Pause.

Neither of us wanted you to see it, or to remember it. You were just a baby; we wanted to end things smoothly, so that you wouldn’t remember a big break. But he left so suddenly – that, I didn’t plan. I don’t think he did either.

SAM

Ticing increases.

So, he just decided to get up and leave one morning? No note, no apology. He left us nothing.

MOM

He left you those boots.

SAM

Ticing at its peak. He is screaming, yelping.

A pair of boots, then. He left me a pair of boots. It doesn’t mean anything, not really. A note would mean more than a pair of boots. An explanation would mean more.

Suddenly, he punches himself. A new tic.

MOM

Oh my God.

Rushes over, cups his face between her hands.

Breathe, honey. Just breathe. In and out.

With her coaxing, he calms. When his tics die down, MOM takes a good look at his face. He as a bloody lip.

Oh, honey.

She retrieves a tissue from the table, and starts dabbing his lip.

Well that’s a new one.

SAM is silent. Exhausted.

What’s bringing this on, honey? Where is this coming from?

SAM

Considers telling her. Decides against it.

Nothing. Nowhere. I just… started thinking about it recently. It doesn’t matter.

MOM

You know you can tell me anything, right?

SAM

I know. Everything’s okay. I’m okay. I’m sorry if I upset you.

Stands.

I’m going to go to visit Eva at the library. Do you mind?

MOM

Are you sure? Maybe you should rest…

SAM

I think I could use a friend right now.

MOM

Looks a bit hurt.

Of course I don’t mind. Tell her I say hello. And call me if you need anything.

SAM

I will. (Turns to leave. Thinks for a moment. Turns back.) Mom?

MOM

Yes, honey?

SAM

I don’t blame you.

MOM is silent, smiles weakly. SAM exits.

SCENE D

EVA sits at the desk, reading a Stephen King novel. SAM enters tentatively. He slips his backpack off and sits next to her behind the desks. She doesn’t look up, but is aware of his presence. After a moment, he opens his backpack, pulls out the book she gave him, and begins reading.

For a few peaceful moments, they read in silence.

SAM

I apologize.

EVA

Without looking up.

For what?

SAM

For lashing out on you yesterday. You didn’t deserve it. I’ve just been… a bit on edge, as of late.

EVA

Sighs. Closes her book and looks up.

Oh my God, what happened to you?

SAM

I picked a fight with Rocky on my way here. I figured a few battle scars would make me look more masculine.

EVA

Seriously.

SAM

I punched myself. A new tic.

EVA

Jesus. (Beat.) Do you want to tell me what’s been bothering you?

SAM

Not particularly.

EVA

But you will.

SAM

But I will.

EVA

Hit me. (Pause.) Sorry.

SAM

I got a letter yesterday from my dad.

EVA

Was not expecting that.

What did it say?

SAM

That he’s sorry. And that he wanted to reconnect.

EVA

How did you feel about it? How do you feel about it?

SAM

I feel a lot.

EVA

A little bit more, please.

SAM

Sighs. Lets it rip.

I feel angry, primarily. I feel angry that he left us in the first place. Angry that he left my mom and me with nothing. Angry that he has the audacity to leave us with nothing, and then expect a grand entrance back into my life. I feel upset that I don’t know who he is. Part of me feels like I want to know him, but most of me feels like he should have just stayed away. I feel a whole conglomeration of things that I can’t decipher, and I feel deeply frustrated by that. My thoughts are the one thing I can always work through.

EVA

Have you responded to him?

SAM

Yes.

EVA

What did you say?

SAM

To keep his distance, basically.

EVA is silent.

Please say something.

EVA

It’s a lot to take in. A very serious intake of a lot of serious stuff. I don’t want to say the wrong thing.

SAM

You never say the wrong thing.

EVA  

You took off those boots.

SAM

Yes.

EVA

His boots.

SAM

Yes.

EVA

Encouraging him.

Is this a related occurrence?

SAM

Sighs.

I’d just always wore them, ever since I could fit in them. And now different shoes feel… different. Foreign on my feet.  

EVA

Pause.

You know what I think?

SAM

That if I squeeze my eyes shut hard enough, all of this will go away?

EVA

I think you should invite him to your party.

SAM

What?

EVA

I think you should give him a chance to face you, in real time. Then he can’t cower behind a letter, because frankly, I think a birthday card was a total copout. And that will give you the chance to face him, too. Work through your demons.

SAM

That’s basically the opposite of what I wanted you to say.

EVA

I know what you wanted me to say. Maybe what you needed to hear isn’t particularly what you wanted. That happens sometimes.

SAM

Eva, I just sent him a letter formally rejecting him from my life. I’m not inviting him to my birthday party.

EVA

You can do whatever you want; I’m just giving you my two cents.

SAM

Even if I wanted to – which I very much don’t – the party is tomorrow. It would be too late regardless.

EVA

Why, you think he has somewhere he’d rather be?

SAM

I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I’m not inviting him.

EVA

Shrugs.

Up to you.

Content with her response, she opens her book and returns to reading.

SAM

Still riled up.

I’m not inviting him.

EVA

Okay.

Both are silent for a moment. EVA speaks without looking up.

In other news. Those shoes look good on you.

SAM

They’re a little small.

EVA

Maybe I’ll get you a new pair of shoes for your birthday. Or follow through with my previous offer, and bring one of my dad’s old pairs.

SAM

That’s unnecessary.

EVA

Gifts are hardly ever necessary.

SAM

Besides, you already got me a book.

EVA

I stole it, it doesn’t count.

SAM loosens up. Laughs. Eva laughs.

A moment of pleasant silence between them.

What time do you want me to come over tomorrow?

SAM

Well. The party starts at 6:00. Maybe come by 5:00? Come help me mentally prepare myself for the debilitating awkwardness that will ensue?

EVA

5:00 it is.

Beat.

Think about inviting your dad.

SAM

I’ll think about it. I’m not going to do it, but I’ll think about it.

EVA

Smiles.

Still pumped to see you in party attire.

SAM

I think you’re going to be greatly disappointed.

I’m going to go home. But thank you, Eva. Talking to you always helps me work through… anything. Everything.

EVA

Smiles.

That’s what I’m here for.

SAM

Starts to leave. Awkwardly turns back.

And I’m also… excited to see you in party attire. I think you’ll look very nice. (Pause.) I mean. You’d like nice in anything. But I think you’d look particularly nice in party attire.

EVA

I’m going to show up in a potato sack to disprove that theory.

SAM

Well. I look forward to seeing you in whatever garment you choose.

Groans at his awkwardness.

Bye.

Leaves quickly.

EVA

Laughs, as he’s leaving.

See ya.

SCENE E

The next day.

MOM is hanging a banner that reads, “Happy 18th Birthday!” above the kitchen table, balancing on a chair as she strings it up.

SAM walks in.

SAM

Mom! That chair doesn’t seem stable at all.

MOM

Almost… got it… almost…

SAM

I think you should get down. I really don’t think that chair is strong enough to support your weight.

MOM

Swings down.

What are you trying to say?

SAM

Exactly what I said. That chair has always been wobbly. Why didn’t you call me? I could have helped you out.

MOM

Sam, I am a solid three inches taller than you, and am a lot more nimble than you give me credit for. Plus, I knew you would object to a birthday sign. Now that it’s already up, there’s less of a likelihood that you’ll try to take it down.

SAM

I just don’t really see the purpose. Everybody coming already knows that it’s my birthday. Who needs to be reminded?

MOM

Nobody. That’s the point of celebration.

Doorbell rings.

What! It’s half an hour too early for guests! You told your friends six o’clock, didn’t you?

SAM

Friend. Singular. And Eva agreed to come early to help me get ready. A part of the mental preparation, remember?

MOM

Right, right. Okay, let her in; I’m going to go finish up the decorations in the living room.

MOM rushes off.

SAM fixes his hair, straightens his shirt.

He clears his throat.

He strides to the door, opens it, and DAD enters.

Silence.

For a brief moment, SAM’s ticing stops altogether.

DAD

Hi, Sam.

SAM

Unsure of what to say.

What does he remember about his father’s appearance? His voice? Does he immediately know who this man is?

Guests aren’t supposed to arrive until 6 o’clock.

DAD

I thought I’d make an early appearance. Swing by to say hello.

SAM

Swing by to say hello.

DAD

Before people starting coming. Thought it best to not… make a scene.

SAM

Swing by to say hello.

DAD

I thought a personal scene might be a little more appropriate for this kind of thing. A two hander.

SAM

Swing by to say hello.

DAD

Unsure of what to say.

I… I brought you something.

Reaches in jacket pocket, pulls out badly wrapped gift with a bow tie.

Here.

Hands gift to SAM. SAM takes it, robotically.

You can open it.

SAM doesn’t open it.

It’s okay, you don’t have to open it. I can tell you what it is, though, can’t I?

SAM doesn’t answer.

It’s my old copy of The Magus by John Fowles. You know who that is?

SAM doesn’t answer.

I’d be surprised if you didn’t. I was never that big of a book guy myself… but I always loved this one. The mystery, the adventures, the Greek landscapes… Taught me most of the big words I know. (Beat.) My old man gave me this copy when I was a kid. I guess I saw some poetry in passing it down. Thought you’d like it more than any other gift I could have gotten. I know you’re a big reader, working at a library and all –

SAM

Suddenly.

Please don’t do that.

DAD

Don’t… do what?

SAM

Don’t talk about John Fowles or my job or my gift preferences or things that make it sound like you know me. You don’t.

DAD

I… you’re right. I’m sorry. I don’t know you. Son –

SAM

SAM’s ticing increases.

Don’t.

DAD

I know you’re upset; I really don’t want to upset you, Sam. That’s the last thing I want to do.

SAM

Then why did you send me that letter? And that was you who called me, wasn’t it? Why are you here?

DAD

Can we sit down?

SAM

Please tell me why you’re here.

DAD

I will, son, let’s just-

SAM

Don’t call me that, and tell me why you’re here.

DAD

Sam, can we slow down? I want to explain all this to you.

SAM

How can you think it is even remotely in your right to ask me to slow down?

Hearing all the noise, MOM rushes in.

MOM

What’s going on –

Sees DAD, stops short.

DAD

Hi, Marge.

MOM

She appears angry… but not surprised.

Now? You choose to show up now?

DAD

I know, it’s not the best time.

MOM

I specifically told you not to come today, this party is hard enough for him.

SAM

To MOM.

Wait, you knew about this? You knew he’s been contacting me?

MOM

Sam…

SAM

Ticing dramatically increases.

I don’t understand.

MOM

Sam, honey, I know this is hard, but I need you to breathe.

SAM

Starts hitting himself.

Why can’t I understand this? What am I not getting?

MOM and DAD both exclaim his name and rush towards him.

No! Stay away! (To MOM) You gave me his letter… you handed it to me… and… and the boots… This whole time you knew? Is that why you wanted this party so badly? To let everybody I know see me like this?

MOM

Of course not honey, I told him not to come! (to DAD) You told me you’d wait! And look what you’ve done! Look what you’re making him do.

DAD

I just… wanted to see him before his birthday party. I didn’t mean for it to happen this way. I’m so sorry. I can go, come back another day, when we’re all calm…

SAM

No. You’re here now. Answer my questions.

DAD

I know this is very sudden. And out of the blue. And, God I wish I could give you a better explanation, something other than that it took me this long to work up the courage.

SAM

Seventeen years? It took you seventeen years to work up the courage?

DAD

I wish I could tell you something better.

SAM

Pause.

Okay. Tell me why you left.

DAD

That’s not better.

SAM

I don’t care. Tell me why you left.

DAD

Sighs.

Your mother and I… we were so young. We met in college. I proposed to her when we found out she was pregnant with you, and we got married weeks after graduation. It was all so fast…

And Sam, I kept having these incredible visions of being a father. I saw myself sitting with my son at his first football game, or driving my daughter to her first ballet practice. Really animated, beautiful stuff, like what I’d seen in movies. It was all so surreal; I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. But the closer your mom’s due date came, the closer you came… I started realizing… that wasn’t me in my visions. I was there, my face, my voice, but… it wasn’t me. Not really. I couldn’t imagine it, any clearer than I could imagine being an astronaut.

(Beat.) I wasn’t ready, Sam.

And then you were born, and you were so beautiful. This beautiful little boy, so… aware. And Sam, for the first couple months, I thought I could do it. The visions started to get a little less hazy, I was distancing myself less. But your mother and I started recognizing differences between the two of us. We argued, a lot. We always tried to remember to put you in your room when we started fighting, but we forgot most of the time. And one day, we were having an argument about something I don’t remember, something that didn’t matter, and you were in your high chair in the kitchen, watching us with those big eyes, and you… you started ticing.

Pause.

I blamed myself, Sam. For your tics. I thought, if your mother had fallen for a different man – someone calmer, more composed, less… angry – then you wouldn’t have started ticing. So I left. I thought maybe you could grow out of them. Maybe they would stop.

SAM

They wouldn’t have stopped.

DAD

I know. I know that now.

SAM

You could have come back.

DAD

I know.

SAM

But you didn’t.

DAD

I wanted to. I tried. But time passed. You were growing, and the thought that you were better off without me just… kept growing. Solidifying. I tried to distancing myself would help me move on – I moved around a bit, got little jobs here and there.

I tried to build up the nerve over the years. I came back… a few times. When you were sixteen, I got coffee with an old friend who works at your school and… she told me you started working at the library. Voluntarily. And that you were doing well. The whole staff was impressed, blown away by your courage. (Beat.) I just knew, Sam, I knew that I needed to introduce myself, somehow.

SAM

Why didn’t you?

MOM

He tried.

SAM

He did? (to DAD.) You did?

MOM

He reached out to me, and I… I told him to stay away.

SAM

How many times?

MOM

Three times. Once when you were five. Then again when you were thirteen. Last year, he moved into the new apartments off of Cheshire Street, and started pushing the idea. Showed up at intervals of a couple days. He was like a man desperate for a father’s blessing to marry his daughter, would stop at nothing. (Beat.) I… I thought I was doing the right thing, keeping him from you. You were doing so well in school, everything was so balanced. I didn’t want him to upset the balance.

DAD

You did the right thing. But… I needed to meet him eventually.

MOM

I know. I understand.

SAM

I don’t. (To MOM) Why did you let me read his letter?

MOM

I gave him the idea to write it. If he wanted to trickle into your life, so be it, but I wanted him to do it slowly. A letter gave you distance to process it. Internalize it.

SAM is silent.

DAD

I understand how out of the blue this seems. I truly want you to take all the time you need to work through this, for yourself.

SAM

Decidedly.

I had time.

Suddenly, SAM gets up and exits, leaving MOM and DAD alone together.

After a moment, SAM returns, holding DAD’s boots in his arms. Still, they are precious.

I’m still angry. I still need to figure out what kind of relationship I want with you. And what I can give to you. (Beat.) But I want to know you.

Hands DAD the boots.

And I want you to take these.

DAD

I remember these boots… (To MOM) You kept these? After all these years?

MOM

Gestures to SAM.

He did.

SAM

I want you to take them. And at some point, eventually, I’m going to reach out to you. On my own terms, at my own time. And we can see where it goes from there.

DAD

I understand. If that’s what you want.

SAM

It’s what I need.

DAD

Alright then. I’m just glad that I introduced myself to you.

Prepares to leave.

(To MOM.) It was nice seeing you again, Marge.

(To SAM.) Happy birthday, Sam.

DAD and SAM stand there awkwardly. Both kind of want a hug. Neither make the first move, and the moment has passed.

MOM

Opens the door.

Have a nice day, Richard.

DAD gives a smile to SAM and exits.

MOM closes the door behind DAD.

There is an uncomfortable silence.

What do they say after something like this?

Just then, the there is a knock at the door. DAD again?

MOM tentatively opens the door, and EVA enters.

She looks very pretty.

EVA

Hi, Marge. Happy birthday, Sam!

Hugs him. He loosens.

SAM

Hi, Eva.

MOM

Hey there, Eva. Would you like something to drink? I think a glass of wine is appropriate…

EVA

My mom would butcher me. A glass of water would be wonderful though. Thank you!

MOM exits.

EVA

Guess what I got you?

SAM

Don’t tell me.

EVA opens her bag, and pulls out a gift wrapped in newspaper.

EVA

Open.

SAM sits down, and opens the newspaper, and then the box that is inside. He pulls out a shiny pair of leather shoes. They glisten.

My dad didn’t let me take his old ones, but I had some spending money saved up. So I bought these.

SAM

You shouldn’t have…

EVA

But I did.

SAM

But you did. Thank you, Eva. I love them.

EVA

You’re welcome. (Beat.) So, you were telling me your mom prepared hor devours…

SAM

Let’s feast.

EVA stands, watches SAM organize the table.

Appreciates him.

SAM gathers the trash, neatly straightens the shoes on the table. They exit.

LIGHTS DOWN.

END OF PLAY.