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.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – One Act Play

22 Nov

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

CHARACTERS:

ARMAN MARTINEZ (Originally played by Ryan Seffinger) – Construction worker, alcoholic, lives in the Hull Quarter

JANE PORTER (Originally played by Jessica Campanile) – Publisher, newly moved into the Uptown

JUSTIN MARTINEZ (Originally played by Timmy Obiso) – Son of Arman, great student, gets bullied, attends public school in Hull Quarter

CRYSTAL PORTER (Originally Played by Josie Des Rosiers) – Daughter of Jane, gay, attends conservative private school Uptown

BECCA VAN TINE (Originally played by Kathy Colatta) – Childhood friend of Jane

 

GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES:

Time (for the beginning of the show): 8:30 AM, October

Setting: Milestown, Pennsylvania (Uptown: the wealthy, upper-middle class area [SR]; Hull Quarter: underprivileged area [SL])

 

SCENE 1

Lights up on ARMAN MARTINEZ standing alone next to the railroad track (SL), eating an Egg-McMuffin and listening to his IPod. This railroad track, literally dividing the stage into two sections, separates the town – Milestown, Pennsylvania – into two factions: a wealthy area (known as “Uptown”) and an underprivileged area (known as the “Hull Quarter”). On stage left is the kitchen/living room of a poorer family, ARMAN and his son, JUSTIN. Set on stage right is an evidently wealthier living area, which homes the newly arrived family: JANE PORTER and her daughter, CRYSTAL. Boxes fill JANE’s house, indicating she just recently moved to the area. It is 8:30 on a chilly Tuesday morning in October; ARMAN is eating his breakfast while waiting for the train to work, to a construction site in Philadelphia. No sounds are to be heard except the roar of cars, metal clashing against metal, and ARMAN’s chewing.

JANE PORTER rushes onto stage, flustered, with her iPhone GPS beeping in her hand.

 

JANE

You’ve got to be kidding me. I swear to god, I put in the right address!

 

ARMAN

Do you need some –

 

JANE

How do I get to the Milestown Swallding Station from here?

 

ARMAN

This is the Swallding station.

 

JANE

But… my directions specifically instructed me to arrive at the Milestown Swallding Station, and catch the 8:15 bus to Center City. I don’t see a bus.

 

ARMAN

Ah, well there’s the Swallding Park and Ride, which you missed about a mile uptown, and the Swallding Train Station, which you arrived at Just in time to make the 8:20 train to Center City.

 

JANE

You’ve got to be kidding me. (Beat) I saw a Swallding Private School on my route here. Big name in Milestown?

 

ARMAN

On your side, sure. You can find his mega-mansion a couple minutes up Orchard Blvd.

 

JANE

Only on my side?

 

ARMAN

(Chuckles)

Better investment.

 

JANE

I see. (Beat) Well, seeing as I would have missed my bus anyway apparently, I might as well just wait here for the train.

 

ARMAN

New in the area?

 

JANE

Painfully new. Can’t even find my way to a bus station.

 

ARMAN

Don’t take it too hard. It’s a common mistake for new-comers.

 

JANE

I’ll take your word for it, then. To be honest, my confidence can’t handle another blow. My daughter already got lost on her way to school. I was mindless enough to let her go alone on her first day.

 

ARMAN

Private or boarding?

 

JANE

Why not public?

 

ARMAN

How new are you?

 

JANE

Newer than I thought I’d seem after my first week. Private. Country Day Prep School.

 

ARMAN

(Phews)

God bless you.

 

JANE

What does that mean?

 

ARMAN

It means, good for you. It’s great education  for one shiny nickel.

 

JANE

(Shrugs)

We manage.

 

ARMAN

I’m sure you do. (Beat) You work by Rittenhouse?

 

JANE

Excuse me?

 

ARMAN

Rittenhouse Square.

 

JANE

Oh. Yeah. I got an editorial position at Trans-Atlantic.

 

ARMAN

So that’s how you earn that nickel. Publishing books.

 

JANE

You have to do what you love, right?

 

ARMAN

(Chuckles)

Sure.

 

JANE

Are you a builder?

 

ARMAN

Construction worker.

 

JANE

Do you love it?

 

ARMAN

This is getting a little deep for a first date.

 

JANE

Well, you’re forward. And I didn’t mean to pry. I’m sorry. (Pause) I consider it art, you know? Building.

 

ARMAN

Well, it’s not exactly my passion, I gotta say. But I like working with my hands.

 

JANE

Well, that’s good.

(Hears a faint rumble of the train. JANE checks her watch.)

And… right on time. It was nice meeting you.

 

ARMAN

Arman.

 

JANE

Jane. Thanks for the help.

(Boards train [escapes behind flat].  Lights dim indicating a time change to that evening. Exhausted, ARMAN reappears from behind the flat and enters his home after work. When home, he removes his jacket and pours himself a glass of water.)

 

SCENE 2

(There is a BOTTLE OF JACK and an ARRAY OF ENVELOPES on the table.

A moment later, his son JUSTIN arrives home from school, walking his bicycle out from behind the flat. JUSTIN is visually exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Drops his backpack.)

 

JUSTIN

(Is visually exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Drops his backpack.)

Hey, Dad.

 

ARMAN

(Concerned.)

Justin… where have you been? School ends at three. It’s almost seven-o’clock.

 

JUSTIN

Out.

 

ARMAN

Out?

 

JUSTIN

Out. I’ve been out.

 

ARMAN

Out with who? I mean, son, that’s great. I’m glad you’re seeing a little daylight. But, where have you been?

 

JUSTIN

With Daniel. At the Soldier’s Park.

 

ARMAN

Daniel, Mateo’s kid? I didn’t know you and Daniel were friends.

 

JUSTIN

Well, we are.

 

ARMAN

(Beat. Senses something’s up.)

Well, that’s great, son. I’m glad you’re getting out a little bit.

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer.)

How was school?

 

JUSTIN

It was fine.

 

ARMAN

How’s your research project coming in biology? (Pause, when JUSTIN doesn’t answer)  It’s the coolest idea, you know? Growing a little garden in a glass bottle. I never would have thought it up in a million years. (Pause, when JUSTIN doesn’t answer) To be honest, I don’t even understand it. You’re the brains of this family. (Pause, when JUSTIN doesn’t answer) So, how is it coming along?

 

JUSTIN

I have to start over.

 

ARMAN

What? You’ve been working on this project since August. What happened?

 

JUSTIN

The bottle broke before I could record any of the new data.

 

ARMAN

The bottle broke? How did that happen? You guard that bottle with your life.

 

JUSTIN

I dropped it. By accident. At school.

 

ARMAN

(Pause)

Is that the truth?

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer)

Someone broke it, didn’t they? It was those kids at school, wasn’t it?

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer)

Those little punks. I swear to God. Does your teacher know? Did you tell her?

 

JUSTIN

Dad, we tried that before. It’s not worth it. It doesn’t work, nothing changes.

 

ARMAN

What’s the point of a school that doesn’t protect its kids? Jesus Christ!

 

JUSTIN

My biology project is the least of their worries, with everything that happens there.

 

ARMAN

(Pause)

I want you to stay off the streets. I want you to come home after school.

 

JUSTIN

Okay.

(Beat. Motions to the liquor on the table.)

What’s with the bottle of Jack? I thought you stopped drinking.

 

ARMAN

Of course I have. You know that. It was a gift from Mr. Anderson.

 

JUSTIN

Our landlord? Why?

 

ARMAN

Paying rent isn’t easy right now, and he knows that.

 

JUSTIN

So he gets you a bottle of Jack?

 

ARMAN

Man to man. It’s “pity liquor”.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, I told you I can handle another job. It’ll help us. And if it’ll keep you from drinking…

 

ARMAN

I don’t drink anymore, Justin. And I just want you to focus on your grades. We’ll be okay, son. I have it under control.

 

JUSTIN

Okay. But the offer’s still there if you change your mind.

 

ARMAN

I don’t drink anymore, Justin. And why don’t you go upstairs and do your homework? I’ll make us some dinner.

 

JUSTIN

Okay.

(JUSTIN disappears behind the flat. Alone now, ARMAN stares at the mountain of envelopes on his table. With a breath, he begins opening the envelopes and stares helplessly at the bills that he cannot pay, getting more and more frustrated and exasperated with each opened letter. On the third envelope, he glances at the bottle of alcohol next to him, and opens the seal. As he pours himself a glass, lights dim on ARMAN’s side of the stage and brighten on JANE’s side.)

 

SCENE 3

(JANE is coming home from work. Her daughter CRYSTAL has her feet propped up on the kitchen table, reading the DaVinci code, and listening to her IPod.)

JANE

(Removes her jacket and lays that and her purse on the sofa.)

Legs down, please.

 

CRYSTAL

Hey, mom. How was work?

 

JANE

(Crosses over to kiss CRYSTAL on the top of her head.)

Wonderful actually. Exhausting, but it has a lot of promise.

 

CRYSTAL

I can’t even express how jealous I am. You better hook me up with a summer internship or something.

 

JANE

(Laughs)

I have to settle in myself before I start asking for favors.

 

CRYSTAL

(Groans)

Trans-Atlantic. The Mecca of publishing companies. I’m destined to work there.

 

JANE

I’m sure you will, soon enough. How was school?

 

CRYSTAL

(Shrugs)

You know they don’t have a GSA?

 

JANE

Well this isn’t like your old school, honey. It’s a little more conservative here.

 

CRYSTAL

So why did you enroll me in a school I wouldn’t fit into?  It’s practically the capital of Straight State over there.

 

JANE

I didn’t just enroll you, Crysie. You got accepted, into one of the best magnet schools in the area. And I know you’ll be your gorgeous gay self wherever you go.

 

CRYSTAL

(Shrugs. Beat.)

It’s a little difficult when everybody tries to cast you out. I mean, I’m all for being the black sheep,  but… (sighs) Somebody called me a dyke.

 

JANE

What? Who? It’s your first day!

 

CRYSTAL

These bimbos in my homeroom. They were having this twisted little cumbaya over who they hooked up with at a party last weekend. And I was sort listening in, so they asked me if I have a boyfriend. And I said no, but I told them I broke up with Ana before I moved in from Jersey. And they all stared like they’d seen Fanny the friggen Circus Elephant and asked if I’m “some sort of a dyke”.

 

JANE

Oh honey… I’m so sorry. This is unacceptable. I’m going to talk to your principal.

 

CRYSTAL

No, no. Don’t do that. You know me; I don’t really care what people say. I dealt with homophobes back in Jersey too. (Beat) But you know. Damn. That was fast.

 

JANE

Baby… Maybe I should pull you out. There are other good schools in the area with open registration periods.

 

CRYSTAL

No, it’s fine. I can’t quit now. And anyway, there’s gotta be a gay community in the area. I just have to look harder, is all.

 

JANE

My girl. You’re so brave. (Beat, tension softens) You know I would have decked her right in the face.

 

CRYSTAL

Useless. Her parents would have just paid for her nose job.

 

JANE

Just try to keep your nose safe.

(Kiss CRYSTAL)

Besides that. Do you like your classes?

 

CRYSTAL

Yeah, I do. Kinda harder than the academics at my old school though. And they actually check the homework here. I think I’m actually going to have to… study or something.

 

JANE

I know you’ll manage.

(A loud knock comes to the door.)

That must be Becca.

(Crosses to the door. JANE opens the door to her close friend BECCA, standing there in top-quality clothing, and holding a box of pizza and a bottle of red wine.)

 

JANE

(Looks at the bottle of wine and gasps.)

Silver Oak?! I couldn’t find it in any of the liquor stores around here!

 

BECCA

So the wine gets a hello?

 

JANE

(Embraces her friend warmly.) 

Becca. I’ve missed you.

 

BECCA

Well I had to make sure you were settling in smoothly. (To CRYSTAL) Hey, honey!

 

CRYSTAL

Hey! Thanks for the ride this morning. I would’ve found myself in Bumblefuck Nowhere without your GPS.

 

JANE

Watch your mouth. And really, thank you. I felt so guilty, having her call you.

 

BECCA

Don’t you dare feel bad. No niece of mine gets stuck in Bumblefuck Nowhere without my rescue.

 

JANE

You’re an angel. Let me take your jacket.

 

CRYSTAL

Can I take your pizza?

 

BECCA

Yes and yes.

(BECCA places the pizza on the table, and CRYSTAL begins devouring it. JANE retrieves two wine glasses, and they cross to the sofa.)

 

JANE

Thanks for coming over, Becca. It’s unbelievable that this all worked out so perfectly; me getting this job, us living close again. It’s making the transition so much easier.

 

BECCA

I’m as happy as you are. Living near my best friend, finally. Just like when we were kids.

 

JANE

We always said we’d move out of Jersey together. It just took me a little longer. (Takes a sip of wine.)

 

BECCA

(Beat. On a serious note.)

How have you been, Jane?

 

JANE

Tired from all the unpacking. But generally decent.

 

BECCA

You know what I mean, Jane. Has he called?

 

JANE

(Sighs)

No, he hasn’t.

 

BECCA

Good. It better stay that way. Just tell me if that prick digs up the nerve to call you.

 

JANE

C’mon. Leave it alone, Becca.

 

BECCA

You know I just want you to be safe and happy. You were neither of those things with him.

 

JANE

It was always more complicated than my happiness, and you know that. It still is.

 

BECCA

(Pause) Meaning you still haven’t told Crystal.

 

JANE

She knows he drank. That’s reason enough. She doesn’t need to know everything.

 

BECCA

I think she deserves to know, as his daughter.

 

JANE

It’s not about what she deserves. She’s going through enough with this transition. She doesn’t need to be held down by any more negativity.

 

BECCA

I’m just saying. She would stop blaming you if she knew how bad it got.

 

JANE

She’s not angry anymore. Neither am I. We’re both recovering, and we’re in a better place. Just please, leave it alone. I’ll always want your support but… give this some space.

 

BECCA

I can’t control what you do, Jane. And I’m not trying to pry myself into your personal life. I honestly just want to hold your hand through this all this. You remember how difficult my divorce was, and how much you helped me through that period. You helped me re-establish myself, and I just want to do the same for you.

 

JANE

I know, I know. You know I’m grateful for all your support in the past couple months. I’m just trying to do what’s right for myself and Crystal.

 

BECCA

That’s exactly what you’re doing, Jane. You got a fantastic job with stable pay, you enrolled Crystal in the best school in the area. You’re doing everything right.

 

JANE

I hope you’re right, Becca. You’re my objective eye, as always.

 

BECCA

And I always will be. Just one tiny thing… I know you’re not so familiar with the area yet. Just make sure you walk with somebody if you’re in the Hull Quarter at night. Tell Crystal too.

 

JANE

Where?

 

BECCA

You know, the neighborhood past the railroad track? It’s not the safest area, especially at night.

 

JANE

Really? I passed by Hull Quarter on my way to work. Houses are a little bit smaller, but it seemed pretty quiet to me.

 

BECCA

It’s not. There are some rough neighborhoods around there; this town is nowhere near as dangerous as it once was, but I still wouldn’t want to hang out around Hull Quarter. You’ll see cops racing there all the time. Just be extra cautious when you’re around that area.

 

JANE

Okay. You know better than I do.

 

BECCA

(Smiles at her friend)

I’m so excited for you, Janie. You couldn’t have moved here at a better time. It’s so up-and-coming.

 

JANE

(Laughs)

That’s exactly what my real estate agent said.

 

BECCA

And this adorable line of boutiques just opened up in town. I’ll take you there this weekend.

 

JANE

Please don’t encourage me to spend all of my first week’s salary.

 

BECCA

(Laughs)

Maybe just half. (To CRYSTAL) Hey Crys! How’s the pizza?

 

CRYSTAL

(Turns)

Well, it’s gone.

 

JANE

Of course it is. Your stomach is black hole.

 

CRYSTAL

I could go for some ice cream.

 

BECCA

I’ll drive.

 

JANE

You’re killing us.

 

SCENE 4a

(Lights fade and then blue light shines down on the stage. Action transitions to later that night, when JANE is alone and asleep on the couch with a glass of wine in her hand. ARMAN is plastered, sitting at the table. He attempts to stand, but his hand slips and he stumbles to his feet. He attempts to take a step, but stumbles again, falling this time. JUSTIN, having heard the fall, rushes to his father and silently aids him to his feet. JUSTIN leads him to the flat, where his bedroom is, but ARMAN breaks down crying. JUSTIN helps him up and leads him behind the flat. JUSTIN emerges again to pick up the handle of Jack on the table, and stare at it with disgust. While this happens, CRYSTAL, evidently as though still half asleep, enters from the closet to remove the wine from her hand and place it on the table, and gently and silently wake her mom up, leading her to her bed.)

SCENE 4b

(Blue light fades, and lights rise; the sound of the train indicates a time change to the following day. JANE prepares for work, pouring coffee into a thermos. Simultaneously, clearly hung-over ARMAN prepares for work, grabbing his equipment and his bag of McDonald’s breakfast. During this preparation, ARMAN’s phone rings. When he picks up, he arrives at the railroad track.)

ARMAN

Hello? … Mr. Anderson, hi. … I’m doing pretty good, thanks. Just on my way to work… Right, yes. Thanks for calling me back. I, uh, wanted to talk to you about delaying this month’s payment. Until next month… I know, I know. I’ll pay it, I promise. I just need more time…

 

(JANE enters on the other side of the railroad track to wait for her train to work, and catches the conversation. ARMAN doesn’t notice her entrance.)

 

This time is different, I swear. I have two jobs, Mr. Anderson. And I’m driving an Uber in Center City on the weekends… I’m doing everything I can. I just need more time… Please, just consider it… Thank you so much Mr. Anderson. Yes, absolutely. Thank you. We’ll talk. (Hangs up. Sits and buries his face in his hands.)

 

JANE

I’m sorry, um… (Unsure of what to say)

 

ARMAN

(Stands)

Oh, hey. Can’t find the bus again?

 

JANE

No, no. I’m here for the 8:20 train, actually. It seems you’ve converted me.

 

ARMAN

It’s a part of acclimating to the town.

 

JANE

I’ve gathered that much… seems to me like everybody takes the train here more than they walk.

 

ARMAN

(Shrugs)

It’s how we all commute to work. Plus, it’s the one spot in this town where where we all sit together! Look at that: community. (jokingly but with a tinge of resentment)  

 

JANE

I’ve noticed that too. And the train is doing the town good, isn’t it? Bringing some great real estate to the area. And my agent tells me it’s just the beginning of an upward trend.

 

ARMAN

Yup. Life has never been better… (Sarcastically)

 

JANE

I mean it’s really up-and-coming. It’s making Milestown a really desirable area to live in.

 

ARMAN

Not with us here.

 

JANE

I’m sorry?

 

ARMAN

It won’t make the Hull Quarter desirable for my family. Or my neighbors. It’ll just kick us out one by one until everything is Uptown.

 

JANE

That won’t happen.

 

ARMAN

It already started happening. (Groans) I’m buried to my chin in debt. I haven’t paid my rent in two months. I’m going to lose my apartment.

 

JANE

You can get help, can’t you?

 

ARMAN

We’re all getting broomed out. It’s just a matter of time.

 

JANE

I’m sorry.

 

ARMAN

Thanks, but I really don’t want your pity.

 

JANE

But I’m sure there’s a specialist you could go to for financial advice. They can help you.

 

ARMAN

Specialist, ha. They all say the same thing. Cut spending, take up another job. Make Justin get another job. Useless.

 

JANE

You’re son, right! Does your son work?

 

ARMAN

For minimum wage, sure. He wants to take up a second job, but there’s no way I’m letting him. My son is finishing school.

 

JANE

Oh. Is he struggling with grades?

 

ARMAN

His grades are fine. Great, actually. Better than I ever did. (Beat) He gets trouble for it, to be honest.

 

JANE

What kind of trouble?

 

ARMAN

He gets bullied pretty badly.

 

JANE

Because of his grades?

 

ARMAN

Because he’s succeeding.

 

JANE

I see. Crystal isn’t having the easiest time acclimating to her new school either.

 

ARMAN

Because she’s new?

 

JANE

Because she’s gay, actually.

 

ARMAN

Oh.

 

JANE

That seems to be the general reaction from this town.

 

ARMAN

Well, Country Day definitely isn’t liberal. Neither is this town, if you haven’t noticed. At least not yet.

 

JANE

I’ve noticed. But she’ll find her niche, I’m sure. She’s a strong girl.

 

ARMAN

I wish I could say the same about Justin. If he’d just realize that all he has to do is stand up to those punks… they’ll leave him alone. He just needs to show them that he’s not a medicine ball for their problems.

 

JANE

Have you told him that?

 

ARMAN

Of course. But to take advice and to practice it are different.

 

JANE

I understand. Listen, I’m sorry, what’s your name again?

 

ARMAN

Arman Martinez. And you’re Jane, right?

 

JANE

Yes, Jane. Why don’t you and your son come over for dinner tonight?

 

ARMAN

No, no, that’s very kind of you, but –

 

JANE

I insist. It’ll be nice! Justin will meet my daughter, Crystal. It’ll be good for us to find friends in the area.

 

ARMAN

(Pause)

Okay then. Dinner tonight.

(Train sounds)

 

JANE

6:30?

 

ARMAN

6:30.

 

JANE

We’re at 150 Scott Street. The second house on the right, with the blue hinges.

 

ARMAN

We’ll be there. I’ll bring something.

 

JANE

(“CHOO CHOO” sounds.)

Great, I’ll see you at 6:30, then!

 

ARMAN

Bye.

(JANE disappears behind the flat. ARMAN, looking bewildered, disappears behind the flat and then lights dim to indicate that NIGHT has come.)

 

SCENE 5

(Exhausted, he arrives home and walks over to the bottle of jack to pour himself a glass, but then after a moment, puts down the bottle and pours himself a glass of water. He walks over to the table, and continues to open the envelopes. Soon after, JUSTIN enters with a ballcap covering his eyes. JUSTIN keeps his head down while speaking.)

 

ARMAN

Hey son. How was school?

 

JUSTIN

Long. I’m tired, I’m going upstairs.

 

ARMAN

Why are you wearing your hat like that? I’m sorry son, but only Michael Jackson can pull that off.

 

JUSTIN

Because I like it. Leave me alone.

 

ARMAN

Are you okay, son?

 

JUSTIN

I’m fine.

 

ARMAN

(Softly)

… Look at me.

 

JUSTIN

No, I’m going upstairs.

 

ARMAN

Look at me, son.

(Tilt the cap up to reveal a dark bruise covering his eye.)

Jesus Christ.

 

JUSTIN

It’s not as bad as it looks…

 

ARMAN

Like hell it isn’t! That’s it. I’m going to your school tomorrow.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, no.

 

ARMAN

Don’t try to talk me out of it.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, there’s a pattern here that you’re clearly not following. Don’t you realize that that’s only going to make it worse? It always does. You can’t keep doing this to me.

 

ARMAN

Son, I’m only trying to help you.

 

JUSTIN

I know you are, but you don’t know these kids. You don’t understand; they’re brutal. I hate it. I hate going to school. Everyday I walk into class, I’m horrified that today’s the day that they’re gonna pull a knife on me or something. You don’t understand.

 

ARMAN

I know you hate it, son. And I know you’re scared. I’m so sorry I can’t make it better.

 

JUSTIN

I want to drop out.

 

ARMAN

Justin, no. You can’t.

 

JUSTIN

Yes, I can. School doesn’t do anything for me. The academics suck, the teachers suck, the people suck. I don’t want them to hurt me anymore. Why aren’t you helping me?

 

ARMAN

Son, listen to me. You can’t drop out. Milestown High is the worst kind of hell. I get it. I remember. I’m sorry I can’t afford to send you to a better school. But you have two more years, that’s it! And then you’ll graduate, and go to college. And you’ll get so much farther than anyone in this neighborhood ever did. This won’t be your life.

 

JUSTIN

I don’t want to let you down, Dad. But I can’t stand it anymore.

 

ARMAN

Yes, you can. You just have to stand up for yourself. Have confidence. Show them that you’re not a punching bag for them to take their problems out on.

 

JUSTIN

I’m trying.

 

ARMAN

I know you are. When they see you standing up for yourself, they’ll back off. You hear me?

 

JUSTIN

Yeah. I hear you.

 

ARMAN

Good. Now, why don’t you go and take a shower? We’re going to a friend’s house for dinner tonight?

 

JUSTIN

Really? Who?

 

ARMAN

A family that just moved in.

 

JUSTIN

Into the neighborhood?

 

ARMAN

No. Into the other side of town.

(JUSTIN does not answer.)

What’s wrong?

 

JUSTIN

You know what’s wrong, Dad.

 

ARMAN

I do?

 

JUSTIN

Since when have you been hanging out with people from there?

 

ARMAN

Since now. And not “people”. Friends.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, it’s just… there’s a reason nobody crosses the tracks. We don’t go there, they don’t come here, that’s just the way it works.

 

ARMAN

Son, they’re people, too. Just like us.

 

JUSTIN

Dad, these are the people that who don’t want to fund our schools while they send their kids to private schools. You know that. Those are the people who make it harder for us to live here. They’re kicking us out! You’ve always told me that.

 

ARMAN

I know I have. Just… be nice. Please.

 

JUSTIN

If those kids at school find out that we’re hanging out with them… They’ll kill me. I swear, they will.

 

ARMAN

No they won’t. You’ll stand up for yourself, remember? (JUSTIN doesn’t answer.) Now, take a shower. We’re leaving at 6:15.

(After a pause indicating his acquiescence, JUSTIN escapes behind the flat. ARMAN pauses for a moment, and takes the bottle of Jack and places it under the table. He escapes behind the flat as well.)

 

SCENE 6

(ARMAN and JUSTIN, decked in clearly worn suit jackets, hesitantly cross the train track. [This is a strong moment]. ARMAN is holding a Quick-Chek bag in his arms. They escape behind the SR flat. Meanwhile, in JANE’s home, JANE is preparing the table for dinner, putting down plates, cups, etc. CRYSTAL is on the ground with a sprawled deck of cards, playing amazon solitaire. A loud knock is heard at the door.)

 

JANE

(Glances at her watch)

Shoot. Shoot shoot shoot. (Rushes to finish fixing the table)

 

CRYSTAL

Is that what’s-his-name?

 

JANE

(Corrects) Their-names. Arman and Justin. Yeah. And right on time, too.

 

CRYSTAL

That’s a good thing, for most people.

 

JANE

I know, I know. Okay. How do I look?

 

CRYSTAL

(Jokes) That depends. What are you trying to achieve tonight?

 

JANE

Nothing. Making new friends in our new home, that’s all.

 

CRYSTAL

Then you look like Betty Crocker. Take off the apron.

 

JANE

(Realizing she still has it on.)

Shoot. (Takes it off) Dress isn’t too much?

 

CRYSTAL

You look good. (Another knock) Okay. They’re not going to let themselves in.

 

JANE

Okay, okay. (Straightens her dress, and opens the door) Arman! Hi! Welcome! (Kisses both his cheeks.)

 

ARMAN

Hi, Jane. Thank you again for having us over.

 

JANE

It’s my pleasure. (She looks to JUSTIN and gasps when she sees his bruises, badly covered with make-up. Tries to act normal.) Hi, Justin. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you.

(JUSTIN doesn’t answer)

ARMAN

Say hi, Justin.

 

JUSTIN

Hey.

 

ARMAN

He’s a little shy.

 

JANE

Almost the opposite of my Crystal. (To CRYSTAL) Crys, why don’t you come and introduce yourself?

 

CRYSTAL

(Stands and comes to JUSTIN. Extends her hand.)

Hey, buddy. I’m Crys.

 

JUSTIN

(Hesitantly meets her hand)

Justin. (Looks to the cards on the floor) What are you playing?

 

CRYSTAL

Amazon solitaire. And I can’t beat it. I’m literally losing to myself. Do you know how to play?

 

JUSTIN

No.

 

CRYSTAL

Want me to teach you?

 

JUSTIN

(After a pause)

Uh… alright.

(The two sit around the cards, and CRYSTAL silently explains the game to JUSTIN. ARMAN and JANE are still standing.)

 

ARMAN

Take a look at that.

 

JANE

It’s nearly impossible to feel awkward around Crys. She’s the most sociable person I know. I must admit she gets it from her father.

 

ARMAN

You wouldn’t call yourself sociable? You spoke to me that first day.

 

JANE

I had a question.

 

ARMAN

Could have asked Google.

 

JANE

Technology wasn’t acting so much in my favor. And besides, you seemed so approachable, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

 

ARMAN

Don’t blame the technology. It’s not Google’s fault you didn’t know there were two Swallding Stations. But still, I’m glad you asked me.

 

JANE

As am I. Would you like some wine?

 

ARMAN

No, I shouldn’t. Thank you though.

 

JANE

Are you sure? It’s my favorite. Silver Oak. My friend got it for me in Napa.

 

ARMAN

… Maybe one glass.

 

JANE

Yeah, one glass can’t hurt. (Pours him and herself a glass) It’s the whole bottle you need to stay away from. Which is quite a challenge, with this brand. (They clink glasses, and take a sip.) A winner, isn’t it?

 

ARMAN

(Groans)

It’s been a while since I had good wine.

 

JANE

I can enjoy any red, but this is the top of the top.

(A knock is heard at the door.)

Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me for a second. (Goes to the door.) Who is it?

 

BECCA

“Thing two”. With more pizza and wine.

 

JANE

(Opens the door. Laughs)

Becca. The queen of arriving unannounced. Come on in. (BECCA enters, and sees ARMAN.)

 

BECCA

(Politely)

Who is this?

 

JANE

Becca, meet Arman; he lives in town. Arman, this is my childhood friend, Rebecca.

 

ARMAN

(Extends his hand for a shake)

Pleasure.

 

BECCA

(Meets his hand. The meeting is clearly a bit tense, from  her side.)

Arman Martinez, right?

 

ARMAN

That’s me. Sorry, I don’t…

 

BECCA

Oh, I used to volunteer for Peace-Trade Alliance. I was your sponsor. We met once or twice at the community meetings.

 

JANE

Well, this is turning into a reunion! I didn’t know you volunteered, Becca. What kind of organization is this?

 

ARMAN

Oh, it was just —

 

BECCA

— We collected and cooked food for hungry families in the Hull quarter.

(Pause)

 

ARMAN

… We were.. It was just for a period of time. A little down on our luck, was all.

 

BECCA

It’s no reason to be ashamed, honey. We all have had our tough periods.

 

ARMAN

Yeah.

(Pause)

 

JANE

Why don’t we start eating? Becca, you’re welcome to join us, of course.

 

BECCA

Thanks, darling. Let me help you set up. Arman, why don’t you help the kids pack up the cards?

 

ARMAN

Sure.

(ARMAN goes over to the kids. BECCA pulls JANE over to the side.)

BECCA

Jane, I know this guy.

 

JANE

I know, you just announced that. Try not to make him feel so awkward, okay?

 

BECCA

No, I mean, I know him. You shouldn’t be hanging out with him, Jane.

 

JANE

Why, because he lives in the Hull Quarter? Give me a break, Becca. Open up a little bit.

 

BECCA

I’m just trying to —

 

JANE

— To protect me, I know. Just be nice.

 

ARMAN

(From the other side of the room.)

Do you guys need help?

 

BECCA

(Before JANE can answer.)

No, we got it! Thanks! (Pulls JANE into the closet to retrieve a large bowl of pasta and salad. The kids and ARMAN sit at the table patiently. ARMAN sparks conversation as BECCA and JANE bring out the food.)

 

ARMAN

So, Crystal. I know Country Day is a lot different from your old school. How are you liking it?

 

CRYSTAL

It’s okay. I’m going to try to develop an LGBT club there. Hopefully it’ll be established by the time I graduate.

 

JUSTIN

Are you gay?

 

CRYSTAL

Yes.

 

JUSTIN

That’s cool. I don’t know any gay people.

 

CRYSTAL

(Smiles)

Well, now you do. Seems like that’s the case with most people in this town.

 

JUSTIN

Must be hard.

 

CRYSTAL

(Shrugs)

You learn to pick yourself up. And not let anybody else phase you.

(JUSTIN stays silent. BECCA and JANE bring out the food, and sit.)

 

ARMAN

You’re strong. That’ll do you good in life.

 

JANE

Yes she is, my Crystal. Alright, guys, let’s eat.

(CRYSTAL  immediately reaches for the pizza. JUSTIN follows. BECCA pours herself a glass of wine.)

 

BECCA

So Arman. Do you still live in the same apartment complex?

 

ARMAN

Yes ma’am. Almost sixteen years, now. Did you live in Milestown your whole life?

 

BECCA

Nope. Born in Jersey.

 

ARMAN

And your parents?

 

BECCA

Jersey.

 

ARMAN

Oh. Fascinating.

 

JANE

Becca and I actually grew up as neighbors. We made a promise when we were young that we’d move out of the state together. Now it finally happened.

 

BECCA

Took us long enough.

 

ARMAN

I can’t imagine moving out of Milestown. I know it’s not Beverly Hills, butit’s home.

 

JANE

I can understand that. And it’s nice being only a train ride away from Center City, which is so convenient. (To JUSTIN) How are you enjoying the food?

 

JUSTIN

Amazing. We’ve had soup for a month straight.

 

ARMAN

I’m not the best cook.

 

BECCA

(Clears her throat)

So Arman. What do you do now?

 

ARMAN

I do a lot of things.

 

BECCA

That’s fascinating. Like what?

 

ARMAN

I’m a builder.

 

BECCA

A construction worker?

 

ARMAN

Yeah, a construction worker.

 

BECCA

JANE

(After a pause)

Are we all done eating? You know, Arman and Justin brought cheesecake. It smelled delicious.

 

CRYSTAL

I’d go for a slice. You down? I could finish teaching you that card game.

 

JUSTIN

Okay, sure.

 

JANE

It’s in the refrigerator. Why don’t you kids go to the kitchen and eat it before I can get to it?

 

CRYSTAL

No need to ask twice.

(Kids disappear into the closet)  

JANE

Becca, why don’t you go with them? Make sure they don’t hurt themselves cutting the cake.

 

BECCA

Crystal is seventeen. I think they’ll manage.

 

JANE

(Giving her the “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE” look)

A little adult supervision can never hurt. C’mon.

 

BECCA

(Caving in.)

Fine. Fine. But I’m finishing that cake. And I’m coming back when we’re done.

 

JANE

Thanks Becca. (BECCA disappears into the closet after the kids.)

 

ARMAN

Thanks for dinner. It was delicious.

 

JANE

We’re glad to have you. (Beat) I’m sorry about Becca. She’s a little protective. She’s always been, but she kind of amped it up after my divorce.

 

ARMAN

It’s good to have a friend like that. Keeps you safe. Where I’m from, your friends do anything to protect you. Your group is like your family.

 

JANE

Sometimes your family isn’t so loyal. My husband definitely wasn’t.

 

ARMAN

I see. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

 

JANE

He had a drinking problem.

(ARMAN freezes. JANE doesn’t notice.)

He was fine when he was sober. Wonderful, actually. A perfect husband, a perfect father. But he got angry when he drank.

 

ARMAN

In what way?

 

JANE

Angry over insignificant things. Misplacing the remote, not having enough beer in the fridge. When he started drinking more often, it got worse and worse. He started… (Cuts) It turned into a really traumatic period.

 

ARMAN

Alcohol is poison. I’m sorry you had to deal with that kind of trouble.

 

JANE

I am too. Crystal knew he drank, but she never saw how bad it got. She was angry at me for a long time.

 

ARMAN

You did the right thing, protecting her. You’re a good mother.

 

JANE

(Pause)

Could I ask about Justin’s mom?

 

ARMAN

What would you like to know?

 

JANE

Where is she?

 

ARMAN

She passed away when Justin was a kid. Car accident.

 

JANE

Oh. (beat) I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.

 

ARMAN

No, it’s okay. I wish she was still alive, but to be honest, Justin is better off. She wouldn’t have been a good mother.

 

JANE

I see. How did you two meet?

 

ARMAN

High school. We were friends with the same “crowd”, you know.

 

JANE

Did you marry after high school?

 

ARMAN

No, no. Neither of us were ready. We didn’t really have the time, anyway, involved in what we were involved in

 

JANE

What was that?

 

ARMAN

Just the people I hung out with. The… “crowd”.

 

JANE

What, were you in a gang or something?

 

ARMAN

Something like that.

(Pause)

ARMAN

You have to understand… in my area, the only way you’ll survive is if you’re backed by one. You either throw the knife or get hit.

 

JANE

And your son?

 

ARMAN

No. Absolutely not. Justin’s not in a gang. But, to be honest, it’s why he has such a horrible experience at school. I know. I was one those kids that did the beating when I went to Milestown. He just doesn’t get that if he stands up for himself, they’ll leave him alone.

(Pause)

I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told you all that.

 

JANE

No, it’s okay. I can’t say I understand because I never lived through it. But… I get it. I understand you.

 

ARMAN

It’s always been hard for people from Uptown to understand it. They look at us and see gangsters. Dangerous people. We’re just trying to live our lives in the place we’ve always lived

 

JANE

Of course. You’re not a bad guy, Arman, and I see that.

 

ARMAN

And you’re more than what I expected an Uptown girl to be like. Speaking honestly.

 

JANE

(Smiles slightly)

Then I think we’re both glad we met each other.

 

ARMAN

I’d say so.

 

JANE

I like to think things work out for the better.

 

ARMAN

That’s a sweet way to think.

 

JANE

(Laughs)

You sound like you disagree.

 

ARMAN

I don’t know. It’s a bit unrealistic.

 

JANE

I say it’s good to be positive.

 

ARMAN

I say it’s better to be realistic.

 

JANE

You could be realistically positive. Find the light in your circumstance.

 

ARMAN

Or, you could be realistically realistic, and take your circumstances as they come.

 

JANE

I vote we settle on realistically positive.

 

ARMAN

Okay, deal.

 

JANE

Shake on it?

(ARMAN extends his hand, and JANE takes it into hers. It begins as a shake, but then slows until they’re just holding each other’s hand. After a moment, JANE quickly reaches over and kisses him. ARMAN is surprised.)

 

ARMAN

Oh.

 

JANE

Sorry. I’m sorry. That was way too fast.

 

ARMAN

No, no. It’s okay.

 

JANE

I’m usually not this forward at all. Shoot. I’m sorry —

(ARMAN reaches over to kiss her. This is a longer kiss. After a moment of this, BECCA walks in, catching them; ARMAN and JANE jump apart.)

 

SCENE 7

(BECCA, surprised having walked in on them both, quickly turns around. She clears her throat.)

 

BECCA

The cake’s gone.

JANE

Oh, fast eaters. Must have been good.

BECCA

Let me talk to you for a minute, Jane.

JANE

Oh, um. Would you mind holding that off until later tonight?

BECCA

I’d really prefer if we spoke right now.

ARMAN

Don’t worry about it. I’ll just go see how Justin is doing.

 

JANE

Okay. Thanks, Arman. The kitchen is the second door on the right.

(ARMAN passes BECCA and disappears into the closet)

 

JANE

You promised me you’d be nice.

BECCA

Don’t get involved with him, Jane. If even for Crystal’s sake. Don’t get involved with him.

JANE

What? Why are you so closed off? You were just raving about how wonderful he was half an hour ago.

BECCA

Because I know him, Jane. I know his past.

JANE

So do I, he just told me.

BECCA

I seriously doubt he told you everything. You just recovered from the most destructive marriage, don’t jump back into fire.

JANE

Whatever you think he was, or is, he’s not anymore. It’s been, what, ten years since you’ve sponsored him? People change. People get better. He has.

BECCA

You don’t just grow out of that life. It’s with you, even if you try to cover it up. Like he’s clearly doing with his hand-me-down suit and Quik Chek cheesecake.

JANE

What is it, Becca? Where he lives? His income? His job? The fact that his suit isn’t Calvin Klein? Tell me, what is it?

BECCA

He’s a criminal, Jane. A thug. You nevergrow out of that.

 

JANE

You’re wrong.

 

BECCA

I’m sorry Jane, but I promised you I’d be your objective eye. And that’s what I’m being.

 

JANE

But, you knew him as he was before. He’s a better man now.

 

BECCA

If your ex-husband walked in here and insisted he’s changed. Would you go back to him?

 

JANE

That’s different.

 

BECCA

Is it? (Silence) You’ve already been with a drunk who hurt you. Beat you. That kind of violence doesn’t go away with time. You think this thug is any better?. (Beat) And think of Crystal.

(ARMAN comes back with CRYSTAL and JUSTIN)

 

ARMAN

Is everything alright here?

 

JANE

I’m sorry, Arman. But you need to leave.

 

ARMAN

What?

 

JANE

You need to leave.

 

ARMAN

I don’t understand. What happened? (To BECCA)  What did you tell her?

 

BECCA

Everything you didn’t tell her. Your past.

 

ARMAN

And what do you know about my past, exactly?

 

BECCA

Oh, c’mon Arman. Your record isn’t a secret to anybody.

 

ARMAN

Well, that’s exactly what all that is. My past.

 

JANE

I’m sorry, Arman, but Becca’s right. The past that you have… everything you did… it’s with you for the rest of your life. I don’t want to expose that to my daughter. I’m sorry, but I want you to leave.

 

ARMAN

You have no idea what it’s like. You live in a bubble, a utopia; you have no clue. Everyday I struggle for my life, my house, my job. To not get shot. To have food on the table to feed our children. It’s survival.

BECCA

So is drinking a survival mechanism now?

JANE

Drinking? What are you talking about?

ARMAN

Shit, Jane…

BECCA

He’s an alcoholic.

JANE

No he’s not.

BECCA

He was back then, and he still is now. One of my old co-volunteers was visiting his sponsored family in the Hull Quarter last week, and saw him plastered outside of his apartment building.

ARMAN

Jane, it’s not what you think.

BECCA

It’s exactly what you think. You don’t want to jump back into that.

JANE

Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you accept the wine?

ARMAN

It was exactly as you said! I didn’t drink the whole bottle. And one glass doesn’t hurt.

JANE

It does if you’re an alcoholic!

(Everyone goes silent. By this time, CRYSTAL and JUSTIN have made their way outside, silently watching the fight)

Leave.

ARMAN

Listen to me Jane, just hear me out –

JANE

There’s nothing to hear. I want you out.

ARMAN

But what about everything we were talking about before? Nothing changed.

JANE

Nothing would have happened between us. (ARMAN is stunned, stays silent.) Just, leave. Please.

(JUSTIN, who expected something like this to happen, sadly walks over to ARMAN and gently tugs his arm.)

JUSTIN

Come on, dad.

(Defeated, ARMAN and JUSTIN cross back behind the flat, over the railroad track, and back into their home, where [JUSTIN remains behind the flat] ARMAN enters the home, and sees an envelope taped to the door. He opens it at the table, and reads the eviction notice. Utterly defeated, he takes out the bottle of Jack and stares at it in his hand. After a pause and a subtly evident change of thought, he begins to cry as the stage goes dark.)

 

SCENE 8

(Lights up on JANE waiting for the train, listening to her IPod and drinking a shake from her thermos. ARMAN arrives, and clears his throat.)

ARMAN

Jane?

JANE

(Takes out headphones.)

Arman, hey. How are you? It’s been…

ARMAN

A couple weeks, I know.

JANE

It felt a little longer.

ARMAN

Well, you know. How our dinner turned out, I assumed you needed space.

JANE

Yeah, I did. And I do. I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way it seemed it would.

ARMAN

I know. But, if you have a minute before your train comes… I want to apologize. About keeping my drinking problem from you. And taking that wine. I’ve been this way for years. It’s just… alcoholism is hard for me to grasp. Once you’re given a diagnosis, the problem becomes so much more real.

JANE

Arman, I’m –

ARMAN

Just… please. I’m almost done. (Continues) I came home that night to an eviction notice. So, you know. I was devastated. Terrified. But the first thing I did after I read the notice was take my bottle of Jack and pour it all down my sink. All of it.. (Beat) I can’t tell you how much I hated myself after it was all over. All I wanted to do was sprint to the convenience store and buy a handle of Bacardi and drink myself unconscious. I almost did, to be honest. But I didn’t. I forced myself to take an Advil and go to sleep, and worry about everything else in the morning. (Beat) I haven’t drunk anything since your wine.

JANE

You should be so proud of yourself, Arman. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for you, but you did it. That’s an incredible amount of strength.

ARMAN

Well, it’s a step. Puts me in a better place than I was before.

JANE

It definitely does.

ARMAN

(Beat) So, Justin and I are moving into Philadelphia next week. We found an apartment complex by Cheltenham, in not so bad of an area. And the commute is only a couple minutes more than it was here.

JANE

Next week, huh? That’s… very abrupt. But I suppose it has to be.

ARMAN

Yeah, unfortunately. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. Realistically positive, right?

JANE

That’s what we agreed on. (Beat) How does Justin feel about it?

ARMAN

Exactly as I feel. He’s nervous to start going to a new school in a completely new area. But I think a change like this will be good for him. Starting on an entirely blank slate. (Beat) It’ll be good for me too.

JANE

Arman, I want you to know that I thought about everything that happened, everything Becca said to you. And I said to you. And I want to apologize. You’re not your past, and I see that. I just don’t want Crystal to be exposed to a life that could potentially put her in danger. And then when I heard that you drink – (corrects herself) drank. It shook me. I didn’t want this to turn into something that I’d have to recover from. I’m sorry.

 

ARMAN

I forgive you. To be honest, I needed you to kick me out as much as you needed it too. My being three weeks sober, as of now, shows for that.

JANE

It definitely does.

(Rumble indicates the nearing train. They both look out towards the audience, seeing the train inch by in the distance.)

Well then, I wish you and Justin the best of luck.

(Reaches her hand over the train track. Arman clasps her hand.)

ARMAN

You too, Jane.

JANE

I hope I hear from you sometimes! And whenever you come to visit, you’re always welcome in my home.

ARMAN

Thank you.

JANE

(Train crescendoing into a roar)

This is me. I’ll talk to you soon, Arman!

ARMAN

You too.

(JANE disappears behind the flat, boarding the train. ARMAN takes a breath, and then returns to his home, which is now filled with boxes, as JANE’s was in the beginning of the show.)

CURTAIN

‘Burnt’ – A Screenplay About Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

23 Jun

(An orchestra of muffled screams, coughing, crackling fire, and crashing metal crescendo behind a black screen. After a moment of the screams at its highest volume, the sound crashes to deafening silence.)

Fade in
EXT. FACTORY BUILDING
(Wide shot of the blank brick wall. After a moment, a line of women begin passing through the shot, with crumpled shirtwaists and white fabric bunched up in their fists. After a few women pass, they simultaneously stop and turn with their backs facing the brick wall. They, in unison, throw the fabric to the ground, representing the strike. The shot pans to Lucia (next to Rosaria), who strikes a match. The shot focuses on the flame from the match, zooming in until, ultimately, fire is the only visible thing. When the shot is zoomed back out, all of the girls except Lucia are dead on the ground. Lucia drops the match and gazes down at Rosaria, lying lifeless beside the other dead women. Zoom into Lucia’s face, turned down as she gazes at her sister; the shot of Lucia’s face morphs into Lucia looking down as she works at the sewing machine (acting as a transition to the next scene). When zoomed back out, Lucia is sitting next to her sister, working arduously at the sewing machine.)

INT. FACTORY WORK AREA

LUCIA V.O

Adjust spool. Thread machine. Left, down, up, down, into the hook,through the needle. Line up the fabric. Lower the presser. Begin. Stop. Adjust. Begin again. Stop. Adjust. Begin. Stop.
Don’t breathe. Don’t hum. Don’t smoke. Just sew, sew, sew. And cut, and realign, and sew again.
I could feel the lines of women surrounding me, working side by side in perfect mayhem. Harmonious cacophony. I could smell the heat of their exhaustion seeping through their own shirtwaists, leaking, spreading with every thread they cut. Working a bit faster during the Foreman’s periodic visits. Receive passing scrutiny, maybe a hand down your back. Just keep sewing.
That Foreman smelled of exhaustion he didn’t earn, by walking, and watching, and touching what wasn’t his. His steps beat like a metronome from behind our crouched backs, ensuring that our fingers dancing around our work were worth the three dollars they’d hold by the end of the week. “Blanc and Harris didn’t buy you ladies electric machines for nothing”, he’d spit, in between metronomic steps. “3,000 stitches per minute,” he’d repeat. 3,000 per minute. I’m somewhere around there.
Roseria still wouldn’t look at me. Not even a glance in the last four hours. She was angry. Exasperated by my restless commitment to the Strike, to find some way to alter our working conditions.

INT. ROSERIA AND LUCIA’S LIVING ROOM
(Silent capture of the argument between the sisters.)

LUCIA V.O

Strike seemed to me to be the only logical option, to catalyze change, to coat it with gasoline and light it up into a revolution. We say we want, we want, change. We want change. We want sanitation legislation, compensation for our labor. We want change. What value will come from a shirtwaist with our misery infused in the stitches?

She viewed it as unreasonable, an impossible feat. No way will the strongest, most reputable shirtwaist factory succumb to the complaints of girls. Immigrant girls. Young, immigrant girls.

V.O ROSERIA & LUCIA

The only way you will see change,

V.O LUCIA

She says,

V.O ROSERIA & LUCIA

Is if the factory burns down.

V.O LUCIA

If the factory burns down. If the factory burns down. She bolted out of the living room, leaving a train of smoke that charred my nose when I inhaled.

(Cut to a clip of Isaac Harris locking a factory door, then to a clip of Max Blanc checking the bags of factory workers to ensure no item was stolen. During one of the checks, he finds a shirtwaist in a young girl’s bag. She is violently removed from the room.)

I watched it all in my mind, over and over again, comic strips plastered behind my eyelids, illustrating the most victorious turn of events in the name of a revolution. An illustrious company, for which its hands receive three dollars a week, crumbling by fire. Sewing machines overheat, its thread turning to ash. Valueless shirtwaists fall from our hands, scorched black consuming the delicate white fabric over which we slaved from 7-9, five days a week.

I could do it. All it would take is a match. Or a cigarette. One small spark of fire to harvest a flame so monstrous, it’ll charr holes through the clouds. Tall enough to catch the government’s eye, catastrophic enough to bring about change. I could do it.

I could, I could light a flame. But could I burn everything that would be caught inside? The extravagant machines, yes. Harris and Blanc, yes. Myself, yes. But, could I scorch innocent flesh? My little sister’s? My co-workers’, each a survivor destined to die by my cigarette? Each slaving for a 50 cent raise, to afford bread for their children’s plates? Burning them would be burning their babies too, and their parents and siblings, and all for whom they provide.

But it is a questions of worth. It is a question of weight. They have been dying by the workings of their machinery, slowly deteriorating through a nine hour shift. My flame would murder their suffering, and the suffering of future factory workers. Crucify the unfair treatment of the hands that create what they cannot afford.

I could do it.

(Cut back to Lucia and Roseria sitting, sewing at the machines: the present.)

All of my senses were heightened that day. The ticks of the sewing machines and the Foreman’s steps behind me blended into the most foreboding phrase of music I had ever heard. The heat in the factory scorched the back of my arms, preparing my skin for the heat that was to come. The thread before me shifted in and out of focus, distorted, defaced by the heat.
My body moved, my thoughts were caught in my fingers. Stuck, still. I picked out my cigarette. Lit it. Held it between my teeth. I inhaled, letting my lungs linger in the smoke.

And I stood, holding my breath. Clenched the cigarette between my two fingers, motioned myself over the bin of scrap fabric, bulging at the brim after a long day of work. I let go.

When the cigarette left my fingers, my halted thoughts shattered through their restraint and flooded into my mind, hyperactive and crippling.

(Flashes of a protest for strike play in between the slow-motion fall of the cigarette.)

I don’t remember much, but I remember recounting all of the protests I had taken part in, all of the young women I had fought beside. All of the posters I had painted: “We want change, we want change”. Devoting ourselves, our whole selves, to benefit the cause.

I was supposed to die.

Ink Never Dulls — One Act Play

16 Jan

INK NEVER DULLS
By Talia Green

CHARACTERS:
VYKTORIA SUSANS, 17 year-old poet, abused by her mother
EMILIA SUSANS, mother of Vyktoria, abuser, dangerously bipolar, looks like the ideal mother – beautiful, delicate-looking
JOSH, new friend and confidant of Vyktoria
ROB, boyfriend of Emilia, looks like a straight-laced, conservative businessman.
MR. LORETI, English teacher
CHORUS (optional)

TIME
Present, fall

PLACE
Kitchen, classroom, and library

(Lights up on an empty kitchen. There is a large cherry wood door stage right and a circular wooden table just left of the door. There is a long white counter a few feet left of the table, with two or three compartment cabinets below. It is not sleek nor old fashioned, neat nor disorganized. Just normal.

VYKTORIA SUSANS enters through from stage right through the door, a backpack slung over her shoulders and her arms filled with two bags of groceries. She stands hesitantly in the doorway, as if expecting something to happen. Really take in the tense silence.
After a moment, VYKTORIA stalks to the counter onto which she places the two grocery bags. She walks back to the table and drops her backpack. After a couple more moments, she seems to relax in the silence, zips opens her backpack, and takes out a spiral notebook and Pre Calculus textbook, when she begins her homework.
She stiffens when she hears her mother’s (EMILIA’s) voice from a place in the audience.)
EMILIA:
Vyktoria!
(Her voice is almost too sweet. She stands and makes her way from her seat in the audience to the stage.) Vyktoria, sweetheart!
(Ad lib to other audience members: excuse me; I’m sorry; Hi, How are you? Enters through the door. Suddenly her façade falls.)
Would you care to tell me where the fuck you’ve been for the last fifteen minutes?

VYKTORIA:
At the country store.

EMILIA:
And why were you at the country store?

VYKTORIA:
Because you told me to buy groceries today… I stopped by on my way back from school.

EMILIA:
Oh. Well… It shouldn’t take you fifteen minutes to restock the fucking refrigerator.
(Silence.)
And what are you going to do, just leave them on the counter? Wait for them to grow legs and walk themselves into the pantry?
(VYKTORIA stands silently and walks over to the counter. She begins to unload the groceries into the pantry under the counter.
EMILIA sits and lights a cigarette.)

EMILIA:
So did you get everything straightened out with that teacher giving you trouble? Greenson or something?

VYKTORIA:
Yeah, everything’s fine.

EMILIA:
Good. He better not call me again with some bullshit allegations ‘bout your isolated behavior or whatever. They’re just not used to a kid being so well-behaved as to never causing any trouble.

VYKTORIA:
Yeah, just a misunderstanding, Mom.

EMILIA:
Aren’t you going to ask me how work was?

VYKTORIA:
How was work?

EMILIA:
Tedious. Insufferable. The new guy ended up getting that promotion I deserve because my boss is a misogynistic bastard.

VYKTORIA:
I’m sorry about that.

EMILIA:
Yeah, me too. You’re lucky to have me to pay for your livelihood.

VYKTORIA:
I know I am. Thanks.

EMILIA:
Speaking of which, you’re welcome.

VYKTORIA:
For paying for my livelihood?

EMILIA:
For the money I gave you to fill your stomach, Vyktoria.

VYKTORIA:
You told me to use my money.

EMILIA:
You didn’t earn shit. Your money is my money.

VYKTORIA:
I earned it from babysitting Nora’s kids last week.

EMILIA:
What are you talking about, babysitting for Nora? When did that happen?

VYKTORIA:
Last Sunday.

EMILIA:
Last Sunday? Where the hell was I?

VYKTORIA:
With Rob.

EMILIA:
You’re telling me you just walked out and babysat for our neighbor without asking me?

VYKTORIA:
You weren’t home… I didn’t think it mattered.

EMILIA:
(Stands.)
Yeah, it fucking matters! You think you can just walk out and do whatever you want? Who do you think you are?

VYKTORIA:
She needed my help last minute; I thought it was okay. I’m sorry.

EMILIA:
You’re a disrespectful little brat is what you are. Walking out, like my word means nothing.

VYKTORIA:
I’m sorry. It won’t happen again, I swear.

EMILIA:
Yeah, it better not happen again. Happens again and I won’t forgive you so easily.

VYKTORIA:
Okay.

EMILIA:
(Sits back down)
I’m glad your father didn’t stay long enough to see the little brat you grew into.
(VYKTORIA stays silent.)
Rob’s coming over tomorrow night. Ready to meet your potentially new daddy?

VYKTORIA:
I guess.

EMILIA:
You guess?

VYKTORIA:
I mean, yeah, of course.

EMILIA:
And make something special for dinner, will you? Something he’ll like. What did you get from the store?

VYKTORIA:
Same stuff I always get.

EMILIA:
That tells me nothing. What did you get?

VYKTORIA:
Um, some vegetables. And chicken. And water.

EMILIA:
That’s it? That’s all you got?

VYKTORIA:
I only had twenty-five dollars.

EMILIA:
Vyktoria, that’s not nearly enough for a decent meal. Go back and get more. Oh, get ingredients for that tortellini you make. He loves anything Italian.
(Silence)
…Well?

VYKTORIA:
What, now?

EMILIA:
Did I stutter? Yes, now.
(Takes out her wallet, tosses two twenty dollar bills onto the table.)
Here’s forty bucks. Get going.

VYKTORIA:
But, mom –

EMILIA:
Don’t put me in a bad mood, Vyktoria. I said go and buy more ingredients for dinner. You won’t have time after school tomorrow.

VYKTORIA:
You know the type of guys that hang out there at night. Last time –

EMILIA:
You think I give two shits about what happened last time? We need to prepare a nice dinner for Rob. That can only happen if you buy the food. Get it? Go.

VYKTORIA:
Mom, please –

EMILIA:
(Strides over to VYKTORIA)
I said get out of my house! What, are you deaf? Slow? What is it?

VYKTORIA:
I just don’t want to go alone.

EMILIA:
(Grabs VYKTORIA’s arm)
I am your mother! You do what I say! Do you understand me?

VYKTORIA:
Yes, but –

EMILIA:
Disrespectful little bitch!
(Pushes VYKTORIA to the ground and pulls back her arm, prepared to beat VYKTORIA. VYKTORIA coils. Right before EMILIA’s arm comes down, a vague blue light shines on the two and both EMILIA and VYKTORIA freeze. They remain a couple moments in that position.
VYKTORIA breaks the freeze and turns to the audience.)

VYKTORIA:
(In a monotone voice.)
They hurt me last time I went alone.

EMILIA:
(EMILIA’s phone rings, and with this, she breaks the freeze. She answers, in a sweet tone.)
Hello? Yes, Rob! Hi, darling, how are you?…
Wha – Oh, I thought we agreed to 7:30, but that’s alright. I’ll be there in ten minutes. …
(Rushes to grab coat and purse from table)
Oh is that so? … Susan started telling me about that yesterday… Hold on just a minute, honey…
(Covers the receiver with her palm and looks to VYKTORIA still on the ground, and still staring out into the audience)
Get the fucking groceries.
(Goes out the door, and exits through the audience and out the back)

(VYKTORIA remains on the floor in silence for a couple more moments before pushing herself off the ground and walking to her backpack)
(She takes out an older-looking leather journal and a pen. She sits back on the floor, center. She opens the journal and reads aloud)

VYKTORIA:
‘Skin upon bone, stain upon skin,
Transparency inscribed in every tissue of her youth.
With strength threaded by callused fingers,
Voice flows with color only when pricked by her own pen.’

(Looks up.)
It took me three months to scratch out those four lines, and I still can’t make it sound right. The flow’s not there. The flow needs to be there. Then again… It’s not like anyone will read enough of it to make any judgments. Or read any of it for that matter. I’m not insecure about my writing or anything… It’s just that my words are mine, you know?
It’s nice to say that. ‘My words are mine’… ‘my words are mine…’ Looks down and begins writing:
‘Sketching delicate words that are mine’…
(Scratches out the line furiously, writes again):
‘Sketching with delicacy words that are mine’…
(Scratches out the line furiously, writes again): ‘
‘Mine are the words that are delicately sketched’…
(Scratches out the line furiously. Thinks for a second… writes again):
Voice flows with color only when pricked by her own pen, sketching in delicacy words that are … mine?’.
(Scratches).
Never mind then.
I often find myself wishing for a different source of inspiration than… this. Not searching, just wishing. I suppose it’s because I’m truthful when I write, so writing always seems to remind me of the inevitable ugliness of truth. Of the “grey” inspiring the colors I have stored somewhere in me. They’re definitely there; I guess I just wish for less painful occurrences to fish them out. Like I said, not searching, just wishing. I know better than to search. So I fantasize, and wait, and write about what I can until something different happens.

(Suddenly, a bell rings loudly and the sound of bustling conversations is audible. This changes the setting to a high school hallway.
JOSH sits down SL. There is a professional camera strapped around JOSH’s neck. He is organizing papers.
VYKTORIA stands and ambles to her backpack where she puts back her writing journal and retrieves a small stack of papers. She checks the time, swings the backpack over her shoulders, and hurriedly walks down SL. She is reading over the pages in her hands.
Not looking, she accidently collides into JOSH. She falls, her papers scatter. JOSH’S papers scatter as well)

JOSH:
Mother F –

VYKTORIA:
Shoot, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.
JOSH:
(Does not realize she has fallen. Reaches to help her up.)
Oh shit, are you okay?

VYKTORIA:
I’m fine, sorry.

JOSH:
(JOSH helps to gather her papers. VYKTORIA gathers his.)
No, no, don’t worry about it. Any broken bones? Torn ligaments? Wounded egos? Don’t worry, nobody saw.

VYKTORIA:
No, I’m fine. Sorry.

JOSH:
(To VYKTORIA’S papers)
What is this? A study guide?

VYKTORIA:
Um, yeah. For physics.

JOSH:
Oh yeah, Mr. Cromward, right? I think we’re in the same class.
(Looks at guide)
Wow. This is, uh… this is elaborate.

VYKTORIA:
Yeah.

JOSH:
(VYKTORIA hands him his papers)
Thanks. Sorry for dropping the F bomb before; time constraints kill me.

VYKTORIA:
You didn’t drop it. You almost dropped it.

JOSH:
The mental F-bomb dropping still burned through the actual action of saying it. I commend my mother’s attempts at making a gentleman out of me.

VYKTORIA:
Well, you stopped yourself. I wouldn’t have minded much, anyway. A curse is just a word, and a word is just a sound we make. Same as any other sound.

JOSH:
Yeah, exactly.

VYKTORIA:
(Motions to her papers)
Well, thanks for helping.

JOSH:
Don’t mention it. I try extensively to prove that chivalry still exists.

VYKTORIA:
That’s good. Your mother succeeded in that part of gentleman-training.

JOSH:
I like to let myself think so.

VYKTORIA:
That’s good.

JOSH:
(Pause.)
Could I take a picture of you?

VYKTORIA:
What?

JOSH:
Wait, yeah, this is perfect.
(Removes the camera slung around his neck, gets into the right position to take the photo)

VYKTORIA:
…What is?

JOSH:
Stand still.
(VYKTORIA stands uncomfortably tense)
‘Flustered shy girl who I’ve somehow never bumped into before at school’. Perfect.
(Snaps the picture)

VYKTORIA:
Oh, um… thanks. I think.

JOSH:
(Laughs)
Sorry if I was a little too foreword. Habit. This really is a great picture though. Maybe black and white, lightly softened. And you’ve got the perfect look of discomfort on your face.

VYKTORIA:
Thanks again. I’m assuming you’re into photography?

JOSH:
Oh, yeah. If such thing exists as one’s calling, I’ve found mine.

VYKTORIA:
Good for you. You clearly have an eye for inspiration. Anyway, I’m going to go to class.

JOSH:
Yeah, me too. See you around, stranger.

(A booming voice is heard from the back of the audience.
An older professor strides down the isle to the stage, holding a manila folder.)

MRS. LORETI
You’re late! You’re all late. You’re out of your seats, it means you’re late. Come on, come on, to your seats.
(VYKTORIA hurries to the back of the room [upstage right], JOSH rushes upstage left)
(MRS. LORETI is pacing back and forth, as if lecturing)
“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore – Nameless here for evermore.”

Edgar Allan Poe. An American poet, author, editor, critic. The king of literary horror and gore, in my opinion. You think ‘Paranormal Activity’ is terrifying, read “The Tell Tale Heart”. You’ll all be working in pairs to provide an argument as to what extent Edgar Allan Poe influenced American literature. I know, it’s a pretty vague prompt – be creative.
Okay, pairs. Let’s see here…
Alyssa Cromwell and Mary Lin.
Jakub Shire and Tara Goodman.
Vyktoria Susans and Josh White.
(VYKTORIA looks up to where JOSH is standing. MRS LORETI keeps naming off pairs as JOSH makes his way to VYKTORIA)

JOSH:
Hello again.

VYKTORIA:
Well hey. Today is just full of coincidences.

JOSH:
Seems like it. I’m Josh, by the way. I’m assuming you already caught that though.

VYKTORIA:
Formalities are always nice. I’m Vyktoria.

JOSH:
Ah. I have a cousin named Victoria.

VYKTORIA:
Oh, do you?

JOSH:
Sure I do. Well I’m not sure if it was exactly Victoria. May have been Victor. Or Val. Or Beatrice or something. There are so many cousins I haven’t met, I’m sure I could find one named Victoria.

VYKTORIA:
Ah. Good to know.

JOSH:
Forgive my horrible jokes. They have their own mind. Anyway, Poe. Do you know anything about him?

VYKTORIA:
I do actually. I know a lot about him.

JOSH:
YES! Not only is she inspiration for great photography, but she’s a literary genius. Lucky me.

VYKTORIA:
Well, I’m sure we could incorporate some kind of photography into the project, so the pleasure is mine.

JOSH:
Listen, I know class is almost over. Would you want to stay with me after school? Work on the project for a bit?

VYKTORIA:
I can’t, I’m sorry.

JOSH:
I mean, we could work for half an hour maybe. I’m sure your parents would be cool with it.

VYKTORIA:
I need to get home after school, sorry. Anyway, I don’t like walking around late by myself, and it’s a pretty far walk to my house.

JOSH:
I could drive you home, if you want.

VYKTORIA:
(Smiles)
Maybe another day.

(The bell rings and JOSH exits. VYKTORIA remains standing until she’s alone in her house again. The lights around the stage dim, indicating a time change. She places her backpack on the table and walks to the counter. She retrieves from the cabinet a cutting board, knife, and lettuce. She begins chopping, when loud, obnoxious laughing is heard off stage right.
EMILIA and ROB stumble on stage right, just outside the door of the house. They are clearly drunk. VYKTORIA does not notice or hear anything yet.
ROB presses EMILIA against the door and starts kissing her roughly.)

EMILIA:
Come on, baby. We’ll be out in a minute; I just need to change.

ROB:
Make it quick.

(EMILIA opens the door from behind her back and they stumble in, laughing. VYKTORIA is startled)

VYKTORIA:
Oh, hey. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rob.

ROB:
You must be Vyktoria. Beautiful, just like your mother.

VYKTORIA:
Thank you. I was just making dinner for us.

EMILIA:
Us? What are you talking about, Vyktoria?

VYKTORIA:
You told me to make dinner.

EMILIA:
We’re going to Rob’s place. I wouldn’t let Rob get anywhere near your cooking.
Robby baby, I’m gonna go and change. I’ll be right back.
(Stumbles past VYKTORIA and off stage left.
Rob is staring silently at VYKTORIA. VYKTORIA uncomfortably returns to cutting the lettuce)

ROB:
Looks like you were making a nice meal.

VYKTORIA:
Yeah, that’s all right. I’ll enjoy it myself.

ROB:
I’m sure you will.
(Walks closer to VYKTORIA, who tenses.)
Did anyone ever tell you that you have your mom’s body?

VYKTORIA:
Um… no.

ROB:
No, even better. Younger. Really beautiful.
(Pulls her body against his)

VYKTORIA:
(Screams, tries to pull away.)
Stop, what are you doing?!

ROB:
Shut up.
(Starts kissing her neck)

VYKTORIA:
I’m serious! Get the hell off of me!

ROB:
(Tightens his grip)
I said, shut the fuck up. I’m going to be spending a lot more time here from now on. We should start getting used to each other’s company…
(EMILIA’S voice is heard off stage. ROB backs off.)

EMILIA:
I’m coming, sweetheart!

ROB:
Hurry up.

EMILIA:
Coming, coming.
(Enters)
Ready?

ROB:
Yeah, let’s go.
(EMILIA strides to grab ROB’s hand, gathers her coat and purse, and they leave through the door.
VYKTORIA sinks to the floor and stares out, expressionless, for a few moments. After some time, she retrieves her journal from her backpack, and opens it.)

VYKTORIA:
(Reads aloud again.)
‘Skin upon bone, stain upon skin,
transparency inscribed in every tissue of her youth.
With strength threaded by callused fingers,
Voice flows with color only when pricked by her own pen.’

(JOSH rushes onto the stage, along with two or three other students. )

JOSH:
Hey, you. Sorry I’m late. I was just helping Marcus with his physics homework. The textbook is a useless object, let me tell you.

VYKTORIA:
It’s fine.

JOSH:
You alright there? You look upset.

VYKTORIA:
I’m fine.

JOSH:
You sure?

VYKTORIA:
Yeah, I’m fine.

JOSH:
You say that a lot.

VYKTORIA:
Yeah, because I’m fine.

JOSH:
(Sits next to her on the floor)
Alright… well. Let’s start. Just, heads up, I’ve got to be out by five. Gotta help the madre clean the house.
(Takes out his laptop; She flips to another page in her notebook, the same notebook that holds her poetry.)

VYKTORIA:
Okay. So, um, I did some research on my own time, just so we could be on top of everything.

JOSH:
Oh, awesome. Let’s see what you got.

VYKTORIA:
Okay well he was born in October of 1849. He was known mostly for his stories of mystery and macabre, which focuses on grimness and symbols of death. And he kind of invented the detective fiction genre.
And I got a bunch of other stuff over here…
(Points to the page)

JOSH:
(Takes journal from her)
Wow. This is insanely developed. Practically a report on its own.

VYKTORIA:
Thanks.

JOSH:
I mean, my cumulative senior essay is equivalent to these notes.

VYKTORIA:
I enjoy literature.

JOSH:
I can tell… (Flips the page)
Hold up; is this a poem?

VYKTORIA:
Wait, no, give that back.
(Reaches for the book)

JOSH:
(Begins reading loud and obnoxiously, to pull her leg)
‘Skin upon bone, stain upon skin…
(Trails off and becomes serious as he reads silently)

VYKTORIA:
Josh! I’m serious, Josh. Give it back, right now.

JOSH:
(Looks up to her)
This is amazing, Vyktoria.
(VYKTORIA stays silent)
It is. You really have a talent in this.

VYKTORIA:
Thank you.

JOSH:
Vyktoria… can I ask you what it’s about?

VYKTORIA:
(Defensively)
Just personal stuff; nothing important.

JOSH:
Are you sure?

VYKTORIA:
Josh, nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine. Really. Can we go back to Poe?

JOSH:
(Pause)
Can I show you something?

VYKTORIA:
Is that a no?

(JOSH Removes the camera from his neck and turns it on, and turns to show her a picture)

VYKTORIA:
Oh wow. It’s beautiful. Kind of… sad.

JOSH:
It was the first picture I took after my dad died.

VYKTORIA:
Oh…

JOSH:
It was also the first picture I took on this camera; it was his. His camera, I mean.

VYKTORIA:
I’m so sorry, Josh. That must have been so hard.

JOSH:
It was, for a while. For all of us, especially my mom. He was such an amazing guy… to his core. Just a good man, you know? There are only a handful of people you meet that you can tell are just genuinely good. I’ve concluded that the worst things happen to the best people.

VYKTORIA:
What happened? If you don’t mind me asking.

JOSH:
Leukemia. The unbeatable villain of the circulatory system. Last year.

VYKTORIA:
Oh Josh. I can only imagine… I’m so sorry.

JOSH:
So am I.

VYKTORIA:
(Pauses)
But there are some things in life that are just… out of our control. Unfixable, you know? Regardless of how hard we try. I mean, you’re lucky you were given the chance to know your father.

JOSH:
Yeah, I know I am. I’ll never stop being grateful for having a man like him as a dad. Did your father pass too?

VYKTORIA:
For all I know. He’s dead to me anyway.

JOSH:
Did you ever meet him?

VYKTORIA:
No, he ran out on my mom when she was pregnant with me.

JOSH:
Shit, that’s tough. Must have definitely been a struggle for her.

VYKTORIA:
Sure… You could say that.

JOSH:
I mean, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been, as a single mother.

VYKTORIA:
(Agitated)
Yeah.

JOSH:
What?

VYKTORIA:
What do you mean, what?

JOSH:
You seemed tense when I mentioned your mother.

VYKTORIA:
I wasn’t tense.

JOSH:
Listen, I didn’t mean to push any buttons. I was just saying how difficult it must have been to raise a kid on her own –

VYKTORIA:
(Bursts)
It’s not like that justifies anything!

JOSH:
What are you talking about?

VYKTORIA:
(Realizes her blunder.)
Nothing, never mind.

JOSH:
Try to tell me, Vyktoria. I won’t judge, or comment if you don’t want me to. I’ll just listen.

VYKTORIA:
(After a moment.)
She’s in pain, I guess. I get that. But that doesn’t give her any right to… I don’t know. Never mind.

JOSH:
Doesn’t give her any right to do what?

VYKTORIA:
Josh, can we go back to our project? Please.

JOSH:
(Tentatively)
Does… are you… are you hurt? Is someone hurting you?
(VYKTORIA stays silent)
Is your mother hurting you?

VYKTORIA:
I don’t know. Whatever, it’s fine. She just has a temper is all. I trigger it most of the time, anyway.

JOSH:
Vyktoria… if she does, nothing is your fault. For a mother to be able to do that to her child… to dump her pain on you in that way…

VYKTORIA:
It’s okay. I’m okay. Like I said, there are just some things that I can’t change.

JOSH:
It’s not okay that she does this. Tell me your realize that. It’s not okay. And it can be fixed; there’s an answer for everything.

VYKTORIA:
Stop, it Josh. There’s nothing that I can do about this. Okay? Nothing. My only lifeline at this point is the thought that in two years, I’ll never have to see her again.

JOSH:
You can get help, Vyktoria, if you reach out. You shouldn’t ever have had to deal with…abuse… and you shouldn’t have to tolerate it for the next two years. I can help you find someone to tell. Just let me.

(Blue light shines down, JOSH freezes. VYKTORIA turns to the audience.
At the same time, EMILIA walks on stage. She notices a paper on the floor – VYKTORIA’s poem. Curios, she picks it up.)

VYKTORIA:
It took time. A lot of time.
EMILIA:
(Reading)
Skin upon bone, stain upon skin…

VYKTORIA
Three months and six days, to be exact, if I count by the clock.

EMILIA:
(Screaming furiously)
Vyktoria, what is this? What the fuck is this?

VYKTORIA:
A couple dozen bruises, if I count in beatings.

EMILIA:
Stupid piece of shit, do you know what’ll happen if someone reads this?

VYKTORIA:
I tried to sustain my silence. I tried to acquiesce to the situation to which I was born. I tried to continue finding strength in denial.

EMILIA:
You think you’re fucking good? You think anyone will want to read this piece of shit poem?
(Continues pantomiming her slur of verbal abuse over VYKTORIA’S text. EMILIA rips up the poem and storms off stage.)

VYKTORIA
I gradually opened myself to him: a friend, a confidant. With that, I began listening to his words, little by little recognizing the logic behind his urgency. He encouraged me to open my eyes to the bold possibility of escape. And I did.
(Blue light fades off, and MRS. LORETI walks on SL, organizing papers.)

JOSH:
(Turns to VYKTORIA)
You can do this, Vyk. I’ll be right outside.

VYKTORIA:
I know. Thank you, Josh.
(JOSH walks off SR)

MRS. LORETI:
Vyktoria. What a pleasant surprise. What can I help you with today?

VYKTORIA:
Um… hi, Mrs. Loreti. I was recommended that I could go to you for this.

MRS. LORETI:
Is something wrong, Vyktoria?

VYKTORIA:
I’d like to – I need to report abuse. Regular abuse.

MRS. LORETI:
Oh my gosh… Okay. Thank you for speaking up about this. I’m going to help you. But I need you to tell me a couple things, Vyktoria. What kind of abuse are you reporting?

VYKTORIA:
Um… physical. And emotional. At home.

MRS. LORETI:
Is a family member hurting you? A parent?

VYKTORIA:
Yes. My mom. You’re not going to call her, right?

MRS. LORETI:
No, no, of course not. What I am going to do is I’m going to call the State Central Registry and report your case.

VYKTORIA:
Wait, what’s going to happen after it’s reported? I just… don’t want to her find out. She can’t find out I’m saying anything.

MRS. LORETI:
We’ll do everything in our power to prevent her from hurting you again. But first, the State Central Registry is going to ask you a couple of questions, regarding frequency of the abuse, where it occurs, things like that. After that, an investigator will begin formal analysis of the situation. Within 24 hours.

VYKTORIA:
What will happen to me?

MRS. LORETI:
That depends on certain factors, Vyktoria, and will be explained to you in depth by the SCR. You may live with another family member, or family friend since you’re so close to the age of eighteen. And you won’t be alone; I will be here, Josh will be here. You’re safe now, Vyktoria. She can’t hurt you anymore.

VYKTORIA:
(LORETI pauses, VYKTORIA turns to the audience)
Skin upon bone, stain upon skin… (VYKTORIA smiles: she is free.)

Blue light fades to black. LIGHTS OUT.

END.